Monday, November 30, 2015

Didn't mean to

[Trigger warnings/content warnings for abuse, gaslighting, victim-blaming, and violence]
Scenario: Person accidentally burns you with a cigarette.

Correct response: Whoa! I’m sorry! Would you like me to get you a bandage/ointment?

Incorrect responses:
  • I didn’t mean to; that’s what we need to focus on.
  • You need to stop being so sensitive to cigarette burns.
  • What would have been REALLY bad is if I burned you on purpose.
  • What would have been REALLY bad is if I burned you more times.
  • What would have been REALLY bad is if I burned you with something worse than a cigarette. Actually, I might just do that if you don’t shut up.
  • I think you’re making it up and I didn’t even touch you with my cigarette.
  • I think you got that burn mark from something else. It wasn’t me.
  • You wouldn’t complain this much about a little burn if you weren’t REALLY damaged by some other person’s burn before me. That’s the real culprit.
  • I burned you as a joke. This is how my buddies and I joke and nobody cares about being scarred.

  • I think you’re exaggerating that it hurts. I’ve never been burned before but I can’t imagine it hurts as much as you’re claiming.
  • I think you’re exaggerating how much it hurts. I’ve been burned before and it didn’t hurt that much.
  • I think you’re exaggerating how much it hurts. I got burned through my clothes on a different part of my body once. I don’t see how getting burned on your bare skin on a more sensitive area could be that much different.
  • I think you’re focusing far too much on my carelessness. Things like this are just going to happen to you automatically if you’re existing in the world.
  • I think you wanted to get burned if you were sitting that close to me while I’m smoking.
  • I think you put yourself in the path of my cigarette because you enjoy crying that everyone’s out to burn you.
  • Fine, I’ll think about entering a smoking cessation program. Is that what you wanted to hear?
  • You’re trying to guilt me into quitting smoking.
  • You want me to feel guilty about this but I’m not going to play your game.

  • If I buy you some medicine for it, will you stop pointing out that I burned you? I’m really sick of you reminding me.
  • That crying/pain noise/impaired use of the body part I burned is a performance to make me feel bad, isn’t it?
  • Why are people so worried about burns anyway? By complaining about it, you’re infringing on my right to smoke and not think about if I burn people now and then.
  • You have other pains besides the burn. Do you just expect people to help you with everything unpleasant in your life?
  • I’m sorry that it hurts but I don’t see where that’s my problem.
  • I’m sorry that it hurts but you probably had it coming to you if you wanted to be friends with a smoker.
  • I can’t unburn you, so why fixate on it?
  • I’ve learned my lesson and I’ll be less careless next time. You happy? That what you wanted?
Do you understand that this is what you sound like when you defend yourself after burning people less literally? It’s pretty simple. Any response you give that a) blames the victim; b) focuses on your feelings as the perpetrator as more important than their feelings as the victim; c) derails the conversation into something unrelated to what you did; or d) consists of any minimization of their pain is the wrong thing to do here. The right thing to do is relatively easy: Acknowledge responsibility, apologize sincerely, and immediately look for a way to help that the victim is okay with.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been insulted, harassed, or mocked by someone who IMMEDIATELY uses one of the “don’t” bullet points when I call attention to their wrongdoing and claim it’s hurtful. If your first thought after hurting someone is to bully them into pretending you didn’t, it doesn’t matter if you “didn’t mean to” hurt them. Your actions from that point on speak far louder than any carelessness or ignorance that fueled the original wound.

Go get the ointment and actually mean it when you apologize. If you won’t, don’t be surprised when no one believes that you want your victim to heal.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Personal Digest Saturday: November 21 – November 27

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday I finally finished the 5,000 Subscribers video's subtitles, processed a So You Write comic, and found out my short story "On the Inside" was published in James Gunn's Ad Astra. I did some more short story submissions too.
  • Sunday I didn't do much but make a writing video about character names. I just did some general website updates and watched some video game players on YouTube because silliness is fun.
  • Monday was tiring at work and I didn't do much besides reading and watching Let's Plays. And Tuesday I was also tired out by work stuff, and went to Mom's afterwards. I slept over and we were bad girls staying up late. I helped her with some household stuff like moving furniture. We ate at Panera. :)
  • Wednesday was Jeaux Day. He had rented a car for Thanksgiving so he already had it on Wednesday, which enabled us to go to a restaurant we usually don't get to go to because it's far away: Beef O'Brady's. It was yummy. We watched the latest Gravity Falls and listened to Night Vale. After he left I baked some muffins and talked to Victor on the phone.
  • Thursday was THANKSGIVING. I was invited to Jeaux's celebration so we drove out to Citra in his rental car. We had some lovely chats, mostly about feminism and cartoons, and got to listen to, uh, some interesting conversations at his parents' house. We ate good food, went home, and he dropped me off at my mom's, where I shared some Thanksgiving food. Then I helped her with more stuff and she drove me home later. I mostly spent the night being silly on the Internet.
  • Friday was a day off! I spent it mostly texting with Jeaux and drawing my webcomic and listening to a podcast and reading. It's nice to have a low-key day where I'm just not doing much.
    New reviews of my book: 

    Places featured:
      • Why do people struggle to understand that I'm asexual?: The Telegraph ran a piece about/by Robin Dibben, who runs the Pieces of Ace podcast; their interview with me is embedded in the article and has received a lot of views from this article.
      • The Asexual Agenda featured one of my blog posts on the importance of ace awareness and why we shouldn't limit education due to worry that someone else will misinterpret themselves as asexual when they're not.
      • Article Cats did a cursory examination of asexuality and mentioned me and my book prominently.
        Reading progress:

        • Completed reading: Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Four-star review.
        • Currently reading: Lumberjanes: Volume 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, & Brooke Allen.

        New singing performances:

        Here I'm singing "Land of Confusion" by Genesis.


        New drawings:

        Webcomic Negative One Issue 0550: "Good Little Girl."

        Webcomic So You Write Issue 54: "Favorite Author."

        New videos:

        Character Names video!

        New photos:  


        Social media counts: 

        YouTube subscribers: 5,214 for swankivy (20 new this week), 530 for JulieSondra (4 new). Twitter followers: 712 for swankivy (3 new), 1,187 for JulieSondra (10 new). Facebook: 286 friends (no change) and 184 followers (no change) for swankivy, 623 likes for JulieSondra (2 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 112 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,223 (5 new).

        Thursday, November 26, 2015

        Wednesday Factoid: Name

        Today's Wednesday Factoid is being done on Thursday morning because I forgot. Haha.

        Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Do you like your name? Do you think a different name would fit you better?

        My name's okay. I don't hate it or anything. I'm not a big fan of the "long U" sound in names like "Julie" though. In general I think it's a cute name. I enjoy examining naming trends and reading about the history of names, so I own several baby name books (which also help with naming characters sometimes!), and I've looked up my name before. The Last Word on First Names says "Julie" is a name that does not have "contemporary appeal," and should be pushed aside for the more elegant "Julia." In Beyond Jennifer and Jason it's a "high energy name" (ain't it the truth); a "no-frills name"; and a name from the 1950s. 

        As for whether another name fits me better, interestingly enough I am known by another name by at least half if not most of my friends. Most of my in-real-life friends (especially if they met me online) call me Ivy. That nickname comes from my friend Meghan who enjoyed Piers Anthony's Xanth books when we were teenagers and decided to "name" us after the twin princesses Ida and Ivy. I used it as part of a name I made up for a membership once, and later used it for my first online handle. It just became part of my online persona and extended to people I knew either in association with people I met online or people who knew me through my YouTube shows or websites. I think some people don't even know it's a nickname. 

        The "meaning" of the name Ivy is basically just the plant or "clinging vine," though if it is taken to be a derivative of "Ivana" (some say it is), then it means "Gift of God." In the baby-name books by Linda Rosenkrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran, the actual image of the name is explained rather than the ancient meaning that no one thinks of upon their first hearing the name. In Beyond Jennifer and Jason, the name "Ivy" is cited as being a delicate floral name that's "due for a revival"; as a "creative power name"; and as an "upwardly mobile name." In the book The Last Word on First Names by the same authors, the following entry is made:

        IVY. Many might consider Ivy to be prohibitively old-fashioned, but we prefer to see it as offbeat, kinetic, energetic, and perfectly adaptable to the modern world. Possible drawback? Lots of Poison Ivy jokes. 

        Monday, November 23, 2015

        "On the Inside" is published

        This is kind of a weird situation: one of my stories that I sold back in, like, April is now published, but I don't know when it was actually released.

        It looks like I get trackback pings for my About the Author links going up on November 19, so that was just last week, but I received no notifications about the issue being published and there is nothing about it on the magazine's social media. I know the issue had not been released the last time checked the site, which wasn't that long ago. But anyway, the story I sold to James Gunn's Ad Astra is now up and it is called "On the Inside."

        I wrote this story in 2012. Because of its length, I had a hard time finding places to submit it. And the first place I submitted it gave me a fairly involved personal rejection (while asking me to send other stories if I wanted to, though I never did find one they wanted to publish). Most notably, the editor told me that they thought the protagonist was "too emblematic."

        I kinda agreed with them on this upon reflection, and I thought it might be a good idea to write the story from another character's perspective. Because here's the thing: my protagonist, Lihill, is a trans girl. (I don't use that language in her story, but that's what she is.) Trans girl stories aren't my stories. So anything I try to say regarding their experience is an attempt to relay a narrative I haven't lived.

        And that's pretty much what all writers do for all characters, if we're honest.

        So I was kind of on the fence as to whether I should really be grabbing that narrative for one of my stories and making it so central to my protagonist's struggle in the story. Except for the fact that it occurs in an alternate world that has elemental magic and a sex-segregated educational system with two of the four elements allotted to boys and the other two allotted to girls, it could be the story of any girl like Lihill, trying to make other people see who she is and let her pursue life the way any girl would.

        I did think of another story I might have wanted to tell from the point of view of a character named Teinan, an elder who advises Lihill in a mentoring capacity. I figured I would rewrite the story from her perspective, but every time I read over Lihill's story, I still wanted her perspective to be the one I favored. I decided to make some small changes to the story and start submitting it again.

        I sent it to another magazine and received another personal rejection that complimented my writing style but called the piece "too predictable" and "lacking tension." And then the third place I sent it made an offer.

        I like this story and I like its character, but while I disagree that it lacks tension, I do think it's pretty predictable. I tend to write plots that are about mental and personal journeys, where action doesn't have much of a place, and I think people who have been in similar places to the protagonist will find some pretty serious tension, but it's true that said tension is not born from the plot.

        And even though (if you ignore the magical/alternate-world setting) Lihill's journey has a lot of the predictable, expected confrontations and problems you'd expect a trans girl to have in an unsupportive society, I think I threw some less typical, more nuanced stuff in there too. That's because I have quite a few trans friends, and based on what they say, it gets tiring how so many mainstream marketed-to-cis-people trans stories display trans people who make oversimplified statements about hating their bodies or feeling like they're born in the wrong one, or who emphasize activities and grooming behaviors associated with the gender they want to be respected as. My character doesn't exactly hate her body, sometimes enjoys doing things boys do, and doesn't want to make her success into an inspirational story for others. She makes it pretty clear that her goal is to just get on with being a girl and being allowed to finish growing up.

        I kinda have mixed feelings about this story to be honest, but you can decide what you think of it if you read it. Thanks. :)

        Saturday, November 21, 2015

        Personal Digest Saturday: November 14 – November 20

        Life news this week: 
        • Another week with little writing accomplished because I got so busy! I did one new chapter on Saturday, but Sunday got eaten up because my mom came over and I hung out with her instead. She brought me macaroni. :)
        • Monday and Tuesday were about the same as each other. I had to work and spent a bunch of time on kind of intense work tasks, and I spent both evenings alternating between reading chapters from the book club book and processing subtitles for my 5,000 Subscribers video (which I never got around to subtitling back when I made it because it's so dang long!).
        • Wednesday was Jeaux Day. We went to the comic book store, ate at Burger 21, and hung out at my house watching the "Stakes" miniseries from Adventure Time, which I liked. I'm obsessed with that song. Especially since it reminded me of this time I lost a toy outside when I was a little kid, and then it turns out the person who wrote the song revealed that THE SONG IS ACTUALLY ABOUT THAT.
        • Thursday involved book club, where nobody really liked the book. We ate at Bucket's afterwards--sports bar type place--and I went home to knock out my webcomic stuff because Drink and Draw was moved to Friday and I had to finish early.
        • Friday I left work a little early and Eric picked me up for food and Drink and Draw. We had some Village Inn food and hung out at Café Hey where I drew my next comic and hung out with Eric and Joy. It was a good time. :)
          Places featured:
            • My asexual story: EveMoon of Moon Export discusses asexuality, with a small nod to perspectives on my book.
              Reading progress:

              New singing performances:

              Here I'm singing "Unsent" by Alanis Morissette.


              New drawings:

              Webcomic Negative One Issue 0549: "A Noise."

              New videos:


              New photos:  
              I photographed a pair of pants that
              mysteriously made me look like a pear.
              Also, haircut comparison photos.

              Front, February 2014
              Front, November 2015
              Back, February 2014
              Back, November 2015

              Social media counts: 

              YouTube subscribers: 5,214 for swankivy (20 new this week), 530 for JulieSondra (4 new). Twitter followers: 712 for swankivy (3 new), 1,187 for JulieSondra (10 new). Facebook: 286 friends (no change) and 184 followers (no change) for swankivy, 623 likes for JulieSondra (2 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 112 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,223 (5 new).

              Thursday, November 19, 2015

              Update on Ace of Arts: Chapter 3

              I thought I was going to get a lot of writing done this week, but then things happened. I wrote a new chapter on Saturday but then my mom came over on Sunday and I hung out with her instead of writing, and then I found out Drink and Draw is on Friday instead of Saturday so I've got to get my webcomic done early, and . . . so it turned out the chapter I wrote on Saturday was the only writing I got to do on the new book for the week. Boo.

              The new word count is 7,976, with Chapter 3 weighing in at 2,545 words.

              In it, I have introduced the not-useless guidance counselor--his name is Mr. Navarro--and I've gotten Megan moving with her motivation to consider going to college. We also got to meet her classmate Brady, who's pretty damn important in the book.

              I'm not sure how exactly that development is going to look in the context of the story though. Megan is clearly irritated by Brady's very existence, and all her mental narration casts him as a total asshole, but his actions in the chapter aren't at all asshole material. I want this to suggest some layers of resentment and frustration for her that she's not really willing to acknowledge consciously, but I worry that readers will oversimplify and think she's just being a jerk. Guess we'll see. All I can do is put stuff there. I can't control what people do with it. I'll figure out later what level of nuance I need to use.

              Also, I'm really not a settings person--I tend to describe conversation and interaction and mental experiences but not so much the world around people. I'm working really hard against my inclinations for this story because I feel like the protagonist would look at her environment a lot more than I do. I want her to filter the world around her through at least something like an artist's eye--which is not to say she romanticizes anything, but she does notice stuff. There should be a lot of details of the surroundings blended into her experiences. I hope it won't look shoehorned in since it's not my strength.

              That's it for now!

              Wednesday, November 18, 2015

              Wednesday Factoid: Fandoms

              Today's Wednesday Factoid is: List your fandoms and one character from each that you identify with.

              Believe it or not I kinda hate questions like this, but.

              I consider myself a part of very few "fandoms." To me, being "in a fandom" means you like a thing and then participate in celebration of that thing in some way--meaning you don't just consume the thing but you have contributed to or interacted with its fan content in some meaningful way, and that this is a somewhat regular thing for you. I don't do that with most of the stuff I like, even if I really like it. So I guess I'll just pick out a short list of stuff I'd consider myself a "big fan" of (like, that I would buy or have bought merchandise associated with it, I guess), and I'll name the character I identify with and why.

              Adventure Time: Princess Bonnibel Bubblegum. She's really driven by her own passions that most people around her don't get; she feels no obligation to return romantic attention just because someone likes her, and demonstrates this repeatedly; and she created an empire and populated it, and then got kind of crushed under the responsibility she brought upon herself. Let's say I relate.

              Animaniacs: Yakko--mostly because I just like him, but he's also an eldest sibling of three who talks a lot and loves to sing, so yeah.

              Animorphs: My favorite character is Jake, but I relate most to Cassie. She's empathetic and sometimes makes the dumber decision because of mercy and compassion.

              Artemis Fowl: Holly Short. She's used to being underestimated and doesn't let that stop her, and has proved herself many times.

              Avatar: The Last Airbender: I guess it's gotta be Katara. She's not my favorite character, but I've been in her shoes trying to be the moral compass for a group.

              Avatar: The Legend of Korra: Jinora. Again, it's an eldest child thing, and she's a bookworm, and she established herself as an early master through an interesting mixture of following established wisdom and inventing her own techniques.

              Digimon: I guess Sora from season 1 is the one I most relate to, though I think Rika from season 3 is my favorite character. Sora does the same kind of stuff Cassie from Animorphs does--makes some kind of overall not-so-great decisions because she thinks she's protecting others.

              Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Gotta go with Penny? She's more idealistic than I am, I think, but our hearts are in the same place.

              Eyeshield 21: Sena Kobayakawa. He's talented, but he has to work really hard and demonstrate dedication before it will be useful to anyone. Hiruma is my favorite character but I'm definitely not very much like him.

              Gravity Falls: Mabel! She's silly as hell and has her own personal style, collects her own band of misfits, and caves to idealism over cynicism every time.

              Harry Potter: I guess Hermione because I've definitely been the know-it-all in a few groups and I share her frustration over that awful thing where you have to drag your teammates through all the steps of doing it right.

              His Dark Materials: Mary Malone. Not that I ever became a scientist after being a nun. I think I wouldn't have done what she did so much as I understand very intimately why she did.

              The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: I don't really relate to anybody in particular, so let's just say Arthur Dent, because I've been in that position many times where I wish the foolishness would just stop for long enough to have a friggin' cup of tea.

              House, M.D.: Let's go with Dr. Cameron. She does a lot of stuff I would never do and never want to do, but I kinda relate to (again) that "being the moral center for the group" thing, keeping people in touch with the humanity aspect of their decisions.

              The Hunger Games: I relate to Katniss Everdeen. I don't believe, as she does, that love gives a person a weakness, but her perspective on doing something because she can where others can't resonates with me, and the fact that so many people are way more preoccupied with her romantic life than she is feels familiar to me too.

              Kodomo No Omocha: I guess I relate to Sana the most? But not particularly strongly? She has a good heart, but there's this mischievous aspect to her (and a related element of need for justice) that I really enjoy.

              Invader Zim: Oh, let's just say Gaz, because she wants everyone to STFU so she can play with her video games. Who cares if there's an alien?

              Lord of the Rings: Aw, I relate to Frodo the most. Sometimes I do feel like when I have a central mission that others are depending on me to complete, I will put myself at risk to get it done because it's the right thing to do. And sometimes that kind of screws you up forever, but the alternative is unthinkable.

              Mahou Tsukai Tai: I dunno really, I guess I'd like to say Sae because she tries really hard and is earnest about it, but I kinda get Akane too--she knows exactly what she's doing and is surprisingly competent at it for someone with no real instruction, but she's not all that invested in the thing personally.

              Red Dwarf: Everyone's kind of too ridiculous for me to say anything meaningful here, but why don't I go with Rimmer? Just because I've been the asshole with steam shooting out of their ears because their roommate is obnoxious.

              Rent: Mark. He documents everything, and sometimes lets that interfere with experiencing it. Sometimes that's me.

              Sandman: That's a hard one. I find everyone pretty fascinating but I'm not very much like any of them. I guess I'll go with Death because she has a difficult job and manages to do it with a smile.

              A Series of Unfortunate Events: How about Klaus because he reads to find out how to do things.

              Space Ghost Coast to Coast: I just love this show but nobody on it is relatable to me. I'll just say Zorak because he's the musician and a big fan of snark, which I have been known to engage in.

              Steven Universe: Everybody knows my answer to this, jeez! I may not be a seven-foot-tall queer space rock with a sweet afro but I relate to Garnet probably more than just about any other character I've ever "met." Mostly because she knows when and how to speak to help others (though unlike me she doesn't say much otherwise), dives into the line of fire to protect others because she knows she can take it, and is independent and self-sufficient--the one who has her crap together. And she's responsive to emotional appeals and is quick to make amends if she's unintentionally hurt someone. And she's no-nonsense when shutting down unwanted romantic interest.

              Tenchi Muyo: I guess it's Ryoko, but I'm not sure why exactly--we're not much alike, and she's brash and selfish. Maybe it's just her passion and some of her protectiveness that I'm responding to.

              The Tick: Arthur? I'm not really a sidekick type, but I've been the person in the everyday world who just wants to wear a super suit, and I have to say I relate to his battle cry: "Not in the face! Not in the face!"

              Welcome to Night Vale: Uhhhhhh. Hard to say but Tamika Flynn might be my answer here, just 'cause she became a dangerous force to reckon with through what she absorbed from books. This does not mean I condone killing librarians. She's suffered for her cause and been beaten down for it, but that didn't stop her from continuing to be an inspiration and a leader. I try to do that.

              Wicked: Nobody really strongly, but I guess it would be Elphaba since she's felt like a black sheep and built a life around it after being punished for the good she'd done and realizing she had nothing to lose. I can be idealistic like that sometimes.

              A lot of the time the characters I relate to the most are also my favorite characters, but I've also noticed I find characters who are utterly unlike me to be incredibly compelling too. When they're both relatable to me and really awesome, that's the best combination. :)

              Tuesday, November 17, 2015

              All Stories Must Include Romance

              Today I'm revisiting an issue someone asked me about on Tumblr a while back. An anonymous person sent me the following question:
              I was just wondering, what’s your take on people who constantly nag at putting a love interest for either the main character, or one of meny main characters? In a story i’m working on the main character’s best friend is more favored over to a group of friends I showed it too. Though, they ask me: “Where is his girlfriend? Or wife?…Or is he and [Main Character’s Name] Secretly in love with each other?” My main character is a guy, so is the best friend. It just kind of annoys me…
              First of all, my “take on” people who insist that all stories must have a front-and-center romance is that they are very annoying and they should stop trying to police the content of people's stories.

              However, I do acknowledge that compulsory sexuality (and the romance that usually leads up to those sexual relationships) is a reality in our society, so there are two ways to deal with it realistically in fiction.

              1. If you have a major character who is not romantically involved and his world is anything like our world, his lack of relationships or intimacy will not go uncommented by other characters throughout your story unless there are extenuating circumstances (world-shattering stakes, wars, time-sensitive missions, or complete lack of possible partners).

              In the “real world,” people expect other people to want and to have romantic relationships. If your character is aromantic, this will probably come up at some point in his interaction with others, and it’s actually pretty cool to address it once in a while. You don’t have to make it “the issue” at all--kind of like somebody’s race or religion or national origin can be authentically part of them and part of how they are seen in the larger world without forcing the story into being an “issue book.” It doesn’t have to be portrayed as a bizarre or weird aspect of the character. But to be realistic, a character who does not engage in romantic relationships should probably have at least a couple discussions of that absence (whether it’s someone kidding him over it, someone attacking him over it, someone just asking him about it, or him just volunteering that he’s not involved with anyone packaged with how he feels about that).

              Long story short: with an aromantic character (or a character who just isn’t in a romantic relationship), that question will probably come up in his real life just as often as it comes up from your readers, so one good way of addressing it is to answer those questions in the story instead of getting annoyed that people are asking them.

              2. Or you could sort of write in a semi-utopia. What I mean by that is that if you desire, your fictional society could be NOT our society. They may not have the same norms, so perhaps in your universe it would be WEIRD to just “expect” everyone to be romantically involved unless there’s a “reason.”

              Doing this is tricky, because some readers will always interpret it as “unrealistic” even if it is internally consistent. Internal consistency is always the most important thing in creating a world, but sometimes if the world is enough like ours, people will expect the social, political, and historical details to be identical when they don’t have to be. You can sometimes avoid the criticism by lampshading the issue a bit; in other words, create opportunities for showcasing the norms of your world and how they differ from ours by making explicit statements about them. (It’s sometimes tough to do this without either confusing people or leaving too many rough edges so it seems constructed, but it’s possible. Author Philip Pullman does this very well.)

              An example of a “semi-utopia” I think was done well was David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy, which involves a gay main character who seems to live in a town where homophobia mostly doesn’t exist and it’s treated like it would be really silly to treat gay people any differently than people of any other orientation.

              I know some people reacted to this with “OMG the author is totally ignoring and downplaying homophobia in this book, therefore I CANNOT believe in it as an authentic story!” but in the internal consistency of the book, that’s “how things are.” (Again, it’s tricky to write a world with a different norm; it has to have roots. Levithan mostly did this by showing the town as a pocket of tolerance and other cities as having homophobia problems that seem ridiculous to the local folks, as well has having a minority of secretly homophobic characters within the town.)

              And incidentally the author is gay, and when asked about the strange pocket of tolerance he created and whether this is an alternate world or something, he stated that really it’s his vision of where we’re going--where we’ll be one day (while not explicitly being an alternate universe, a sci-fi concept, or an “issue book”; that’s just not the point).

              So, tl;dr: Don’t accept that you must include romance in stories for them to be realistic, but if you do not choose to include it, either acknowledge its absence in-story or create a world in which romance’s absence is normal.

              Saturday, November 14, 2015

              Personal Digest Saturday: November 7 – November 13

              Life news this week: 
              • I'm afraid it wasn't a productive week. I did write one new chapter, make a new video, and do my basic responsibilities, but this week has been kind of a downer.
              • I tried to watch more of a cartoon show people keep recommending to me and it is still not good in my opinion so I stopped watching it. I worked on some subtitles for my videos on Sunday.
              • Monday I did some cleaning at my house (finally rounding up the last junk from the Halloween party) and made some pumpkin muffins.
              • On Tuesday I stayed over at Mom's, helped her move some furniture, and ate a veggie burger again. She was tired early so I went to bed early but did not sleep. I also didn't do anything productive. Just watching dumb things on YouTube.
              • Wednesday was Day of Jeaux and our restaurant was Applebee's. It was Veteran's Day and they were doing a special so it was really crowded. We ate and went to my place. He keeps wanting me to watch Brooklyn 99. It's not bad.
              • Thursday I went shopping for a friend's birthday and prepared the package, and didn't get anything done.
              • Friday was webcomic drawing and more slacking off. I hate when I'm just not in the mood to do anything.
                New reviews of my book:
                Reading progress:

                • Completed reading: Nothing. Just not really into the book club book right now.
                • Currently reading: Tampa Burn by Randy Wayne Wright.

                New singing performances:

                Here I'm singing "The Special Two" by Missy Higgins.


                New drawings:

                Webcomic Negative One Issue 0548: "Sun and Moon."

                New videos:

                Letters to an Asexual #31 is here. It's about the time someone's comment said "Everyone in this video needs to stop whining and get laid," and then didn't understand why we couldn't "take a joke."

                New photos:  

                Found an Etsy store that sells stuff pertaining to two of the things I
                talk about on the Internet the most: asexuality and Steven Universe!
                Behold, asexuality heart pin and Crystal Temple star necklace!
                Shiny Things by Miyuka. :)

                Social media counts: 

                YouTube subscribers: 5,194 for swankivy (9 new this week), 526 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 709 for swankivy (3 new), 1,177 for JulieSondra (lost 1). Facebook: 286 friends (lost 1) and 184 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 621 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 112 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,218 (lost 5--hmm, dunno, did I say something controversial again?).

                Thursday, November 12, 2015

                Update on Ace of Arts: Chapter 2

                Finished writing the second chapter of the book I started at the beginning of this month. It's not going too quickly. Not sure why. I have time to work on it right now; just haven't really felt like it (except for the times I did feel like it and did so).

                The new chapter is only 1,750 words long, bringing the manuscript to 5,429 words now. You get to see the inspiration for Megan's drawings (though I don't make that 100% clear until I guess the end of the chapter), and you get to meet her sister, Dyane.

                I'm not sure what I think about her. She's not quite what I expected, though that's pretty common for me when I think up characters and then write them down. I'm a little worried that she'll come across like a stereotype.

                An earlier book of mine, Finding Mulligan, is New Adult but I entered it as YA in a contest once. One of the judges praised me for actually having a YA heroine whose family life isn't horrible. "The parents are married and aren't at each other's throats and nobody's experiencing abuse! Bravo!" So I guess it's kind of become a cliché that our YA leads are coming from broken or dysfunctional homes. I'm a little worried about that because not only does Megan live with neither parent--she lives with her older sister in a dubiously legal situation--but the sister is clearly not a competent guardian.

                Which I think is realistic given her sister is only twenty-four, and it's not like Megan is much younger. (She's eighteen, so she doesn't technically need a legal guardian, but before she turned eighteen, her sister was acting as her guardian.) I don't want the story to be too stereotypical and rely on broken-family tropes to manufacture problems. The focus of this book isn't honestly on Megan's home life, but I'm sure it will figure in, because it has to.

                I initially conceived Dyane as sort of emotionally abusive in her interaction with Megan, but as I thought about it more, I wanted them to have a much more complicated relationship, where Dyane isn't exactly happy that she's had so little time to be a child but she loves her sister and watches out for her in weird, sometimes misguided, sporadic ways. I wanted there to be some clear love there even if her sister's very immature.

                I think the sisters' interaction came out pretty good though. Megan's clearly executing a practiced series of actions while dealing with her sister, which suggests her emotional state coming home at 3 AM is not uncommon at all, and Megan makes concessions for her sister that she doesn't for others. I'm just not sure if this is a good place for this interaction yet, though. I'll figure out how to arrange these chapters later, I'm sure, and I did want to get Dyane on the page as soon as I could, but now that it's written, it kind of feels like a lull and I worry about whether it will mess with the pacing.

                I have to send Megan to school in Chapter 3 so wish me luck.

                Wednesday, November 11, 2015

                Wednesday Factoid: To Understand You

                Today's Wednesday Factoid is: If someone wanted to really understand you, what would they read, watch, and listen to?


                This is a hard question because it's quite different from recommending stuff I enjoy. Let me think about that.

                What should someone read to understand me:

                The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein. This is a seemingly simplistic story about a "missing piece" that's looking for another shape with a piece missing out of it that it can fit into and become complete. Eventually, the piece meets "the Big O." And it's not missing any pieces and is complete all by itself. The piece has to learn to become a complete thing--something that can roll on its own--by slowly trying to roll so its corners round out. The last page shows the smaller "piece"--having become a little O--catching up to the Big O and rolling beside it. They're not stuck to each other or completing each other; they're just enjoying life as two separate but complete entities.

                The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale. Despite that I'm not a Mormon housewife with a gaggle of kids and I've never had a friendship with a famous actor, I really related to the protagonist of this book and I love that she was able to be FRIENDS with a man, and that they explored what that means. It just says so much about human relationships not falling into categories we expect just because society thinks they should (and how that traps both other people's perceptions of our relationships and OUR perceptions of them as well).

                Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. I think this book does a decent job capturing a lot of complicated stuff about people like me. The first book, Stargirl, was written from the point of view of the boy who loved Stargirl, and even though it was great, you still saw her as the admired and the inspirational rather than as the person sometimes. Being other people's manic pixie dreamgirl is not all it's cracked up to be, though, and I think the sequel does a better job showing that the quirkiness thing isn't a show.

                The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Because I'm silly as hell sometimes and I think this book does a good job with the particular kind of humor I'm about. You may also get a good idea of the kinds of things I think are funny and amusing if you read the illustrated blog/comic Hyperbole and a Half. (Read ONE entry and see if you don't see what I mean.)

                The Invisible Orientation by me, for kind of obvious reasons. And it couldn't hurt to read my other books to understand me too, but you cannot buy those yet, so.

                What should someone watch to understand me:

                Stranger Than Fiction. Much of this story features a very interesting relationship between character and author. Mostly I just like it because it's a really good movie, but it also says some really cool stuff about the creative process, the "reality" of fictional people, and the importance of stories to humanity. LIKE ANYTHING WORTH WRITING, IT CAME INEXPLICABLY AND WITHOUT METHOD!!

                Amélie. If you want to understand me, you might get some idea by watching how this girl acts. She really responds to the magic of life created by interaction with humanity (though she seems a little more afraid of it than I am), and has a really active imagination. The ways that I am not like Amélie are still things I appreciate and relate to, and we're sort of silly in a lot of the same ways as well as serious about the same values.

                My epic 5000 Subscribers Video involves me answering 88 questions from my subscribers in celebration of hitting 5000 subscribers. I end up saying a lot of stuff that's helpful in understanding me, I think. 

                And though I don't think watching my favorite cartoons would actually give you any insights into me in and of itself, conversations with me as of late will probably feature mentions of Steven Universe, so there's that. (Plus it does a good job with the humor that's really genuine and not cruel, which is something I particularly appreciate.)

                What should someone listen to to understand me:
                • They Might Be Giants for the musical quirkiness and creativity.
                • Dar Williams and Indigo Girls for the folksy girl stuff.
                • Ani DiFranco for the angry politics that still contain some joy.
                • Tori Amos for the weird magic.
                • The Wicked soundtrack for fiery inspiration.
                • Alanis Morissette for the angsty artist.
                • Tenacious D for the crude humor.    

                Monday, November 9, 2015

                Because we hate you

                I probably don't have to add another voice to the throngs of people guffawing over the ridiculousness associated with supposed Christians' outcry over the Starbucks holiday cup design, but bear with me here.

                If you haven't heard, here's the summary: Every year, Starbucks reveals a new "holiday" design for their cups for the season, and usually they feature snow, ornaments, or some other somewhat-secular-but-honestly-pretty-Christmassy art. This year, they have a plain-ish red gradient. And some wingnut decided this decision by Starbucks executives is indicative of a War on Christmas (along the same lines as previous years' interpretation of "happy holidays" replacing "Merry Christmas" as attacks on Christian morals, etc.).

                I'm not writing about this because I want to analyze the ridiculousness here, though. I'm writing about this because it's a pretty good recent example of a consistent phenomenon amongst privileged people.

                Which is to interpret lack of special treatment as an ATTACK ON YOU.

                Folks with certain kinds of privileges are so used to being catered to that when it does not happen without question, it actually feels like someone is declaring hatred. That a major corporation did not explicitly decorate its cups for Your Holiday indicates that they are actively trying to hurt you, rip something precious away from you, deny you something you deserve.

                No acknowledgment is made that secular corporations aren't obligated to support any particular religious holiday. No acknowledgment is made that failure to support a holiday does absolutely zero to impede others' celebration of it. No acknowledgment is made that non-participation in a holiday does not indicate a statement against it or the religion that celebrates it. No acknowledgment is made that every other religion is left out if a single global design supports one holiday and not any others. And no acknowledgment is made that even though it is the least explicit of the designs so far, a red-and-green cup is STILL more "Christamassy" than it is anything else. People who are upset about Starbucks not releasing an explicitly Christmas design would not be upset if they didn't actually believe they deserve special treatment for their holiday, though. They would not be acting like this if they didn't believe they were under attack. They would not be making a huge deal out of it if they didn't think lack of explicit catering to their holiday indicates that this corporation is trying to destroy their religion, their values, or their freedom.

                It obviously leaves the rest of us scratching our heads, though.

                The other places I've seen this lately is in groups of white people insisting they're being shamed for their skin color/culture if any statement about the value of black lives is uttered, and in groups of men insisting they're being devalued and attacked if women are uplifted or protected.

                When the Black Lives Matter movement was created in response to a consistent cultural demonstration that black lives apparently do not matter, angry white people flipped out assuming that this was an attack on them. Their primary response was to a) remind everyone that ALL lives matter and b) squawk that they themselves are not racist. To automatically "see" a group of people trying to assert their humanity in the face of racist crimes as primarily a commentary on white people is kind of amazing, honestly. They didn't say "we matter more" or "only we matter." They just said "we matter." And if you believe mattering is about rising above you or giving you the finger, you're responding to something that has nothing to do with you as if it's primarily about hating you.

                As a white person, my job is mostly to get out of the way, don't make it worse, and when possible, point to the black voices who are saying the elegant stuff that's important about this movement. It is not my job to explain why I'm one of the good ones, explain why it's not white people's fault, or bring up what black people should do different if they want to matter more. This isn't about me (except for the bits where I participate, knowingly or not, in the status quo persisting), and I shouldn't try to make #BlackLivesMatter about myself.

                I can say something a little more eloquent about the sexist nonsense, though.

                When surveyed regarding, say, the issue of last name changes for married people, many people regardless of gender believe that a woman changing her last name to a man's is a neutral act. A woman keeping her own name is not a neutral act; it's a feminist statement. A man changing his name is not a neutral act; it's a symbol that he is "whipped." But a woman changing her name is "neutral." It either doesn't mean anything about the man's status being higher than hers OR it means that if his status is higher than hers, that's how it's supposed to be in a "balanced" relationship.

                Taken out of historical context, a man keeping his name and a woman keeping her name--or both of them hyphenating their shared name--is the "equal" option. But many people still "see" it as evidence of imbalance, and some people asked to defend their belief have said it suggests the woman does not know her place, wants more recognition than she should, is "uppity," or is dominating the man in an unbecoming way. You often don't ask why a woman changed her name to the man's. But women who don't change their names or choose hyphenated names are asked to explain why they made this radical choice. What does it mean that you didn't want your family identity obscured by a new name? What does it mean that you want the name you grew up with to continue being used? What does it mean that you want a symbol of your marriage to include both of you? Hey, why are you so selfish?

                People don't really ask why the man is "selfish" enough to want his name to represent both married people. It's not even considered selfish. It's literally considered a neutral act, and anything else suggests the woman wants something that should not be hers, hates men, doesn't respect marriage, is impractical, or "wants to wear the pants." I obviously don't believe women who change their names in marriage are losing their identities or buckling to pressure, and I obviously don't believe there is automatic male selfishness being displayed if the man's name is chosen to represent the couple, but I DO believe that when people try to shame women for NOT changing their names, they are perceiving a literally equal act as an attack on men.

                And it goes on. "He" is considered neutral by many established English conventions. "Guys" and "men" is considered a neutral group title, and can be used to describe groups of men or groups of men and women. But if you ever tried to come up to a group of men and women and used the phrase "all right, let's go, ladies!" you'd get all kinds of confusion and possibly outbursts and protests. If you call a mixed group "guys," that's cool, even though technically that's only some of them. If you call a mixed group "ladies" even though that's only some of them, you're insulting the men in the group.

                Some people shrug and say "what's the big deal?" Indeed, I don't mind being part of "you guys." Because I've been trained to feel that "guys" can be neutral, even though when you say "some guy" you don't ever, ever picture a woman. I've been taught to feel that the default is male and that that's okay when we speak in generalities, and I've been taught to feel that a genderless stick figure is a man unless it has a skirt on. I've been taught that a cartoon character is a boy unless it has lipstick and eyelashes and probably boobs and a bow on its head, even if it's an alien or an animal that doesn't have eyelashes or boobs. Male is neutral. Female is marked.

                How can we make sure people know it's a girl hot dog??
                Simple! Lipstick, boobs, lady hair, high heels, and a purse.

                And again, why do we care? Well, if you spend your whole life being told that male is default, that has an effect on you. If you're male and you're consistently told that man is person but woman is woman, you get a different message than if you're female and you're consistently told those things. "A man walks into a bar" jokes aren't generally about the man being a man. If you start the joke with "A woman walks into a bar," you assume her being a woman is important to the joke, and if it isn't, you may be so distracted by the mention of her gender that you try to figure out how being a lady figures into the joke and miss the punchline. If you mention she's a woman, it's probably not incidental.

                This isn't harmless, or at least it isn't neutral. And when people tell us we're making things up or "shouldn't" care, they're just reinforcing that either we need to get used to groups that include men and women being defined by the men or that we need to be okay with always being the marked gender. It isn't just a matter of language. Books about boys are marketed as kids' books. Books about girls are marketed as girls' books. People who aren't boys or girls (or men or women) are expected to just acknowledge that they're "really" one of the two, or accept that there aren't enough people like them to matter when we discuss representation. Girls are encouraged to enjoy and identify with stories about both boys and girls, but boys aren't asked to enjoy entertainment that's primarily about girls; it's not "for" them, and it's actively offensive and gross and girly and weird (and the marketers will probably cover it with sparkles and paint it pink to make sure boys don't think it's for them). They'll grow up believing whatever is in those girl books is vapid and silly, and that the girls who enjoy them like vapid and silly things, while the stuff marketed to boys is logical and scientific and realistic and important. Girls may believe that stuff about themselves too.

                Asking a boy to enjoy a book about a girl might very well be taken as a direct insult to his masculinity. They didn't ask him to try to be a girl. They didn't ask him to stop identifying as a boy or liking things boys like. But ask him to read a book about a princess or a superhero team of all girls and you might as well punch him in the gut because you're actively insulting him. (This is a generalization, of course; lots of boys like these things, but many of them will be teased or harassed by other boys.) Shannon Hale sometimes writes about these kinds of issues. She's noticed that because her books frequently have girls on the cover, she's perceived as a "girl" author and when she does school visits sometimes they only ask the girls to attend it. She's also noticed that when she mentions "boy" interests she'll get applause and crowing, while as soon as she mentions dolls or stereotypically girl interests the boys will start shrieking and booing, as if to announce that THEY DON'T LIKE THAT GIRL STUFF BOOOOO, and this is acceptable even though the girls don't boo the robots. They aggressively attack female-centric stuff, but it's not because they actively hate it. They haven't even tried it. They're interpreting it as a direct attack on boys existing in mixed spaces. If they have to tolerate or read or think about "girl stuff," it disgusts them and is unreasonable and is hurting their perception of themselves as male.

                I mean, how many dudes have you heard of who don't want to be caught dead holding a lady's bag while she goes to the bathroom or don't want the plastic bag from the store to be pink or have flowers on it? Because OH GOD SOMEONE MIGHT QUESTION THAT HE'S MANNISH ENOUGH. If he TOUCHES or is SEEN WITH something that might be associated with women. He's preemptively perceiving that other men will see him like this, and he sees himself like this. It's actually pretty frightening.

                This all goes back to people perceiving that they are being actively attacked and hurt if they are not prioritized. They wouldn't see an equal male/female cabinet as remarkable and clearly some kind of political FEMINIST AGENDA if they didn't feel that the natural order of things was for women to be significantly underrepresented. They wouldn't feel that this is UNFAIR or WRONG if they didn't believe men deserve to sit in most of the seats. This is how they act when it's literally equal. They're livid. They're freaking out. They think things will change for the horrible if women get equal representation. It's like when people flipped out over women getting the vote and insisted "a woman's vote can only either double or cancel out the vote of her husband!" But not one thought is given to how women felt about being incredibly underrepresented in government, and how they continue to feel when their percentages are usually in the teens and early twenties in governing bodies. Men are furious and remain convinced that this GYNOCRACY is going to upend some natural order, but they don't believe women have any reason to be upset if men are overwhelmingly running the government. They think it's an attack on them when women are equally represented, but they think we're whining about nothing if we say "hey, maybe this is a bad idea for half of us" to a group of 85% men as a governing body.

                And all they can think is that it must be about hate. They must HATE your religion if they won't print cups with your Christian holiday. They must HATE your majority race if another race needs a movement to protect themselves from unspeakable violence. They must HATE your maleness if they won't default to it.

                People who are overrepresented in these situations should take the opportunity to listen to the underrepresented. They should take a moment to examine why they believe themselves the default, the deserving, the central. They should ask themselves why "a woman walks into a bar" implies that the woman's womanness is central to the joke. They should ask themselves why, when black lives are consistently under attack, they react to "black lives matter" with "wait, why are you demonizing the rest of us and saying WE don't matter?" They should ask themselves why they expect companies across the world to actively cater to their holiday or else they must be saying they hate you

                We don't hate you when we try to love ourselves. We don't hate you through the action of not prioritizing you. We don't hate you when we do something that's about us.

                But we'll probably start if you don't stop.