Sunday, October 4, 2015

Activism and Therapy

Purple Sage has a great post about being a feminist in therapy:
The most common form of psychotherapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which is where the patient talks about her life and the therapist suggests ways of changing her behavior and thought patterns in order to improve her life. I know that when feminists hear this we immediately jump to accusations of victim-blaming. It’s not her fault, it’s the patriarchy! we want to shout. But I have done lots and lots of CBT and it did not turn me into a self-blaming patriarchy enthusiast. Let’s take a closer look at the idea of “changing your negative thoughts.”

Some thoughts are negative because the situation is truly negative. If you are being abused by your husband, for example, and you think this is a negative situation, then you are absolutely correct. This thought does not need to be changed at all, it is an accurate assessment of the situation. Other thoughts are negative even though the situation is not actually negative. If you believe that you are ugly and stupid, those are truly negative thoughts. They are making a negative and untrue interpretation of your situation. Those are thoughts that do need to be changed and you can, and should, change them, because they are harmful to you and you deserve to be safe from harm.
Interestingly, CBT was recommended as an antidote for some social justice actvists' black and white thinking style in the Atlantic's September cover story, The Coddling of the American Mind. Says Greg Lukianoff of FIRE, an organization dedicated to free speech on college campuses, on his own experience with CBT:
As I was learning to identify distortions in my own thinking, I began to recognize them in the thinking of others. The organization I lead, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, supports free-speech rights on campus. One case that was much on my mind had taken place in the fall of 2007. At the University of Delaware, as part of a diversity-focused orientation program, students reported being made to “take a stance” on one side of a room or another, displaying their personal views on polarizing topics such as affirmative action and gay marriage—even if they didn’t yet know where they stood. Such an activity is not only reductive and unscholarly, it is a classic demonstration of the all-or-nothing thinking I had struggled with.
Purple Sage goes to to say that while "self-care" (a phrase I personally loathe for reasons I'll get into another time) is important, it's crucial to note that changing one's thinking doesn't get to the root of systematic oppression, something ignored entirely in self-help culture, but it can give you better tools in which to fight.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Flashback of the Day: Dorian Corey and Venus Xtragaanza explain reading

If you're a fan of Rupaul's Drag Race, you'll probably recognize the vocabulary here: reading and shade. The late Venus Xtravaganza offers and advanced course. (By the way, hers is the voice I hear every time I see Trump on TV: "Overgrown orangutan!")

Friday, October 2, 2015

Links & Bits: 10/2/15

I'm not putting a trigger warning on this because frankly everyone should be triggered it. Triggered and disgusted. And angry.

TSA: Still treating trans people like shit.

Moving essay by John Doran on hitting bottom.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Usual Suspects

I just finished a book on the Newtown shootings. The usual list of subjects are lined up and dissected -- mental illness, access to guns, violent video games -- while ignoring the most salient fact in all mass shootings: they're almost always committed by men. If we're going to talk about mental illness, we need to talk about men and mental illness, not just their access to firearms. (Mentally ill people are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.) Men are less likely to seek out mental health services, more likely to react to anxiety and depression with violence, and their aggression, something seen in women as potentially pathological, is encouraged. Was Adam Lanza isolated? Of course he was. Affected by the violent video games he played? Most likely, but I'd look that as a symptom rather than a cause.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Everything that's old...

This isn't the best essay on the current state of pop music,  but there's enough going on that I'm itching to do a point-by-point analysis. A lot of it just rings false. I don't know how old the author is, but I'm guessing she's much younger than I, and while it's easy to chalk a lot of what's going on with music today as generational, things like class come into play but still get very little lip service.

She leads off by stating that kids today don't hate their parents' music the way previous generations did:
I’ve heard Gen-Xers complain about hippie music, and I know my Boomer dad resented his parents’ polka. But in this day and age, the reverse is truer: kids are more likely to love the music their parents hated the first time ’70s soft pop, which, to my dad, is music for waiting out death to on brown polyester. Even the rock I like from the ’60s isn’t his bag—I once played him Bubble Puppy’s “Hot Smoke and Sasafrass” thinking he’d at least remember the riff fondly, but he thought the guys held their guitars too high.
I don't think this is entirely true. I liked a lot of music from the 60s and 70s that my parents ignored: Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Dylan, even the Dead.  (Mom preferred country, dad blues or jazz, bu the way.) This was true for a lot of my friends, too, however, something I've always thought of as universal is probably uncommon: I'm a Gen-X'er with Boomer parents. A good percentage of millennials writing these "think pieces" have parents the same age as mine. So, yeah, the generational line between my folks and me is a little blurry.
Musically speaking, I love the freedom of punk, and the idea of music as a collective tool. But I see huge problems with its ethos, which substitutes political for personal angst, and to be honest, sometimes I just wish the music were better. Emo is in revival (or “did it ever die?”), and while I loved it the first time around, I sort of hate the part of me that loved it—the version of me that saw my problems as monumental, and assumed that because I was sad, I couldn’t also be an asshole. I loved the all-ages shows and the feeling of safety, but I hated the performance thereof; loved the sincerity, hated the whining. And I hate, hate, hate the fact that post-emo indie rock—indie rock in general, really—hasn’t changed significantly since the ’80s, and that it’s performed by more or less the same people.
Punk has gone through various incarnations since the late-70s, so I'm not sure which version of punk she's referring when she says that punk's ethos substitutes the political for the personal, but plenty of music in the punk tradition was personal. By the time "emo" was a genre, I was well into my twenties and found it laughable. (Okay, maybe for some reasons that were fairly misogynistic, given that my favorite singer-songwriter is a guy who sings about his feelings quite often.) It wasn't a perceived lack of sincerity that bothered me, but that it used personal pain as a form of currency. Punk, after the Clash and before Nirvana, was an insult in my high school. Calling yourself a punk meant that you weren't one. (The punks were skaters.)

"Indie" has changed quite a bit since the 80s in that you don't have to be independent to be considered "indie." Then it wasn't a genre yet, instead a business model. A band started on an independent label, if they were lucky, scored a big contract with Sire or Geffen, then usually failed grandly and ended up in the hole. (Or, in the case of a band like Sonic Youth, expanded their fanbase without ever really breaking into the mainstream and managed to live relatively comfortably -- not a bad thing.) That model doesn't exist anymore -- again, not necessarily a bad thing -- but it's also rendered the word "indie" meaningless and now it applies to any band who got their start organically.

At the risk of sounding like an old rock fan, the change has come not necessarily at the sonic level, but more as a wholesale lifestyle change. No one is ever at a loss for resources. A new artist can record, produce, and market his music to the masses with a click. But to say this has made artists more creative is false. Sampling, cut-and-paste culture, once a staple in hip-hop, is now grounds for lawsuit. Historically, it always was, but now just using the same chord progression could land an artist in court. (Does anyone really think Sam Smith sounds like Tom Petty?) Resources may be vast, but there's a sameness within music that comes from everyone having equal access.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Earworm of the Day: The Dammned - New Rose

For all the old punks out there.

Monday, September 28, 2015


  • Pumpkin spice lattes are problematic now because... whatever.
  • Quote from Coming Of Age on Zoloft: "So when I think about experimenting with going off (antidepressant) medications, the chance of writing anxiety is more worrisome to me than depression. Even on the best days I don't find writing easy. Can I really risk making it harder?" This was attributed to a writer named Emily, one of the many young interviewees in the book. Look, I'm not anti-medication or even anti-psychiatry, but I find this insulting. Writing is hard! Finding writing jobs, particularly for young women who want to make a name for themselves outside the typical "lady issues" parameters is hard. A pill isn't going to change that.
  • Speaking of which, I started jotting down some notes for NaNo. I don't have a real plan right now, just a semi-interesting character. I haven't in some time, but I'm pantsing it this year. Results may vary. Results are generally shitty. But it's a fun way to get out of your head.
  • This is a great example of why I hate when critical arguments are made within ideological boundaries. Taylor Swift, last time I checked, garners a fair amount of critical acclaim (maybe not Beyonce level, who by this point, has achieved untouchable status). The indie rock critic who derides all pop music as insipid and insincere in 2015 is an object of mockery. Even if it were true that covering songs is akin to "mansplaining," what's so wrong with being an elitist? Or ironic? Those used to be good things. Myself, I've never been a fan of girly pop music, even as a kid, and I refuse to deconstruct that simply as a facet of "internalized misogyny." I didn't like Madonna or Debbie Gibson or whomever was popular at the time, so it makes sense that I'd turn my nose up at Taylor Swift. (Plus I'm old enough to be her mother.) I did like a lot of the foo-foo metal bands, which, let's face it, were pop, and some harder metal then eventually punk. I only began to appreciate current pop music when I was getting paid to write about it.