Out of the Shadows

 

ScreenshotSatin

As promised, I have started a new blog and would like to invite you all over to my new home at www.satinrussell.com.

I’ve mentioned before that my real name is not Janyaa. As you have probably surmised, it’s Satin Russell. (How do you do?)

It took me awhile to decide whether or not I wanted to use my real name as my author name. Many people choose to use pen names, instead, and I seriously considered doing so as well.

In fact, it has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make this past year.

You may be wondering why it was such a big deal. For years now, I’ve used this moniker – Janyaa – as my internet identity. It started way back when I first started playing World of Warcraft. (I’ve since quit playing.)

At the beginning, I did it for privacy reasons. Let’s face it, there aren’t a whole lot of people out there with my name. The subject of privacy was particularly relevant given the fact that I was a female gamer, and safety can become an issue.

I also used to write a blog about playing a holy paladin in World of Warcraft. As a stockbroker, I didn’t want my gaming to come up in any searches and bleed into my professional life.

After I quit playing and retired that older blog, it still became a way to differentiate between my “real life” and my “internet presence,” so I kept it. All of my social media was listed under Janyaa, from Twitter to Pinterest. In fact, the only thing that wasn’t listed under that name was my personal Facebook page.

Now that I’m moving into this new phase, being able to connect with potential readers under my real name has become more important. I want to be able to foster a healthy community and interact with people when they discover me as an author.

However, that still left the door open to me using a pen name. As I’ve said, there are a lot of authors out there that go that route. What was to stop me from doing the same?

Ultimately, I guess you could say it comes down to courage, commitment, and ego.

It has taken a lot of courage for me to make this transition and pursue my dreams. Trust me, every day I worry if I’m making the right choice. And every day I take another step towards my goal, I consider it a win against the self-doubt demons inside me.

In some ways, I think it also forces me to reach for a higher standard. There’s no hiding. I need to put out the best product I can. I’m obviously committed to doing exactly that if I’m going to put my name on it.

Lastly, I want to be able to point to my accomplishments and say, “I wrote this. This is me.” I guess you could say there’s a little bit of ego in that, but if I can’t take pride in what I’m producing, then what’s the point?

So, that’s it. This is me! If you’re currently following this blog, I hope to see you at the new site!

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Boston Marathon

NBC still image taken from video shows an explosion at the Boston Marathon

When I first moved to Massachusetts (nearly seven years ago now) I didn’t know what Patriot’s Day was. I’d never heard of it before and was surprised to find that it was a big, highly celebrated Massachusetts state holiday that commemorates the anniversaries of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

Those two battles were the first battles that started off the American Revolutionary War and our struggle towards freedom and independence  There are annual reenactments of the battles in the morning in both Lexington and Concord. There’s also a ride down the same path Paul Revere made on that fateful day, calling out his famous warning, “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

Students are out of school and many people in Massachusetts have the day off. For MOST people in Massachusetts, Patriot’s Day marks the day for the Boston Marathon. People come from all over the state and the world to line up along the 26 mile path and cheer the runners on.

It is the world’s oldest annual marathon. It attracts people from all parts of the Earth to compete, either with each other or with just themselves. It’s open for both professional and amateur qualifying runners. Meaning, it’s democratic.

Tens of thousands of regular everyday people run the course in any given year, many of them for specific charities or personal causes.

And yesterday, somebody decided to set off two explosions at the finish line.

So far, the morning after, there are 3 dead and over 100 injured. There are photos of people with their legs and limbs completely blown off. There are sidewalks awash in blood and gore. Images of people fleeing, cheeks tear-streaked, clad in athletic gear and running shoes.

In horrific and senseless moments like these, I try and look for the silver linings. The fact that there were so many first responders on hand to jump into immediate action and start saving the people who had been caught in the blast.

The fact that Massachusetts is known for it’s world class medical hospitals all within a short distance of the explosions, specifically geared towards traumas like these. Those are things we can point to and be thankful for.

I was inspired by the photos of regular race watchers running up to the fences and barricades that had fallen on people and helping lift and pry them apart with the policemen and official volunteers.

There was a Google document passed around twitter offering thousands of displaced racers food and shelter from Bostonians wanting to help. Remember, a lot of these people are not only visiting from out of town, but from out of the country.

After the explosions went off, the whole place went into lock down and was cleared out. Many of the racers and people couldn’t get to their cars or hotel rooms. Some didn’t even have access to their keys or cell phones being held by loved ones. They basically were stranded in the middle of a foreign city with no resources and unsure of where to go or what to do.

This is an international event. Our world is so interconnected now that this can’t simply be seen as an attack on Americans. That’s one of the things I think whoever did this doesn’t understand (among many.) Things are not as delineated as they once were. We are Earthlings, first.

One of the images that’s burned into my mind are the flags from all around the world streaming in the wind that the explosions made, then falling to the pavement. All the flags representing the world, being trampled on by people who hastened to help and rescue. Country colors muted, lying there, in the blood and debris.

Coincidentally, about a day and a half ago, just a day before this tragic event, I added a flag counter to my website. You can find it on the right-hand side-bar. In a little less than the 48 hours it’s been up, I’ve already collected 29 flags.

There’s a forum site that supports this seemingly simple little widget. On it, you’ll find people from all around the world asking to exchange flag clicks. I’ve visited many of their sites, giving them my +1 US flag. In doing so, I’ve found beautiful photography, music, art, food recipes, posts on life and love. All the usual and everyday things that people care about. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.

I don’t know who perpetrated this attack on us. It makes me sick to hear of some of the conclusions people are so quick to jump to and the amount of hate and vitriol that can come from something like this. Hate and vitriol is what leads to events like this.

I do know that whoever has done this attack has greatly underestimated the resiliency and the goodness in most people – and of the American people, specifically.

Remember, the Boston Marathon commemorates and marks the beginning of our Revolutionary War. We have known struggles like these; we have conquered them before.

Together, we will again.

The Big Picture

This week’s Daily Post challenge got me to thinking about how our perspective helps shape our view of the world. How many times have I run across people who focus on all the little details and forget to look at the big picture? (And why do so many of them wind up in middle management?) Granted, I suffer from the opposite- just as difficult- problem, which is to see a bigger picture, and forget all the little details that comprise it.

Ireland_236Photos are a wonderful way of illustrating this point. Take this photo for example. What could she be looking at with such intent? Grasping the ropes so tightly, with her blue jacket flapping in the breeze around her hips. Is she at the zoo staring at some exotic animal, caged for her amusement? Is she on a balcony looking down at a crowd? Observing the people from afar- slightly above and slightly removed. Or, maybe she’s on an overpass somewhere, watching life and traffic flow past her.

Actually, she was a travel companion of mine in Ireland. We were crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge. I remember the fear and trepidation reflected in her face as she stepped out onto the creaky planks. She got about halfway across when suddenly her knees stiffened and refused to carry her any further. She stood there, eyes wide, breath suspended…and faced the true realization of her mortality.

With much coaxing and prodding, we managed to convince her to finish her journey. As her foot touched solid ground, her face broke out in a wide smile and her cheeks flushed with an overwhelming sense of joy and relief; she was ALIVE!

I think, sometimes, that’s how life can be. Going through the everyday motions: get up, brush your teeth, take a shower, get dressed, go to work, drink your coffee, answer the phones, curse the traffic, eat your dinner, watch the TV, brush your teeth, go to bed… rinse and repeat.

Little details. Mundane steps. All the while failing to realize the bigger picture. To stop and take it in. Hold on with both hands until your knuckles turn white and you have no other choice but to notice; you’re ALIVE!

Be joyful! Be thankful!

Ireland_236

Republicans and Rape

*Sigh* Really? Really?! Can’t a woman have a bit of peace and quiet and get a chance to write about something fun and fluffy? Here I was, after my epically long diatribe about the presidential debates, thinking I’d get a chance to do something nice and light. Maybe I’d tell a fun travel anecdote or give an update about my efforts on eating at home more and bringing my lunch to work as originally talked about in “A Penny From the Past.”

You know, day-to-day things that make me happy.

Then, some ASSHOLE named Richard Mourdock, who happens to be the Republican candidate in the running for one of Indiana’s US Senate seats, had to go and say that after “struggling with it himself” he’s come to “realize life is a gift from God and even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Woah. First off, how exactly did you “struggle with it yourself?” Have you been in a situation where rape was a legitimate concern? Have you had to alter your behavior or experience the natural fear that can occur while walking down a dark street? Please, do tell us how you can at all relate to how someone in this position might feel.

Frankly, I guess I shouldn’t be so flabbergasted that we are, once again, hearing of another GOP candidate talking about shit that they could have absolutely NO understanding about in order to justify their position against abortion.

Obviously, there are a number of things wrong with his statement that a pregnancy resulting from rape is God’s will. To begin, I don’t think it’s a good idea to act as if you’re channeling the word of God in a political debate. It’s especially concerning, as we are supposed to have a separation of church and state in this country and religious freedom (to choose whatever religion we want, or to be free FROM religion if we want.)

Secondly, saying that the pregnancy is an act of God is implying that the rape itself was an act of God. Otherwise, how would that pregnancy have occurred? Or, did God come during/ after the rape act and then put the baby into the poor, suffering woman. (As a sidenote, if he WAS there during the rape, why didn’t he help her?) Wait, didn’t you say that your God was compassionate? Hypocritical much? I digress.

I hope it’s apparent that by implying God sanctions rape, it would have serious implications to the overall safety of women’s health and well-being in this country. It’s the same logic that allows the Taliban to say “God decrees that little girls should be shot in the head for wanting an education.”

Isn’t it funny how the word of God and “His will” all happen to be exactly how the candidate feels and thinks? Man, they must really have a direct line! Maybe God can make their football team win the next game for them, too.

In a funny twist of fate, the only candidate that Mitt Romney happened to personally endorse this campaign season is Richard Mourdock and the television ad that he filmed started to air on Monday…just a day before these remarks were made.

Yes, Mitt Romney endorsed Mourdock and filmed a television ad prior to the remarks he made in the debate. Some people are saying that because it was before Richard said these things, it shouldn’t reflect back onto Romney.

However, when asked if he would rescind his support, or even take down the TV commercial, Mitt said no. Actions speak louder than words. If he says, “I don’t agree with what he says,” but then turns around with a wink and a nod and verbally confirms that he wants the TV ad to continue running and that he still endorses the candidate….then he is implicitly supporting Mourdock’s position!

I think we’re seeing the type of discourse that results when people start believing it’s their right to dictate what women do with their bodies. This is a dangerous and slippery slope.

First it’s banning abortion. Then it slides into smudging the lines of a woman’s value and proper place. Then it creates an atmosphere that opens the door for people to moderate and gloss over the horrors of rape.

I’m truly scared of the extreme discourse that is coming from GOP’s mouths these days. Not simply because it’s atrocious. It also has the unfortunate effect of moving the “center” of this conversation to the far right. Which, I feel, is the ultimate goal.

Think about it, after listening to this tripe, someone like Mitt Romney (who believes abortion should be illegal, but is willing to concede exceptions in cases of rape) seems downright reasonable!

This is a trap, people. It is the standard operating procedure of the GOP party to frame and re-frame the conversation until we start thinking the unreasonable sounds reasonable. If there is one major and persistent frustration I have with the Democratic party it is the fact that they STILL fall victim to this tactic. This isn’t a new strategy! It’s been around for a handful of elections! Yet, we still manage to fall for it everytime. (Can you say “entitlement programs,” anyone?)

One of the things that’s been bothering me about this election cycle is that while the Republicans are trying to encourage people to make their decisions based on “about the economy, not social issues,” they are SIMULTANEOUSLY saying some of the most backwards, offensive, and misogynistic remarks in our modern history. Oh, and let’s not forget also ramming draconian and extreme laws through state legislation.

Well, fuck that. I reject the bifurcation fallacy that says this is a choice between either the economy or social issues.  Why can’t we have intelligent discourse on both? Yet, the Republicans insist that I should only be basing my vote on the economy and our national debt. I refuse to bend or apologize for the fact that I’m basing my vote to include social issues. If the GOP doesn’t want this election to be based on them, then they should stop legislating them.

And, another thing. As much as I wish I could have written about other things, I will not shut up about this stuff. We need more people speaking out against this type of extremism. We need to let these people know it is unacceptable. People who disagree with this barbaric way of thinking need to band together and remember we’re not in this alone. THEY are not the majority, regardless of how vocal they may be. There’s still hope, but we need to push back on this attitude together.

I’m not just talking about and referring to women, either. Men, who respect women, who have mothers and sisters and daughters that they see as equals, also need to be voicing their dissent to this backwards way of thinking! This is not just a feminism issue. This is a societal issue.

Above all, we need to VOTE THESE ASSHOLES OUT!

Females and Fair Sex

I think I’ve mentioned a time or two that I’m really into politics. I’ve tried to refrain from allowing this blog to become a political soapbox and, for the most part, I think I’ve succeeded.

That being said, last week, I had a friend post something on their Facebook that completely caught me off guard and was deeply offensive and I’m feeling the need to vent a bit and share my thoughts about it.

Now, I’m no stranger to debate. I have a whole slew of extended family that are super religious and conservative. I think it’s important to be able to conduct honest discourse and try to find the commonalities and compromise on issues wherever possible.

I knew this person from way back during my raver days, between the ages of 22-26 or so, and it’s been quite a long time since I’ve really had a chance to talk to him or hang out. Apparently, he’s made quite a lot of changes since those party days.

He got married, has had two young daughters and became very religious. All well and good, I say. He seems happy and content with where his life is and I’m glad for him.
However, this is what he posted the other day:

He captioned this with the comment, “I guess asking women to keep their legs together is just asking too much nowadays.

Um, WHAT?!?

It’s amazing how much I’m flabbergasted that someone I know could actually produce this kind of tripe for thought. It’s utterly astounding to me how people can STILL fucking think like this in this day and age.

Let’s break down all the reasons why this pisses me off, shall we?

First of all, setting aside the fact there is absolutely nothing wrong with women having sex, why is he only pinging on women here? WOMEN have to keep their legs together? Did he miss the biology lesson where it was explained that sex takes (at least) TWO people?

Why should we be mentioning women’s need to keep their legs closed without ALSO mentioning that men should be keeping their dicks in their pants?

Secondly, if you actually look at that infograph, it not only mentions free birth control, but it also says annual checkups and wellness visits (such as pap smears) will be paid for. Mind you, this is a man with two young daughters. Even if they NEVER have sex, they are still going to have all the same femal reproductive organs such as ovaries, fallopian tubes and cervices.

Why on earth would he want them to be discriminated against by the health insurers, and made to pay more, simply because of their gender? They’re still going to need annual visits and pap smears, and preventative care.

If his daughters had crooked teeth, he’d want them to get braces, right? How is this any different? As a parent, he should want ALL of his daughter’s health and well-being to be taken care of.

Besides that, they are probably not going to grow up to become nuns. So, even if he teaches them abstinence until marriage (and assuming they actually follow that philosophy,) they will eventually have sex. I’m assuming he would like to have grandbabies one day. If so, then his daughters receiving benefits as new moms would also be a good thing.

When I brought up these points in my comments to him, he came back with the response, “ladies should be ladies,” and that he was, “going to raise his daughters right and make sure they know to be ladies and not sluts on stripper poles or in rapper videos.”

Yes, that’s actually a quote.

I told him he was taking two very different extremes and there were plenty of degrees in the middle. That women didn’t have to be virgins to be a lady. Sure, as a female I believe in being confident, having high standards, and self-control. However, just because a woman chooses to have sex, doesn’t automatically make her a slut, either.

Why does he (and so many others) have this double standard when it comes to having sex? I asked him whether or not he was a virgin when HE got married. Not that I actually wanted him to answer that kind of personal question on a public forum such as Facebook, but that he should take that factor into account when he considers his perspective.

And, again, why is responsibility of sex placed all at the woman’s feet here? Where is the expectation that men should also have an ability to practice self-control? This kind of gender biased perspective of sexuality is the exact same reason women in Saudi Arabia have to wear burqas.

His response was that, “he wasn’t going to take it that far.” Sure, ok, HE may not take it that far, but who’s to say someone else wouldn’t? In fact, there are MANY men who HAVE taken it that far.

Believe it or not, there are whole countries that say men can’t control their sexual urges and baser instincts and shouldn’t be held responsible for themselves if they see a woman’s hair, face, or figure. They claim it is up to women not to give too much temptation for men, and that they should be covered to help protect their mens’ morality.

Well, I call bullshit on that.

This gender biased sense of sexuality is also exactly the kind of thinking that enables rape culture. Think about it. How many classes or informational meetings have you heard about for women that talk about how they can help prevent the risk of rape or assault?

Every woman I’ve ever known has been told, don’t walk by yourself at night, don’t put yourself in bad positions, watch your drink when you go to a bar or a house party, etc, etc.

Every woman I know has been taught to watch who may be following them, to check the reflections in the shop windows when walking down a street, or to be on guard when on public transportation.

Every woman I know has been the subject of catcalls, honking, whistling, jeering and leering. Street harassment is so prevalent that there’s actually a website called, ihollaback, with testimonials from women around the world about it.

Yeah, it sucks and isn’t right but, it’s a reality that pretty much any woman around the world can relate to.

Think about how many times you’ve heard about classes or informational meetings for men talking about what NOT to do. Sure, a good mom will teach her son to walk a girl to her car, or make sure she’s in the house after dropping her off from a date but the general social discourse just isn’t there.

In fact, our society has a long habit of objectifying women and their sexuality. There was a recent article even written about the differences in the type of photography we saw covering women Olympians that discussed it.

For most societies, sexual responsibility is on the woman to not put herself in a position where a man would be able to assualt or rape her. Furthermore, when things like that happen, then the first questions to inevitably arise are, “Well, what was she wearing? Had she been drinking? Who was she with? What was she doing?”

It doesn’t matter what she was wearing, she didn’t deserved to be assaulted! It doesn’t matter if she’d had a few drinks, she didn’t deserve to be raped! Too bad, our initial questions are very rarely directed towards the men and their lack of control and sense of humanity.

I’m not sure, dear readers, if you may think I’ve digressed. Perhaps, you think I’m hyperbolizing or blowing this one facebook comment or post out of proportion. I’m certainly not insinuating that my friend would EVER do anything such as assault or rape someone.

However, comments like these, mindsets like these, gender biased viewpoints on sexuality and creating an atmosphere that slut shames women who choose to be sexually active, all contribute to a society that enables this kind of behavior.

It’s bad enough that we’ve seen a slew of new legislation diminishing womens’ rights to get an abortion, get honest doctor’s reports, being forced to have vaginal probes on unnecessary procedures (aka: state sponsored rape), penalties for using birth control as contraception by their health insurers, or women being required to tell their employers why they’re on birth control. We are at a point in this country where there has been a systematic war being waged on women’s sexuality and- dare I say- equality.

Comments and attitudes like these are especially relevant considering the recent announcement that Paul Ryan will be Mitt Romney’s running mate. This is the same Paul Ryan that would ban common forms of birth control, end funding for Planned Parenthood, end a woman’s right to choose (even in cases of rape and incest,) and even voted AGAINST the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Which, incidentally, doesn’t have anything to do with women and sexuality, but simply says a woman doing the same work should get paid the same as a man.)

Check out this video clip talking about some of the fertility issues in this election cycle. It’s a bit older and was during the Republican primary, so you’ll hear a few references to Newt Gingrich, however a lot of the points are going to be on the ballot this November. The more relevant points start at 1:01. The tl;dr version starts at 7:20.

My friend can be conservative and choose to raise his daughters to wait to become sexually active until getting married. Good luck to him. I hope that works out for them. However, that still doesn’t mean all women should have to pay higher health insurance premiums for basic health services.

Women and men everywhere need to start standing up and engaging in conversations that push back against these unfair, discriminatory views on women’s sexuality. Even when it’s on Facebook. Especially if it’s with a friend. I truly believe these interactions have the power to help shape our national discourse and have consequences.

As for my friend, he ended up taking down his post. I’m not sure if I managed to sway his opinion or not, but at least I can say I didn’t stand idly by while he tried to deem what was acceptable behavior from me and all women.