Sunday, December 10, 2017

The age gap (maybe) in attitudes toward sexual harassment.

surdumihail | Pixabay | CC0
It has ever been thus: Older folks say they can't understand why teens and twentysomethings like this or that, or believe this or that -- and the young folks think the oldsters are hopelessly behind the times. When I was a kid, the arguments were mostly over hair ("long-haired hippie commie fags!!!") and music ("it's all just noise!!!"). The generations also fought over the Vietnam War, which the World War II vets expected the kids to fight in without complaint, and to which the kids replied, "Hell no, we won't go!"

Today, the topics have changed a little, but now the Baby Boomers are the old farts, and it's the Millennials who think we're hopelessly out of date.

Take this article from Mashable that came across my Facebook feed earlier today: "Women over 50 see sexual harassment very differently than millennials". Judging by the author's photo, she's a young woman, maybe in her late 20s or early 30s. She's also based in the UK, which may or may not have anything to do with the thesis of her article, in which she claims women over the age of 50 are much more forgiving of men's behavior than younger women are.

The author's sample size is admittedly small; it appears she mostly talked to friends of her mother's in rural England. And she may be making more of this than it deserves. The article cites a British government study of attitudes, which found, among other things: "Wolf-whistling proved to be the most divisive behaviour, with 74 percent of 18-24 year olds, and 59 percent of 25-39 year olds considering it inappropriate. But, four in 10 women over 55 say wolf-whistling is acceptable, and 27 percent even said it was flattering." So 60 percent of women over 55 think wolf whistles are unacceptable -- roughly the same as the 25-to-39-year-old respondents. That's not exactly a groundswell of support for whistlers.

But the author is right that the attitude is out there. Just as some men are having trouble parsing this brave new world, where it turns out behaviors they thought were flirtatious aren't, some women -- mostly older -- are more willing to cut men some slack. I'm thinking of the flap over the holiday duet "Baby It's Cold Outside." To modern ears, it sounds like the man is trying to persuade the woman to have sex with him, and when she sings, "What's in this drink?" it sounds like a precursor to date rape. In the '40s when the song first came out, though, the reading was very different; the song's defenders say the woman was trying to figure out a way to stay and have a drink with the guy without ruining her reputation. Personally, I think if a holiday ditty needs to be accompanied by a short course on How Times Have Changed, it's probably time to retire it. But maybe that's me.

A number of holiday movies haven't exactly stood the test of time, either. My all-time favorite Christmas movie is "White Christmas" -- even though when I watch it now, it makes me wince. All the showgirls are dumb blondes, and the point of the plot is to get everybody married off. At least Rosemary Clooney stands up to Bing Crosby, I guess, even though (spoiler alert!) it turns out it's all a big misunderstanding.

In any case, I think if you're going to set a cut-off age for women who have more lenient attitudes toward male behavior, then 50 isn't old enough. A whole lot of women in their 50s today have been working their whole adult lives, and are very clear about what constitutes sexual harassment. Even 60 is too low. Maybe 65 or 70.

Some folks are wondering whether we won't swing too far in the opposite direction, to the point where touching a member of the opposite sex in any way could be construed as harassment. That's all-or-nothing thinking, and worries along those lines generally turn out to be overblown.

I agree that these are uncertain times. However, things have been bad for women for a very long time. There's that old saying that power corrupts, and men -- generally white men -- have been in control of our society for decades. Now women are emboldened to stand up for themselves and expect their complaints to be taken seriously. It's not just about getting married anymore. And men who have believed wolf whistles -- or worse -- were the best way to get a girl's attention are going to have to clean up their acts.

Sorry about the problem with the photos last week. Now that I'm home, I've fixed those broken links. You're welcome.

These moments of uncertain blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Finding wonder.

I guess I hit a nerve last week with my post on forgiveness, although in the end I'm not sure whether it was my nerve or everyone else's. In any case, I'm going with a less fraught topic (I hope!) this week.

I turn 60 this coming week, which means I'm nearing the end of my second Saturn return. In astrology, your Saturn return is the year or years in which Saturn returns to the astrological sign it was in when you were born. It happens every 30 years, more or less. So most of us will get two Saturn returns in a lifetime, and some of us lucky humans will be graced with a third.

As I understand it, if you didn't solve some of the stuff you were supposed to work on during your first Saturn return, that stuff comes back to smack you upside the head and force you to deal with it during your second. Knowing that, I can see it's no accident that I wrote the Transcendence books this year.

Anyway, it occurred to me the other day that one thing that's been missing from my life lately is a sense of joy and wonder. Particularly when you've been doing the same thing for as long as I have, it's easy to fall into the habit of trudging from one workaday care to the next, without finding joy in any of it. So this week, I am in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on a sort of birthday-week retreat. And on the plane out here, I found myself wishing for a little wonder.

After I checked into the hotel yesterday, I strolled down to the central plaza, as one does when in Santa Fe, in search of dinner. What I found -- as you can see -- was wonder. So much wonder that I went back tonight. Enjoy.

All photos copyright Lynne Cantwell

These moments of wonderful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

On forgiveness.

I'm just going to come right out and say it: I do not get this idea that we should all forgive the people who have wronged us.

Before I go any further, I guess I should remind y'all that my thoughts -- on this topic as well as on many others -- do not mirror the traditional Judeo-Christian mindset. I'm Pagan. Pagans don't believe in original sin, and we don't believe we have inherently fallen short of perfection. Or rather, we know we're not perfect -- we're all human, and humans aren't perfect. But we don't feel the need to beat ourselves up over it.

John Beckett, who blogs at Patheos Pagan, wrote a post this week about what redemption means to Pagans. He covers the points above (better than I could, to be honest), and goes on to talk about the Pagan concept of repentance and forgiveness. Basically, repentance involves not just apologizing, but being sincere about it -- no excuses and no qualifiers. You need to acknowledge that you've hurt the other person, whether intentionally or not, and that you're sorry for what you did. And then you need to fix it, to the extent possible. That's how you redeem yourself. That's how you regain your honor.

By the same token, if you've hurt someone, that person does not owe you forgiveness. They may choose to forgive you or they may not. They may never get over being hurt. And they don't have to forgive you, no matter how desperately you need it or how much you think you deserve it.

Contrast that with the popular idea that we should all forgive those who have transgressed against us, regardless of whether the transgressor is sorry, or has apologized, or intends to ever try to make it right. Refusing to forgive, we're told, cedes real estate in our heads to this person. We'd feel better, we're told, if we just let it go. We don't have to forget the transgression, but we do need to forgive the person who committed it. The transgressor doesn't even need to know what we're going through; for example, we can write them a letter and not send it.

I'm sorry, but what the actual fuck? How does this solve anything?

I agree that holding a grudge is unhealthy. Anger held for too long turns to bitterness, and bitterness will poison your outlook on life. And by the same token, seeking revenge is an exercise in stupidity.

But if some creep has hurt you, you're supposed to give him a pass? And that will make you feel better? How does that work, exactly?

I suspect this is resonating with me because of all the women, and some men, who have been coming forward lately to say they were sexually harassed and/or abused by powerful men. As some of you know, I've spent my life dealing with the fallout from emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of a family member. Should we all just forgive our abusers? Just to, you know, regain that real estate in our brains? How has that worked out for women in general over the past several centuries?

The rest of y'all can go on forgiving willy-nilly if you want. As for me, I forgive only the people who deserve it. That's how I keep my honor.

These moments of honorable blogginess havve been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Here comes Advent -- and it's gonna be expensive.

Today, I spent $150 on an Advent calendar.

Not the mittens. I made those several years ago -- knitted them out of 100% acrylic yarn that I happened to have on hand. Those tiny mittens will still be around when the sun goes supernova. And they were cheap!

No, the thing I bought today is a cleverly-packaged knitting project called a Craftvent Calendar. The box has 24 drawers, and each drawer holds a thing I will need to create a knitted shawl: needles, notions, yarn, and the directions. I'm hoping the directions are in drawer number 1 -- although since the project is billed as a knit-along, the pattern will probably be parceled out in chunks over the course of the month.

The thing is, I have no business buying an Advent calendar of any sort. I'm Neopagan, as you may recall, and Advent calendars are a Christian thing. The practice began among Lutherans in the 19th century, according to Wikipedia, and the idea was to mark the passage of time between the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and the day itself. The first commercial Advent calendars, though, marked the days from December 1 to Christmas Eve. They were cardboard and had little numbered doors that you opened each day to see a scene; the door number 24 would reveal either Jesus in the manger or Santa Claus.

Since then, the idea has morphed. Mutated. Grown into a monster. Oh sure, you can still get the cardboard variety, as well as the kind with a little piece of not-very-good chocolate behind each door. But there's more -- oh, so much more!

For less than $50, you can get a Lego Advent calendar -- and as every parent who has ever stepped on a Lego knows, they are the gift that keeps on giving. But adults have lots of less painful options. For example, the Body Shop sells an Advent calendar for $105 that features not only cosmetics, but "a feel-good action to complete every day" and, inexplicably, a bunny-eared headband. On a more serious note, Anthropologie offers a box of 24 little bottles of personal care products for $170. And booze sellers have also gotten in on the act. The Master of Malt website has been selling a Very Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar (in walnut or ebony -- your choice) for upwards of $11,000. I say "has been" because, alas, they are sold out.

It's gotten so bad that clergy in the U.K. are warning about the dangers of consumerism -- not just on Christmas, but while counting the days leading up to the Big Day, too.

I feel like Exhibit A. We observe Yule, which falls on the winter solstice, anywhere from the 20th to the 22nd of December. Traditional Advent calendars overshoot our holiday. In fact, I made the mittens so that we could easily adjust the countdown for the year in question.

But after the mini-tour of excess I just undertook to write this post, I'm feeling better about that Craftvent Calendar. I'd rather have a new shawl in January than a bunny-eared headband anyhow.

These moments of bloggy excess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.