Animal Crossing Proves Marxism

…and other clickbait headlines.

In order to understand this post, you’ll need to know a little about the meta of Animal Crossing. I’ve been playing a lot of it lately, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, but I didn’t get into the ways in which this entry in the beloved series has been updated. One of the many new additions is a smartphone full of apps (because every kid these days has one, so every kid’s game has to include one or kids will wonder why they can’t have one). You can’t call anyone with your smartphone, but that’s fine; the apps are the point, as they have become in the real-world meta over the generations.

One such app, perhaps the single most important to the gameplay loop, is the Nook Miles app. Nook Miles are basically frequent-flyer miles you earn by doing things around your island. At first, you only have a number of long-term goals unlocked, like talking to your villagers every day for 30 days or planting a number of flowers in your lifetime. But eventually you are upgraded to a “miles plus” member, which gives you a sequence of short-term, randomly-generated quests to earn miles. These are small tasks such as selling 20 weeds, catching 5 fish or bugs, or having 3 fossils assessed: each of them can be done inside of half an hour at most, and they reward you with some small number of miles (usually 100 or 150). The first set of quests you get in a day have a multiplier on them, so you earn triple rewards; each task you complete will generate a new task, but the new ones won’t have the multiplier, so there are diminishing returns after the first five quests a day.

show

Why am I talking about nook miles? Well, as a facebook friend by the name of Miles Redman pointed out today, this means nook miles are effectively a currency directly tied to your labor. You can’t sell anything to earn more nook miles; new miles are only generated when labor is performed, and so every mile represents some small unit of player agency and time. You can, however, buy things with miles. I believe the intended metaphor is that the player is improving the island and, as such, gets rewarded with trinkets and baubles as a thank-you for their hard work and effort. These thank-you gifts include items, recipes, and a way to cash out for bells (the in-game currency of buying and selling) — but they also include the infamous Nook Miles Ticket.

Nook Miles tickets provide a trip to another island where you can obtain more resources than you can get on your home island. They also represent a gamble, as some of these procedurally-generated islands are rare, including ones where you can capture the most expensive bug in the game at a far higher spawn rate than normal, rapidly earning you a lot of bells. But perhaps more importantly, they represent 2000 Nook Miles in an easily transportable package — a physical manifestation of your hard work and labor.

Why does this matter? Well, to understand that, you have to understand another piece of the meta of the game: the Stalk Market. Every sunday, you can buy turnips from a wandering turnip broker for anywhere between 90 and 110 bells. Any day except Sunday, your shop will buy them for a random price, between 30 bells and 800. Obviously there’s huge profit to be made; however, every Sunday morning, the previous week’s turnips all spoil, and spoiled turnips can’t be sold at the going price. So you have a limited time to cash out before you lose your investment. Couple this with multiplayer allowing you to sell things at someone else’s island and you start to see where the meta is going. The intended strat here is to play with friends so that when one of you gets a lucky big break, all of you can rush over to their island and profit. But the internet being what it is, there is now an underground market for high turnip prices, complete with “entry fees” being required on many islands to access the shop and “turnip bouncers” whose job it is to physically block you from going to sell your turnips until you pay the fee.

In a game where time travel can get you nearly infinite bells, there’s no way to cheat the Nook Miles system. A real human has to perform real labor in order to obtain Miles. As such, the Nook Miles Ticket (or NMT as you see it in adverts) has become a defacto underground currency. Ads run something like this: “Nook buying turnips at 615 bells! 10 NMT entry fee, tips accepted!”

turnipads

Here we begin to see the Marxist analysis. Money can be easily manipulated by playing stocks, gaming the system using your wealth (the more turnips you can afford, the more profit you make) and connections (knowing the right friend with the right price can make a world of difference) as well as a bit of good old-fashioned luck. But when money is just a game, what matters is the player-performed labor. That’s what really adds value into the system. What do the rich long for? More time, and the ability to put in less effort.

There’s also an ethical component here as well. If you know what you’re doing, you can time travel and open your gates all at the same time, meaning you can perpetually have the highest price you can find to let people come sell, while raking in their entry fees in exchange for… what, exactly? In this case, you’re not the shop owner paying for turnips. That’s Timmy and Tommy Nook. You don’t own their shop either. You don’t own the land it sits on, so you’re not even a landlord. It’s more like you were lucky enough to find oil on your property, and you’re leasing the rights to collect it in exchange for NMT (and sometimes gold or rare items that are hard to amass, but you can trivially connect that to the time and effort it takes to obtain the rare items in the first place, just like nook miles are crystalized time and effort). If you’re unethical enough to sit on a high price all day long, posting on turnip exchange websites and cultivating a long queue, time traveling when the shop closes back to when it opened again, you can rake in the consolidated labor of hundreds of players, all for the luck to have a good price and the lack of scruples required to exploit it.

The only way this is going to stop is if people stop paying NMT for turnip prices — that is to say, if they collectively withhold their labor and refuse to play the metagame that the scalpers are playing. If we were all okay with playing a slower-paced, laid back, casual gaming experience, we wouldn’t need to sell at the absolute highest price possible; it’s pretty reliable to obtain a small profit if you’re willing to sell at, say, 126 bells instead of 600+. But as long as people are competitive about it, as long as they need to have all the bells now instead of taking their time acquiring what is essentially an unlimited resource, we’re going to see that play out in the market dynamics that end up consolidating wealth in the hands of a few who know how to work the system.

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Adventures in Swapping

So I’ve been playing a lot of Animal Crossing.

Today we posted our dodo code publicly for the first time. We gated off a section of the island so it was all our guests could reach, and built a little Swap Shop complete with a sign. The idea? Take an item, leave an item. The reality? The first guy who showed up cleaned out half the items and booked it, halfheartedly dropping 6 hardwood in response. (Hardwood is a very plentiful resource, and 6 is a pitiful amount).

Based off this article, the idea seemed sound. And yet, I think the “DM me for the codes” element of his posting was essential to maintaining some semblance of accountability. That or his twitter feed is self-selected for people who will understand the point of the concept. We posted on dodocodes.com with a note explaining that there was a swap shop and to bring things to barter, but apparently the idea isn’t self-explanatory enough for the limited text on the site to carry the meaning. (We did post a longer explanation in a facebook group, but nobody came, so we opened it up to dodocodes.com in the hopes of reaching more people).

I’ll keep you posted on future shopping endeavours.

 

Image may contain: table

These tables were full when we started…

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Who is the “Bad Guy”, exactly?

or, “Does Billie Eilish realise how this song hits adult listeners?”

I’ve been listening to a lot of Billie Eilish lately. I love her sound, her ability to set a mood, the essence of her music. But when I listen to “Bad Guy”, her biggest hit, one lyric in particular keeps jumping out at me:

My mommy likes to sing along with me
But she won’t sing this song if she
Reads all the lyrics she’ll pity
the men I know

(emphasis mine).

Will she? Let’s read all the lyrics the way Billie suggests we do, and see what they’re saying. One thing I want to highlight before we continue, however: Billie Eilish was 17 when the song was released (and presumably 17 or younger when it was written). Keep that in mind as we read:

  • Billie was wearing a white shirt, but it’s stained red from her nosebleed, and she is now asleep. The song doesn’t expand on whether this is a natural nosebleed or someone hit her. The Pop Song Professor suggests that this implies a virgin innocence now stained with blood from sexual conduct, and I’m not inclined to argue given the context of the rest of the song.
  • “You” are sneaking in, whether to be with Billie behind your girlfriend’s back or back to your girlfriend after being with Billie. It’s implied from context of the song that “you” are a male and Billie’s (cheating) lover. It’s also implied here that someone (or everyone) knows you’re doing this, as you only “think” you’re getting away with it. If the nosebleed was unnatural, you may have been the one to punch Billie in the face, though that’s a bit of a stretch read given it might just be the loss of innocence listed above.
  • Billie has bruises on both her knees “for you”. Again, given context, this implies she’s giving blowjobs (perhaps frequently), though alternate readings exist where she’s just a fan of doggy style or perhaps BDSM.
  • The next line has two possible readings depending on the elided subject. Either Billie doesn’t say please or thank you, implying she’s rude; this would be the first “bad” act in my book in the song performed by Billie, who certainly doesn’t control whether the man she’s with cheats or not. The other reading is that she’s ordering “you” not to say please or thank you, giving off an air of machismo: the type of person who dislikes “please” because it shows weakness and dislikes “thank you” because it means they’re doing a favor they don’t want to admit to doing.
  • Billie does what she wants when she wants, refusing to be controlled. Again, this is either a further refusal to be polite or a furthering of the machismo reading from the previous line.
  • “My soul? So cynical”. This line makes me smile every time. Not in a patronizing, “you’re only 17, what do you know of cynicism” way; Billie is Gen Z, a generation that is coming of age in (if possible) even worse conditions than we Milennials grew up in. No, the reason I smile is that 17 is a developmental age where it’s common to feel jaded or cynical due to the loss of childhood and being on the cusp of adulthood. Even the Boomers, who came of age in a very favorable time period, felt that cynicism and loss of innocence. However, ms Eilish probably wouldn’t thank me for pointing it out, as exceptionalism is also developmentally appropriate to 17. Put bluntly: every 17 year old thinks they’re uniquely jaded and cynical now as compared to their 13 year old past self, and they’re all probably right except for the “uniquely” part.

Now the stage is set for the chorus, the main theme that repeats throughout the song:

  • “You” think you’re tough, and really like rough sex, but (it’s implied) you’re not so tough after all, you just puff out your chest and act macho
  • Billie is “the bad guy” who will make your mother sad, your girlfriend angry, and perhaps seduce your father on her quest to fuck everyone and everything.

Billie’s “badness” here is so far entirely predicated on one thing: liking sex. Those of us who subscribe to the label of “ethical slut” refuse to judge her poorly for that. So what if she likes sex? It’s normal to like sex at 17! (It’s also normal to not like sex, given many people just don’t enjoy it, but that’s beside the point).

Are you pitying the men in her life yet? I’m not. Seems to me the cheater, the one with both Billie and some girlfriend, is the “Bad guy”, and Billie’s just doing what comes naturally to her. If anything I pity Billie for falling into the trap of assuming that women liking sex makes them villains while men are the hapless prey for these women to seduce.

To be entirely fair, here’s the readings for the rest of the song:

  • Billie likes to play BDSM games where she’s the “pet” or submissive partner and her partner pretends to own her, though she knows such games are pure fiction and she’s not owned by her partner
  • Billie is “only good at being bad” — her self-esteem and worth is low, thanks to her self-image as the “bad guy”.
  • Billie likes when her  partner gets mad. This line is interesting; it’s not uncommon to enjoy provoking a response out of a partner who is often stoic and somewhat controlled, making them lose that control and be more “real”. But it doesn’t speak of a healthy relationship.
  • “I guess I’m pretty glad that you’re alone”. I would normally read “alone” to mean “unpartnered” but that doesn’t fit the context of the song, so this must mean that he’s come to some location without his usual partner (in order to cheat with Billie).
  • The girlfriend is afraid of Billie, who doesn’t “see what she sees” but allows that maybe it’s due to the cheating aspect.

Now you could read this song of course as being a persona, an anonymous “bad guy” Billie’s made up for the purposes of the song. She’d probably like it that way, in fact, given her comment in-song about her mother enjoying her music. Who at 17 wants their mom to know they’re into BDSM? But you don’t write a song like this without internalizing many messages about female sexuality and a woman’s role in men cheating on their girlfriends. So in the end, I still pity Billie (and all young women growing up with these messages) rather than the men in her life.

Furthermore, I’d be curious to know if the men in the song are older than Billie; it’s often a powerful, “bad guy” feeling to be dating someone off-limits due to age or power imbalance, without realizing that you’re being taken advantage of and that the power you seem to have is an illusion. It twists and warps your perceptions of yourself in similar ways to the way the song seems to portray. Just a theory, though. I don’t know that much about Eilish’s life outside of what I can glean from her music.

How about you? Where do you fall on the song reading? Would you like more of this? It’s been a while since I did a song lyrics analysis. I still analyse songs offline, and talk about them with my family, but I happened to write this one down for you all.

Posted in Music | Tagged , | 4 Comments

2020: The Year I Finish My Projects

2020 is going to be the year I finish my projects.

I’m off to a good start. So far I finished putting up my best (co-)written story of all time: New Rules, a Dragon Age fanfiction. It’s got a lot more worldbuilding than I’m used to doing for such a short piece; we’ve written sequels and they’ll be put up as we get through editing them. We turn out to write very quickly and edit much more slowly, and I’m not putting the first drafts up without giving them a good once-over first, even for fanfics. I want to make things I can be proud of, without overworking myself to death doing it, if that makes sense. If such a balance can be struck.

I finished knitting the scarf I gave my spouse for Kwanzaa well in advance; both my partners were trying to finish their gifts the day we exchanged them or the day before.

I’ve finished doing a video project I’ve been working on for almost a year. It’s on my patreon now and will be on youtube soon; if you’re not a patron, the posts with the links will unlock Wednesday for part 1 and a week later for part 2; patrons can see both parts now.

I’m working on a nonfiction book, for the first time ever. It’s called How To Come Out, and it’s going to be a guide into all things Coming Out: discovering what to come out as, coming out in phases, transition and/or becoming comfortable with your queer identity, and how to be come out to. It’ll have real stories from real people mixed in, so people don’t feel so alone and isolated.

I’m going to get our church’s Welcoming Congregation status renewed. I’m going to finish playing A Link To The Past. I’m going to write the first draft of the last book in each of my trilogies so those can be done. I’m going to finish my projects.

I was going to say more, but life hit me in the face and I’m gonna go process for a while instead.

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Happy holidays (2019 recap)

If I wrote anything here, would anyone be listening? Would anyone still read this?

2019 has been a long year for me. Lots of changes. Lots of stress and pain. I’ve got secrets out the ass and I feel constipated with them, like I can’t share what I’m feeling or going through because then Someone Would Know.

Fuck Someone. This is my blog and I’m going to share.

But if you’re reading this, please leave me a comment so I know someone’s out there.
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Dr Laura: Ch 5

The conventional wisdom in favor of living-in before marriage is that it allows the couple to get to know each other, make a better marital choice, and lay a more solid conjugal foundation than men and women who marry cold turkey.

Could this thinking be wrong?

No. End of chapter.

(This chapter is about “Stupid Cohabitation”, which she calls “the ultimate female self-delusion.”)


A US survey of 13,000 adults found that couples who lived together before marriage were one-third more likely to separate or divorce within a decade. A Canadian national survey of 5,300 women found that those who cohabitated were 54 percent more likely to divorce within 15 years. And a Swedish study of 4,300 women found cohabitation linked with an 80 percent greater risk of divorce.

Here’s the thing though: in 1994, cohabitation before marriage was a fairly new practice in those countries: between 1964 and 2014, the rate rose 900 percent to a figure of about 7-in-ten women. Which means, like all new practices, it skews toward young people. And the younger you are when you get married, the more likely you are to divorce. Studies that take this into account show that age is a stronger predictor than cohabitation:

The research shows that at 23—the age when many people graduate from college, settle into adult life and begin becoming financially independent—the correlation with divorce dramatically drops off.

Kuperberg found that individuals who committed to cohabitation or marriage at the age of 18 saw a 60 percent rate of divorce. Whereas individuals who waited until 23 to commit saw a divorce rate that hovered more around 30 percent.

That said, she can’t have known that at the time:

These trends are troubling to some because nearly a dozen studies from the 1970s into the early 2000s showed that men and women who lived together before marriage were far more likely to divorce than couples who moved directly from dating to marriage. In fact, on average, researchers found that couples who cohabited before marriage had a 33 percent higher chance of divorcing than couples who moved in together after the wedding ceremony.

So you can’t blame her for believing the figures. What you can blame her for is jumping right from correlation to causation, to assuming that cohabitation causes divorce and then looking for reasons to support her claims.


Why [do you keep cohabitating despite the statistics]? Desperation. Fear of not having somebody — of not having a life if a man doesn’t want you.

In our dialogues you always come to admit it. How about saving yourself the stress of finding out the hard way?

[…]

[Choosing someone] should be out of a desire to share [your]self, [your] life’s experience. And that’s why, in the long run, I don’t think personal maturity is benefited by these living-in arrangements

Clearly the fact that some people choose to cohabitate out of fear (????) means that nobody can ever do it. This is why we can’t have nice things: desperation. She asserts that all women move in with men because they’re hoping to get married but don’t trust the man to make that happen unless they move in. Which is… honestly a really weird reason to move in together? Who does that? Without a transcript, it’s hard to see the real picture here.

I will point out that this case study is nineteen and came from a bad home life. Of course she’s not ready to get married yet! She’s, what, a year out of a bad situation? I don’t think many adults a year out of a bad marriage are ready to get married again, and that’s not counting her age. Plus, cohabitating can be a boon toward getting out of a bad situation and staying out, since you split expenses.


Listen, the phrase is “happily ever after”. All of us girls grew up with that promise. So when you’re an unhappy young girl, what better remedy than living-in with a man?

I literally can’t even follow this logic. It’s such a reductive, condescending way to judge people’s life choices.


Then she says cohabitation comes often from a place of denial, quoting one caller:

“I feel he does love me, but he holds back” is her explanation for the live-in boyfriend’s desire to sex-sap with other couples.

I’m pretty sure he’s just into swinging, but okay? I hope he found someone who likes to swing to spend his days with instead. I hope she found someone who doesn’t to spend time with, too. I hope these callers ended up happy despite the judgemental, bigoted advice they got.

Moving in with a  man when you don’t know how he feels is to try and make him feel something toward you. THat’s demeaning and stupid. It is about you auditioning.

She uses as evidence of this a caller whose boyfriend keeps saying he doesn’t feel ready to get married. And you know what? young people who have only been together a year might not be ready to get married! That’s okay!

Dr Laura’s advice? If he’s content to live together and she’s not content, she should move out so that he’s discontent and therefore will make changes such as marrying her. She suggests that he offered to go to therapy with her, and Dr Laura’s reply was cold and dismissive:

Dr Laura: That’s nice too. But right now I’m not interested in him. I’m concerned about you. Diana, leave. eave because living with him is making you feel bad about yourself. That’s why you shouldn’t be there. It is damaging to you.

Note that Diana didn’t say she was unhappy with the living arrangements — she just wants to get married, and he isn’t ready yet.

(Toxic monogamy is this: you want something and your partner can’t provide it yet so you throw out the baby with the bathwater and leave him forever, endlessly searching for the one person who will fit all your desires perfectly, until you get lucky or decide to settle for less).

Later she literally equates living together with prostitution:

Women have to know of their alternatives to selling themselves. And they have to be able to use their courage and creativity in ways that make them choosers, not beggars.

I feel like the alternative to “selling themselves” is a lesbian duplex, but okay.


I pointed out to Yolanda that when you move in with a man without a commitment, he already knows one crucial thing: He doesn’t have to do much to get you. Then he fools around, and you stay, and he learns something more:: He doesn’t have to do much to keep you either.

In other words: it’s her fault he cheated, because she was “easy”.

“Commitments don’t stop people from being abusive, unloving, unfaithful, or just plain annoying. Commitments don’t even stop people from dumping each other. So– big deal.”

Well, the statistics prove that commitment is a big deal

But they don’t — they don’t say what she thinks they say, and the fact that she interpreted them as cut-and-dried proof is on her even if the real cause wasn’t widely publicised yet.

Having sex-too-son, moving in without commitment or life plans in concert, are the behaviors of basically immature, let-me-feel-good-right-now-because-I-want-it-therefore-it-is kind of people.

What’s wrong with feeling good right now? Does every relationship have to be forever? Is there point to dating without marriage as a goal? I clearly feel there is. Dr Laura doesn’t even bother touching on these items; she just writes them all off as immature and moves on.


Susan called me to discuss her boyfriend’s immature and manipulative behavior, which she was determined to change!

Dr Laura: You live with him?

Susan: Yes.

Dr Laura: You got sexual too soon. You moved in too soon.

Dr Laura sees what she wants to see.


Grown-ups should know that they don’t get the goodies legitimately unless they have earned them.

We’re done here. I’m pulling the plug on this chapter if all she has to offer are ad-hominems and assumptions.

Posted in Deconstructions, Dr Laura | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Dr Laura: Ch 4

I know I’ve been gone a while. Here’s why: I open the book to my bookmark and see the chapter’s subtitle “Oooh, aah, we’re breathing hard… it must mean love”.

Then I close the book.

The sheer scorn and lack of empathy dripping from the page is painful. She just lives and breathes misogyny at every turn. How did people read this and think, oh yes, this woman was enlightened, she’s a hard-hitting no-nonsense woman who really has her head on straight? I guess the same way they voted for Trump. This was happening in 1994 when this book was published. People have always been suckered by bigotry posing as no-nonsense facts.

Chapter four is about “Stupid Passion”


 

“We will sell no wine before its time.” Would that more women would display the same attitude toward sex!

K.


And please don’t accuse me of being a throwback to the double-standard days without considering the increasing numbers of unwanted pregnancies, abortions, venereal diseases, and broken hearts since the sexual revolution told us: “Hey, baby, you have the same right to fun ‘n’ games as men do.”

First of all, you’re a bigot.

Secondly, you’re not even accurate:

Unintended pregnancy rates decreased in all world regions

“Abortion has been on a nearly steady decline since the rate peaked in 1980,”

In general, data on reported STDs in the USA showed steady increases during the 1960s, with a levelling off or decline of most of the bacterial STDs but continual increases in viral STDs and genital chlamydial infections during the 1970s and 1980s. National reports of gonorrhoea and syphilis began declining at different times and at different rates in all industrialised countries during the late 1980s and 1990s

I don’t think the government tracks broken hearts, but overall, all those trends slope downwards decade after decade. There may have been an upswing in the 60s and 70s, but the more education you get out there, the rates all drop consistently. Certainly by 1994 the tide was turning.


The first case study: someone who fell in love, had sex, and found out the man didn’t see her the same way. The answer to that is a frank conversation, not a moratorium on sex.

I am not saying women should do a virgin-till-death act to make a man see them as pure, good, or a prize to be won. […] However, a man who is heavily indoctrinated in a fundamentalist mentality would require a mate in kind — perhaps a better pan than the sexual chaos we have now.

Hot take: a man who is heavily indoctrinated in a fundamentalist mentality is garbage and you deserve better. These men do not want you to have pleasure, or control over your own body, or fundamental rights. These men want you to sit down, shut up, and simper at them. You’d think this is the kind of hard truth Dr Laura claims to be willing to give her clients — and yet, all she can offer is the same tired opinion that you should give men what they want, because heaven forbid you have standards.

Let’s face it, it’s perfectly possible to have a complete discussion with a man who seems to be on the same wavelength only to find out he is a liar, that he is someone playing a game with others.

So the alternative is to never talk to people, but instead give them what they want without question?

Finally, I’m much more concerned with you playing games with yourselves — expecting pleasure while you’re actually setting yourselves up for pain.

This is the fundie trope again: women can’t have equitable relationships or real pleasure, and therefore when men behave badly it’s all the women’s fault.


Her next case study is a woman who slept with a married man. That’s an easy target — except watch carefully what happens here:

The “mistake” turned out to be getting sexully invovled with a very close friend’s husband. […] Although it had only happened once some five weeks earlier, it plagued her. When I asked Tiffany why she’d done it in the first place, she initially claimed she didn’t know, and then. . .

(notice the language here: “claimed”. Because women always lie about their motivations.)

And I don’t know exactly why… except… I thought that I needed to help him, in a way… because his wife.. my friend… had just died two weeks before and now I… I feel like I betrayed her…

The wife is dead. There’s no cheating happening here! Just two people, grieving, and coping with that grief, maybe in an unhealthy way (though it’s hard to be sure behind the Dr Laura filter).

Dr Laura: You didn’t do this to her. You obviously have done something to hurt yourself. Do you like this man? Did you have warmies for him when she was alive?

(WARMIES. What the fuck.)

Tiffany: I don’t think so… Well… yes and no… yes….

Dr Laura: So you already coveted him in your heart. And now there was the opportunity

This is again puritan sexual ethics: having sexual feelings for someone is “coveting”, and makes her 100% responsible for what they both did together later.

She suggests calling the man and telling him that she feels used. Tiffany says that both parties pulled back, but Dr Laura buffalos past her, saying “But he pulled back first?” until she agrees. She also insists Tiffany say no until she’s sure he’s gotten past his wife’s death — not saying a word about how Tiffany should deal with her own grief. That just doesn’t come up. At all.

Dr Laura is a shitty psychologist.


Only after making it clear that things are the women’s fault does she talk about how couples should talk things over, how it’s more intimate to talk about sex than to do it.

The rest of the chapter is just… bland. She talks about how sexual intimacy can hide deeper self-esteem issues, how jumping into bed with someone can be a patch over poor self-esteem, how you won’t find a lasting relationship until you figure out if you’re compatible in non-sexual ways, how the right age to start having sex is the age at which you can maturely handle the consequences (which is different for everyone). This is the “clean your room” part of the Jordan Peterson message: the boring, vanilla advice sandwiched between layers of misogyny and victim-blaming.

Posted in Deconstructions, Dr Laura | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Unconditional Love?

It’s Mother’s day.

(If you’re new here, that’s a content note. This story doesn’t end well. My mother’s day stories never do.)

Image result for a mother's love

Text: “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. — Agatha Christie”

Here’s what a mother’s love looks like to me.

 

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Posted in Musings, My Story | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Imported from Storify: The Alt Nat US Park Service Twitter and Why You Should Follow Them

Alt US Nat Park Service: Resisting Trump

Alt US Nat Park Service: Resisting Trump

So this alternate account account apparently has existed for a while:

  1. @WingsScotland Oi, fellow plebian. What say you, honourable rev, on the elecshun result?
  2. But after Trump put out a gag order instructing people not to talk about climate change anymore, things got interesting:
  3. “The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93 ppm.”
  4. Mr Trump, you may have taken us down officially. But with scientific evidence & the Internet our message will get out.
  5. Respect goes out to our brothers and sisters at the @BadlandsNPS. When they silence you, we will speak for you.
  6. Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #climate
  7. We’re back! Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal. @kate_sheppard
  8. This shit is really dystopian, ya’ll:
  9. Think about what happened for employees at #BadlandsNationalPark to actually DELETE factual tweets on climate change.
  10. Somewhere a call came down the line demanding the account editor remove the tweets. Someone pulled rank and cited President Trump’s orders
  11. @markfollman We’re now online through an unofficial account being moderated by colleagues.
  12. This came about in part because the Badlands National Park Account had to remove its tweets:
  13. Is the deletion of the tweets on the Badlands National Park account a violation of federal records retention laws?
  14. “We can’t sit idly by. Climate change is likely to threaten our national security—we must act now.” @BarackObama 45th US President
  15. “Climate change is happening now. Denial is dangerous.” .@BarackObama 45th US President
  16. these tweets have been deleted. but @BadlandsNPS had 7,000 followers yesterday, and now has 73K followers. so this had an impact.  https://twitter.com/palafo/status/823999538197385216 
  17. So AltNatParkSer, being a private citizen’s account that just so happens to be run by park service employees but is in no way a government account, speaks the truth that Trump is trying to suppress:
  18. Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters in the last century. The rate in the last decade is nearly double that of the last century.
  19. Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001 #climate #Badlands
  20. The year 2015 was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average #Climate
  21. The 2000s saw a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, but surface temps continued to increase.
  22. Oceans have absorbed much of the increased heat, with top 700m of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969 #climate
  23. 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends are extremely likely due to human activities.
  24. The number of record high temp events in the US has been increasing, & number of record low temp events has been decreasing, since 1950.
  25. Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa. https://t.co/V2ec7TBzAP

    Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa. pic.twitter.com/V2ec7TBzAP
  26. This is the National Park Service’s Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy. Pls download before it is removed.
     https://www.nps.gov/subjects/climatechange/culturalresourcesstrategy.htm 
  27. As well as commenting on politics from the inside:
  28. Tonight Trump gagged National Park Services & signed executive order to restart Dakota Access & Keystone XL pipelines. #climate
  29. Showing sympathy for US citizens:
  30. Somewhere a US student is desperately trying to find the government’s stance on climate change for a Spring paper due tomorrow. #ThanksTrump
  31. Students, lay down your kegs you have papers to write & climate change is happening, despite what Trump claims.  http://climate.nasa.gov/ 
  32. And for Badlands NPS:
  33. Shoutout to the anonymous crews at .@BadIandsNPS continuing the great work of the original before Trump’s (tiny) hand came down.
  34. The Badlands were created over eons through the gradual erosion of sediment. The erosion of U.S. democracy, however, will be far more rapid.
  35. Before reiterating their message:
  36. Hello, we are the Alternative National Park Service Twitter Account activated in time of war and censorship to ensure fact-based education.  https://twitter.com/ASimilarKite/status/824052267636559872 
  37. Thank you all for your support. We ask that you call your member of congress & demand the censorship be lifted.  http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ 
  38. Why you should call — not email — your legislators (from November 2016)
     http://nyti.ms/2k0IYDV 
  39. We don’t want any trouble. We just want to keep peer-reviewed “factually accurate” climate science flowing out of US institutions.
  40. Did no one tell President Trump about the Streisand Effect?
    You silence our colleagues officially, and we will scream when we get home.
  41. Perhaps its fate that today you will once again type for our freedom, not from tyranny or persecution — but from climate change.
  42. We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist.

    To have peer-reviewed science be published by our institutions.
    #climate #ResistTrump

  43. They’re smart, and they’re funny as hell; a perfect combination for these dark times:
  44. And should we win the day, the 24th Jan will no longer be known as an American day, but as the day when the world declared in one voice
  45. "We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We'll fight climate change denial" https://t.co/HWNhAKmaBz

    “We will not go quietly into the night!

    We will not vanish without a fight!

    We’re going to live on!

    We’ll fight climate change denial” pic.twitter.com/HWNhAKmaBz

  46. What do we want?
    Peer-reviewed Science
    When do we want it?
    Yesterday, please!
  47. Can’t wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS.

    You can take our official twitter, but you’ll never take our free time!

  48. Here they described why they’re resisting:
  49. Here’s the DL on the National Park Service. Most of us are in the job for one reason. We LOVE our outdoors. It IS the greatest.
  50. We take immense pride in keeping the parks clean and safe for all Americans and tourists from around the world.
  51. Park ranygers come from all walks of life. Some of us escaped the city & others never left the mountains. But we have one yuuuge common goal
  52. Our job is to preserve the natural & cultural resources & values of the National Park System for enjoyment, education, and inspiration.
  53. No matter our politics: Dems, Reps, Indy, Martian, we all want the best for our parks & that starts with understanding the Earth
  54. To understand what’s best for our parks, we need to have access to US science data on climate & the environment. We must not be silenced.
  55. US election was tough for park rangers, but Dems & Reps united over common fear of CFCs from President Trump’s excessive use of hairspray
  56. The National Parks, forest and wilderness reserves in our country are our greatest natural assets. We’re scared for the future. #Keystone
  57. Want some real fact to go with your alt-president? US national parks posted tweets about climate change that were later deleted.
  58. The National Park Service shut its own Twitter operation briefly on Friday after an apparent clampdown.
  59. The park service had retweeted photos about turnout at President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
  60. But the accounts were reactivated the next day after an apology for “mistaken” retweets.
  61. Since then the park service tweets have been about park news and scenery. South Dakota park then posted tweets about climate science data.
  62. President Trump has called climate change a hoax & the White House deleted the climate change policies on its website on inauguration day.
  63. A media blackout has also been introduced over our colleagues at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  64. Fun fact: The White House is surrounded by NPS land, and during Occupy they supported the protesters despite the mayor’s objection.
  65. There’$ a rea$on WHY Pre$ident Trump want$ u$ $ilenced on #Climate $cience. Don’t let US institutions be cen$ored
  66. They’ve been understandably vague about who they are exactly, but this is what they have said in response to detractors:
  67. Hi @JettGoldsmith This accnt being run by several active NPS rangers and friends.
  68. Paid? We’d share NASA’s findings for free! Education for all! You get a climate link and you get a climate link!
     http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/   https://twitter.com/Julie_Weathers/status/824059713897766912 
  69. @EricM_Katz We’ve agreed to DM only. No email addresses or names/locations.
  70. @AlexanderLerche We never said cabin…. Could be a tent and a very long cable!
  71. It’s getting late here in DC. We have family to go spend time with. We’ll be back. #Resist #Science #EPAgag
  72. And finally, they did offer some advice about what you can do to thank them:
  73. Find a fellow ranger and offer them a beer on their downtime. They’ll really appreciate a cold one.  https://twitter.com/aepton/status/824092640647876609 

 

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Dr Laura: Ch 3

I find it fascinating that Dr Laura’s central thesis is that women mess up their lives by acting like their lives all about men, and yet all ten things they do to “mess up their lives” are things they do in relationships with men. That kind of implies that Dr Laura also thinks their lives are about men, and therefore, that they are right to acknowledge that their relationships are the single most important things in their lives. Chapter 3 is about “stupid devotion.”


We begin with another of those odd sections where Dr Laura seems to be quite feminist indeed. She says some pretty wise things in this introduction, like “Their definition of love is — with a lot of confirmation from popular culture — way off the mark and has become synonymous with attachment”. She point out the toxic way in which Ariel in The Little Mermaid is encouraged to give up family, friends, home, and even her own body for the love of a stranger she finds attractive, or how Belle dreams of seeing the world and getting out of her province and immediately abandons that dream to settle down with the Beast. She writes, quite well said in my opinion, “I would have been happier had she been a part of his successful spiritual transformation, patted him on the head, and gave him her forwarding address at the university”.

But here’s the thing: she doesn’t engage with these fictional stories as stories. She doesn’t seem to care why they were written that way, what the effect is on young girls, what the creators were intending to say, or how we could build a better fairy tale. She engages with the women in these stories as though they were real women with agency of their own — and she blames them for the failings, as though they were just too stupid to understand what to do. It’s this victim blaming mentality that steers her away from feminism and into misogyny.


The first case study in this section is a woman named Lisa. She doesn’t want to marry her boyfriend because he’s a drug addict, but she still loves him. Dr Laura advises her to get out of the relationship immediately. She admits that the last time she tried to break up with him, he hurt her physically, and that if she doesn’t take his phone calls or answer the door, he’ll come over and break it down to get in to her. Dr Laura sees this as a sign that Lisa is weak-willed; she calls her “a wimpy, overcompassionate, frightened female” when she refuses to call the police on her boyfriend. (Clearly this has nothing to do with the number of young men who get shot when there’s a mental health or addiction crisis going on and the police are called.)

She goes on to blame men’s problems on women. She suggests that the man is behaving in this abusive, stalkerish way because he’s getting signals that Lisa doesn’t really mean it when she tells him to piss off, then concludes with this garbage:

Although Lisa can clearly see this man is a major problem, she continues to have feeling for him. So what’s really at issue? […]I can’t tell you precisely what combination of nature and nurture is at work here ,but women do seem able (and all too willing) to search really hard or redeeming qualities in their men. With such a mind-set, they are ripe to be overly tolerant of grossly negative qualities in exchange for what may be only moments of happiness or peace.

She then rails for multiple pages about how women say “But I love him” as a reason to excuse bad behavior. What do you expect them to say? When your stupid heart wants something, it’s not going to turn on a dime; it’s going to keep wanting that thing even as your rational mind tells it no and sends it to bed without supper. That’s part of what the grieving process is for: resetting that desire, learning to let go of what might have been and focus on what is. All that work often begins when you break it off with someone. It’s not the work of an hour.

I’m going to interrupt this writeup for a brief PSA. If you are in a situation like Lisa’s, where you find yourself unable or unwilling to break it off with someone who treats you badly, physically threatens or harms you, and makes it clear that breakup is unacceptable, there’s hope. You can find people at the National Domestic Abuse Hotline who are trained and able to help you figure out how to break things off without having a police standoff at your apartment door. Then the grieving process can begin and you can get on the road to healing. If you can’t decide if your relationship is bad enough, feel free to drop a comment here, I’m always willing to help people talk through their choices.


Dr Laura then puzzles her way through a discussion of physical double standards. She mentions that women are willing to overlook all kind of “unattractive” features in a man, but men are quick to pass on a woman if she’s not conventionally beautiful. Number one, that’s not universally true; this reeks of being pulled from pop culture rather than from real life, as it’s a common sitcom trope but not necessarily indicative of everyone’s lived reality. Her evidence even includes beer commercials!

Number two, even if we assume this is a widespread problem, she doesn’t dig any deeper into why that is or what can be done about it. Instead, she blames women for not being picky enough! As though physical beauty is, in fact, the be-all end-all of relationships, and women therefore need to become more bigoted and only settle for the most attractive mates.

Why are you settling? Why are you not more selective? Why are you not more critical?

Why are you calling it love?

Because you haven’t come to believe in yourself!

There’s a world of difference, in my view, between “settling” for a man who treats you badly or abuses you, and “settling” for a man who treats you well but is going bald. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s a pretty disgusting thing to equate here.


Dr Laura is abrasive, rude, and often downright cruel. But in this chapter at least, she grapples with some real problems. I mean, this isn’t necessarily an incorrect sentiment:

I feel certain that what many women call love, under so many obviously ugly, hurtful, and sometimes downright dangerous situations, is more about passion and promise and fantasies and desperate dependencies and fears about taking on alternatives.

Real love is a long marination of qualities having to do with respect, admiration, appreciation, character, affection, cooperation, honor, and sacrifice.

But verbally abusing women until they stand up to their verbally abusive boyfriends just seems counterproductive, doesn’t it?

She pinpoints that the problem is low self-esteem, but then counters that women often use low self-esteem as an excuse for inaction, rather than something that they should be working to change. My counter to that is that people will use anything as a reason not to change if they’re not ready or not willing to do so yet. You can’t shy away from terminology just because people will use it to deceive themselves. Isn’t this book supposed to be the real deal, raw and unfiltered, and not concerned with hurting feelings?

But as I keep saying, she has some good advice here:

Courage is not the lack of fear, it is fear plus action.

She lays out here that if you push yourself to make change, when your life improves, you’ll have more self-esteem: because you took control and made change happen, therefore, you are a person who can make good things happen. This is a far healthier basis for self-worth than what other people see in you.


Our next case study is, shockingly, a lesbian: Linda, who was involved with another woman. The other woman decided she wasn’t in love anymore and wanted to break up. Linda was finding it hard to let go, which Dr Laura claimed (and doesn’t give me enough data to judge for myself) was because she was afraid to lose herself, the sense of significance and worth she got from being in a relationship. We get another dose of misogyny here:

I observed that such behavior is typically female. Men don’t feel they have to be attached to a woman in order to exist. They feel they have to be doing something: racing a car faster, inventing something, climbing a mountain, running a company — doing something in the world. That’s how they find an identity.

This is because the patriarchy says that men get their identity and worth from the things they do, while women get their identity and worth from their owner. A girl with a rich father is better than one with a poor father; a girl who can afford to spend daddy’s money on expensive beauty regimes and plastic surgery is able to make herself more attractive to a potential husband, and landing a rich, successful husband is the way in which a woman shows she is valuable. Denying the effects of patriarchy and laying all the blame on the head of the woman is like denying the effects of our income inequality and blaming poor people for being poor, or denying systemic racism and blaming black people for not “trying hard enough”.

Dr Laura then describes women as “Volunteer hostages” and “romantic martyrs”. I’m just going to skip ahead a bit; she has a tendency to repeat the same central point over and over in progressively more shocking ways, as though worried it won’t sink in if she only says it once.

Toward the end of this chapter we get more traditional advice, though it’s dressed up in the sensationalist package. You have to love yourself before you can love someone else, Dr Laura basically implies. You can’t change a man, so if he has a deal-breaking flaw, give him up. You should use your head to overrule your heart: if the situation is dangerous, don’t listen to your feelings, protect yourself. Love (the feeling) is not enough.

I’ve been struggling with the definition of love for a while. There is an emotion, a gushy, sentimental attachment to a person, that is often described as “love”. But there is also the sense of devotion and faith, of choosing to be with someone and do what you can to make their life that much better. Of putting their needs over your own wants, of choosing to stand by them when things are difficult. There’s also the sense of unwavering acceptance, the idea that you know them thoroughly inside and out, and the curiosity and desire to see where their life is going and who they are becoming from minute to minute. All these things are called “love”, and they’re not always a package deal. What do you do when you have sentimental feelings toward someone but you can’t accept who they really are and you don’t want to be part of where their life is headed? You try to change them, or you tell yourself they’re better than you think they are (denial), or you leave them. Of the three options, only one is really healthy.

Post-script: Sorry this took so long, I’ve been having a mental health crisis and needed to be away from the internet for a bit. This book is a lot shorter than Bitten so I anticipate no trouble finishing it, but it may take longer than I expected. 

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