If You’re Going to San Francisco

Give me a call!

Yes, so in case you missed my massive amounts of Facebooking, I am moving to California… next week.

It’s kind of a crazy thing to do, but then again, I’m kind of a crazy person. Actually. My brain isn’t wired normal. You can check out previous posts to learn more!

“Laura, what are you doing in California?”

Good question, person interested in my life, I have no idea! Probably finding a job and continuing to work on my writing. I’m applying to a kickass journalism fellowship that I will never in a million years get. So that will be fun! Otherwise… just… participating in the capitalist struggle for more!

“Wait, then why even are you going to California?”

Another good question! Maybe you should apply for the journalism fellowship! Just kidding. Please don’t. So, it started out I had this plan to work for Epic for a year and pay off all my college loans …

HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHHAA

So that didn’t work out. But while I had that plan in mind I started looking at other places to potentially move to, and the more I looked the more things pointed to San Francisco. Because 1) it’s on the ocean, 2) it’s on the West Coast 3) hippies 4) awesome literary community 5) awesome biology opportunities 6) Ghirardelli.

So I thought, might as well try. And plus, after I live in San Francisco for a while, everywhere else will seem so affordable by comparison! Setting myself up for success.

Things I will miss about Wisconsin:

  1. The people. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all the people I met this year, especially at the Great Dane. I had no idea what I was signing up for when I agreed to work as a hostess, but it was like finding a second family. I felt so welcomed and supported from day one and I will always be grateful to everyone there. Thank you for putting up with my stupid questions, my strange outfits, and my general aura of awkward. I hope that you know underneath my thick layer of shyness there is just a mass of love for all of you.
  2. The cheese and beer. I know there’s all those commercials about happy cows in California, but I’ll believe it when I see it. There’s no cheese like Wisconsin cheese and I’m gonna stand by that. Also probably no beer like Wisconsin beer. I’m less of a beer connoisseur. I did only recently graduate from drinking….Boxer…

Things I will NOT miss about Wisconsin:

  1. The winter. Okay, all you people with your winter sports and you hot chocolate and your whatever else, no. I am done with winters. NO MORE WINTER. No, Ned, winter is not coming! Not for me! Never again! I don’t like being cold. I’m cold all the time. Even in summer. So, no.
  2. The super aggressive blackbirds. They know what they did.

So, yep. I’m moving to California. No, I don’t really have a plan. Yes, I’m really freaking out about that, but I keep telling myself you gotta jump if you’re gonna fly. Or fall…

If you have advice, if you’re going to be in the area, or if you just want to say hello, drop me a line!

All the rambling love!

Let’s Talk About Guns

CW: Discussion of gun violence

Another mass shooting. I am never going to type those words again. I refuse.

In Orlando, Florida early Sunday morning a man entered a nightclub and ended forty-nine human lives, wounded fifty-three more, shattered hundreds, and brought terror and devastation to thousands. I have been told numbers only numb the impact. So let’s put this in human terms.

You probably have a loved one. There is someone in your life who you love. Think of this person. Imagine this person has had a long week at work. They are tired and maybe stressed out and they just want to relax. But, of course, their friends want them to go out, and it’s pride month, and they are proud. They love your loved one like you do and want to spend time with them. And your loved one wants to dance and maybe drink and maybe meet new people and maybe live their life and maybe dance. So they go out to a club. Maybe they are having the best time of their lives. Maybe they think it’s really lame and they want to go home. Maybe they are trying out their newest stupid dance moves.

Then a staccato of light and death. Screaming. A wave of terror. Bodies pushing, falling, bullets tearing through flesh. And your loved one dies in fear.

Tell me, please, why we have not banned assault weapons in the United States.

Here are the arguments I’ve heard:

1.) “Banning assault weapons is essentially banning all guns.”

Counter-argument: Good.

I once wrote “Guns only kill people”. And, of course, I was called to task on this. (Laura, what about hunting and like recreation?) Let me amend my statement. The sole purpose of guns is to kill people. They may be used for other things, but their purpose is to kill. A gun spits out lead at a high velocity, and a semi-automatic rifle such as the one used in Orlando, the same kind used in Newton, the same kind used in Aurora, spits out lead in very quick repetition. This means a person, almost any person, can kill large numbers of people in a very short amount of time. This type of gun is not needed for “defense” or for hunting.

2.) “Even without guns (semi-automatic or otherwise) people would kill each other.”

Counter-argument: No shit. I’m not an idiot. I’m not saying banning civilians from having guns would stop people from being atrocious to each other. It wouldn’t stop stupidity (as witnessed by said argument). However, to my knowledge there is no wealthy predominantly white, straight, male lobbyist group that is supporting the use of boxcutters or pressure cookers or swords in Congress. There is a lobbyist group comprised primarily of white, straight, wealthy men who fight for “gun rights” and the “rights of the second amendment”. Guns have for centuries been the tools of the oppressors (see conquistadors, see white slave owners, see Battle of Wounded Knee, see history of the United States). To quote the NRA website, guns are used “to liberate and enslave”. Fun fact slavery is illegal. Another fun fact slavery is immoral. Another fun fact WHAT THE FUCK.

3.) “Banning guns would mean only criminals have guns. We need to protect ourselves.”

Counter-argument: Yes, because we don’t have a problem now with police officers using their weapons against civilians, especially not black civilians, especially not black children… Oh wait.

Second counter-argument: Guns do not protect people. Shields protect people. Walls protect people. The fallen bodies of other victims protect people. Banning assault rifles protects people. See Australia.

4.) “But, Laura, you aren’t even listening to all my well-thought out blah blah blah”

Counter-argument: Yes, you’re right. Just like I’m done with rape apologists, so too am I done with gun apologists. There are more important things at stake here. We must stop mass shootings from ever happening again.

The revolution starts now. We who are women, people of color, queer, gender-nonconforming, gay, bisexual, pansexual, trans, Muslim, immigrants, Latina/o, black, Asian American, Native American, we who otherwise don’t fit into the “American” standard of the straight, cis-, wealthy, white box, we outnumber our oppressors. Our new world will be better for everyone, the straight wealthy white men included.

Guns are the weapons of the oppressor. We do not need them. What weapons do we have? Words. Ideas. Votes. Protests. Petitions.

Drop out. Reach out. Turn on. Love. Love. Love.

Viva la revolution. Ban assault weapons. Live, LAF, Love.

 

Deconstructing Sexual Assault

Content Warnings: Discussion of sexual assault and discussion of mental health issues.

Just watched The Hunting Ground the other day.

I am so inspired by the people, especially the women, who were a part of this project. I am so humbled by the strength of all the survivors who came forward, and so thankful to all the survivors who were a part of the project even if they never appeared on camera.

To survivors everywhere, you are loved. I believe you. I want to support you in any way that I can.

I am angry. Which is not particularly unusual for me. I am trying to wrap my head around the causes of rape and sexual assault. Fundamentally it is not a crime that makes sense to me. Sexual assault takes away a person’s sense of self. It alters their view of the world in a deep and personal way. It does not make sense how one human can perpetrate such a crime against another. It does not make sense how some people do not see this as a violent crime. Or how some people are “confused” about what is and what isn’t sexual assault.

I would like to interview sexual assailants to figure out what happens in their heads. Though according to the lead psychological researcher on the matter, David Lisak, there is no one psychological profile for rapists.

Here is a list of common motivations, though. The purpose of this is to help fight these factors. Every individual is responsible for their actions, but if we can figure out the commonalities we can start to deconstruct them and decrease their future influence.

This is to those who may have or may again assault someone because they “didn’t know”. This is to crush the idea of “ignorance” as an excuse for sexual violence. This is to deconstruct the “blurred lines” and “gray area” surrounding a lot of the sex people seem to be having in high school, college and beyond.

Confusion is not an excuse for committing a crime. Confusion is not an excuse for taking away someone’s sense of self. Even if the legal system in our country seems to believe it, I don’t believe it, and I will do everything in my power to ensure justice.

So without ado, here’s a list of what might be contributing to sexual assault:

Toxic masculinity

Unless you’re living in some strange alternate reality where humans have been replaced by genderless candy canes (which, let’s be honest, I’d love to join you in), you may be aware that the world has been suffering under the yoke of toxic masculinity since… forever. It is present in our must every interaction, internalized, and at this point self-perpetuating. But not impossible to dismantle.

By toxic masculinity I mean the idea that men are (and should be) superior to women. The idea that men are and should be (must be) stronger, more intelligent, and less capable of emotions. The idea that men be hard, muscular, large, loud, confident, and violent. The idea that men must make more money and have more sex and carry more guns. The idea that this has been “coded for in the genes”.

I’m a biology major, and I may not know much, but I can tell you that this is absolute idiocy.

At the core of toxic masculinity is fear. Fear, ultimately, of death. If men are big enough and loud enough and “smart” enough and “logical” enough, we are told, then they will not die. If men can dominate women and anything “feminine”, then they will not die. If men have large enough penises, then they will not die.

Here’s the thing: everyone dies.

I’m a biology major, and I may not know much, but I can tell you that this is absolutely true.

But what exactly about toxic masculinity drives men to sexually assault women or other men? You know other than the whole need to dominate and degrade anything feminine thing…

Toxic masculinity contributes:

Emphasis on Violence

To be male in America, we are told over and over and over again, is to be violent. The ideal way to settle things is by fists not words. If you have seen a movie in the past century you will know what I mean. Manliness has been equated with the ability to overpower others. This expresses itself in many ways: manspreading (the process by which a man takes up more physical space than is necessary), mansplaining (the process by which a man takes up more verbal and intellectual space than is necessary), and, of course, sexual assault.

(Aside: A fun game to play if you want to see manspreading in action- as you’re walking down the sidewalk and you see a male approaching, do not move out of his way. Continue walking in your set trajectory. The looks of confusion and anger on the male face are priceless. Men are accustomed to women making room for them. They get all flustered when we don’t. It’s cute.)

Probably any bizarre men’s rights activist who somehow stumbled on this site will get angry and say that manspreading and mansplaining and the like aren’t actually forms of violence. False. Violence is about force. Men who push themselves into other people’s lives physically or verbally are enacting violence.

They have been told that they should do this by society. They do this when they sexually assault people.

Emphasis on lack of empathy

How men live with themselves after committing assault is also due in part to what they have decided to believe about their maleness. I do not like to talk about suicide lightly. It is something that has impacted my life very deeply and very personally. (Feel free to check out this blogpost for more details.) That is why I am so pissed off at the fact that many, if not most, survivors of sexual assault experience periods of severe depression, including suicidal ideation. Many commit suicide.

Has there ever been a case when an assailant committed suicide? Ever?

This is because toxic masculinity tells men not to feel what others might be feeling. They are told not to empathize, that empathy is weak and feminine rather than courageous and human. If men could for even the briefest moment understand what life is like as a woman, they would never commit sexual harassment of any kind again. But they shy away from that looming cliff edge, because if they understood the depth of what has been happening and is still happening to women, they might not be able to handle it.

So the assailant doesn’t feel for their victim. They shut them out. Dehumanize them. Treat them like a receptacle for whatever bullshit the assailant is trying to run away from, rather than a person with a life and emotions.

Emphasis on lack of communication

Then, of course, there is the lack of communication. Men, we are told, don’t talk. Talking is for women. Women talk. If a man does talk it is always “logical” and “rational” and “very very important” so we should all sit up and take note. (See above discussion of mansplaining.)

For a man to talk during or before engaging in sexual activity, that would be like… crazy.

Or required.

Communication is a keystone of healthy sex. It is not antithetical to it. If a woman wanted a silent partner, she’d get a vibrator. It would be safer for her.

Sex at its best is about the togetherness of humans in the metaphorical or actual creation of new life. Even if not at its best, it is about pleasure. Both of these goals require communication between partners.

It is when people fail to communicate, or when they stop listening to their partner, or never bother to ask in the first place, that sexual assault finds its foothold. If you cannot carry out a conversation with your partner, you should not be having sex with your partner.

Entitlement

This is not completely separate from the toxic masculinity bullet point, but it deserves its own place.

Entitlement is necessary for sexual assault to occur. When someone is raised to believe they have a right to everything, this eventually comes to include someone else’s body.

There are many types of entitlement that may come into play.

Economic Entitlement

Sad truth, a lot of the sexual assault that occurs on college campuses are carried out by the wealthy. This is partially because there is still a perpetuation of the wealthier getting wealthier through the higher education grist mill, but it is also because many who were raised with money believe that they are entitled to the world and that if they make a mistake their money will protect them.

And in the capitalist society in which we live, they are often supported in this belief. When a student files a complaint against an assailant, they are often provided with a pro bono lawyer responsible for their case. Most wealthy assailants will use their family lawyer who has resources and who can postpone the case. The longer a case drags on the more difficult it is for the complainant to continue it.

Think of the amount of effort it takes to re-live a trauma over and over again. Many survivors want to put the case behind them, and a drawn out complicated complaint process makes this difficult if not impossible.

Racial Entitlement

Probably not surprising to anyone, the amount of assailants who are straight white males is… predominant. The number of survivors who are POC is also predominant. Does it shock any of us that racial entitlement is at play alongside these gender dynamics?

It shouldn’t.

We are a country built on the back of a violent racial hierarchy devoted to continuing itself through any means necessary. Ideas of racial superiority still live on and enact themselves in the same ways they always have.

If you never want to sleep at night ever again read “At the Dark End of the Street” a discussion of the sexual assault women of color have been enduring since the founding of the United States.

Other Forms of Entitlement

“The Hunting Ground” did a fantastic job of pointing out the other intersections of privilege that go into many college assaults. This includes the existence and power of fraternities and the undeniable might of college sports. (Another book to read “Missoula” by Jon Krakauer.) When (primarily) young men are told that they have a right to special treatment over and over and over, when they are told that they will be supported no matter what they do as long as they pledge the right house or continue to play well, are we surprised that these same young men are the ones perpetrating the most assaults?

Again, this is not an excuse. It is simply pointing out another area that requires assessment.

If we distance ourselves from our capitalist, racist, violence-obsessed roots, we are working towards a reality that doesn’t include rape.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, a rapist may be motivated by all of these factors, but they are still a rapist. If you coerce a person, through emotional or physical intimidation OR through drugs or alcohol OR if you force yourself on another person OR if you do not have verbal and physical consent such that even your mother would tell you, yes, honey, go ahead, then you are a rapist.

I am done tacitly supporting sexual assailants. I am not okay with people who claim they did not know that what they did was wrong. Guess what, your fucking knew, your victim has to live with what you did for the rest of their life.

I am done with people explaining that everyone makes mistakes. This is not a Miley Cyrus song, this is people’s lives and emotional well-being. Raping someone is not a “mistake”. Assaulting someone is not a “mistake”.

I am done with people who defend assailants. Oh no, they’re suffering from the consequences of their actions? Someone give them a sucker. If we are choosing to be part of a society, then people need to be held responsible for what they do.

In conclusion, rapists may be motivated by many factors, and we need to examine how we are intentionally or tacitly supporting these factors, but ultimately YOU are responsible for what YOU do. And I am done putting up with bullshit.

 Final Note: I would like to acknowledge that I’ve been using a lot of gendered language. This is due to the fact that the vast majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by male-bodied individuals against female-bodied individuals. But I want to point out that sexual assault and violence occurs against men and is perpetrated by women as well. Here are some statistics about rape in America: 1 in 6 women will be raped, 1 in 33 men will be raped, 1 in 4 transgender men and women will be raped. LET’S END THIS.

 

Letter to Those About to Graduate

I was going to write all my 2016 friends letters, but I’m lazy and would probably repeat a lot of the same information and, let’s face it, I’m just a terrible friend. So here’s this sad offering instead. Michelle, Tim, Casey, Sofia, Libby, and, yes, Jim, I’m looking at you.

First of all, congratulations! Take a deep breath! Like a really really deep one. YOU DID IT. YOU HAVE DONE IT. IT HAS BEEN DONE BY YOU. I hope you are so very very proud of yourself. You have worked so hard, and overcome so many challenges. You have faced the days when you just couldn’t do it any longer, and you went ahead and did it anyway. You made mistakes and you were sad and disappointed and lonely, and now, you beautiful animal you, you have graduated!

So, do yourself a favor and enjoy that and maybe don’t start your first job a week after working reunion…. but even if you do, that will be an adventure, too!

Here’s all the advice I wish someone had told me when I was graduating (even though they probably did and I just wasn’t paying attention):

  1. You are basically breaking-up with Carleton. Look, this doesn’t mean you can’t be friends again some day in the future. Something that is comforting to me is the idea that life is (hopefully) long. Your relationship with Carleton runs deep, so take time to move on from what you had to what you have. Don’t try to be over it all in one week. Healing takes time. Loving your new life takes time. Maybe don’t go back and visit three million times in the first month. Maybe don’t keep creeping on Overheard at Carleton. Maybe don’t constantly reminisce about the good old days. Because they were good but you’re missing out on the chance for better. How do I know this? Because I did all of it, and I wish I hadn’t.
  2. You may be going through break-ups with significant others, too. This is SO DIFFICULT. And it’s okay to admit that. And it’s okay to be lonely and to cry a lot, and to call your sister (or equivalent) too many times and to eat way too many corn dogs on the kitchen floor and to obsess about your ex’s new girlfriend and how she’s so much prettier than you and she’s probably smarter than you and when they get married you won’t even get invited to the wedding and you’ll only find out when they post baby pictures on Facebook and you’ll be alone and broke and still eating corn dogs on the kitchen floor and no one will ever love you ever ever again. It’s okay to feel all these things. But learn from my mistakes and don’t take them out on your ex. Give yourself space from said ex. Don’t immediately try to be best friends with them even though that’s what you really really really want. It turns out you’re not that cool and strong. To my knowledge, no one is. So give yourself time to feel all the crazy awful feels, and when you can think about things as your normal self, then you can see about being friends again. If they understand you need space, it won’t be that big of a deal. We’re young and stupid and full of emotions, and we make mistakes. If they don’t understand, then maybe you can find better friends.
  3. IT’S HARD OUT HERE. In a million ways you never could imagine in college. Like cooking. Cooking for yourself is hard. You have to get the darn ingredients, make the darn food, eat the darn food even if it’s gross, and then wash all the darn stuff up afterwards. And you have to do this sometimes three times a day. And if you don’t do this then you get hungry. And if you don’t eat the right stuff, after a few months you’re going to be cranky all the time and bruise like a banana. So. Eat vegetables, eat fruits, drink lots and lots of water. Get enough sleep. And go outside whenever you possibly can. Treat yourself nice, because it’s all you on now.
  4. IT’S BEAUTIFUL OUT HERE. In a million ways you never could imagine in college. What you decide is what you do. There is no one telling you to be in class or to show up to activities, no one saying you have to do such and such job or pay such and such amount for whatever. It’s all on you, baby, and it’s amazing! Independence is cold and lonely and it is wonderful and clean and you get to make your own darn mistakes over and over again.
  5. You will be okay. Whatever happens, I promise you, you will be okay. Listen, if I could make it through this year, quit my first job out of college, got SUPER dumped and had to stop talking to one of my best friends, went back on anti-depressants, and still have not had a single story published, and if after all that I’m still alive and kicking and somehow traveled to Peru and moving out to California and writing as much as I can… you can do it, too. You will have your own miraculous story about how you survived that first year out of college. And I hope you’ll call me up and tell me all about it. Because
  6. I am here for you. My friend, we have been through so much together. Not all of it good or pleasant. We may have drifted apart, but know that if ever you need me, I am here. If you need a place to crash, or a care package, or just a friendly voice on the end of the line. I got your back, dude. I am always 110% in your corner. Even if I get mad at you and you get mad at me and we don’t talk for like a month or for the rest of our lives, I’m still here and I still care about you. And so are all your other friends, Carleton or otherwise. If I’ve learned one thing this past year it is the meaning of friendship. Friendship isn’t about talking every day on the phone, or about living down the hallway from each other, it’s that person who would run across campus or drive across the state just to be there for you. You’ve got to find those people and you’ve got to be that person. And I wanna be one of those people for you, too.

With all the most sincere love in my rambling heart. You magnificent people, be free, be well, and be in touch. Congratulations, class of 2016!!!

Here’s a song from me to you.