Monthly Archives: October 2014

Writer Workshop October 22nd, 2014

(Posted by chris the cynic)

Those of you who also frequent Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings will find this somewhat familiar.  Here, as there, it was requested that there be a regular post to talk about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). Thus this post exists.

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

What are you working on? How are you feeling about it? What thoughts and/or snippets would you like to share? How does your activism work into your art? What tropes are you hoping to employ and/or avoid? Are there any questions you’d like to ask or frustrations you’d like to vent?  Writing workshop below!

Why I’m More Pro-Choice After Having a Baby

Trigger Warnings: Limits on reproductive choice, fatal birth defects, fetal distress / death, traumatic pregnancy and birth, post-partum depression

by Storiteller

Some pro-lifers like to claim that if pro-choicers ever got pregnant or had children, the very act of parenting would turn their hearts and help them understand the sacredness of life. Bullshit.

First, 60% of women who get abortions already have children. They are making the choice that will allow them to care for their existing children in the best possible manner.

Second, at least in my case, I found that getting pregnant and having a child actually motivated me to be more pro-choice than ever. Now that I’ve had first-hand experience of pregnancy, birth, and parenting, I understand the stakes much better. While I still believe that abortion is sometimes morally wrong, it is the least wrong of the limited options available in an inherently difficult situation. I especially believe that no matter what your thoughts, every woman should make the right to make the choice for herself. Pregnancy and birth is a life changing experience, and not always for the better.

1) Pregnancy itself is hell on your body. And I’m not talking aesthetically.

I had an easy pregnancy – a very easy one compared to a lot of women. In fact, I was able to keep riding my bike through my 10th month. But despite that, I still had my share of issues. While morning sickness doesn’t sound that bad, it should actually be called “all-day sickness.” I only threw up once, but I had a constant low-level nausea throughout my first trimester. And that was mild – my mother-in-law was sick unless she was eating and some women can keep so little down that they need to be hospitalized. While I could walk up to a mile almost until labor (albeit slowly), I couldn’t stand still for more than 5 minutes. I couldn’t sit in chairs or couches that didn’t have good support without my back cramping up. My feet swelled so much there was only a single pair of stretchy shoes I owned that I could even put on.

And this was the easy version. 15 percent of women have life-threatening complications. Other women – healthy, young women – I’ve known have had life-threatening high blood pressure and months of bed rest. The risks are even greater if you are older or have an existing health condition.

And the fact is, no matter how good our medicine gets, pregnancy will always be this way. Unlike other animals, the fetus and mother’s body are actually in huge conflict, fighting over resources instead of the popular conception of some beautiful partnership.

2) Birth is still and will always be physically risky to the mother.

You are pushing something that is up to 10 pounds out of a hole that is 10 cm big. Even if you get an epidural, it will definitely hurt like hell before, during and after. After almost 10 months of your body doing weird, unpredictable shit, you can be in for hours upon hours of torturous pain.

Besides that obvious fact, the whole process is very poorly understood. We don’t know the details of what triggers labor (we just found out a key protein literally a few months ago) or why some women progress quickly while others don’t. We have only the bluntest of tools to deal with many of the potential complications. Women still die from birth in the U.S. The entire thing is chaotic and rather terrifying.

For me, it was worth it all to have my son. But to say to a woman with an unwanted pregnancy that they must go through this entire life-threatening, incredibly difficult process against their will is simply inhumane. I’m pretty sure if you asked most people if it was okay to force increasingly intense torture on someone completely innocent for 10 months to keep a different person on life support, they would say it wasn’t okay. But pregnancy and birth? Different story.

3) Many women are incapable of having a healthy pregnancy.

There are some women with existing medical conditions who know for a fact that they are likely to die if they bring a fetus to full-term. Even if the mother would be okay, there are instances where they would have no hope of giving birth to a healthy child. Some women have severe depression, multiple sclerosis, or other diseases that can only be treated with drugs that cause severe birth defects. Some live or work in areas where they are regularly exposed to chemicals that could interfere with a healthy pregnancy and aren’t able to move or leave for economic reasons.

Pregnancy itself can endanger your job, making it impossible for you to have the economic means to actually take care of a child. Officially, pregnancy is a protected class in the U.S., which means it’s illegal to fire someone just for being pregnant. But as with all labor laws, the reality is very different. Most working class women don’t have economic or social resources to get legal assistance if discrimination occurs and don’t have enough of a safety net to risk it.

Besides a straight up firing, there are plenty of ways employers can force out pregnant women. Employers can restrict the number of bathroom breaks, not allow women to take leave for prenatal appointments, and not allow women to carry bottles of water. (The Pregnant Women’s Fairness Act would fix this.)

Even if your employer is relatively accommodating, some jobs are made nearly impossible by late-stage pregnancy. One of my friends who is a professional baker had to quit her job two months before she was due. She simply couldn’t stand for hours at a time any more, which she absolutely needed to do for her job.

4) Even wanted and currently healthy pregnancies are risky and scary. Plenty can go wrong that can precipitate needing to make an awful choice.

For me, the scariest part of my whole pregnancy was waiting for the results of the chromosomal test and sonograms. Even if everything has been going well, the fetus’s development can go wrong at almost any point of the pregnancy. While some birth defects result in disabilities that we can accommodate in modern society, others can result in fetal death or no hope of the baby surviving more than a few days outside of the womb.

Thank God, I didn’t have to make that decision. But plenty of other women do, every day, through no fault of their own. The blogger at the Daddy Files wrote about how his wife had a relatively late abortion after they learned their fetus had “mermaid syndrome,” a far too cutesy name for a defect where most of the lower body fuses together. Even if the child were born, he or she would have very few, if any, functioning organs. His wife needed to either wait until the child died inside of her and have a still birth – possibly one of the most horrifying things I can imagine – or an abortion, which was most likely less painful for both her and the fetus. Despite the couple’s personal pain at losing a child they truly wanted, “pro-life” protestors harassed them anyway.

5) Parenting is incredibly hard and expensive, with little societal support in the U.S.

Being pregnant is really hard – but being a mother is even harder. Childcare alone has become staggeringly expensive, with the average in some areas being the same as college tuition. Add to that the costs of doctor’s appointments, diapers, formula or a breast pump, and the many, many other requirements for a newborn quickly add up. In the first year alone, middle-income parents spend $12,000 on child-related expenses. If you don’t use childcare, women are the large majority of stay-at-home parents, eliminating their income and minimizing their future career progression. In fact, if you want to have any maternity leave, you either need to be lucky enough to have paid sick/vacation leave available or just not get paid.

On top of the financial requirements, there’s an incredible mental toll to being a mother. 9-16 percent of women suffer from post-partum depression. If a woman has a very traumatic birth experience, she can have post-traumatic stress syndrome. Even if you don’t have full-blown depression, your mental health can take time to recover. Severe sleep deprivation – especially when combined with unexplainable crying from your baby (doubly if colicky) – wrecks havoc on your sense of reality and perception. Staying at home with a newborn is extremely isolating, as their nap and eating schedule can make getting out of the house feel impossible. All of this is exacerbated by the fact that in the U.S., we have incredibly expensive health care that provides inadequate post-natal care and awful mental health coverage.

Now, as someone who chose to become a mother, I knowingly took all of this challenge and risk on. But no one should ever be forced to take on this level of burden against their will.

6) Children shouldn’t exist to be the punishment for someone’s mistake. No one should be born into a family that doesn’t want them – all children deserve better.

I love my son more than I can even understand. Every child deserves to have this level of love. Every child deserves to have a family who have the capability to take care of them. No child deserves to be born as a way to “force” someone to take responsibility. Forcing women to have children means that either children are born into families that fundamentally don’t want them or can’t take care of them. And I don’t see how that can ever be “pro-life.”

So as a mom, I am pro-choice. Every woman should be able to make the choices that are the best for herself and her family, just as I have been able to.

This week in the Slacktiverse, October 19th 2014

(posted by chris the cynic, written by members of The Slacktiverse)

The Blogaround

  • Storiteller always thinks a lot about food, but a challenge by her church pastor for everyone to keep food journals really highlighted her relationship with it and what she wants to teach her son.  She talks about modeling good eating for him through gardening and cooking in Food is Our Common Ground.
  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • Remember that speech I gave that I said I was going to try to transcribe?  Well, the recording didn’t work out so no go on that but I’ve tried to write more or less the same thing here.  Also there you will find pictures of the event, mostly of the other people who made comments.
    • One day I went to school and there was nothing out of the ordinary but when I walked home there was a massive disturbance that hadn’t been there before.  Being me, I took pictures.  Best guess is that a car veered off the road, over the sidewalk, through the fence, down the hill, and onto the road below without hitting any other vehicle (thus explaining the lack of non-fence wreckage.)
    • Remember when Fred said he’d like a T-shirt with, “Then I shall be a wicked Child, and the great God will be very angry with me,” on it?  (It’s sort of an unintentional version of Twain’s having Huck say, “Alright, then, I’ll go to Hell.”)  Well I finally got around to making such T-shirts.  Light writing and dark writing, two text sizes, sold via Cafe Press.  I predict zero sales.
    • In my monthly donation reminder post I talked about the history of October, but there isn’t much to say because October has a pretty bland history.  (Never changed it’s name, always had the same number of days.)
    • It is my observation that Odin (this is a god we’re talking about) is an asshole who gets away with it by being awesome.  I tried to think of a real life modern American example of someone who was like that.  I came up with LBJ.  The 36th President of the United States was, without doubt, an asshole, but he was an asshole for good and he was very effective in that regard.  More in the post, of course.
    • Quite some time ago I came up with a theory explaining why Baldr went to Hel via a self-fulfilling prophesy that Loki helped along.  I finally got around to writing it up.  It’s pretty simple, but I think that it makes the whole thing make sense when, without a clear “why” the story leaves nothing but giant piles of unanswered questions and oddities.

In Case You Missed This

Nothing submitted this week.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for October 17, 2014

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is unconvinced of his own greatness, because others do not say he is great.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

duckbunny: Sensical

Erika M. and Will Wildman: Something Short and Snappy

Fred Clark: Slacktivist


Froborr: My Little Po-Mo

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip SandiferPhilip Sandifer: Writer (formerly TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue)

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragonquest: Out Of The Mouths Of Kids

Last time, Robinton proved he had more empathy in him than the Lords Holder and the dragonriders combined. There was also telescope-viewing of the Red Star, and the confirmation that Southern grubs were meant as the second line of defense against Thread, after dragons in the air.

Dragonquest: Chapters XIV-XV: Content Notes: Depression, mental regression, slut-shaming

I’m going to open up Chapter XIV’s commentary with an extensive quote, because Jaxom (whose perspective we have to start the chapter) is so painfully observant about everything that has happened up to this point that it confirms for me that these terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad decisions in the narrative are all deliberate and have been thought through, which increases their ick factor logarithmically.

He [Jaxom] had never shaken off his sense of blasphemy from invading the Hatching Ground, and he wondered if this were his punishment. But he was a logical boy and the deaths of the two queens had not occurred at Ruatha, not over Fort Weyr to which Ruatha Hold was bound. He’d never met Kylara or Brekke. He did know F’nor and felt sorry for him if half what he’d heard was true – that F’nor had taken Brekke into his weyr and had abandoned his duties as a Wing-second to care for her. She was very sick. Funny, everyone was sorry for Brekke but no one mentioned Kylara, and she’d lost a queen, too.

Jaxom wondered about that but knew he couldn’t ask. Just as he couldn’t ask if he and Lytol were going to the Hatching.
[…]
Not that anyone had done much more than Thread-watch since the wedding at Telgar.

Jaxom sighed. That had been some day. He shivered, remembered how sick, cold, and – yes – scared he’d been. (Lytol said a man wasn’t afraid to admit to fear.) All the time he’d seen F’lar fighting T’ron, he’d been scared.[…]Everything was going wrong on Pern. Dragon queens killing each other, Weyrleaders dueling in public, Thread falling here and there, with no rhyme or reason.[…]It wasn’t fair. Everything had been going so well.

Jaxom, never change, please. Keep that sharp observing eye of yours, and keep empathy for everyone. Jaxom understands that something is very wrong with the Brown Rider Rapist, that everyone is conspicuously shunning Kylara for some reason, and that everyone is on edge over fighting dragonriders and out-of-phase Thread. Since they are noticed by Jaxom, they were meant to be there. Which makes them deliberate, and exceedingly more icky and problematic because of it.

One good thing, though – props to Lytol, who is instilling in Jaxom a conception of masculinity that explicitly says it’s okay to be scared out of your mind. This is different than the performance masculinity he’s getting from other Lords Holder, his peer children, and the Weyrbred fosterlings. I think Lytol’s conception is superior, and will pay dividends further down the line. Lytol also refused fire-lizard eggs earlier on, which Jaxom is miffed at, so there’s still some work to do in getting Jaxom to check his privilege and think of his office less as getting himself things and more of providing protection to those under his care.

In any case, it turns out that Jaxom and Lytol are going to the Hatching at Benden, where Brekke will be represented as a candidate for a new queen dragon. Since we’re staying with Jaxom (and Felessan) at this point, though, Jaxom’s attention is focused completely on an egg that’s been pushed aside – the egg that Jaxom touched. Until the candidates arrive, that is, and then all eyes are on the dragons, including the hatching queen – whom all the other girls defer to Brekke as the first candidate to try and Impress.

Brekke doesn’t. Her fire-lizard actively interferes with it, no less, and another girl Impresses (the candidate from Ruatha. How… something). With all the dragons hatched, everyone else turns to leave. Except Jaxom, whose empathy overflows, and who is the only one to notice that the small egg that nobody is paying attention to is showing signs of wanting to hatch. So Jaxom helps out, cracking the outer shell and using his knife to cut through membrane holding in… a white dragon. Whose name, Jaxom tells us, is Ruth.

Everyone else noticing this, while nobody explicitly says anything profane, basically thinks, “Shit.”

And that’s chapter XIV.

Chapter XV shows us that Brekke had been cured of her depression, brought out by her experience at the Hatching. Regrettably, the narrative’s price for returning Brekke to the land of the aware is that she, like Lessa, is now devoted to her rapist. Brekke uncorks her long-held grief and starts to cry for everything, which is apparently okay for a little bit, but after a while, Manora slaps Brekke and then dunks her in a bathing pool to snap her out of her grief. Well, now I know where both half-brothers get that particular idea on how to relate to others. And Brekke thanks her for the abuse.

Not that she’s out of the woods yet. Any time she remembers the tragedy, the depression threatens to swallow her back up, prompting the dragons and fire-lizards to interfere. Brekke is safely bundled off to sleep with a bowl of broth and a sleeping draught, served to her in a no-nonsense manner by her own fosterling, Mirrim. Who then hustles out the Brown Rider Rapist with a directive to get his dragon fed before settling in to watch Brekke.

Once Brekke falls asleep, we shift over to the party after the Hatching, where Lessa is happy for Jaxom, but extremely worried about what Jaxom’s actions are going to mean and do for politics. Because he’s a Holder with a dragon, instead of all the fire-lizards being distributed to the other Holders. She doesn’t think the white dragon will prosper: Ramoth tells her she’s wrong. And Lessa finally explicitly mulls over the idea of succession at Ruatha, and ultimately concludes that she wants to keep Jaxom there, since he has some small part of the Bloodline she has, so it’s okay. Anybody else is fucked, though.

And I just can’t believe this. I can believe Lessa saying “Well, I’m not likely to go back, and things seem to be going okay, so I guess Jaxom can stay.” I can believe “I want to keep Ruatha close to me, so I should be friendly with Lytol and Jaxom so that I can still interfere at Ruatha.” But “Jaxom is part of my bloodline, so he’s all right in charge there”, no fucking way. If Lessa really believes purity of bloodline is what’s needed there, then she wants herself to rule, because her blood is purest. So, if we want a consistent Lessa, there must be some other reason she’s okay with Jaxom and Lytol staying in charge (for now), and it should probably have something to do with keeping and making alliances.

So Lytol and Robinton, who are apparently matching each other cup for cup of wine, declare that Jaxom has to stay in the Hold, while other Holders say that Jaxom had to go to the Weyr because he Impressed a dragon. Lessa takes advantage of the drinking to use her Sith Force powers to lean on the minds of the Holders and bring them around to the idea that Jaxom should stay at Ruatha. The Lord Holders cannot be dissuaded, though, leaving Jaxom to plead his case, which he does admirably, holding his own against the bigger and older Holders. Lessa’s instinct to interfere is curbed by Robinton, who shows that he’s a lot more sober than his act suggested, and by Lytol, who stands by his ward.

The situation with Jaxom resolved, Robinton, Lessa, and F’lar go to the secret experimental chambers with the Masterfarmer, who was just flown in to examine the grubs. He has the same reaction as the Masterherdsman, and specifically mentions that Farmer lore says to watch for the grubs…and then realizes what he’s just said. Watch for the grubs, not destroy them. Which brings him around immediately to the idea that the grubs are beneficial, although he’s confused about the purpose of dragonriders in a world where the grubs can eat all the Thread and repair any plants struck by spores. Robinton mentions that wood pulp paper can be used to store and disseminate knowledge, so the practices of the various Crafts can be preserved and spread everywhere, over the Masterfarmer’s objections that some knowledge should remain Craft secrets. Before he leaves, though, the Masterfarmer is converted to the cause of spreading the grubs, and will work to get his Craft to do the same, even though he would much prefer to have the flashiness of the dragonriders to the boring, ugly practicality of the grubs.

And just when we thought we’d coast in to the end of a chapter, the Masterfarmer asks about Kylara…

“What of that adulterous transgressor?”

“She – lives,” and there was an uncompromising echo of the Farmer’s coldness in Lessa’s voice.

“She lives?” The Masterfarmer stopped again, dropping Lessa’s arm and staring at her in anger. “She lives? Her throat should be cut, her body…”

“She lives, Masterfarmer, with no more mind or wit than a babe! She exists in the prison of her guilt! Dragonfolk take no lives!”

…and there goes my hope that we’d be able to get through two chapters without a Whatfruit.

Cocowhat by depizan

First, narrative, I hate you for putting both Kylara and Brekke into a situation where they were attacked viciously, because they were both independent-thinking women who wanted progress, or at the very least, to be treated seriously.

Second, unless I am severely mistaken about what we have been told about Weyr culture, the Masterfarmer just grossly insulted Kylara, an insult Lessa is willing to let slide because she blames Kylara for everything, too. From what we are told about Weyr culture, their sexual attitudes do not care much about monogamous pairings, especially for queen riders, because any bronze could theoretically fly the queen at any flight. (They, presumably, are also a-OK with male-male partnerships, since men ride green dragons.) Weyrs raise all the children collectively to avoid parental attachments suffering when pairings of riders change based on mating fights. There should be very little conception of marriage among those born and raised in a Weyr (or those raised in the Weyr from a young age), so the idea of adultery should be nonexistent, and its suggestion (that someone should be punished because they slept with someone other than their preferred partner) taken as a slur, an attempt to impose inferior Hold (or Craft) morals on the dragonriders that have transcended them.

Or, it would be if dragonriders behaved according to what we’ve been told about Weyr culture. What we’ve been shown, on the other hand, is that Weyr culture functions much more similarly to the Holds and Crafthalls. Of the named rider pairings we’ve seen involving queen dragons, except for Kylara, they’re all monogamous between Weyrleader and Weyrwoman (or want to be monogamous, in Brekke’s case) in a very marriage-like setup. Kylara’s tastes and willingness to actively satisfy her sexual appetites are regularly shamed and disparaged by other characters, and is used as the justification for the Brown Rider Rapist’s violation of Brekke. Green dragons’ active sex desires are routinely used as running jokes or other indications of their lesser status. We also see no male-male partnerships at all. From what’s been shown to us, dragonriders are just as prudish about sex as everyone else. And so the Masterfarmer’s insult is un-remarked-upon.

The end of chapter XV is upon us. Only one more to go.

Writer Workshop October 15th, 2014

(Posted by chris the cynic)

Those of you who also frequent Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings will find this somewhat familiar.  Here, as there, it was requested that there be a regular post to talk about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). Thus this post exists.

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

What are you working on? How are you feeling about it? What thoughts and/or snippets would you like to share? How does your activism work into your art? What tropes are you hoping to employ and/or avoid? Are there any questions you’d like to ask or frustrations you’d like to vent?  Writing workshop below!

Open Thread: Games you haven’t played

(posted by chris the cynic)

What is a game/what are some games you haven’t played but would like to?

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]