Category Archives: philosophy

Is It Better to Have Loved and Lost or to Never Have Loved at All?

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“‘Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all” ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson.

When love, like anything, reaches its inevitable end, the loss can and does cut so deeply that it not only feels as if something inside of you has died, but as if someone has died. Like mourning the physical death of a loved one, mourning the end of love goes through similar stages of grief: denial that it has ended; anger at both your lover and/or yourself; bargaining with the universe or god to bring back what has been lost; depression, which usually manifests itself in a loss of appetite, listlessness, exhaustion, and/or an overall disinterest in life; and finally acceptance. The agony one feels during this process often leaves one feeling as though it would have been better to have never loved at all; but would that truly be better or is Tennyson correct? I suppose it depends on who you loved, how deeply, and how/why the relationship ended; however, if you see love as part of the process of becoming, then perhaps in its loss there is something to be gained?

You see, the beautiful thing about love is that it never truly dies because you are tied forever by shared memories and experiences, which alter your very being, helping to mold you into who you will become. Every person you have ever loved, in any form of love, becomes an indelible part of you, a thread in the tapestry of your very existence. For that reason you were, in a sense, meant to love the people you have loved and will thus belong to them forever, and they to you. That is not say that you do not move on from the loss and from the one you love; only that the love and the loss of it are essential elements in the never ending process of personal growth.

For that reason, Tennyson is correct. To have never loved at all, though it would have spared you the initial pain of loss, is worse than having loved and lost because the tapestry of your life, the glorious work of art that is you, would be incomplete and that would be a far greater travesty than a temporarily broken heart.

I Need Feminism Because….

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Perhaps you have all seen the pictures floating around, “I need feminism because (fill in blank),” in which men and women alike hold up hand-written signs explaining why feminism is important to them. Or maybe you’ve seen the Facebook page, “Who Needs Feminism?” If not, check it out. This is great campaign designed to inspire open dialog about the need for and importance of feminism. I just discovered it myself a few days ago and I love it. Mostly because it pleases me to see how many people, both male and female,  understand that there is a real and urgent need for feminism; but also because it got me thinking about why I need it.

Honestly, I never really considered myself a feminist until I moved out on my own and had to start making my own way in the world. I was raised, for the most part, by my Dad. In my home, household duties were not relegated to only the women, my Dad did much of it (mostly because my mother was inebriated most of the time, but I digress). He did laundry, and dishes, and ran the vacuum cleaner. He helped with homework, tucked in we girls at night, and played nursemaid when we were ill. He played dolls with us and taught us to throw a football and a baseball. Most importantly, he never raised us to believe that there was anything we could not do. No matter what aspiration for a future career floated into my childish mind, and I had some really off-the-wall ones believe me, my Dad never once said to me, “Girls can’t do that.”

I didn’t grow up believing that being a girl had limits. I could throw a ball as well as most of the boys I knew, and I could out run most of them well into high school (it was my freakishly long legs). I was always at the top of my class; reading, writing, history, science, I excelled or did very well in nearly everything. On the rare occasions someone told me I couldn’t do something, my Dad was there to remind me that the only people who cannot do things are those who never try.

It wasn’t until I began to grow up that I noticed that the world was backward and twisted, and that there were certain things I couldn’t do; not because I lacked the capabilities or the intelligence to do them, but because society had drawn little lines in the sand around things that it did not want women to do. My first lesson in this came in high-school when my then boyfriend thought it would be fun to tell everyone he’d had sex with me. I was barely fourteen, I hadn’t even had my first real kiss yet and now, suddenly, I had supposedly had sex. Luckily I had a strong circle of friends and a Dad who was not above threatening the little prick, so the rumor never had a chance to spread, thus sparing me from the extreme slut-shaming with which so many other girls are forced to contend. That is not to say that I didn’t have to deny his story or defend myself against comments his own friends made, but my reputation was not irrevocably ruined by his lies. I was lucky, but this was my first lesson in the reality of the double-standard with which girls are forced to live; in which a guy is lauded as a stud and a girl is condemned as a slut where sex, real or imagined, is involved.

As I grew into adulthood and became aware of the world around me, as I went to college and learned more about women’s history, I learned newer lessons; lessons that were in many ways harder to bear than my earlier lesson. I became aware of the millions of  women all over the world who are still traded into marriage, most often as young girls, against their will. I learned that adultery is still punishable by maiming or death in many areas of the world and that women are far more likely to be the victims of such cruelty than men. I learned that girls and women all over the world are less likely to be educated, more likely to live in poverty, and more likely to suffer from disease for lack of health care. I learned that women and girls are more likely to be physically, sexually, and emotionally abused, raped, or murdered. I learned that for millions of women all over the world chattelry is the reality in which they live; being a woman in this world is as good being born a goat or cow.

I need feminism because women are not equal, not by a long shot and not even here in my own country. I need feminism because the world I thought I knew as a girl, the world that my Dad tried to build for me where everything and anything was possible, is not real. At the same time, though, I need feminism because I know that that world, the world of my girlhood, the world my Dad so deeply wanted for me, is possible.

When I was in sixth grade I participated in and won 7th place in a state-wide essay contest entitled, “An Influential Woman in My Life.” In the response letter, Governor Anne Richards told me that young ladies like me have the power to change the world. I still believe that. I will never stop believing that. And so, I need feminism…

Religion, Misogyny, and Patriarchy: The Triad of Control in the Throes of Death

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They fear it. The misogynists and the patriarchists, at least most of them do. They are anti-woman and they fear the power of vagina because thoughts of it consume their brains, because they lack the personal fortitude of stronger, more open-minded people, to control their sexual thoughts and urges, they seek to own and control the vagina and, by extension, the women to whom said vaginas belong.  This is not because they do not want to enjoy sex, they just want to be the ones to decide when and where to have it and to ensure that the vagina, like a plot of land to which they have laid claim, remains theirs and theirs alone.

They cannot have liberated women running around, popping birth-control pills, daring to choose their own sexual partners and the number thereof, and  having the audacity to decide if/when they become wives and mothers. This would not only end the misogynists and the patriarchists long held domination of the world, they would also lose the power to own and control the vaginas of their choosing.  A woman with personal autonomy and with access to birth control, education, and careers is a danger to those who are anti-woman because such women, in their eyes, rob them of what they see as their “God” given right to dominate both women and the world.

It’s no small coincidence that the majority of misogynists and patriarchists are extremely conservative and religiously zealous. In the (carefully selected) pages of their religious texts –namely the Torah, the Bible, and the Qu’ran– these “men” find the source of their power. Never mind that these texts were written by men, for men because (facts be damned) God totally wrote them, conflicting information and all. I say that these texts were written for men because the vast majority of the laws on marriage and sex within these texts and traditions were written to control female sexuality and limit it to the confines of marriage and motherhood.

In historical Judaism, for example, ritual purity laws (niddahplaced a greater burden on women than they did on men. The rabbinical laws of niddah, which were  derived from the ritual purity laws found in the book of Leviticus, required a menstruating women to separate from her husband for a period of twelve days, to check her vagina with a cloth for bloody discharge at the beginning and end of her menstrual cycle, and that at the end of the twelve days the woman must take the mikveh. Moreover, the Jewish people placed a profound emphasis on marriage and family, which lead to efforts, that were often intense, to control female sexuality. For example, the laws pertaining to sex and marriage found in Deuteronomy 22:13-29 place expectations for virginity solely upon the woman. What this passage and others, like this one and this one, demonstrate is an attitude toward women that viewed them as little more than a commodity to bought, sold, and discarded as men saw fit.

While laws of ritual purity were abandoned by Christians, early Church fathers and later leaders nonetheless found new an inventive ways by which to control female sexuality. Since as early as the second century A.D. the image of Eve as the harbinger of death and the cause of man’s fall in paradise provided the church with justification for viewing women, the daughters of Eve, as being subordinate and secondary to men. Building upon the Pauline depiction of Christ Jesus as the “new Adam” and the redeemer of the sin which Adam brought upon man, early Christian theologians created a similar parallel between Jesus’ mother, Mary, and Eve. As the Eve/Mary parallel became part of official church doctrine, women’s salvation no longer depended upon their imitation of Jesus, but rather upon their imitation of his mother, the ever-virgin, Mary. By the medieval period, women were either condemned as wicked and sexual in the image of Eve or praised as obedient and sexless in the idealized image of Mary; as a result chastity became the only lifestyle by which women could disassociate themselves from the evil which Eve had come to symbolize. Sex outside of marriage, be it pre-marital or adulterous, was a punishable offense, particularly for women. If licentiousness could be proved then the offending woman would be punished, typically via public humiliation or expulsion from her home and from the church, depending upon the severity of the debauchery.

Similarly to Judeo-Christian traditions, Muslim tradition teaches about male domination and female obedience, blesses men with a measure of sexual freedom by either allowing them to have multiple wives and concubines or turning a blind eye to licentious acts of men, allowed men to divorce their wives with ease while restricting women’s rights to do so (although, they at least had the right, as limited as it might be), and strictly controlled the sexuality of women. As with both Judaism and Christianity, women were expected to guard their chastity and preserve themselves for marriage; women who dared to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage risked punishment, from forced marriages to stoning.

Not all ancient religious traditions treated female sexuality as a thing to fear and control. In a number of ancient religions the vagina, along with the penis, were symbols of power. It was the vagina that birthed new life into the world. It held within it the power of creation, renewal and life. The feminine was depicted as divine, and goddess worship took precedence over that of male gods. But the majority of  human tradition has predominately been based on a patriarchal and misogynistic desire to own, control, and repress female sexuality.

Thus, in the grand scheme of Western history, the fervor over female reproduction that we are presently seeing within the GOP (Grand Old Patriarchs, for all intents and purposes), is nothing new.  Men have vied for and maintained control over the vagina since time in memoriam. What is new, however, is the society in which such efforts are being employed. The world now is different from the world then. What is different between then and now, is that now men do not have all of the power. What is different between then and now is that strict religious observance and trust in organized religion is on the decline, as are rates of marriage and child-birth. Unlike nearly every point throughout human history, particularly Western history and much of Near Eastern history, women today have more power, and it is growing even globally. We can vote, own property, initiate divorce, control our own reproduction, have sex with whomever we choose, travel where we choose without a chaperon, go to college, cut our hair, and wear pants.

These are different times. The world is changing, and it’s changing fast. The religious zealotry, misogyny, and patriarchy that for so long repressed sexuality, especially female and same-sex sexuality, are on their collective deathbed. What we are witnessing within the GOP is not resurgence of the male-domination from which women have fought so hard to break free, rather we are witnessing the death throes of the Triad of Control.

However, this is not to say that we are safe. Like a wild animal sensing its own demise, the misogynists and patriarchists will not go down without a fight. The GOP’s 2012 platform should be seen as gnashing of teeth and a showing of claws; a desperate attempt to cling to life. In their death throes they are as dangerous and volatile as ever, if not more so. They see the vaginas breaking the bonds of servitude, they know that they are not long for this world, and they’re afraid. Thus it is essential that we not back down. We must push back, and keep pushing back until the Triad of Control has drawn its final breath.  And I must say, no death will ever be a more welcomed, a more beautiful, or a more glorious sight to behold.

(Note: Throughout my undergrad studies I wrote several papers on the role of women in the both the Jewish and Christian religions, over the course of the next few days I shall reformat them and paste them under a new page, which I shall call “Research Papers,” for those interested in learning more about female sexuality and the Judeo-Christian traditions.)

An open letter to Anti-Choicers

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Dear Anti-choicers (aka pro-lifers),

Stop. Stop it right now. Yeah, you with your holier-than-thou, pseudo-moralistic, self-righteous stare. Knock it off. Stop trying to dictate the actions, choices,  and lifestyles of consenting adults. You there, who decries the alleged evils of big government, stop supporting people who want to control the lives of consenting individuals. You’re speaking from both sides of your mouth and you sound like a hypocritical dipshit. Oh yeah, I said it. Until you have to deal with ass-nuggets, like yourselves, treating your body like public property, you haven’t a clue what “big government” really is or what it really means to have your rights infringed upon.

Too harsh? Too bad. Quite frankly, I have had enough of you and your lies. You claim to want to “save” the unborn. Great. But what about the already born? Where are you for them? Where are you to save the already living, breathing children, huh? Where are you for the nearly 21,000 children, worldwide, who die from poverty each day? Where are you for the 72 million children, all around the world, who do not have access to education? Where were you for the nearly 2 million children who have, in the past decade, died as a result of war; or the millions more who are living in war-torn nations, in fear of death or injury? There is far more to “saving a life” than merely preventing abortion. And until you’re willing to tackle the horrors of this world that rob the already living of their lives, that inhibits them from having a good life, then you’re not pro-life and you need to stop pretending to be.

In truth the majority of you are anti-choice. You have no desire to preserve life, you merely want to control the bodies of women. I tell you now, stop it! You anti-choicers need to get over yourselves and stop trying to dictate the personal lives of other consenting adults. I demand that you get out of my private life, especially my uterus; it’s mine and your personal beliefs are not welcome in it. It is my life and my choice, in the end it is I who will have to live with the consequences of my actions not you, so go away and leave our bodies alone.

To the anti-choicers out there who are men, I have this to say: It is so easy for you, you who has never and will never be faced with the full responsibility of pregnancy, to act as if you have the right answers. You do not, nor will you ever, know what it is truly like to carry a developing life inside of you and to have to face all of the fear, uncertainty, and (for those of us who choose to become mothers) hope that comes with it. You are free to impregnate and leave, but it is the woman who must, by sheer force of biology, carry the full burden of pregnancy with her. I have been asked by some amongst you why it is that being a man keeps you from having a right to decide? Well let me ask you this, why does being a woman force me to not have a choice as to whether or not I become and/or remain pregnant if I do not want to? Does being a born a woman forever preclude any personal autonomy or right to choose my own destiny?

To all of you anti-choicers I say that unless you have to bear the burden, unless you have to endure the pain, you can take your opinion and cram it. Your personal opinion has no place in my private life, or anyone else’s. You are not my father or my mother, you are not my sister or my brother, you are not my friend, nor are you my husband; therefore what you think I should do with my personal life, with my body, is of no consequence to me and I don’t want you telling me, or the women I know and love, what we can and cannot do with our lives and our bodies.

Sincerely,
Karen~ wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and -always- woman.

Chick-fil-hAte: Religious Freedom Has Nothing To Do With It

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By now we’ve all heard about Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s stance on gay rights and the subsequent outrage in response to that stance. For many of us the anti-gay beliefs espoused by Mr. Cathy and his company came as a bit of a surprise. Out of nowhere, or so it seemed, social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, were abuzz with posts and comments about Dan Cathy’s statements to The Baptist Press regarding the company’s support of  “the biblical definition of the family unit.” For others, this news was far from out-of-the-blue. In March of last year, the LGBT rights group, Equal Matters published a report about the fast-food chain’s support of adamantly anti-gay groups, like Focus on the Family and Family Research Council, the latter of which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In May and September of last year,  LGBT rights activists protested the opening  of Chick-fil-A restaurants in Chicago and Hollywood, respectively; and in February of this year, students at NYU petitioned the university to close its Chick-fil-A franchise.

While, on the surface, the official position of Chick-fil-A and Mr. Cathy regarding gay-rights is, in the opinions of many, antiquated and unethical; dig a little deeper and that position moves from out-dated and wrong, to down-right fucking crazy-scary. Dan Cathy doesn’t just believe in the concept of traditional marriage (whatever the hell that means), he believes that we, as a nation, are inviting the wrath of his God for having the audacity to offer equal protection under the law to all of our citizens regardless of their sexual orientation. Or, as he puts it, for our “prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is.” Dan Cathy isn’t one of those misguided but otherwise benign Christians who is simply of the personal opinion that marriage should be between one man and woman until death parts them…No. He is one of those sinister and twisted Christians, like Robertson and Falwell, who honestly believes that there is some vengeful, wrathful force in the universe that will destroy us all for daring to treat people who differ from us with respect and dignity. That’s some scary shit right there, folks. Scary shit.

Now, to take matters from the scary to the mindbogglingly terrifying (yes, I am this freaked the hell out by this next bit), Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A are not merely funding groups that oppose same-sex marriage, (oh if only it was that bad) the two are funding a group that appears to support the systematic murder of homosexuals. In 2010, Family Research Council (FRC) gave $25,000 to lobby Congress to vote against a resolution, dubbed  “Res.1064Ugandan ResolutionPro-homosexual promotion” by FRC, that would denounce Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill. Now, it would be disingenuous to insist, without irrefutable evidence, that Dan Cathy or the rest of the company knew about the FRC’s efforts to influence Congress’ vote on the resolution; but given that FRC is on the SPLC’s list of hate groups and considering that stories about the FRC’s lobbying efforts have been on the internet since 2010, it seems unlikely that Dan Cathy was unaware of it.

Contrary to what some people, particularly supporters of Chick-fil-A, might think, the outrage being expressed does not merely pertain to Dan Cathy’s statement to The Baptist Press, nor is the boycott indicative of an anti-Christian plot to destroy religious freedom. Yes, for those of us who understand that sexual-orientation is neither a sin nor an abomination, the position of Chick-fil-A and its president is offensive; but our outrage actually goes deeper than that. A lot deeper. We’re not just angry that some religious, rich dude disagrees with same-sex marriage, we’re angry that he thinks the rest of us need to agree with him. Dan Cathy believes that same-sex relationships and our support of them are going to cause his God to destroy this nation. Dan Cathy believes that his religion should get to define marriage for us all. And Dan Cathy and his company have provided substantial financial support to organizations that not only aim to impose theocratic laws on us all, but that appear to support policies in foreign countries that would kill gays and lesbians.  This is why we’re outraged.

We’re not telling anyone to change their opinions, we’re telling them that under no uncertain terms do they have the right to use their personal beliefs to dictate how other consenting adults live their lives. Just as they want to be free to believe whatever’s floating around in their head, so too do those of us who have different beliefs or positions. If one expects one’s personal beliefs to be respected and protected then that person *must,* as a member of a democratic and secular society, extend that same respect and protection to everyone else.

I want to make something perfectly clear to the religious right, to Dan Cathy and his ilk, and I’m asking the rest of the reasonable people in America to join me in saying it: We don’t want your world; it’s a sad, lonely, hateful place. Personally, I don’t give a flying-monkey’s ass what anyone believes or thinks. Have at it, it’s your life. I do, however, care when your ilk tries to tell me and those whom I love and respect how to live their lives. Then and only then do your beliefs become my problem. Your beliefs are your beliefs, nothing more and nothing less. Keep it that way.

Natural Rights, Societal Rights, and The Social Contract

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I was recently asked by someone on Facebook: “”What are your thoughts on natural rights unrelated to the concept of god?” (Sometimes I have some of the most interesting and thought provoking conversations on Facebook…sometimes)

My thoughts, as I responded, are thus:
Whether or not there is a god (after having majored in both History and Religious Studies in college I have come to conclude that the probability of there being such a being, given the utter lack of evidence and  its lack of involvement in human affairs, is very low[read here to understand why]) is irrelevant to the concept of natural rights because people differ in their opinions as to its existence and how to best worship it. Therefore, when discussing natural rights it is always best to leave god/s out of the equation. Natural rights exist because life exists. It is really that simple. With that said, I consider there to be two types of rights: natural rights and societal rights.

Natural rights refer to those things that living beings require in order to be living: clean water, clean air, food that is safe and nutritious, land on which to live and grow said food, shelter, clothing to protect them from the elements, protection from exploitation and abuse, and access to medical care. These things are natural rights because without them people will die; be it from hunger or exposure or disease, they will die. Thus these rights are non-negotiable. People *need* them. Period. Beyond these rights we enter the realm of what I refer to as societal rights.

Societal rights are those things that exist within the context of a given society, they are “rights” in the sense that they are agreed upon liberties between members of said society and tend to change, typically in positive progression, as societies grow and change and become more advanced. These rights are things that, while not necessarily needed for one to survive, are needed for one to thrive. A thriving populous is essential for any society if that society wishes to remain strong and successful, and if it wants to progress and improve. These things include, but are not limited to: living wages for labor, the ability to vote for government, education, and access to certain modern conveniences (transportation, electricity). Societal rights, unlike natural rights, are negotiable because they are not static; they have varied across our history and they vary according to needs of the respective societies in which people live. This is why we have had and continue to have so many forms of governments; how groups of people choose to be governed changes as their concept of what they need in order to thrive changes.

How to best negotiate social rights without infringing upon natural ones has been a challenge for humanity from the moment we moved from egalitarian, nomadic tribes to stationary cities built on arbitrary hierarchy. The reconciliation of these two types of rights is the goal of the Social Contract.  In an advanced society, such as the US, such a reconciliation is possible; however, we first need to be willing to protect and fulfill the natural rights of everyone in society before we can hope to reach an agreement on societal rights. As long as we are bickering about whether or not access to food and health care are rights then we cannot successfully progress as a society. Until we acknowledge and accept the innateness of natural rights so as to ensure the survival of our people we will be unable to negotiate the rights that will enable them to thrive.

A Brief Observation on Ethics

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My observation about ethics, is that determining what we as a society ought to do requires skills in critical thinking, logic, and reason. Without such skills we are in danger of thinking in arbitrary absolutes and of over-generalizing the issues society faces. If we fail to explore other options, see things from alternate perspectives, or challenge our personal paradigms, we create an ethical vacuum and risk building individualistic pseudo-moralities from which we judge the rightness or wrongness of an action based solely upon whether or not we do such actions ourselves.

It is just this sort of faulty logic, this pseudo-moralistic judgment, that leads some people to feel that it is acceptable to condemn certain lifestyles or actions, such as homosexuality or prostitution: “I’m not gay, so being gay is wrong.” It also enables us to feel apathetic toward the rights of others who are different from us or live in different circumstances: “Gay people are different from everyone else, so they should just deal with homophobia and hope it goes away;” “I respect my body, so prostitutes clearly have no self-respect;” or, “I/people I know work hard and aren’t poor, therefore poor people must be doing something wrong.”

Our determination of ethical behavior should be based less on what we would or wouldn’t do personally, and more on whether or not we would like to be treated/judged in the same manner in which we treat/judge others. Moreover, the rightness or wrongness of an action should be judged less on how much we personally like or dislike something and more on the amount of goodness or harm it brings to others. For example, regulating business practices to ensure workers are well treated and the planet isn’t being polluted bring more goodness to more people than allowing business to do as it pleases; whereas, dictating the individual actions of consenting adults typically leads to oppression and marginalization, thus causing more harm to more people.

Therefore, a large number of us need to get off of our high-horses, stop trying to dictate who is screwing whom or who is smoking what, and start to really evaluate the ways in which our thoughts and actions affect the whole.