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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Across #WomensLives: Revenge Porn.

I'm so thrilled to be sharing with you this groundbreaking approach in journalism from BlogHer, SheKnows Media, and PRI Public Radio International called Across #WomensLives. The campaign aims to make the stories of women seen and heard across all forms of news media, as every woman's story is important.

I'm one of the community partners helping this initiative, as not only a feminist, but as a woman who fiercely believes in the incredible power of storytelling. From the post by Lisa Stone, co-founder of BlogHer on BlogHer's site:
These are stories about women's rights and issues concerning health, education, wealth, economic development and combating climate change. (Today, only about 24% of all news subjects talk about women in any way, and only six percent of news stories highlight gender in/equality.)
You guys. That's abysmal. I want both of my kids to grow up in a world where everyone's story is important. I want them to learn about lives that are different from their own, to discover how everyone has or is or will carry their hard battles. I want them to see a need for change and be unafraid for them to act on it because of the humanity they will see that unites us all.

I want my kids to be able to sit with that which they do not understand or cannot explain, and listen.

So with that in mind, I'm so excited to be going on this journey along with an amazing list of bloggers across the globe, which you can check out by clicking on the badge below, or in my sidebar a bit down.

#womenslives

So, let's talk about the very first subject presented by PRI -- revenge porn.

I guess in a way, I'm fortunate that my pre-marriage dating days were before camera phones took photos worth a damn and social media was pretty much MySpace, early had-to-be-a-college-student-to-use-it Facebook, and Livejournal. My late teens and early twenties were still slightly idyllic, just ever so slightly digital. And then I met my soon-to-be-ex husband and for the last nine years I've been living in pretty much a bubble.

Now, I know, many married people send each other "personal" photos and whatnot and that's totally cool if that's your thing. (I fully support it, for real. Whatever goes on between two consenting adults, etc.) For me, though, after finding photos of an intimate nature sent to my husband on multiple occasions that were not from or of me, well, it was hard for me to mirror that specific behavior with him, as it honestly wasn't one that was ever discussed or participated in between us. It made me feel like I was having to stoop to someone else's level to get his attention, which I didn't think I should have to do.

And I'm not above admitting that I seriously considered, in my hurt and anger and betrayal, taking those clandestine photos and making them public to shame the participants for their actions (because trust, it was never just photos, in either case). I wanted to extract revenge upon those who hurt me so badly, and the easiest was I could see to do that was to make public the (awful, truly) compromising photos and email exchanges between the person I thought I loved most in the world, and the women he decided were more worthy of his attention and desires than me.

And this is how I learned about revenge porn. And was subsequently horrified by the stories of women who sent similar photos in confidence -- to partners, spouses, significant others -- and upon the end of those relationships (or in some cases, inside abusive relationships) had those private photos distributed on websites for that specific purpose, often including information like full names, phone numbers, street addresses, and social media profiles.

And I was horrified at myself, for almost perpetrating that cycle of violation.

Because that's what revenge porn is -- it's a violation not just of trust, not just of privacy, but of a woman's ability to hold domain over her own body. And, as we all know, there's a lot of issues within our culture about the proprietary concepts and autonomy (or lack thereof) of a woman's body. I could get into a whole dissertation about women's bodies in the media right here, but we'd be here all week and while I'd love to marathon hang out with you all and discuss the intersectionality of sex-positive feminism, presentation of female bodies in mainstream media, sexual policing of women throughout cultures, etc ... maybe you should buy me a coffee first? Ha.

The point of it is, a woman's body belongs to no one but herself. If she chooses to share it -- in photos, in a relationship, however -- that is her choice. But it sounds an awful lot like people who victim blame women who have been raped because of their "reputation" or how they dressed or the fact that they were drinking or whatever to defend revenge porn by saying that by sending it to one person, in confidence and with trust, somehow that makes it suitable for mass consumption without permission at the discretion of the receiver. You do not sign away your rights to your image once you take a photo and send it, just like you do not sign away your consent for sexual relations by sleeping with (or kissing, or flirting with, or looking at) someone once.

What revenge porn isn't is a First Amendment issue. It is no one's "right" to take photos of a woman and distribute them without her knowledge, sexually explicit or not. As the social media and the internet as a whole embeds (zing!) itself into the fabric of our interactions and connections, we are increasingly in charge of how we present ourselves. And it's not someone's "right" to try and disrupt or tarnish or assassinate that carefully (or maybe not so) constructed existence. We are no longer at a place in our society were we can extricate ourselves from our online selves. Therefore, we need to be able to be in charge of our own images -- whether we're Jennifer Lawrence being hacked or a married man's mistress.

To a greater extent, this goes out into sites like People of Walmart and other exploitation-as-entertainment sites, and celebrity gossip rags and the whole concept of the paparazzi. It all boils down to bullying, instead of taking half a moment to put yourself in someone else's shoes and show a little decency and respect for different choices and morals and life circumstances and whatever.

Because, again, whatever happens between two consenting adults is really none of your goddamn business.

So that's why I'm excited to hear about Congresswoman Jackie Speier from California is working with revenge porn victims like Holly Jacobs to introduce legislation to criminalize revenge porn. It won't solve the issue, but it's a damn good start.

Because our bodies, our mother effing selves -- and it's about time we stood up and demanded as much.


This post is in connection to my participation in the #WomensLives social journalism initiative co-sponsored by BlogHer, SheKnows Media, and Public Radio International. Across Women’s Lives seeks to change the conversation in news media, because women’s lives are newsworthy.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Music & Miscellany Monday: Black Sun.

All I have to say about this is that this song strongly suggests that the impending album is what any Death Cab/Postal Service/emo punk kid could have dreamed for in the post Ben Gibbard/ Zooey Deschanel break up.

Also, just yes. Yes.


*****
This past weekend was stupid. Kiedis' bus got into an accident (he's fine); Tova lost her only pair of gloves and then broke my only charger cord to my phone; my parked car was backed into in front of my house and the jerks just cut and run and now, because it's old and not in the best condition it may be totaled by insurance; and the icing on the cake is the revelation from a much trusted and reputable source that the weakness and smallness and lack of humanity of some specific people can be truly astounding. At least that's just being put on further display to be clearly seen, since I'm not responsible for shielding it anymore.

And that's all I have to say about that. Mercury, get your ass moving forward again so shit can get back to normal, please and thank you.

*****
And now I have 25 days left of 30. My birthday is the last Friday in February and I don't know if I'm going to try and plan anything or not. I'd like to do something of substance for others, and I know I need to get on that shortly if I'd like to make any impact at all -- but I also have a certain almost-six-year-old's birthday to plan, once he can tie down what kind of even he'd like. Right now it's a Ninja Turtles-Avengers-Dragons-Star Wars-Turbo party. And I don't want to do it at the house again because too small and not a lot of time to clean and just, yeah. So who knows, 31 might just quietly come and go without much fanfare. :/ It is what it is.

*****

That's it for today.

Oh, other than this.

A photo posted by Tabatha M (@so_tabulous) on
Because laughter is the best medicine, right? Right.

Friday, January 30, 2015

To Tova, In The Future.

To Tova In The Future --

I know, open letters are passé. You may not even know what one is when you get this, if you find it buried on some archaic version of this space that will probably resemble something close to what 8 bit looks like to me, now, but no matter.

You're just shy of four and a half as I write this, sitting on the couch next to me watching Sesame Street. Please tell me there is Sesame Street in the future. I cried the first time you guys, you and your big brother, watched it, because it was just such a big part of my childhood. If you choose to have kids, I wish this for you too. Not the tears, but the bonding over Big Bird and Cookie Monster.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

What I want to talk to you about actually, is a realization that pretty much guts me every time I think about it.

You see, beautiful girl, your father and I (as you have pretty much already figured out at this point) are no longer romantically involved. In a way, we'll always be family because of you and Kiedis, because you tie us together in a way we can never completely undo.

But as it stands, our core unit has gone from four to three and already, I see the patterns changing within the three of us and I see you maturing faster than Kiedis.

So we need to talk.

A photo posted by Tabatha M (@so_tabulous) on

What you don't know about me just yet, dear girl, is that your mama has a litany of minor to remarkable health issues and complications that separately may just be inconveniences, but in combination will surely shorten my time here with you and your brother. And God willing, you two will surpass me in that time by leaps and bounds.

But what you may not also realize just yet is that your brother is a very special person. It is so incredibly hard to tell at this point in both of your lives what he will be capable of, and what will be too much for him to bear on his own.

A photo posted by Tabatha M (@so_tabulous) on

And you'll probably figure this out sooner rather than later, but as mama to both of you, the brunt of his care, his progress, and his advocacy has been left up to me. I'll tell you the stories as they become appropriate to know, and if you do choose to have children of your own someday you'll start to understand what that has been like, why things were so hard in the beginning. Through that, you'll also start to understand aspects of why your father and I couldn't continue our lives as a joint unit. In no way is that meant to state that you or your brother had anything to do with it -- you didn't in the least -- it was more how we both handled the unexpected stress and struggle that came with special needs and medically fragile parenthood for both of us. We made different choices in how we handled that. Those choices were irreconcilable. And now I can't speak for your father and what choices he will make. I can only speak for myself, for the loads I carry so that you and your brother may have the childhoods I dreamed for you before I met you both, and further on the lives I hope for you both.

And someday, my sweet girl, these things will be left to you.

A photo posted by Tabatha M (@so_tabulous) on

I never meant for this to be how it played out, that you would be his caretaker, his advocate. I hope, out of love for him as you both grow, these roles are ones you take on out of that love and support I see between you. Already, you help him (and me) in more ways than a child your age should have the maturity to handle. Yet you do it with grace and aplomb because he's your Bubby and you are just such a loving and open-hearted human. I have no doubt you will continue to be his best and strongest cheerleader, no matter what he ends up capable of.

But the fact remains -- in the best case scenarios, he will still need your emotional support to suffer this world not built for brains like his. And in the worst case scenarios, he will need you to be his constant, his safety, his routine, when I no longer am able to be those things.

He is your singular tie to the days that we are living right now -- your only full sibling, the only other person in this world to have lived life in the same places and times as you in these childhood years.

A photo posted by Tabatha M (@so_tabulous) on

He will ground you, dear Tovalah. As you will do for him.

In a way, I know this from my own adulthood relationship with my brother, your Uncle. I know this in the ways we have grown to be so vastly different and yet still the same as we were when we were you and your brother's ages.

And I know, as the sibling who needs the extra care, as the one who can't always function in this world without kid gloves helping me along, how very important you will be to him, even if he grows to be a fully functional, independent adult.

His relationship with you will be the longest of his life, as is true for you as well. It is my hope for you that you learn to see the beauty in it, that the experiences you have with him will grow your compassion and empathy for others who are different, and for those who just struggle from time to time. I hope you find your strength, your voice, your courage through not only these avenues of maintaining his care, but in loving him for his differences and seeing him for the wonderful person he is, when you look.

A photo posted by Tabatha M (@so_tabulous) on

I hope you learn to ask for help when you need it, and that you will be surrounded in your life by people upon whom you may rely. I hope that you never stop learning and trying to make the most educated choices not just based on research, but on both of your needs. I hope you will be able to see him as I do, for the sweet gentle soul he is, for the ways he sees the world and how it changes everything you see about it, too.

I hope you never feel over-burdened. I know with him there are moments of overwhelm for everyone involved but I truly hope that you will continue to be his bestest friend and will act from that place, not one of genetic obligation.

A photo posted by Tabatha M (@so_tabulous) on

And I hope, when I am no longer able to be with you both, that you will be the love each other needs to endure. I hope you will lean on each other and be comfortable in doing so.

Family is hard, my girl, in ways you can't fathom just yet. Soon these days of innocence will be gone and all you will have will be each other to hold on to and I am doing everything within my power to build you both up in love and kindness so that you have solid foundations to grow upon, both in your separate lives, but most importantly, together.

So keep making these memories with him. Keep being his friend. Keep trying and engaging and loving and supporting because he is going to need you someday, and you, sweet girl, will need him just as much.

A photo posted by Tabatha M (@so_tabulous) on

I love you both more than I'll ever be able to tell you. You two are the greatest people I know, the most treasured humans in my heart, as you are very much pieces of my heart and my soul out in the world, living your lives in ways I never could have imagined for myself.

Keep doing that. Keep looking at this world with wonder, hand in hand. Keep loving and giggling and yes, even fighting because how else will you learn to respect differences of opinion, and thriving despite the odds and despite whatever life throws at you and even when you don't feel like you are worth love because you both are so very worthy of so much more love than I can begin to show you, though I will surely never stop trying.

I hope this life is kind to you, and that this world grows to be an easier one to inhabit both in general and specifically for you both. I hope that you grow together while pursuing your own interests and dreams.

A photo posted by Tabatha M (@so_tabulous) on

And I hope at the end of the day, you know that you have each other (and me) forever, for always, and no matter what.

A photo posted by Tabatha M (@so_tabulous) on

I love you, baby girl. I have faith in you, and in your brother.

Now go eat something and don't forget to let the dogs in and clean the cat boxes and turn off the coffee pot and charge your phone and always leave a light on and lock the door behind you.

Love to the moon and back,

Mommy