emanix: (pink hair)
"Having needs doesn't make you needy. It makes you human. Just thought you should know."

A friend posted the above comment on Facebook today, and while I think I am fundamentally in agreement with the spirit of the statement, I am twitchy about the use of that particular word, 'needs', and have been for a long time. I do want to say that *wanting things* does not inherently make anyone a bad person, or needy, or whatever. To want is very definitely human. On the other hand, the word 'needs' as used to describe relationship requirements or even very important and urgent wants always gives me a little shudder because it is such a fuzzily defined term the way most people use it, and I have seen it very badly misused in the past.

Sure, everybody has needs. Food, water, shelter, basic medical care, y'know... the sorts of things that make us Not Die. But using the word 'needs' to mean 'minimum things I want in a relationship' or simply 'things I really really want right now' has always struck me as somewhat blackmailish, because it raises requirements within one particular relationship to the level of things that are non-negotiable for survival, which - and folks may certainly disagree with me here - in my opinion, they aren't. However much I might value my chosen family and the relationships I have built in and around that, the basic unit for survival is the individual, not the family, and definitely not the relationship.

Using the word 'needs' to describe any expectation or desire within a relationship seems to me to demand that a specific person (or sometimes in poly a small group of people) should meet those 'needs' whether they want to or not.

I strongly feel that romantic relationships are voluntary and therefore all aspects within those relationships should be voluntary as well (beyond the basic minimum level of respect that we should all have for our fellow human beings, of course). Not everybody has them, not everybody *should* have them. Ultimately where we are talking about the emotional aspect of a relationship, everyone is responsible for meeting their own needs or that aspect of the relationship is no longer voluntary and therefore, I would argue, neither is the relationship itself.

If I'm not able to satisfy what all of my partners *want* right now this minute, or vice versa... well, sometimes them's the breaks. We can't always expect our partners to 'perform' for us on every level. On the other hand, if I am not able to satisfy my partners minimum relationship requirements, or if they're not able to satisfy mine, logic says that we should dissolve the relationship. Whereas if the word 'needs' is used, the implication seems to be that if I am not able to satisfy my partners 'needs', I am a Bad Partner(TM) and should step up to the plate, whether doing so works for me or not.

I am probably extra sensitive to this because I had an abusive relationship in the past where my partners 'needs' were used as levers to demand more and more from me that I wasn't actually prepared to give, on the basis that *I* was a Bad and Abusive Partner(TM) if I didn't provide for them. How awful a person was I, to ignore things that were stated as NEEDS? Even if those needs effectively negated anything I might ever want out of that relationship myself, and even if those needs were things I would have stated as outside the remit of that relationship had the request been made in any other way. I was *needed*. To say no would have put me in the wrong, no matter what was being asked.

Everyone deserves to be able to ask for what they want in relationships, but every single person also deserves to set the terms of their own relationships, and not be hung out to dry if what they are able to provide is not the same as what the other person in that relationship wants, however those wants are stated.

I mean, how unreasonable would I be if I was to say "I need you not to use the word 'needs' ever again"...?

How do you folks feel about this question? Do you have different ways of defining the word 'need'? Do you love it, hate it, feel neutral about it? If you use it, what do you mean by it?
emanix: (emanix)
Subtitle: Seriously, please don't buy me gifts.
---

Dear Peoples,

This year (as I have for the past several years) I am declaring my house a Christmas Free Zone. I am excusing myself from participating in a pointless cultural habit.

Some of it is ideological: I am neither a Christian, a Pagan, nor a Capitalist, and while I think it's nice knowing that Isaac Newton was born on the 25th of December, I think he would appreciate the sentiment of my doing nothing at all to celebrate this fact, because he simply isn't around to see it.

Some of it is more practical: After almost a decade of short-term living situations and an entire year of living out of backpack, the idea of acquiring more Stuff gives me an almost-physical pain. I can't help imagining carrying the extra weight of this new item, whatever it is, or doing the calculation in my head, working out which thing in my already full to capacity backpack I will have to give away, destroy, or otherwise leave behind in order to accommodate this new uninvited guest, however small.

Yes, I have a house right now, but my intention is to sell up and go back to being nomadic in the future. Every gift I receive now will have to be either carried or disposed of in the intervening time, and it hurts my heart to receive beautiful things knowing I can't keep them.

I'm not a complete grinch. I don't want to spoil anyone else's fun. I just question how much 'fun' is really involved in the rituals of compulsory gift-giving, emotional blackmail and gluttony that go alongside a traditional celebration of... what? The birth of a prophet who preached poverty, self-immolation and charitable giving? The turning of the seasons?
Why not, then, spare a thought instead for folks who are less well off? Perhaps those who are out in the cold. Rather than indulging in ridiculously high calorie foods, making oneself miserable, or at best uncomfortable, with overindulgence, why not give the whole damn lot to a food bank? Why not the gifts too? Instead of buying yet another gift set of pre-wrapped toiletries, probably destined barely to be glanced over before being placed on a high shelf and left to gather dust, why not say to your friend, family member, colleague, 'Today I made the world a slightly better place'. Why not give to charity instead, or volunteer your time?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not against ever giving gifts. I love gift-giving. I just feel that gifts can happen the other 364 days of the year, for better reasons than 'a historical figure was born over 2000 years ago and probably nowhere near this time of year, so now I have to give you these socks that you didn't ask for...'. I have no objection to giving things to folks, especially if they're useful, wanted, well thought out. If they'll make life genuinely *better* rather than just fulfilling some sort of ritual expectation. I'll probably even be buying gifts for a few people this December, they just won't be christmas gifts.

If you're the sort of person who might have the urge to buy me a gift, I urge you please to reconsider. I have no need of more 'stuff' in my life – in fact, I need less. I have more than enough food, more than enough clothes, a warm place to live. The only thing I'm short on is time. I would rather hear that you had donated to charity on my behalf, or spent some time making the world a better place in some way. Some random act of kindness, or at the very least the carbon-neutral, pollution-free and mostly harmless act that is doing nothing at all.

There will be no christmas cards sent from my house, this year. There will be no tinsel, no baubles, and no tree. There will be no massive christmas dinner, or stressful family visits. Life, in fact, will carry on pretty much as usual, except perhaps a little quieter. Since I first went 'on strike' from christmas, several years ago now, midwinter has become a peaceful contemplative time for me to catch up with myself, my reading, and all of the bits and bobs that have built up through the year. I'll be sorting out my tax return, figuring out what I might be donating to charity on top of the steady stream of possessions I've been giving away over the last few months, and thinking about how I can contribute to the lives of friends and family through the rest of the year. I might get some DIY done.

Whatever I end up doing, I'm rather looking forward to the blissful peace of watching the hustle and bustle of the 'festive season' from a safe distance, and not being involved in any of it.

I guess you could say that this is the gift I'm giving myself.

Love and peace to everyone,

Maxine.

x
emanix: (emanix)
Dear Stranger,

Read the damn profile. Pick something that might be a mutual interest. Start a conversation about it. It's really not hard. If I wanted generalised spam messages with no connection to my own personality I'd go look in my trash email.

No love,

Someone who's very bored of getting form letters from people who clearly don't give a shit about who I am other than 'female'.


*Yes, this happens often enough that it is worth having a form response that I can copy and paste. Now, finally, here it is.
emanix: (Default)
If you were watching my twitter, or my tweet-archive (http://emanix-tweets.livejournal.com/) on the 14th of October you'd have seen this series of tweets:

  • Mon, 18:29: I suspect those who ought to see this won't, but #PSA: MEN! FOR THE LOVE OF FUCK, WOMEN ON THE STREET DO NOT EXIST FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT!


  • Mon, 18:29: #PSA brought to you by several groups of assholes who demanded I 'perform' in some way on the street today, just bc I'm female. #SmileDarlin


  • Mon, 18:34: Not usually quite so angry at male entitlement, but after 1hr outdoors & a 5th demand to please a total stranger, nearly threw a punch.


  • Mon, 19:10: Actually, now I think about it, a T-shirt reading "I AM NOT HERE FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT" would be the perfect answer. @bigcalm


It was a Monday afternoon, I'd been at home looking after my partner's cat and doing some work. Y'know, hanging around the house.

And, oddly enough, despite my reputation, I'm not in the habit of hanging around the house dressed in anything provocative, or even particularly eyecatching. A T-shirt, a skirt, a fleece hoody. Not things that yell "Look at meeee!"

And then I step out for just a second, to talk with the next door neighbour, and the door slams behind me.

So, perhaps not the most auspicious start to an afternoon, but I figured it was a sunny day, I'd view it as an opportunity to enjoy the sunshine, take a walk, run some errands.

Perhaps it was the weather. Perhaps I'm just not often walking around my area on a Monday afternoon. I don't know, but it seemed like there were more men around than usual. And they all wanted something. Attention? Yeah, mostly.

I bristled as I took the shortcut down the edge of my local park, when a guy accompanied by two pals yelled 'Give us a kiss!'
I gritted my teeth, clenched my fists and checked there was a wall behind me if I needed to defend myself (since I walk with a stick, I'm always conscious that, given fight or flight, the 'flight' bit really isn't an option), and I kept on walking past. Shoulders tensed. Very, very aware that they were behind me.

Does that sound like an overreaction? Overly paranoid? As a lone woman, in a quiet, and not particularly overlooked area, being approached by three guys, one of whom is yelling at me, even if it is 'friendly', I don't think so.

The next guy? I don't remember what he said. It wasn't anything that could have got him arrested, but whatever it was he wanted me to do, I didn't feel like doing it. And I could feel the waves of disapproval coming off him as I didn't comply. As he walks past, frowning. Muttering about what a miserable bitch, or something to that effect.

The thing is, after an hour out of doors, and several of these approaches, I'm so keyed up and on my guard that I'm even ready to punch the elderly gentleman who passes me outside the rail station and cheerily shouts "Smile, Darlin'!" - but what business of his is it if I'm smiling anyway? It's not YOUR face, it's mine.

The worst bit, though? This isn't even that unusual. It's all the time. It's everywhere. women put up with this sort of behaviour every day.

Kitty Stryker posted a blog about the same thing, the very next day: "hey baby, nice tits, where you going?"

Check out the cartoon with that blog. It's the fifth panel that says it all to me: The guy yelling out of a car window, "Hey, I'm talking to you!... Fuck you then!" There's this undercurrent, you see, of aggression to a lot of these 'exchanges' (I use 'exchanges in quotes, since usually the approaches are entirely one way). There's so often this air of entitlement - and when the guy doesn't get what he wants, of anger. As though, as a female person, I owe him. And, perhaps, just possibly, if he doesn't get his way, maybe he'll resort to violence.

Yes, I've exclusively used male pronouns to refer to people who behave this way. Would I be just as pissed off at this behaviour if it was women demanding that I 'perform' in some way on the street, for complete strangers? Yes, I would. Especially if they were in groups, and bigger than me, and I were on my own. But 99.999% of the time, it's a man, or multiple men.

And even if it's just one guy, who isn't all that aggressive, it's hard to challenge this shit. We're trained, as girls, as human beings, to be polite. Even to people who aren't being polite to us. We're trained to try to help, to try to please. Maybe we'll even try to oblige, just to 'be nice'. But sometimes, it's time to make a stand, and draw a line, and say 'this is not okay', so here I am.

I really don't imagine for a minute that anyone reading this blog will be the sort of guy who demands anything on the street from a total stranger. But just in case... if you find yourself about to call out a demand, or even a request. Even "Smile!" have a think about it. You have no idea who this person is, where they came from, or where they're going to. You have no idea what the last half-dozen people they passed said to them. Maybe they got locked out. Maybe they're on their way to a funeral.

Fine, if you get eye contact, wish them a good day, but do me a favour... do us *all* a favour, and don't give orders to random women on the street. Respect people's personal sovereignty, people!

NOBODY owes you a smile, or a kiss, or the time of day, or even a hello. No random person on the street owes you ANYTHING. And you don't owe them either.

Actually, what you can *really* do to help if you are a guy, and you see this sort of behaviour, what you can really do about it, is calling that stuff out. You don't need to make a massive fuss. Just a shake of the head and a comment along the lines of 'That's not cool' will go a very long way, especially coming from another guy. From someone who is, near enough, their peer group. If you get the opportunity to expand, see if they can empathise with the hypothetical woman who's on her way to a funeral, and really doesn't want to be yelled at. Explain why the behaviour is shitty.

And if you're a guy, and I hear you explaining to another guy why this sort of thing isn't respectful of women? I will happily owe you a beverage of your choice.

And in the meantime, to take the message to the people who actually need it, on the street, in the politest way I can, I'll be wearing this:

I am not here for your entertainment.

If you want to take the message out there too, the awesome  [livejournal.com profile] joreth (@Joreth on twitter) has made these shirts available in her Spreadshirt store here: http://polytees.spreadshirt.com/your-entertainment-A8317338
emanix: (Default)
.

Emanix (noun, fem.): 1. one who emanates. An originator and creator of things. 2. One who puts out.
(The latter not 100% accurate, at least, not to just anybody, but I couldn't resist the pun!)

Polyamorist (n): one whose life is characterised by a set of complex overlapping calendars and scheduling conflicts and, to a lesser extent, multiple loving relationships. (from [livejournal.com profile] bminstrel link)

The latter seems particularly apt for me (apart from a general feeling that the word 'polyamorist' makes something that I feel is an innate part of my identity sound like a career choice - I prefer 'polyamorous person'). Back from a week in Thailand which I left for straight after helping out with Polyday, now recovering from jetlag and looking in despair at a to-do list that stretches on into infinity. Posts will happen though. When I can fit them in between my other scheduling conflicts, that is!

In the meantime, how would you define the meaning of your name or username, if it was up to you?
emanix: (twotone)
So I'm all on my own in the house, let myself get tired and hungry which is never a great way to deal with things, but I'm having a hell of a time with the sorting and packing of my stuff, especially with trying to cut it down to a reasonable size.

The old 'if you've not used it in x months' really doesn't work in this case. I'd only just got myself to the point of having unpacked everything that I got back from my psycho ex, and barely starting to sort through it, when the landlords told us they wanted us out. Amid the househunting and being away, and spending a week being ill, I've hardly even been seen my own house since then. Okay, so I did spend an extra two days prevaricating after I had the option, but I so knew it was going to be like this.

Plus there's an awful lot of stuff that I *know* I haven't done in the past year, or even two, like going out dressed up, or taking an exercise class... or anything fun, really, and I don't want to get rid of that all that kit just when I might get chance to start using it again. Blimey I've had a depressing couple of years. Props to me for getting to the end of that tunnel, I say!

How to distinguish between 'I really don't need this' and 'I've learned to live without it' is all the harder since one of the things I seem to have learned to do without is my painting kit... y'know, my career? Do I even remember how to use it? 

I really haven't this much energy right now. So tempted just to burn all of it and start again from scratch, but I have no idea how I'd even start finding replacements for some of this stuff. 

Arrrgh!

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