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The heavier stuff

The heavier stuff

Give away your money

January 15, 2021

Hi there everyone. I initially started off this post with a whole bunch of stuff on recent news items of 2020 and 2021. I could spend my time here explaining why no one is getting First Amendment arguments correct, or why it’s pretty normal to be scared of the stuff happening right now. I could explain my anger over everything that led us to this point, or I could talk about how I’m worried about a Biden administration being more of the same. I’m not going to, because you’re all very tired, and because you don’t need me to, since smarter and better people are making these points and you should read those people’s work. Of course I will never ever say no to someone who wants to learn more about any of these things from me, specifically (especially since I love talking), but I’d much rather direct you to the experts and amplify their voices instead. There’s no valid authority in me to seize this moment and yell “my voice is what’s necessary” other than like, the human condition and needing attention and validation to survive. However, in These Times, at this point, there’s one thing I do feel like I can write about.

I can tell you how to give away your money.

And if you’re like me and have any cash to spare (like your stimulus check), you absolutely should be giving away some money. Let me use this post to encourage you to let that giving look a little different.

(sidebar, you’re probably all thinking “hey, is she just writing this to talk about how great she is for donating money? what a conceited ass

  1. yep, I am literally the most selfless person who has ever lived, I donated my own heart recently, I’m legally dead
  2. it is also true that I am also very much a conceited ass who loves the sound of her own voice/keyboard clicking but in fairness to me and like 2a. I blog which is a self-centered activity in and of itself so yes I knew this and so did you
  3. I’m enormously aware of this sounding like “Trumpet Voluntary” for my own generosity, but believe me when I say I am not nearly as generous as I could be, and also I’m hoping the helpfulness of this post outweighs the amount you’ll hate me at the end of it for being a self-righteous jerkwad)


There’s a very good chance you’ve already participated in some form of charity in your life time, whether it was buying Girl Scout cookies from your coworker, or dropping off cans at a food bank, or giving money to a friend running a marathon on behalf of a health organization. You rock. No, seriously! You gave your time or money or effort or concern when it wasn’t required and that’s great. I was a Girl Scout; I know those boxes cost like a million dollars for six cookies and I appreciated every sale.

However, there’s an equally good chance you haven’t expanded your thoughts on what charity/donating/helping means, especially if I am any kind of benchmark. I didn’t know most of this until recently, and I got taught by people much better than me, and I’m really just trying to make it straightforward when you think about how to help people. Notice how I said “recently” and not any specific amount of time? I did that on purpose because I’m embarrassed about that timeline! I’m also apparently self-flagellating this whole post. Sorry, and please forgive me. I’m still not the right person to say this, but if I reach someone it was worth it to be a grandstanding punk.

I’ve got some tenets for giving here that are basic in theory but complicated in application, and I genuinely appreciate your time in reading them.

Give what is needed

Cash. It’s cash. It’s always cash. Unless an organization or individual says “hi, yes, that specific thing is a thing we want” just give them money. Like, okay, yes, not always, but kinda always, yeah. Wow, I am exceptional at words.

Food banks can make your dollar stretch farther than you can because of their arrangements with food suppliers. They can buy what is depleted, and they don’t have to worry about negotiating transport of what you decided to donate. That huge pyramid of cans looks good and feels good and seems in every way more substantial than writing a check or entering your credit card info online, but it probably isn’t doing the most good. Write the check; put in your card number.

This can apply to any place that takes donations of physical goods. For example, there are organizations that send reading materials to people in prison, and they’re frequently the best way to get items into prisons because they are very familiar with the regulations and they have an existing relationship that will keep donations and mail from getting rejected. Books through Bars is my local one, but there are plenty across the country. And they don’t need your discarded gross paperbacks that aren’t even good. They ask for new donations, and the imprisoned people who get them deserve new and good books, including ones you have to buy to be able to donate. They need GED prep books, and you’ll need to buy those new.

Books through Bars describes their standards as “please do not donate a book to us that you would not gift to a loved one,” and that about sums it up. Your donation is supposed to show love, so make sure it does.

Give what you can

You’ll see a lot of famous people on your social media post receipts of a hundred, two hundred, a thousand dollars that they donated to a cause you believe in. You have ten dollars. What’s the point.

NOPE. Ten dollars from you is ten dollars that the organization or individual did not have previously. It’s not going to buy a house, but it might buy a meal, or a prescription. Twenty might buy diapers. Thirty might buy someone’s overdue water bill. This is straight out of Jesus’ mouth, widow-with-two-coins basic stuff. There is no such thing as a donation that is too small to matter. And if you’re donating online, if you’ve got a small donation and can cover the transaction fee, do that. It’s a really small but really easy way to stretch your donation. Plus, if people see what you donated and they were also in the “my $5/$10/$25 cannot possibly help” group, they’ll be inspired to contribute too.

Give without assumption, judgment, or what’s been “earned”

If you are a millennial or regularly eat at restaurants (used to regularly eat at restaurants? phrase this as if we are not mid-pandemic, I guess?) with a millennial, you’ll definitely notice that even the worst possible service still results in an 18-20% tip from that millennial. A server would have to hit me in the face and eat my dinner in front of me while laughing about how I did my makeup (yeah my eyebrows are weird today okay I GET IT) to not get this amount and I’d still probably leave 15%.

Yep, tipping in the States is odd and usually bad and should be revamped, but today, right now, your server is earning their money through your not being a jerk. Is your bill fifteen dollars total? Tip ten. Are you on like a fancy night out that you do twice a year? Discuss with your partner and plan to eat and drink 90 dollars and tip 50. Is it close to the winter holidays? Tip big. Is it a slow weeknight and your server is just with your table? Tip big. Doing carside pickup for food? Tip big. Delivery? Tip enormously in 2020 and 2021, at least, especially if using an app that takes some from each delivery worker. Don’t assess whether they’ve “earned it,” just tip them like their livelihood depends on it because it does.

And the concept of ignoring what is “earned” goes for personal behavior too. Say there’s a family drowning under medical bills and they are mostly paying for their own groceries but they each have an older iPhone so you say to yourself “they could definitely pay for their food if they got rid of the iPhones” and you walk away without giving. Plus, healthcare should be free, why should I pay an insurance company?

Sure, but getting rid of that extra $30 a month payment doesn’t get bills paid, or enough food purchased to feed everyone, and to say that those in poverty don’t deserve anything nice (to say nothing of the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get or keep work without a functional smartphone these days) doesn’t absolve you of the absolute necessity it is to get money to them.

And in line with that, my next point is

Give without strings

I think my favorite comment about this concept is the probably-apocryphal quote from a young white male professional who gives a twenty to a homeless man and gets chastised, because the man is “just going to spend it on drugs,” and the young guy replies “who cares, that’s what I was going to spend it on.”

Treat whatever you’re giving as not yours any longer. You have handed off property or funds, and it is no longer owned by you and you cannot control its use. Yes, someone busking or panhandling might turn down your offer of a sandwich and ask for cash. Give them cash.

Don’t do the “if they were really homeless they wouldn’t turn down food” thing, because that’s not true. Maybe they have food, or aren’t hungry at the time. Maybe they need tampons, or maybe they need socks. And maybe it’s going to drugs, sure. But even then, give them cash. Anyone that deep in addiction will find a way to get drugs, and that way will be less healthy and more dangerous than paying for them.

And you can argue that if they were really needy, they’d have food stamps, or rent assistance, or disability checks, or help from the VA, or Medicaid. And maybe they have that, but it’s insufficient (because those payments are insufficient across the board). Maybe they had them but the government cut the program. Maybe they’re in line for housing vouchers through Section 8 and they’re scheduled to get them in 15 years. Maybe they did something against the rules of the program and lost it. Or maybe they don’t have the time, energy, or ability to jump through every single hoop they have to in order to get an offensively small amount of money.

And maybe this person you’re helping, whether homeless or disabled or sick or incarcerated or unemployed, maybe they suck! They might really suck. They might have been a horrible parent. They might have stolen from a friend. They might have cheated on their spouse. They might have committed a crime. But their poverty is a separate issue from that, and punishing them for a transgression by leaving them in poverty is both cruel and ineffective.

It took me a while to get “give without strings” through my head and into my heart. And then the next section came in and was like “now that you’ve done the basics, it’s time for the advanced class.” So here we see –

Give directly

Literally hand people cash. This gets a little more indirect with covid-19, but it still has the same principles. In non-pandemic times, hand them bills. In pandemic times, Venmo them cash. Give to a mutual aid fund or a bail fund and have them give it directly to people. Look on GoFundMe and give to a random one. Check the Twitter feed of people like Shea Serrano, look at the replies, and pick a person’s Cashapp to give to.

This has been the scariest part for me, but I’ve been doing it steadily for a bit now. Mostly through Twitter, but a bit in person as well, and it’s involved me just straight up Venmo-ing or Paypal-ing people money, or handing them cash. Yes, without “vetting” them. Yes, without knowing them. Yes, without requiring proof.

No one rich is on Twitter or Instagram or the street or the food pantry line asking for help. They just aren’t. That goes for the person in the “nice” car in line at the food bank – no rich person is waiting 4 hours for food. That goes for the person asking for cash from a smart phone: no one rich is dependent on internet strangers for paying their medical or school bills. That goes for the entire economy of informally asking for funds – people ask because they’re in need. And, frankly, it’s January 2021. If you don’t believe that people are in need right now, the cave you live in must have incredible soundproofing.

“What if you get scammed?” Well, honestly, to start, that’s on them and their heart, but even more honestly I don’t give a shit. Anyone trying to “scam” me out of $20 needs it more than I do, full stop, so they can have it. And the only “scams” I’ve seen so far in direct aid have been things like “this person said they have 4 kids but they only have 1” so it’s slightly less tragic. Just people trying to sound desperate enough to deserve the kindness of strangers.

Am I too naïve and stupid to live? Yeah, probably, and maybe some of my money has gone places I didn’t expect. But I know that it went to someone who was happy to receive it, at the very least, and at the most I know I’ve helped pay off utilities bills and get people out of pretrial detention and gotten prisoners prep books and covered a copay and got someone inside for a night. And I’m happy to help you start to do it, too.

Donate your money with abandon and recklessness. Donate your money uncarefully. Donate with the love you’d hope to see reflected back at you. People are in such pain, and you can help relieve that pain, directly. So go do it. You got this.

Jokes and Sass, The heavier stuff

Transcript of Gov. Tom Wolf announcing the new mitigation measures in response to increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections

July 17, 2020

****author’s note: some of the Wolfie words are actually what he said so if they look familiar that’s why, I’m not his speech writer or anything, anyway, I’m being a little punk because I’m tired and the governor is tired and we’re all tired, enjoy

****author’s second note: if you don’t live in PA, you might not know about the Wolfman: he is a Dem in a split state, he put us on lockdown early and seriously, he’s not a particular fan of DT, and I like him, which might tell you nothing or everything idk

July 15, 2020 press conference

background murmuring and sounds of photographs being taken

Gov. Tom Wolf walks out to the podium, adjusts microphone. Gov. Wolf is wearing a non-medical mask with a plaid pattern like a jaunty Scottish clan’s tartan.

GOV. WOLF: Good afternoon, everyone. This press conference has been called to announce the two new state Orders that are being put in place today, one from the Governor’s Office, and one from the Department of Health. Dr. Rachel Levine, our Secretary of Health, is here with me today.

Dr. Levine nods to the crowd.

GOV. WOLF: During the past week, we have seen an unsettling climb in new COVID-19 cases. When we hit our peak on April 9, we had nearly two thousand new cases that day, with other days’ cases hovering around 1,000. Medical experts looking at the current trajectory are projecting that this new surge could soon eclipse the April peak. With our rapid case increases, we need to act again, now.

Gov. Wolf looks over to the back right corner of the press room, eyes narrowed

GOV. WOLF: I’m sorry, Dave, was there something you’d like to share with the rest of the class? Yeah, are you shocked I heard you? The mask goes over my mouth and nose, not my ears, but sorry, that might be too much **science** for you. Yes, Dave, we need to act again NOW. If it’s all right with you, I’m going to continue governing the Commonwealth? You’re done? Thank you EVER so much.

The governor takes a deep breath in and out

GOV. WOLF: As I was saying, in April our cases reached unacceptably high levels, and if we don’t put immediate restrictions on certain industries and behaviors, we could see infection rates surge even higher than our April peak. This is of course very frustrating to have to do so soon after we reopened the state, but the science supports our actions and these measures will hopefully save lives.

Gov. Wolf steps back from the podium, shakes out his arms, and rolls his head in a neck stretch

he then returns to the podium; the microphone picks up a mumbled “I hate this”

GOV. WOLF: Beginning tomorrow, all nightclubs must close, and bars that do not offer sit-down, dine-in meals must close. …okay, did you all seriously just go “awww man!” like a bunch of college kids getting told the rager at PhiPsi is cancelled? Shut up. Anyway. Oh, restaurants and bars must drop to 25% capacity for indoor seating as well. …yeah, no, okay, stop doing the “awww man!” thing, none of you even OWN a restaurant?! And I see, in the grand tradition of my being unable to have a moment’s peace, that we have a question already. Yes, you, with your hand up on the left, here. Go ahead.

PRESS: Governor, is outdoor dining and takeout food still permitted?

GOV. WOLF: …thank you, whoever you are. I’m sorry that I don’t know your name, but you just gave me a softball question, and you didn’t have to, and I apologize for my shortness with you. *voice cracking* Bless you, my child; may you fly like the Eagles. Hey, Kevin? *gestures to one of his staff off-camera* can we get this angel some Rita’s gift cards, after? Great.

*silence, beat*

GOV. WOLF: Oh, sorry, the answer! Yes, takeout is permitted, both of food and alcohol, and outdoor dining is permitted subject to the standards of social distancing and masks, of course. Don’t you roll your eyes at me, front row, don’t you DARE. Yeah, you still have to abide by social distancing, why would you think you don’t? I’m sorry, was the masked waitstaff; who earn below minimum wage and must rely on you to tip them appropriately for risking their lives, by the way; walking around serving you and your unmasked stupid face because you absolutely needed to eat mozzarella sticks in the 89-degree-with-95%-humidity July air and making sure your Bud Light Lime never runneth dry, somehow not enough for your extremely privileged life? Look, I also love mozzarella sticks, but your server is playing Minesweeper every time they go to work, and you can suck it up for an hour. Your Margaritaville cosplay is not a priority here.

Dr. Levine hands up a stack of paper

GOV. WOLF: Speaking of Margaritaville cosplay, Dr. Levine has just handed me the most recent nationwide numbers, and the same states you keep hearing of with soaring infection rates are still in very bad shape. Our thoughts are with the citizens of these states, and we do not want to become Florida. We don’t want to become Texas. We don’t want to become Arizona. We have got to act now. We’ve done this before, and it worked, and we can do it again.

Wolf gestures to a raised hand towards the back of the room

PRESS: Governor, why do you continue to change your position on opening and closing the state? Why are you flip-flopping? Are you trying to make it difficult for business owners to make money?

Gov. Wolf places his hand over his microphone and gestures to one of his staff

the microphone continues to pick up some of his speech

GOV. WOLF: *sotto voce* is that fucking Dave, again, asking that dumbshit question? No? oh, it’s Carol, yes, of course, the two horsepeople of the apocalypse of ignorance, fuck me

clears throat

GOV. WOLF: As I said, it is certainly frustrating to have to close businesses so soon after being able to reopen them, especially for many of the counties in the southeast of the state, who were hardest hit by this disease and only recently went “green.” There are other states like us who reopened many businesses and had to close again, as a reaction to the current data. Because that data indicates a change in the current spread of the disease, and like an intelligent adult human who is in charge of anything, I am making my decisions based on the goddamn current FACTS, Carol. You know how in January, it snows sometimes, so the state closes down for safety and deploys snow plows? And then in August, there’s no snow, so the state DOESN’T close down, and there are no snow plows? Am I irresponsibly flip-flopping re: snow plows, Carol? Or am I adjusting course to utilize state resources efficiently and save lives? Jesus Christ. Here, you take the ship’s wheel for the Titanic, you clownheads. *mocking voice* ‘well, there wasn’t an iceberg there earlier, why is the captain flip-flopping on directing the ship?’ *normal voice* no, you’re right, Carol, I just absolutely hate businesses and my goal is to bankrupt my constituents.

staff member walks up to say something in Gov. Wolf’s ear

GOV. WOLF: *sigh* I have just been informed by my staff that I should indicate that my previous sentence was sarcasm, and that I do not hate businesses, and I would like my constituents to have money, because otherwise you will use that quote out of context and I’ll end up a meme.

the governor rubs his temples for approx. 15 seconds

GOV. WOLF: Now, back in the land of actual grown-ups, I want to address a few other specifics. For fitness centers and gyms, if at all possible, please prioritize outdoor fitness activities, and be vigilant about distancing. And as for private events, indoor gatherings of more than 25 are prohibited, along with outdoor gatherings of more than 250. And that 25 number applies to restaurants and other food service as well. I also need to mention, in my continuing lecture on “waitstaff are people,” that the 25-person limit includes staff, I cannot believe I just had to say that sentence, but shockingly people count as people for a 25 people limit! I know! Wild! What will our wacky governor think of next?! Okay, you right there, blue blazer, you’re looking at your phone so I regret this already, what’s your question?

PRESS: Sir, I have a question coming in from a Republican state senator: he asks, why is this new order statewide and not targeted? Why do you hate rural counties?

GOV. WOLF: *curls hands more tightly on sides of podium* This IS targeted, on INDUSTRIES, and geographically most counties are seeing an increase! Why do you think a crowded bar in north-central Pennsylvania would be less likely to be a source of infection than one in Delco? There are selfish dipshits all across the state who are traveling to Florida and holding barbecues for their six hundred closest friends and, I don’t know, holding coughing contests in Dave and Buster’s? Whatever you’re doing? Can you, y’know, stop doing that? Because it’s exactly those actions that are causing this resurgence. And it’s not like there’s some impenetrable wall surrounding each county so that the specific dipshit behavior doesn’t hop along from Schuylkill County to Dauphin County. It does, with your dipshit help. And I’m responsible for all of the counties, so let’s just all behave for a little bit and not die, please. I’m asking nicely. *pinches bridge of nose* I’m so goddamn tired, all the TIME I’m so TIRED

Dr. Levine eases Gov. Wolf away from the podium, gently pushing a large silver flask into his hand

DR LEVINE: The actions the governor and I are taking today are designed to be surgical and thus precise to prevent from repeating the cycle we saw in the spring. We have gained a great deal of experience since the start of this outbreak and have learned from best practices from other states as well as counties right here in Pennsylvania. No, it’s not fair that we have to restrict our activities again, but we have the tools and the structures in place, and if we all work together we can stop this increase in infections. Yes, you, in the green shirt? Go ahead.

PRESS: Dr. Levine, a question from Twitter from a user with the handle @libztearzPA69, they wish to know why they have to wear a mask when they go to the gym if they aren’t sick, since it gets really hot and they breathe hard?

Gov. Wolf enters abruptly from out of frame and aggressively seizes the microphone


audio cuts here

three more seconds of visual show the governor pushing over the podium and taking a swig from the flask

The heavier stuff

Pennsylvania voters and Marsy’s Law

November 4, 2019

This is an off-year in the election cycle, which is to say last year we voted for some Congress members and state and local officials, and next year we vote for President, but this year, at least in Pennsylvania, we vote for… not as much. Please do go ahead and investigate your local elections (school boards matter!) and take a look here if you would like an assessment on the judges who are running for appeals court spots (please read the text with the recommendation), and check where your voting location is in case it changed (mine did!), and just do the civic duty thing. I absolutely understand the general revolution-type feelings of “voting isn’t gonna fix stuff to any significant degree” but to be honest, it frustrates me, because it makes me sound like I can’t care about more than one thing at a time. Which isn’t true! If you know me, you’ll know that I can care about literally every single thing at once and worry about all of them! What was this post about! I don’t remember! I’m just anxious!


You should vote because it does matter, and it is an important right, and honestly because it annoys boomers when young people show up at the polls because then they can’t say “these young people don’t care about our elections!” We do care.

If you’re not here with me in Pennsylvania, you can stop reading, I guess, since you aren’t voting on this. There is a decent chance this topic will come up or has come up in your state, though, and also I’d really like it if you stuck around to read this both because I like to think of myself as important and because it is genuinely important.

If you’re here with me in Pennsylvania, we have one referendum on the ballot that is state-wide: the rest of our votes are for candidates, but this one would alter the state constitution. It is called Marsy’s Law, and its aim is to add a set of victims’ rights to the state constitution. And I’m writing here in an effort to get you to vote against it. Yes, really, against it.

When I began drafting this post in early October (*Baymax voice* I am not fast) this question was on the ballot and not in the courts; that is no longer the case. The ACLU filed to block the question from the ballot altogether, arguing that changes to the Pennsylvania Constitution must be addressed individually, and that this proposed law would enact many at once under the umbrella of “victims’ rights.” The question is currently still on the ballot, but the PA Supreme Court has granted an injunction blocking the law’s enactment should it pass, so November 6th isn’t going to be a huge cataclysmic change regardless of the vote. However, this isn’t any kind of guarantee, and I’d really like to see the state’s voters say no without needing the injunction.

It’s tough to start this conversation mainly because the amendment is for “victims’ rights.” Victims are exactly what they sound like: those harmed by the committing of a crime, and in certain circumstances, the victims’ loved ones. The law is named after victim Marsy Nicholas, who was murdered in 1983 by an ex-boyfriend who stalked and eventually killed her. Her family was devastated, and a week after her death, they saw her killer in the grocery store; he had posted bail and been released pending trial. [I owe you all information on cash bail and why it’s horrific, too, but that is for another time.]

I cannot begin to understand the pain they felt and continue to feel, and my heart reaches out to them, as they are grieving and trying to do good in the world the best they can. Her brother, Dr. Henry T. Nicholas, is a millionaire many times over, and his money has funded the campaigns for this law in many different states. His concerns are valid, and understandable, and I have to believe his heart is in the right place.

Unfortunately, this law is inadequate on several issues of justice, and horribly overreaching in others. All the good intentions in the world don’t change the fact that this is a bad law, and I encourage you not to vote for it.

My first argument for not voting for it always starts here, as it is perhaps the most accessible, regardless of your political leanings: Pennsylvania already has a Victims’ Rights law in place. It has been on the books for decades, and Marsy’s Law in PA as drafted has a significant amount of overlap with the current law. The Crime Victims Act of 1998 already states that “all victims of crime are to be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, and sensitivity.” It includes many rights, including the right to be accompanied to hearings by a family member or victim advocate; access to information about granting or denial of bail; to not be excluded from proceedings in court unless absolutely necessary; the right to make a statement at sentencing; the right to be notified (when the victim requests it) of any filed appeals and their disposition; the right to participate in parole determinations; and to receive compensation for costs associated with the crime (frequently called “restitution”). That link goes to the law, and there are a whole lot of other provisions, and that kind of stuff is good and important.

“Wait, if we have a law already, what are they doing with this campaign?” Well, this law is drafted so that a “yes” vote would actually amend the State Constitution rather than update a law. Those campaigning for Marsy’s Law state that it is vital to add these provisions to the state constitution, as a simple majority vote could overturn victims’ rights laws. They say it must be added to the constitution so that no one can just vote and overturn it. I get it, but this point is spurious in the extreme: no lawmaker, however heartless, is going to vote to remove a victims’ rights bill. The optics would be terrible, and there’s no benefit to it monetarily: this isn’t a group of lobbyists pushing anyone. That law is staying put. It’s been on the books over 20 years and has not been substantially changed in that time.

“So why argue for a new law at all? Why not just work with this one?” That’s a very good question, and it hasn’t yet been adequately answered. If you need a short answer from me? Money. Money would help a lot. Like many other services for the public good, those who are most vulnerable frequently do not receive them. These kinds of things within the framework of victims’ rights can look like assistance to women testifying against their abusers, both emotional and financial. Victims’ rights can be steamrollered by something as simple as “the victim and witness did not have enough money to get to court on the day.” On my good days, I can understand Henry Nicholas’ desire to protect people like his sister from danger and terror by introducing this bill. On my bad days, I want to sarcastically ask him why hiring Kelsey Grammer to promote this bill on television was a better use of money than donating it to a Legal Aid office or women’s shelter. Laws are important, they are vital, they are the spine of many causes in justice, but they are not the roots; that’s money and effort.

Here’s where it gets a little more difficult as it’s no longer just about procedure.

“Who cares; these people are criminals, and the victims are *victims*, why wouldn’t you want to protect them against these scumbags? Why should criminals get more rights then the people they hurt?” Hoo boy. Okay. So. The first thing is that a lot of this process happens before a conviction: defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and that has to be a component of constructing victims’ rights. Our system is far from perfect because people have prejudices and they lie and there are no witnesses and I could go on for a week. But “innocent until proven guilty” is as good a standard as we can get; if we’re going to change a person’s life forever, we really should be sure that they did the bad thing we’re locking them up for.

And that’s why the phrasing of this law is so fundamentally flawed.

The amendment includes the wording that the rights of victims be protected “in a manner no less vigorous than the rights afforded to the accused,” and that should give you pause. The rights given to the accused, which you are at least familiar with from whatever crime procedural you watch, are important and numerous and guaranteed, and above all, they’re unique. From the point of an arrest forward, a defendant has the potential to be denied freedom, and that denial comes from the state. The government, the country. The most powerful entity nearly everyone will ever come into contact with. The state has the ability to lock you in a small area for the rest of your life. It can take money, it can take time, it can even take your actual existence. Victims are not placed in the same position in this process, and they never will be.

“But these animals are murderers, they do awful stuff, isn’t that a denial of life or whatever you just said?” Yes. It is, it absolutely is. Laws do what they can, but there are still those who will deny the rights of others. But we aren’t animals, and this isn’t the Punisher. That’s what civilization is about; regulating the bad parts of life with a recognition that the biggest powers could destroy everyone and everything if they wanted and it would be legal.

“Okay, but what rights are we talking about here? It’s not a bad thing to notify victims of the court proceedings, why would you oppose this kind of stuff?” A very good question, and there’s a few reasons! Yes, they should be notified of proceedings, and should absolutely be notified of the release of a defendant on bail if a bodily injury crime is involved. And I’m all in favor of many of those, as applied by the 1998 Act; again, it’s not that the laws aren’t there, it’s that they aren’t being used or addressed. I’m very much not in favor of two “rights” in this bill that are not so clear, and they have the potential to be disastrous.

The first is “the right to refuse discovery requests made by the accused.” On its face, this might actually seem just fine. For example, “rape shield” laws exist in order to prevent a defendant from bringing up the victim’s past sexual conduct to be used in a current accusation of assault, and there are certainly other times when particular information about a victim is completely irrelevant to the matter at hand. I, personally, am thinking of every example of an extrajudicial killing of a black person by the police. However, this provision of Marsy’s Law is not even based on relevancy; rather, it addresses the victim’s nebulous right to be treated “with fairness, respect, and dignity.” And if this is a right that is to be enforced “in a manner no less vigorous than the rights of the accused,” what is to stop a victim or their family from turning over crucial evidence or being deposed? There can certainly be objections to requests for documents or information or any other discovery, but you can object to them under the same standards currently in place. Say that they are irrelevant, or that their probative value is likely to be more prejudicial than helpful in the case, and allow an advocate or lawyer or family member to attend depositions. The answer cannot be that “victims’ rights” lets you reject a discovery request as being against “respect and dignity.” And I’m not saying that this doesn’t matter! I’m saying that it could not be more vague, and vagueness in laws gets people hurt or locked up for things they didn’t do.

The second issue that truly gives me pause is “the right to proceedings free from delay.” In my most charitable reading of this provision, this section is redundant, as the right to a speedy trial is already a guaranteed right for the accused, and the victim is involved in the same case. In my most bitter and skeptical reading, this provision asks for final determinations of guilt and to prevent appeals from reaching the bench. I can absolutely understand the frustration in appeals; my civil clients with relatively low-stakes matters are furious when the opposing party chooses to appeal, and I don’t blame them. You think the case is done and you can move forward, and then the other party appeals and you have to do this all over again. And these are very small civil matters; victims will have to relive some very awful things that happened to them, and I truly feel for them.

But that’s where I have to stop, because the rights of the accused still outrank any “victim’s rights.” Appeals are filed for a number of reasons, and many of them are important and vital. Again, we are a civilization, and if a sentenced defendant brings up the possibility that justice was not properly served, we have to listen. There’s no good way to do this without possibly hurting a victim, but it has to be done. If a conviction rests on wrong evidence, or flawed procedure, or ineffective counsel, the case has to be reopened. No one can sit in jail or live with a criminal record because it could hurt a victim to readdress the case. The number of innocent people released in recent years should give you pause; I don’t want yet another roadblock put up to correctly served justice.

Friends, this bill is at best vague and at worst dangerous, and the victims’ resources already exist. Let’s fund them. Let’s publicize them. Let’s drive people to their PSA hearings. Let’s eliminate cash bail. Let’s educate on internalized prejudices. Let’s alleviate poverty. Let’s not throw money and support behind a posturing law because it sounds good. We may currently be abandoning those in need, but they aren’t the people on the ads. Please vote against this constitutional amendment. Please vote “NO.”

The heavier stuff

Fifty Shades of maybe don’t go see this movie

February 6, 2015

I needed to write this because it’s important, and I also need to write this because Facebook has decided that the Vermont Teddy Bear Company’s Christian Grey teddy bear is appropriate advertising for me and I want you all to suffer with me.


In case you care, this post has spoilers for the whole series.

I’m getting this post out before the movie comes out, because I’d like you to seriously reconsider going to see Fifty Shades of Grey.  By the end of this post, I hope I’ll have given you some very good reasons to not go see it.  By “very good reasons,” I do not mean “Jaime Dornan is #NotMyChristian.” Also, I do not mean that I personally thought the original book was really poorly written (which I do, in fact, think, just for the record.  It’s so bad.  It’s so, so bad.)  Also, I do not mean that I do not understand the attraction of watching this movie in a large room with a group of people who are also watching this movie and gahhhh uncomfortable just thinking about it ahhhh NO I DON’T UNDERSTAND.  But people can watch things I don’t like!  Even ones about sex!  That’s totally fine.  I’ve tried watching Friends a bunch of different times, and it just doesn’t take.  This does not mean that people should not watch this movie.

It’s also super not chill that people are tearing this thing apart because “it’s mommy porn.”  Women, even mothers, are allowed to run their own sex lives, including reading romance novels and watching their adaptations.  Jenny Trout, an absolutely amazing author and blogger, discusses this in her recaps of every single chapter of all of these books, which you can and should read here.  No, don’t stay away from this movie because it won’t be good; stay away because it’s demonstrably bad.

1. The book is plagiarism.
Okay, yes, fanfiction happens, no matter how much we’d like to pretend it didn’t.  I ended up in an internet wormhole one time and read about 50 pages’ worth of One Direction fanfiction.  …There is no justification in this, only shame, and please at least be proud that I stopped, okay?  And this is not to beat up on the quality of the book by saying that it’s fanfiction: there is a whole host of well-written fanfiction (and in the case of Jane Austen, an entire industry).

However.  This series of three books was begun as Master of the Universe, by Snowqueens Icedragon.  (I cannot in good faith mock her screenname, because duuuuude I would have been ALL OVER THAT at like 14-15 like are you serious ICEDRAGON??? hell YES)  Christian is Edward, Ana is Bella, BDSM is vampirism, etc etc.  She and her publishers have repeatedly said that MotU and 50SoG are different works, but if you run ’em through a standard “did this student plagiarize” thingy, it’ll pop out with 89% similarity.  If you run anything important in the book through a standard “why the hell does this sound so familiar to Twilight” brain comparison, it’s probably like 97%.  Yes, the author still made up her own “plot” “points” and yes every bit of literature is inspired by other literature and yes it would be really hard to make out a full copyright case but ughhhh do we really want to reward this?  And not just reward it, let it sell a book every two seconds, which, in fact, was the rate at which the series was selling at its zenith.

2. The series is hugely judgmental of others’ sex lives, particularly those who practice BDSM.
(not The Others’ sex lives.  I’m assuming they don’t have them?  Sorry if I’m wrong, White Walkers you get down with your bad selves)
This book is not a how-to about BDSM.  It’s more of a how-not-to.  It is stated over and over in the series that Christian is only into his type of sex (“my tastes are very…singular” ughughugh) because he’s broken, and that his sexual preferences are evidence of his damage.

This picture came up when I searched that quote and now I can’t stop laughing

We’re told he was abandoned in a horrific way as a kid, and then one of his adoptive mother’s friends made him her submissive when he was a teenager. So now this is all he does.  He doesn’t like anything but his own “kinky fuckery” (this is a legitimate phrase that happens in this series more than once and I’m sorry for making you read it but IF I HAVE TO SUFFER, SO DO YOU.)  Ana tries repeatedly to basically love him to wellness, which means no submission, no Red Room of Pain, no other ridiculously mild forms of bondage.  Seriously, guys, if anyone is scandalized by the sex in these books, just shut down Frederick’s of Hollywood and like, music videos.  There is nothing scandalous in here.  And that’s ME saying this.

There are a billion things wrong with Christian Grey and with Christian and Ana’s relationship, but the BDSM aspects are exactly none of them.  People who enjoy this type of sex, and literally any other type of consensual sex, are not broken, or damaged, or scandalous.  They’re just some people who like a thing, and to act like there’s something wrong with the way consenting adults choose to have sex (and especially to imply that only screwed up people like BDSM) is unacceptable.

3. Ana, the heroine, is horrible to every other woman.
This is not a person you want to emulate in any way.  Remember in the Twilight movies, where everyone was inexplicably nice to Bella even though she seemed like not interested in literally any of their own lives/problems/anything except Edward?  Ana is the same way, except somehow worse, and there is no Anna Kendrick to sweep in and be sassy.  She ignores or discards every friend she has, up to and including being annoyed by their enthusiasm to talk to her.  She describes any questions asked of her by her best friend, Kate, as “the Katherine Kavanaugh Inquisition.”  Gurl, this is your friend asking you shit about your life, can u not.

The worse part, though, is her absolute disdain for every other woman who looks at Christian for a second, in particular blondes and women who wear more makeup than she does.  She gives them little derisive nicknames in her head, like “Miss European Pigtails,” “Miss Flushing Crimson,” “Miss Very Short Hair and Red Lipstick,” and my personal favorite, “Miss Hotpants,” for a hostess at a nightclub who wears them as part of her goddamn uniform.  This dude is the epitome of male beauty but if any woman looks at him “for longer than strictly necessary” (an actual Ana original, right there), bitch hold my earrings because you do not look at my man like that.

I get it: I spent portions of my life being angry at women prettier than me, but I don’t get how it is still A Thing past the age of like, 16 to be angry at women who wear makeup and look nice and might be attracted to the same person you are.  E.L James is (in theory?) a grown-ass woman, her heroine is 22 at the beginning of the book, and both should know better.  Ana is absolutely insufferable and horrible to those around her, and it is really freaking hard to dredge up any sympathy for her.

However, I do sympathize with her, because this leads me to the most important one –

4. The hero is abusive.
This is not in any kind of shades of grey.  This is black and white, textbook-case, completely clear abuse.

The first big romantic gesture in the book is Christian tracking Ana’s phone to discover she’s at a bar, and he shows up to the bar, fends off a different guy, Ana passes out, and then he takes Ana with him to his hotel.  This is not romantic, this is not sweet, I don’t care that he fought off another guy who was trying to attack her, he tracked a woman’s phone and took her unconscious body to a second location.  And that’s just the beginning.

Here’s some key points from a list you may recognize.

  • You feel uncomfortable about something he has said, or done, and the feeling remains
  • You make excuses for his character or minimize his behavior
  • You tell your friends you are “unsure about the relationship”
  • You think no one else in his life understands him
  • You sense he is pushing too quickly for an emotional connection with you
  • You notice he quickly discloses information about his past or present emotional pain
  • You wish he would go away, you want to cry, and you want to run away from him
  • You feel bad about yourself when you are around him

This is a list of red flags meant to be used when you or someone you care about is potentially in an abusive relationship, and these are all things Ana either says or thinks during the course of the books, multiple times.  She is regularly afraid of him, and is worried that he’ll be mad over things like a male friend calling her cellphone: something she has no control over.  She tries to get in with his therapist so she can help fix him with love, or something.  She tells both her mother and her best friend, in tears, that she’s scared.   And the BDSM component of their relationship?  Ana repeatedly describes what they do as “he hit me” or “he hurt me,” and Christian uses it as an excuse to threaten horrific things, up to and including threatening to “beat the shit out of her” because he’s angry with her.

This is not BDSM, this is not love, this is not admirable.  This is abuse, and many, MANY women have come forward to say this; they say their abusers acted like Christian Grey.  The fact that he has a fucking helicopter and pretty hair does not make him a Billionaire Bad Boy, they make him a terrible human with a ton of money.

The worst worst part?  E.L. James has dismissed survivors who have contacted her to let her know that her book describes an abusive relationship.  She has said she does not see what she’s written as abuse.  This is not negotiable, she is wrong, and she is now also a billionaire of being wrong.

Maybe the movie won’t be like this, but then the movie wouldn’t be Fifty Shades of Grey, and judging by the trailer, it will be.

“Okay, so what if I want to actually see it now?  You can’t stop me from doing that, and the movie’s going to make money anyway!”
You’re completely right!  I cannot stop you from going, and this damn thing with its inexplicably good soundtrack??? (Twilight is to Muse what 50SoG is to Beyonce????) is gonna make a gazillion dollars no matter what you do.  The two things I’ve heard so far that I like are

– Buy a ticket to a Better Movie (meaning probably any other movie?  Idec go see The Hobbit again) and then sneak in to see this movie so you’ll be able to critique it
I don’t dislike this option, but it will probably not be the one I choose, because I am so uncomfortably a Good Girl that I cannot do anything Bad without having a gigantic bout of anxiety.  Like, I felt bad at law school events taking the Lexis swag because I preferred Westlaw.  I’m messed up, I get it.

Option 2!
– Donate whatever the cost of the ticket was and then some to a women’s shelter
This one will be my option if I choose to see the movie, and I think it’s a really good call.

I am not telling you you cannot see the movie.  I’m not telling you you cannot like the book.  I’m telling you to be aware that the book unarguably describes an abuser and is problematic as hell, so just be aware and critical of the media you consume.

And don’t buy that bear oh my GOD do not buy that bear.

The heavier stuff

Why does she stay?

September 9, 2014

I don’t know Janay Rice.  I don’t know her story, other than what’s been captured on film or filtered and given to us.  I don’t know if she loves her husband or fears him or both.  But we need to stop putting any responsibility on her and other victims of domestic violence for their own abuse. “Why does she stay?” is the most disgusting of questions, because it puts all the agency on her, when she usually has none.  If you ask the question, you might get an answer you like, or don’t like, but it really doesn’t matter, because you shouldn’t be asking that question in the first place.

Why might she stay?

Maybe she stays because it earns her money.  Maybe Rice earns enough that she’s comfortable, and doesn’t have to work, and he buys her nice things.  Maybe she didn’t want to give up the fame that comes with being married to a player on the Baltimore Ravens.  And this doesn’t change the fact that her partner hits her.

Maybe she has no support network.  Maybe her family, or her friends, or her church, or the Ravens, are all telling her that he’ll change, she should stay, or that they can’t handle her moving in with them if she were to leave.  Maybe she has no family.  Maybe she has no close friends. Maybe he’s made sure of her having no close friends.  Maybe she doesn’t want to leave her home and go to a shelter because it’s not the same standard of living she’s used to.  This doesn’t change the fact that her partner hits her.

Maybe she’s scared for her daughter, Rayven.  Maybe she’s worried that if she leaves, her daughter will never see her father, and she doesn’t want that.  Maybe she’ll be scared that if she leaves, her child will be in danger, or she won’t be able to support her without her husband.  Her abuser also being her daughter’s father doesn’t change the fact that her partner hits her.

Maybe she thinks she deserves it.  Maybe she saw the tape, and thought that her actions towards him were too aggressive for a wife.  Maybe her brain tells her that she mouthed off, that she got him mad, that she should have walked away before things got heated.  Maybe her brain tells her that she’s supposed to be the stability of their marriage, and she let him down.  Maybe her brain talks in its own voice, or maybe it talks in his.  This doesn’t change the fact that her partner hits her.

Maybe she loves him.  Maybe he’s told her that he lost control, but he’ll never do it again because his love for her is stronger than anything, and that together they can work through their problems.  Maybe he buys her flowers after.  Maybe he tells her that he wouldn’t make it without her, or that he’ll do something dangerous if she leaves.  Maybe the video caught his worst moment, and 99% of the time she knows he’s good to her.  Or maybe in his calm moments he’s good to her, and she only sees those moments every so often, but when they come, it’s wonderful.  Or maybe her love for him is completely irrational and he’s never good to her.  None of this changes the fact that her partner hits her.

Maybe she’s scared.  Maybe she knows the statistic that the time women are most likely to be killed by their abusers is when they attempt to leave.  Maybe her statements about true love have all been under coercion.  Maybe she thought that he’d hit her more if he lost his job because she wasn’t standing by him.  Maybe he’s threatened her, or maybe he hasn’t, but she thinks something bad will happen.  Maybe she’s scared but nothing bad actually will happen.  This doesn’t change the fact that her partner hits her.

Unless you’re a trained professional directly aiding the victim, trying to determine why a woman stays in an abusive relationship is a selfish, insulting, horrible thing to do.  This question is nearly never asked for the victim’s benefit; it’s asked so whoever’s asking gets to stop caring because she could have left and helped herself.

There are so, so many better questions you can ask.

Why do so many men hit the women they’re married to?
Why did the Ravens take so long to fire Ray Rice?
Why are DV shelters so full, and why can’t they get funding?
Should DAs be able to prosecute abusers when their victims don’t want them to?
What do we do to help?

I don’t know if we’ll get answers to any of them any time soon, but these are the questions that have to get asked.

The heavier stuff

I read Elliot Rodger’s manifesto so you don’t have to…but you probably have.

May 27, 2014

You can, if you want.  I wouldn’t.  I can summarize it for you with a few choice quotes.  There’s a whole lot of racist and classist garbage.  There’s a lot of “beautiful blonde,” there’s a lot of “supreme gentleman,” there’s a lot of “deserve.”

And if you’re female, you’ve probably seen a milder version of this most days of your life.

I spent a lot of time this past weekend on the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter.  The phrasing on this hashtag is a play on the words “not all men,” an expression you’ll frequently see when people try to bring up anything related to violence or general harm against women that’s committed by men.

It will appear like this:
“When women are raped…” “Not all men rape!”
“Women are frequent victims of domestic violence..” “Not all men are abusers!”
“Many women get catcalled walking down the street…” “Well I don’t catcall anyone!”

I get it, guys, I do.  I’m not being sarcastic here.  Elliot Rodger was a raging misogynist, and you don’t in ANY way want to be associated with him.  He was a disgusting human being, and his actions were unforgivable.  Most men aren’t like him!

But I listened to the radio this morning, and I heard a guy who called in say that he, too, frequently gets mad at women because he sees them with “the wrong guys,” and he lets out his resulting anger by listening to music or playing violent video games.  Elliot Rodger got mad at couples too, and wrote about throwing his hot coffee on couples that disgusted him, hoping to burn them.

I’ve talked to men about the pick-up artist community, who calls women “targets,” and is willing to sacrifice the personhood of those women to win sex.  Elliot Rodger tried the pickup artist technique, and spent time on a website called PUAHate.  This website does not criticize pickup artists for treating women like objects; its members hate on the technique because it doesn’t work.

I watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory in which Howard is painted to be a sad geek who just wants to love women, and never gets the chance, all because Penny calls him “creepy.”  She explains to him that she’s not interested in him, he attempts to kiss her anyway, and she punches him.  His last line states that he’s “at least halfway to pity sex.”  Elliot Rodger played World of Warcraft and skateboarded and read A Song of Ice and Fire and just wanted a girlfriend.

I heard a conversation on a SEPTA train where two guys were describing this one girl as a “whore” who would “f*** anything that moves,” but they also “wouldn’t say no if she offered, I mean, I’m only human, right?”  Elliot Rodger wanted nothing more than to lose his virginity to a beautiful blonde, but called all the blondes he saw “sluts” in his manifesto.

I’ve been catcalled while wearing a dress, and while wearing jeans; I’ve been called a “bitch” because I don’t respond to the catcalls, and my choice to respond is taken away from me because the men drive away…and because I don’t know if I’ll be attacked if I respond.  Elliot Rodger would spill his coffee on people and then run or drive away before anyone could do anything to stop him.

I’ve seen parents tell their little nerdy boys that “the geeks shall inherit the earth,” and let them know that once they’re older, girls will be lining up to date them because they’ll have great jobs and tons of money.  Elliot Rodger was an affluent young man, and didn’t understand why his fancy car and Hugo Boss shirts and Gucci sunglasses didn’t turn into automatic sex for him.

I’ve heard close friends detract women as “crazy,” and dismiss their exes as “she doesn’t even know what she wants.”  Elliot Rodger called all women, including his mother, mentally ill, because they didn’t make the “right” choices, the choices he would have forced them to make.

I’ve read writings of men who don’t understand why on Earth a girl doesn’t want to date them when they’d treat their women like queens.  Elliot Rodger’s “Day of Retribution” was committed because he felt he hadn’t gotten what he deserved, and “if I can’t have them, no one can have them.”

And in the #YesAllWomen tag?  I’ve given up on you if you’ve decided to take over a hashtag written by women to discuss the universal shared experience of feeling threatened every. fucking. day. of their lives to interject and say “Well I’M not like that!” as if it mattered at all.

My first contribution to this tag was this:
“#YesAllWomen Since when is ‘not all of us’ a good enough standard? Go fix it until it’s ‘not any men.'”

No one is giving you a medal because you weren’t Elliot Rodger.  That isn’t the decency standard.  If you’ve laughed at a rape joke, if you’ve called yourself a “nice guy,” if you’ve heard a catcall and said nothing, if you saw this story break and felt anything except “what the hell is WRONG with men,” you’re a part of the problem.  Women are trying to fix it, but we can’t fix everything; you have to help.  Not just sit there and not hurt anyone and hijiack a hashtag to tell everyone how not-terrible you are: actively fix this problem.

My other contribution to this tag was this:
“#YesAllWomen makes men mad because they’re grouped with misogynists.  It makes women mad because misogyny kills us.  See the difference?”

Being grouped with Elliot Rodger sucks.  You know what’s worse?  Having “text me that you got home safe” after a date being a necessity.  Needing to alter routes or when you leave somewhere because it’s dark out.  Getting called a c*** because you won’t respond to a guy calling you “cutie” from across the street.  Being terrified to reject advances because you think you might get assaulted.  Getting assaulted.  Getting killed.

I get that this makes you uncomfortable, but it should make you more uncomfortable that literally every woman you talk to is scared at least once a day.  When every interaction I have with an unknown male is a game of Russian roulette with vaguely better odds, I don’t want to hear how I’ll be fine because you’re not a bullet.  We’re not having this discussion to attack you; we’re trying to stop being scared and getting hurt.

You’re not Elliot Rodger.  Go fix the world so no one is.

Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, The heavier stuff

Brienne the Beauty and what this means for us

March 23, 2014

Relatively short post that attempts to sum up my thoughts on the line “Everyone is beautiful!”

I’ve always had a thing for female warriors in fiction, especially when they’re fighting in a male-dominated society.  Alanna the Lioness was my main girl…at least, until Tamora Pierce wrote the Protector of the Small books, and then my love was shared with Keladry of Mindelan.  These women put everything aside to do what they wanted to do, and endured taunting and secrecy and betrayal for, frankly, the privilege of being hacked at by men with swords.  But I started to notice something with all of these women.

They weren’t just badass; they were beautiful.

Alanna, Keladry, Eowyn, Katniss; they all were at least above-average in what was considered conventional beauty.  Every one of them had love interests; some of them had several.  Many chose to grow out their hair and wear dresses; many got married and had children.  As much as men wanted them off the battlefields, they also wanted them in bed.  Perhaps not their bed, but at least a bed, because of course someone wanted them.

And then, sometime in 2010, I read A Clash of Kings, and was introduced to Brienne of Tarth, and my world changed. (Side note: this stuff pretty much doesn’t apply to Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne in Game of Thrones.  She’s over six feet tall, but she’s also certainly conventionally attractive.)

File:Brienne by quickreaver.jpg
My personal favorite fan art of her

Brienne is a warrior implied to have the skill to best all but a handful of men in Westeros, and not through the trope of being small and quicker than her bumbling male opponents.  She’s six and a half feet tall, and essentially pure muscle, with barely noticeable “female” secondary sex characteristics.  She keeps her hair short, not as a cute pixie cut, but so she can look more male and fight better.  She doesn’t have a quick, sassy wit to keep her opponents off-base: I’d even argue she’s not very bright.  And, most importantly, she’s ugly.  Not “ugly-duckling-but-can-be-a-swan-when-grown” ugly, since she’s supposed to be in her early twenties when introduced.  Not “she’d be pretty with a bit of makeup” ugly: she’s described as having a face like a ham, and no dresses would fit her.  Not Hollywood-ugly, where you take the character’s hair out of a ponytail and switch out the glasses for contacts and new haircut and she’s a babe because she’s actually been one the whole time.  And not even “she’s ugly for a woman but hot for a man” ugly so that hijinks can ensue when someone, male or female, finds her attractive.  It’s 100% possible and implied that no one ever really will.  Her name is Brienne the Beauty, not as a hint to her true appearance when the man of her dreams is waiting in the wings (yes, but what about Jaime, I know, I know, I get it, let me make my point anyway), but because the (fictional but still patriarchal) world mocks her for looking the way she does.

And you know what?  I LOVE IT.

I love it SO MUCH I can’t even express it in speech because I get too excited.  George R.R. Martin finally wrote a patriarchy-defying character in all sense of the statement: no one wanted her on the battlefield, but no one secretly wanted to bang her either.  AND THAT’S AMAZING.  SHE’S AMAZING.  SHE’S THIS UNATTRACTIVE MASS OF MUSCLE AND SWORD SKILLS AND IT’S AMAZING.

Some of you might be tempted to say something like “aww, don’t call her unattractive!  She’s the best!”  You see what’s going on there?  She IS the best, and she’s also unattractive, and that’s totally okay!  Why? Because beauty is 100000% subjective and highly influenced by society and advertising and other associated bullshit and should never, EVER be a measure of a person’s worth.  Statements such as “everyone is beautiful” are well-intentioned, but they miss the mark.  Beauty straight up does not matter to how you should value a person, and this goes double for women because they are the ones who suffer more when their appearances aren’t up to standard.  The ugliest person in the entire goshdarn world is as deserving of your respect as the most beautiful.  “Every person has worth, regardless of beauty” is a much more accurate statement.

I realize that attempting to teach that statement as a replacement (especially to groups that include young girls who have been taught since birth that beauty is the most important thing) will be an uphill battle.  I realize the intentions of calling everyone beautiful are wonderful and pure and good-hearted.  I realize that to maintain a sexual relationship with someone, a perception of beauty most certainly does matter.  I realize a lot of y’all want Jaime and Brienne to get together and go on adventures and be adorable. (Trust me, I SO get that one.) REGARDLESS.  I’d really, really love to see the entire way we speak about a person’s value become independent of how they look.  Because Brienne is my homegirl no matter how ham-like her face.  Brienne the Worthy.  Brienne the Awesome.  Brienne the Badass.  Brienne the Ham-Faced Deliverer of Justice.  Pick whatever you’d like, she’s still the best.  She still has value.  And so does every single “ugly” person in the world.