Empathy-less Fools Wallowing in their Privileges

10 Feb

I read multiple books at a time and am currently reading the anti-rape book Asking for It by Kate Harding and the book So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Both books bring up something I find bizarre about our society: large numbers of human beings are victim-blamers and dismissive and disbelieving of victims/survivors of things like rape and police brutality… because these vast numbers of citizens believe that this reality is essentially just and kind.

Who the hell are these naive and callous victim-blaming idiots? Can anyone over the age of twelve live in this reality and have such assumptions?

Maybe these are all extremely sheltered and wealthy, white, able-bodied, cisgender males who have no mental illness (because people with such a clueless outlook must skip through life with major privileges) and who have only been close to people who share approximately the same privileges as they. They have very little empathy and absolutely none for underdogs, so they’re extremely not empaths (indeed, some are probably narcissists/sociopaths). They smugly wallow in their privilege and are extremely closed-minded and must not read much nonfiction or pay attention to others.

How can this reality contain such a vast number of humans who fit that description? Well, what I’ve just described does remind me of maddening white males who wallow in their privileges and take them for granted; I’ve had many a disturbing conversation with the likes of them. Furthermore, anyone who grows up female in this society is conditioned to be afraid of potential attackers at all times—try to avoid going out after dark, carry pepper spray, that sort of thing. So I can’t see how anyone female who has lived in this reality all her life and is over the age of four could possibly be one of these naive and near-empathy-less citizens who believe that most rape victims are lying about it and that there’s no such thing as systemic racism.

I certainly wouldn’t want any of these willfully ignorant fools in a jury or for a judge. Oh, yeah, that phrase “willfully ignorant”: perhaps that’s a clue as to how these people function.

Maybe they just spent almost their entire life in a totally different quantum reality, one that really is very fair and just, and where karma has almost immediate consequences, and just yesterday they crossed through a magic portal into this grim reality. I’d love to cross to the other side of that portal and live in a kind and just world! But it wouldn’t transform me into a willfully ignorant, callous, and victim-blaming… sociopath.

Even as a writer and reader of fantasy fiction, I don’t harbor delusions that this reality is a kind and just world. This country needs to wake up and have a great deal more empathy and compassion and be educated and aware about the very real and systemic misogyny and racism embedded in this society.

Advertisements

One of Those Disturbing Dreams

9 Feb

I dreamed that The Worst Frenemy in the Galaxy and I were still close, but suddenly she was giving me the silent treatment. I was confused and extremely worried, because I figured she must be in worse health than usual.

Since I was unable to get in contact with her otherwise, I went to her workplace. It looked like a post office. On the outside, it was a drab sand-colored stone building with a large gravel parking lot, and it appeared to be far from any other building. Inside, there was a long counter with several employees behind it, helping customers. Her station was the first one; I stood before it and waited for her.

She came out from the back and had purple shadows under her eyes and a very hurt expression–how she looked when I blew up at her on the desert in reaction to her cussing me out.

I talked to her as I often did when I was worried about her health (despite her continually accusing me of being aloof and not caring)—asking how she was doing and all. Other people were present, so maybe that was why she didn’t say much; or that combined with manipulation. I asked if her health was worse than usual, and she nodded, but she didn’t explain. I was genuinely showing concern, and this had to be obvious to her, but she kept that facial expression, the look you’d expect someone to give you if you killed their loved one. She gave monosyllabic responses. I finally said, “Well… get better. I’ll see you later,” or something like that, and left.

I had a sense at the end of the dream that that would be the last time I saw her, and back in the dessert-like parking lot, I felt some degree of relief.

 

I’ve been reading The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists and journaling in response; so maybe that’s enough for this dream. And I stopped at the post office recently.

What kind of accent?

8 Feb

I just listened to a recording of a meditation led by Joseph Goldstein. He has an accent, I think a Boston accent. He does not have a “Jewish accent.”

I recently recalled two separate incidents in which gentiles at work (not the same workplace or even in the same state) used a peculiar phrase: “a Jewish accent.” On each occasion, I felt shocked and stared at them, and each time they misinterpreted the look on my face. Apparently, it never occurred to them that I might be descended from Jews, since they seemed to assume that I had no idea what they meant by “Jewish accent,” and the first one actually had the nerve to explain it to me.

What they each really meant was a Jew with a New York accent. Do they seriously think that all American Jews live in New York City? It’s true these people in my workplace didn’t keep quiet about being Xians, but did it never occur to them that they might have a Jewish or partially-Jewish coworker?

I wish that in both those situations I had said, “Do you mean a Yiddish accent? Do you mean a Jew with a New York accent? My Jewish grandmother had an accent that was a highly educated cross between Alabama and the east coast. My great-grandmother, who immigrated from Poland, had a Yiddish accent.”

Youth in Dreams

5 Feb

I dreamed that I was hanging out with a Nicaraguan family (I was a young, white female), and I became engaged to a member of the family. There were several brothers and at least a mother. My white family was furious and may have attempted to kill him or somehow get him deported. The setting was urban, with dark, old brick buildings, perhaps St. Louis.

It really does bother me that I so often dream that I’m in my twenties. What’s up with that? Am I subconsciously ageist? Do I subconsciously buy into the cult of youth that is surely a part of why women over the age of forty (such as myself) are treated like we’re invisible? Don’t get me wrong: as a child, I willed myself to be invisible, so that bullies would let me be; furthermore, even though I know the motivation is ageist and sexist, I like being “invisible” now, because it’s far better than street harassment and such.

But back to dreams and youth. Maybe it’s because of some significance to what was going on with me in my twenties. I certainly hope having so many dreams in which I’m a woman in my twenties doesn’t mean that’s my psychological maturity level! I don’t think it is, especially now that I’m aware I’m an empath, and after what I’ve gone through in recent years.

Women in their forties and older in U. S. media and pop culture are largely invisible much the same way that I have seemingly become invisible since I turned forty. Perhaps instead of embracing this cult of youth, I’m merely subconsciously inhaling it, incorporating all this youth in my dreams because older women and less conventionally attractive women are rarely portrayed in U. S. media and pop culture.

Rejection

4 Feb

Yesterday I came across rejection letters for my dark fantasy novel, The Vanquished and the Surviving. I opened the Word document “Submissions for Vanquished” and updated it. For this one novel, I’ve queried thirty-two literary agents, and all have either sent rejection letters (some only form letters) or not responded (which is often a rejection).

Counting so many rejections, I sank into self-doubt and melancholy. Maybe no agent or publisher will ever accept this novel. Maybe it’s not as wonderful as I thought.

When I created the world of Vanquished (in which other novels and short stories are set) back in the late 1990s, all the characters were white. It’s set in a slightly different (and very supernatural) early nineteenth-century England, with mostly aristocratic characters. I call this reality “Margot’s universe,” after one of the most major characters.

Originally, I wished to take a break from neurotic and slightly autobiographical, brooding literary short stories and write something fun and escapist. These stories are often somewhat brooding, but they’re fun and escapist nonetheless and with characters who bear no resemblance to me or to people I know in this reality.

I suspect one of the causes for this novel’s rejections is that, because of current demand, I’ve queried agents who take Young Adult Fantasy but not Adult Fantasy, and for them I’ve labeled it YA. Although the protagonist is a teenager in this novel, I’ve otherwise written about him in his twenties (ditto his cousins, Margot and Roland). I just read a series of YA Regency comparable titles written in simpler and more modern language, and I’ve realized that Vanquished is more complex and mature than YA fiction. I see adults reading it more than teens.

As for the language: the first draft of another novel set in Margot’s universe was accidentally written in a style reminiscent of Anne Radcliffe, who wrote gothic novels in the 1790s. That reflects what I’d been reading when I started that draft; it was not a deliberate or conscious decision—it just…happened. I have since revised it, but like in Vanquished, I’ve retained period language in all the dialog. It’s possible that this turns off agents—some, anyway—especially if they want YA fantasy.

There’s no glut of fantasy fiction set in the Regency era or the early nineteenth century, so that can’t be causing rejection. If it were high fantasy in a medieval or semi-medieval setting, that would make sense.

Vanquished is full of action and conflict and never a dull moment, which the synopsis indicates, so that’s no cause for rejecting it.

Perhaps agents perceive this novel as not having enough diversity. Most characters in Vanquished are white, British, and aristocratic. While revising Vanquished, I incorporated working-class characters, including two Romani young women and, very briefly, a black woman. The Romani characters have scenes from their perspectives, and I’d like to write a story about at least one of them. Vanquished (and the stories and novels generally) does have a variety of sexual orientations, including an asexual protagonist but not any transgender characters (although there’s one in the sequel).

It’s possible I’m delusional and have fooled myself into believing I have writing talent. However, the frenemy who made that accusation was a manipulative narcissist who made sure I had absolutely no self-esteem. In contrast, real friends, instructors, and critique partners who are good and reliable people have given me very positive feedback and think I do have writing talent. It’s obvious whose opinions are worth minding.

Perhaps after The Vanquished and the Surviving has received fifty rejection letters, I’ll temporarily stop querying for it. A “front burner” fantasy novel set in an Asian country requires much research, mulling, and revising, but it’s possible an agent/publisher might accept it before Vanquished. If that happens, Vanquished and the gothic novel that chronologically follows it may seem like abandoned children.

Defending Immigrants and Refugees

3 Feb

Here are my latest letters to my senators and representatives:

Dear Senator,

Absolutely do not give in to that overtly racist sexual predator neo-Nazi and the racist Klan of Repugnantcans in control of the government. You must not let him do away with DACA. Hundreds of thousands of good people who don’t remember their country of birth and who have settled down in the USA (like our ancestors) are counting on you to go with your conscience. DACA and Dreamers are more important than the egos of Repugnantcans/ white nationalists who so casually and cruelly ruin the lives of people who never harmed them.

 

Dear Senator,

Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Scott Lloyd needs to be fired and replaced with someone who actually cares about refugees. I’m sure he’s a reincarnation of one of Hitler’s Nazi officers, perhaps one who supervised Dachau or Auschwitz. Lloyd takes his extreme anti-abortion stance out on immigrant women, attempting to prevent them from having the healthcare they need. He’s even touting a nonconsensual treatment that is supposed to reverse abortion, further proving that he thinks women should be baby-making machines. No woman, immigrant or otherwise, should be at the mercy of this overt misogynist. He would prefer that women die than that they have safe reproductive health care. His determination to prevent women from controlling their own bodies is sadistic and unconstitutional.

Everyday Chaos

30 Jan

I’m cleaning my bedroom for the first time in a while, not only because I’ve noticed that it’s a pigsty, but also because I shall soon finally assemble the bed frame I purchased a year ago.

On the bed, I’ve found many cough drops, cough drop wrappers, a cat toy (a felt owl on a stick), pillows galore, a still-packaged new bedspread, a purple cat hoodie, some unopened snail mail, headphones, Doctor Who post-it notes, Feminism post-it notes, two glasses cases, used facial tissues, and thirty-five books. I’ve read portions of most of those books and finished several.

Maybe being disorganized is a part of being a creative person? Yesterday, when I told someone that my procrastination was one of the excuses The Worst Frenemy in the Galaxy used to hyper-criticize me, she pointed out that procrastination is common among creatives.

VirginiaSolnit