Author Archives: Alison Muir

Cat Soup

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The cat was gone.

It must have clued in to the way Fumiya had been staring at it. Smart cat. Obviously figured it was better off anywhere else than sticking around and eventually being made into soup. Of course, it was probably right. But that was enough thinking about the cat. Damn thing had always been more trouble than it was worth, anyway.

Fumiya reached for his briefcase where he’d discarded it on the bed upon arriving home, and extracted his laptop. Placing it on a small desk in the corner – probably need to get around to dusting one of these days – and is that a coffee stain? When did I do that? – he opened it up and pressed the power button.  The tired old machine always took a while to boot up these days. Over the hill. Sometimes Fumiya felt like he could relate. But at least he generally didn’t make so much noise.

He’d heard somewhere that the French were legally required to stop working at 6pm. Must be nice. Fumiya couldn’t remember the last time he’d been able to leave the office before nine. It was like the more he did, the more there was that needed doing. He activated the wireless internet connection and glared passively at the little icon that cheerily popped up to inform him that he had eleven unread emails. Six more than he’d had when he last checked at the office an hour and a half ago. It was nearly midnight now. Couldn’t Japan just take a break for once?

Fumiya ground his thumb into his temple, trying to ease his headache as he blearily skimmed the subject line for each of the new messages. Right. He could probably get away with ignoring most of them. He’d tackle one – maybe two – now, and leave the rest to deal with first thing tomorrow.

***

Fumiya was the cat. He was in a better place. Everything felt mellow and the light was pale green and soothing and all those damn emails could go fuck themselves. The world shifted, and he was swimming. The water was cool and soothing. But he couldn’t see land. He needed to get to land. And the water was warming up, and getting thicker. He tried to hold on to a buoyant necktie for dear life, but it melted. The soup was pulling him down, sucking him in, and he couldn’t breathe and–

***

He couldn’t breathe. Panicking, he thrust out a hand and fumbled until his fingers hit the lamp switch. Light flooded his eyes. For a second he still couldn’t see. But there was something on his face, and it was in his mouth, and he still couldn’t breathe. He clawed at it, but whatever it was was liquid and his fingernails bit into the flesh of his tongue. His scream was silenced by the stuff in his throat. Finally recovering his vision, his eyes widened in shock as a gooey, melted eyeball dripped slowly towards his face from the ceiling. Raising his hands as though to ward it off, the gloop he’d scraped off his face spread over his fingers, and he realised it contained fur. Oh god. His cat was quite literally soup.

The eyeball dissolved into a thin drip and poured between his outstretched fingers, pooling gently onto his face. He screwed his eyes shut tightly in fear and disgust. He could feel the goop all over him now – creeping into his nostrils – and a numbness was rising in his body. Pressure started to build around his eyes. As though the goop were actually trying to force its way in. He was still trying to scrape it off, but his hands were getting weaker and weaker. He couldn’t keep struggling forever.

The liquid that was previously made of cat didn’t relent even when Fumiya passed out. Oozing into any crevice it could find, it began to dissolve him from the inside. Soon Fumiya would be soup. Just like his cat.

>_<;

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Over the past year or so I’ve had a few people who were supposed to be close friends basically tell me I should keep my shit to myself. They do it in different ways – one individual tells me flat out that I’m being inappropriate and oversharing, as soon as something gets even the tiniest bit personal – another individual tells me that they’re totally ok with me having feelings but that I come across as ‘pessimistic’ and other people might be bothered by that, and incidentally don’t talk about that thing that caused us to have a fight, or that thing too, or that other thing either – and one individual just basically seems to think I’m a shitty person because I tried once to actually think about why strangers do things and apparently the conclusion I reached that I just thought was interesting was me being judgemental and saying someone I don’t even know shouldn’t do whatever it was they were doing. I don’t even remember what.

I *think* probably the problem is mostly with each of these individuals. But the whole situation, combined with insecurities caused by growing up socially awkward, makes me feel like I do shit that makes people hate me. So when I’m upset, for whatever reason, I feel like I should try not to overtax my friendships, so to speak. So I try to keep my feelings to myself, even while I’m feeling incredibly alone and just needing to feel like someone actually cares. Which obviously makes me feel even more alone than I did in the first place, and everything becomes a shitty spiral which ends in a passive aggressive outburst of ‘I need you but fuck it don’t bother’, and which quite understandably is far more taxing to my friendships than actually asking for help in the first place.

FUCK.

I’m trying really hard to act like a functional human being, but so scared of people stuff :/

I’ve noticed social discourse is getting a little out of control…

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I love reading articles and such about social issues that are valid and well thought out. There are a lot of things wrong with the world, and I feel strongly about many of these issues, which is a large part of the reason I started this blog. But I’m starting to notice there’s a trend that’s got more than a bit out of control. Or, to put things more clearly: I am sick to death of all the noise about social issues that goes straight to dramatic hysterics like maximum shock factor is required for anyone to take these things seriously.

Now, I know I’ve been guilty of this myself.And oh god, the mortifying shame. For a long time, I was trying so hard to be heard that even though I did have some thoughts that might have been useful to the progression of the debate, more often than not, time and again foot became lodged very firmly in mouth and could not be extracted in time to save anything. I strongly believe these social issues, as well as the fact that people are talking about them, are important and I don’t think anyone should have to shut up and be silent when they have something they need to say. But at the same time: What the hell? Too many of us are screaming so loudly to be heard that, without realising it, we’ve lost track of whatever we were feeling about the issues in the first place, and we’re grasping at anything and everything that might possibly prove to others – preferably with maximum dramatics – that the problem exists.

It’s way past time to take a step back, and really think about how we’re feeling. And I don’t mean for us to think further about how to tell others about the injustices we’re seeing. We’ve been doing that for a while, and the only place that’s got us is a state of anger and frustration about all the wrongs in the world, and the fact that noone seems to agree with us. Oh, and the fact that everyone else out there – especially on the net – is a misinformed idiot.

Tell me I’m not ringing any bells.

The fact is, not everyone’s an idiot. Nor are they as misinformed as we assume. For the most part, they are just like us – trying so hard to come up with examples – and fix-alls – that we’ve veered off track from the actual problems. And to be honest, that sort of desperate thinking is eventually going to make anyone look like an idiot. Can’t we all just get back to basics?

If you feel like there’s a problem, think about that problem. Don’t think about how you can prove the problem to others. Chances are that those who’ll agree with you already see it, and those who will deny it exists won’t be convinced. So go ahead, write that blog, that comic, that article, that little piece of message to put out in the world and broadcast your thoughts. But make the thing about you, because that, and not some fabricated argument designed to try to convince others, is how we will get to the heart of the matter.

The point of feminism

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A few months ago I wrote a post presenting the opinion that giving up on the term ‘feminism’ might be useful if we really want to achieve gender equality. I officially rescind that opinion.

So here’s the thing. Apparently there’s a woman called Chanty Binx, who was caught on camera being downright acerbic in a few different situations. And since this woman identifies as a feminist and laid down her rants in the name of feminism, obviously, she must therefore be representative of all feminists everywhere. So the logic on the web goes. Like, what?

It is at this point where I suddenly and inexplicably felt a powerful urge to defend feminism. I guess I hadn’t given up on it as much as I’d thought – feminism is an established cause that can make a positive difference for everyone, but in order to do so it needs more rational people, not less. And so I, against all better judgement, stepped in on a youtube comments page. And this is how I discovered that there is no right way to present feminism to someone who doesn’t get it. Because there are things that EVERYONE knows about feminism, and no matter how many ways you rephrase your beliefs – including specifically stating that you do NOT believe what non-feminists are insisting on calling feminist ideology – these things that EVERYONE knows about feminism is all those people can see. I eventually gave up in disgust when points I’d explicitly refuted came back around time and time again. I do not hate men. I do not believe that women abusing men is ok. I recognise that men can be victims of domestic abuse and rape too, and that these things are problems no matter who experiences them. And so on and so forth, like if they’d just throw these things in my face for long enough I’d eventually turn into the man-hating, crazy harpy of a feminist they expected to see.

And then one of those people suggested that if I’m so rational, I should really be using a “qualifier” – say, ‘equity feminist’. Which to me is a bit like saying “I’m feminist – but not like THOSE feminists”.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people identifying as feminist whose actions and opinions I don’t really agree with. But you know, there’s no test you have to pass to become a feminist. We’re not some exclusive club whose membership can be controlled – and anti-feminists are not required to designate their separation from the crazy woman-haters who go out of their way to find feminists to abuse. In that case, it’s apparently completely recognisable that that arsehole is fully separate from others who might just happen to overlap in a common view. (But of course, I rarely see said arsehole policed by non-feminists, as feminists are apparently expected to do with those within the movement who overstep the line).

But I digress. In my eyes, the very point of feminism is the drastic variation of perspectives within the movement. Feminism’s biggest selling point is the solid platform it offers for discussions about the social implications of gender. Even in this modern internet age people do still have a tendency to surround themselves with people and information that agrees with the values they already hold, which can go some way towards explaining why many people see feminism as some kind of unified, static entity, but the reality is that feminism is as diverse in its standpoints as say, democracy or christianity. Feminists have as much sharing of different ideas among themselves as they do with anyone else, and through this feminism as a movement is constantly evolving. Because really, we’re still just figuring this shit out. Social change is a ‘one step at a time’ kind of thing, and it starts from a vague sense that there’s a problem, and continues through discussion after discussion until people feel like they’ve figured out what the source of the problem actually is, and how to go about fixing it. So yes, sometimes feminists will go in the wrong direction, backtrack, restart, and mess up again. We’re all only people. When was the last time you were perfect? But the point is that we’re trying to make the world a better place. Just because it’s not all happening at once and immediately doesn’t make trying a waste of time, either.

There’s overlap in all social issues. Noone ticks the box marked ‘gender’ without ticking a whole lot of other boxes that make up a whole identity. But it’s kind of difficult to address ALL the issues, so feminism is just one part of the bigger picture, designed to tackle problems with one little cog in the social machine. There’s no reason why an individual can’t try to tackle several cogs at once, if that’s what they feel passionate about. Supporting feminism doesn’t mean you have to ignore issues of race, or disability discrimination, or environmental issues, and so on. You change what you can change, and let other people tackle the rest.

Bloody Hell

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It’s ‘that time of the month’ for me, and I’ve been going through my regular bunch of issues. This is something I’m sure most women out there can relate to. Not only are periods physically uncomfortable, but they’re loaded down with a whole lot of social crap that just makes the whole process hell.

The experience of menstruation is something that can’t be pinned down. It’s common knowledge that every woman experiences menstruation differently. Some will get PMS, some snack down on piles of chocolate, some get all weepy, others get horny, and still others just want to curl up with a hot water bottle and a large box of naproxen. Menstruation is so loaded up with various stereotypes, you’d think we’d be more open-minded when it comes down to it in real life.

But for something so everyday and talked about, it’s surprising just how screwed up common understanding of what it actually means to experience menstruation is. In fact, I don’t think I’d be taking a risk to wager that menstruation is hands-down the most common ‘invisible condition’ out there.

Starting with the symptoms: they are different for everyone. This goes beyond stereotype. The same woman can experience a drastically fluctuating range of menstruation symptoms over the course of her life. The physical presentation of menstruation is often unpredictable and inexplicable. Health, diet, stress level, daily activity, environment, and a never-ending list of other factors can have surprising and crazy implications when it comes to menstruation. Most women couldn’t tell you which factor has caused which particular change in their experience, or why. Sometimes it feels like nothing has changed, yet suddenly a woman’s periods have become drastically different.

This has happened to me over the past year. When I first started having periods, I didn’t experience a lot of symptoms. I had no noticeable mood changes, cramps were at a minimum, and about twice a year I’d just get really tired and sleep a whole day away. That was it, really. Then suddenly, this past year. Excruciating cramps that don’t go away no matter how much I apply warmth and sleep (and medicine). And a whole range of other, more surprising symptoms too – monthly fatigue, migraines, neck and back pain, and so on. It’s hell, and since I’m fairly active and I’m eating healthier than ever, it’s possibly caused by stress, but how would I know? I’m pretty damn sure I’ve experienced stress before this year. Who hasn’t?

So yeah, that’s the physical shit. Unpredictable and not at all pleasant. But you know what? There’s a hell of a lot of crap every woman goes through because of menstruation that’s got nothing to go with the physical.

I’m pretty sure it would be safe to say that most women keep going with their daily lives despite unpleasant menstruation symptoms, most of the time. I mean really, who has time to take several days off every single month? Not to mention that in the average job, there just isn’t enough paid sick leave to take that time off and still make a living. This is what women do every single month of their lives, starting from first blood and continuing right until the end of menopause, whenever that is. This is where the real problems start.

You see, most women who are working through menstruation aren’t going to mention it. They just want to pretend it’s not happening, because frankly it’s easier to function when you’re not thinking about how much discomfort you’re in. Even the ones who will complain about it mostly just make the passing comment here and there, and otherwise seem completely fine. Women don’t spend too much time thinking about working through menstruation, because it’s just something women have to do. And men who know women who are working through menstruation spend even less time thinking about it, because either they don’t even notice, or in their minds, from what they can see, it just doesn’t seem so bad.

(Although what’s with men and the idea that menstruation is gross and icky and taboo?; although blood is fine, and vaginas are frankly AWESOME)

Anyway, take that whole ‘working through it’ scenario, and then throw in a woman who really feels like she just can’t get through the day while functioning even remotely normally. This woman feels like shit. She knows she’s not going to get anything useful done, and that the best thing she can do is rest. And she knows that in order to get the rest she so sorely needs, she’s going to have to tell someone that she’s not coping. With her period. That thing that comes once a month, that she’s been having for half her life or more.

A woman in this situation isn’t just going to pick up the phone and call in sick. Before she even gets near that phone – maybe even as she picks it up – there is a massive debate going on in her head over just how horrible she feels vs. a range of other issues. For an example, I provide a rough estimation of the debate going on in my own head when I was trying to call in sick yesterday. It went something like this.

1. I feel like crap. Ow.
2. I can’t prove that. It’s just a period. Every woman gets periods. What if they think I’m just being a wimp?
3. They tell me that some women just have bad periods. But why am I one of those women? >_<;
4. Do I call in sick too often? Am I risking my job over my periods?
5. Is someone gonna be all like “I work through my periods, she should just suck it up…”?
6. Or “She takes time off so easily…”?
7. Is it even really that bad? Am I just having some kind of nocebo effect on myself because I don’t want to go to work?
8. What if I do call and it gets better right after?
9. I don’t want them to think I’m letting the team down >_<;
10. Even though it’s totally going to be quiet today and they’ll manage just fine without me…
11. Just call. Pick up the goddamn phone and call.
12. Oh my god they said ok so quickly. They’re totally judging me >_<;

And of course, since stress can have a huge effect on menstruation symptoms, this whole debate is making the cramps damn near unbearable and I don’t know if I’m just having period pain because I’m getting so worked up over having period pain. Yes, catch 22.

Note, in particular, points 4 and 7.

Point four: I am worried about getting fired because of my periods. Being fired for having bad periods would essentially be the same as being fired for having a disability. I’m pretty damn sure it’s not legal. I’m also pretty damn sure that it happens. And I don’t want it to happen to me.

Point seven: The inexplicability of menstruation symptoms is such that I’m even doubting what I feel. I don’t know what’s causing the pain. It honestly could be all in my head. But when it comes down to it… even if it is a product of my own mind, there is absolutely nothing I can do about that. I’m still feeling the same pain no matter what’s causing it, and it sucks that the possibility that it might be all in my mind basically equates, in social terms, to it being no more valid than a figment of my imagination.

So yeah. In conclusion. Periods suck. That can’t be helped much, as far as the physical is concerned. But socially? There is no excuse for men judging women, and women judging other women, and women judging themselves, over something as basic and human and common as the menstruation cycle. Menstruation happens. It’s messy, and uncomfortable, and probably noone actually likes it. But as a society, we really, really need to just get over it.