Saturday, November 21, 2009

Matters of Personal Freedom

Why is it that others seek to debunk and breakdown what one person holds sacred, whether it's religion, values, or what is of importance to that person?

I really don't get this. One area I really see this in with personal faith in a certain belief system. People (usually atheists of radical agenda) write books trying to discredit the Bible, God, and Jesus. Why is that necessary? Is it hurting an atheist for a Christian to believe in God? The argument postulated is that religion is dangerous and destruction. I submit that it's no more dangerous than any other radical creed, such as radical atheism. It's one thing for a person to not believe and to adhere to this and attest it to others. It's another for that person to attack those who do belief and treat them as though they are idiots. On Goodreads, I was reading a review for The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. There was a radical atheist who posted comments completely denigrating anyone who adhered to any belief system. He showed absolutely no respect for anyone of faith. Excuse me, but isn't this persecution? Along the lines of the Inquisition? Um, so that means that not only has the so-called Christian church persecuted others, but atheist and nonreligious groups and people have persecuted believing people. What was ironic to me is that he adheres to his own creed 'not to believe.' For him to attack others for their own adherence to beliefs struck me as completely hypocritical. Hmm. Hypocritical is a term often applied to Christians who profess to believe in one thing and to act another way. This is often the case, but not always. I was pretty saddened by this person's vitriolic attack of others. He was particularly rude to a person who professed belief in Buddhism, trying to undermine her understanding of Buddhist beliefs. What struck me funny is why it was so very important for him to make her feel as though she was stupid and misguided. It seems like an incredibly wasteful use of time.

I was thinking about my issue with erotica being shoved down the throats of romance readers. I try to examine myself to make sure that I am being fair. That my personal prejudices don't cause me to take away or hinder other peoples' rights to what is valuable to them. I came to the conclusion that my big issue with the erotic market is that it is affecting my enjoyment of romance. It's become increasingly difficult to consider a new book or read a book without seeing some outre sexual trick being added in there to increase the steam level. I sometimes find myself asking why this is necessary. I don't feel that I am prudish. I have certain ideas about sex and what is appropriate and inappropriate for myself. However, I think sex is a healthy and normal activity (within reason). Within the context of a romantic relationship, I just don't want to see characters in a mainstream romance engaging in some sexual acts. It's jarring and distracting, and gives me a feeling of distaste. But the thing that makes it even worse is that it was put there where an unaware reader could inadvertently have her/his reading experience affected by this element they don't care for. Thus, my issue goes back to proper labeling of a book. Romance is romance. Erotica is erotica. If it's both, please just call the book Erotic Romance. If you do this, then I am well warned. If I am really curious about the book, I'll skim it at the store to determine if I want to read it. Unfortunately, it's a crap shoot now for the non-erotically inclined romance reader, unless she wants to read older books or Christian romance. Having said that, it must really suck for non-Christians who want to read "clean (please be aware I didn't coin this phrase) romance."

I was especially upset when I found out that the second book a popular urban fantasy series, that I really wanted to read, has some anal sex in it. I cannot tell you how much my distaste is for this sexual act being incorporated into romance novels. This book is not labeled as erotic. It's just labeled as urban fantasy. I was dismayed about this. I wanted to know for myself what this fabled Chapter 32 was (and I had my fears it would be going in that direction), so I decided to read this part. Reading the scene, it made me pretty annoyed. I'm not about to tell a writer what she should or shouldn't write, but I felt it was gratuitious. I really didn't feel that it was necessary and didn't make the scene any more steamy for me. It made me want to go home, pull the book off my shelf and donate it to Goodwill. I told myself that I was being silly and to get over it, but I felt betrayed. My sense of betrayal stemmed from the fact that my freedom not to read things I don't want to be read was usurped by what I assume is a majority who enjoys reading highly sexual content in books. I've come to the conclusion that this has become mainstream and I have been forced to the wayside, yet again. Now I have to be even more careful about what books I chose to read, even those that are not labeled as romance or erotica, but fall in the science fiction/fantasy genre for that matter. Unfortunately I already bought this book. I am still undecided about whether I will read this second book or just stop after the first one. This has also happen with a couple of urban fantasy and paranormal anthologies I bought. There is a story by the same author in both collections that has anal sex in one and a threesome with double penetration in another. How does this get into a book that is not labeled as erotica? I don't understand that and I really have an issue with it.

But the reason I brought up this discussion about the erotic elements in the book really does tie back into the discussion. Freedom. Do I want all erotic books banned? No. I could care less if people want to write, publish, buy, and read them, so long as there is a safe place for those of us who do not want to read them. I go to the bookstore and about 1/3 of the Romance shelves are populated with erotica, and I mean serious erotic content with threesomes, extreme bondage, domination and submission, anal sex, sex with one character in animal form, group sex, you name it. Is that really romance? No. It's erotica. So why shelve it with the romance books and label some of these books are romance? That's mislabeling, and that's wrong. Someone is going to be very unhappy when they take this book home to read it and, bam! Personal freedom has been compromised to some extent, in my opinion.

You walk through life and you often find yourself in these situations where there is a group that thinks differently from you, and you are the outsider. This is not a good feeling at all, especially when your rights to believe differently are denied. I have heard that atheists feel that way in the United States. I don't feel that is the case. At least it shouldn't be. That's why I believe in separation of Church and State. Not because I don't believe in God. But because I fear the effects when a leader uses his power to enforce policy based on his own personal beliefs or the beliefs of the group he belongs to. It's wrong, because he is compromising the rights and privileges of Americans who do not fall into the group in which he belongs. One of the comments made on the review of another book by Richard Dawkins was this fear of Christian nationalism. Even though I am a Christian, I fear Christian nationalism too. For more than one reason. The one above I stated, and also because of the backlash on Christians who have no part in this process. Also for the fact that this one person or group doesn't speak for all Christians and never will.

I'm a live and let live person. I really don't care what you believe. As long as you don't force your beliefs on me and try to take away my right because I don't share your beliefs. Do I think all beliefs hold equal value to me personally? I'd be lying if I said yes. I do think some beliefs have more legitimacy than others. I do have a disdain for certain belief systems. I'm just being honest here. But at the same time, as long as the person who takes up that belief system does it of their own free will and is not coerced into it or damaged physically by that belief, I don't feel I have the right to tell them not to believe what they believe.

One other area that I felt I needed to talk about was the disdain that others show for romance novels. I don't like watching football. I think it's boring for me personally. But do I feel that football is a bad thing that needs to go away? No, because I can always change the channel. I can choose never to attend another football game if I don't want to. Why is it that others have to make fun of romance novels and those who read them? Let me ask you who disdain/hate romance novels and think the readers are mindless idiots something. Have you even read a romance novel? No. Then get over it. Let me give you a romance novel to read and then you can express your opinion. If you don't like it, then let me give you another one. Even if you don't like that one, I'll keep giving them to you until you realize that you cannot condemn a whole genre because of personal taste. Even with my dislike of erotica, I don't think it's all bad. I've read some erotic stories that were good. It's just not my personal taste. That's okay to say, I don't care for that genre. It's another thing to say that a genre has no merit. It's wrong and judgmental. Let me give you some advice if you are one of those people who hate romance novels and think those who read them are idiots: why don't you go focus on what you enjoy doing and stop wasting your mental energy in such a fruitless manner. You won't make romance novels go away, and you won't stop every person on earth from reading them. Sorry, but it's not going to happen.

I guess why I posted this because of a need to get it off my chest. Just some final food for thought from this blogger: Focus on what has value for you. Let other people believe what they want to believe. Don't expend your energy on making that person feel crappy because they don't think or believe like you. It's just not a good use of a person's time and the effects don't really turn out so good. We all have to live in this world together, after all.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

About Respect

I am watching Flip This House right now, the San Antonio episode with Armando Montelongo and his wife Veronica. Armando is a hot-head, and he has no qualms against going off on his employees and cussing them out. I am always surprised that they don't quit and go work for someone who doesn't treat them like you know what. Yet they take the cussing and do the job.

Well on this episode, his wife Veronica is running a flip. The guys are playing games and disrespecting her. Because she's nice and she talks things out!!!! What is wrong with this world? Why can't you only earn respect by acting like a bitch or being a jerk? I don't get that at all.

Respect is something that everyone should get at least a minimum of, merely as human beings. We exist in the world together, we feel pain, we seek understanding. We share this fundamental commonality. I would think that we would afford others that respect that we want for ourselves.

There are deeper levels of respect. Some respect has to be earned. For instance, the respect for a person who knows what she or he is doing and is good at his/her job. At first, you might not know what a person is capable of. You can only go on what someone has told you about that person, or the credentials he/she has. You might have a few doubts, but you give that person the benefit of the doubt. And when he/she comes through, that's when the respect is earned.

You might also afford respect for a person because of the character she or he shows. You treat them as a human first and foremost, but then you treat them as someone that you truly 'respect' when they prove themselves to you.

So why is it that a person who is nice doesn't get respected? It's backwards to me that a person who is nasty and rude would get respect for it. Personally, I lose respect for people who treat others like crap, for manipulators, for those who think they are better than others, and show it. I have no respect for people who are complete liars and who don't know the first thing about honor or ethics. I don't respect people who are unnecessarily cruel to others. I certainly don't respect a person who takes advantage of other people, who pretends to be nice until he or she gets what they want. Or she or he might pretend to be nice until someone crosses them, and thetrue colors come out. That's bad behavior. Children get punished for bad behavior. Why should adults reap rewards for doing the same things that would get a kid in hot water? That I don't understand at all.

Yes, you can have a respect that comes out of fear because others know that you are crazy and you'll 'go there.' But that kind of respect is not long-lasting. It's just a momentary, fleeting thing. It's like being within striking distance of a cobra. You'll fear and respect it so long as you could get bitten and envenomated. But when you get away from it, you're more likely to say, 'Yuck. I can't stand cobras.' Unless you're a herpetology-minded person. Humans that are ruthless and cruel command a respect of fear. But deep down, there is resentment, and some may plot against them, hating them, and wanting to bring them down. Very few people actually care about them or think they are a good person and worthy of true regard. Not the kind of respect I want.

I want people to respect me because I am a person who is honorable, capable, thoughtful, that I have something to offer to this world. I don't care if everyone likes me, because you can like someone without respecting her or him. But if you respect people deep down, that is a much deeper, profound thing.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why is Intelligence in a Woman So Threatening?

In general, smart people are tolerated. They are needed in society. But there's not much use for them on a personal, everyday level. Because everyone knows, that book smart people are lame and boring. Or that seems to be the fallacy. I love talking to smart people, so long as they aren't so caught up in their own self-importance that they forget to be human beings with all the flaws and foibles. I have a news flash, though. Most smart people aren't necessarily like that. We can be pretty fun to be around, in fact.

Even less tolerance seems to be given to intelligent women. Why I wonder? There is no physiologic or anatomical limitation on women being more intelligent than men. But society really seems to disparage this aspiration in girls. How many of us smart girls played dumb one or more times to get a boy to like us? Raising my hand. Yes I did it. Sadly I still find myself biting my tongue when I get ready to say something that might be construed as showing that I do have arcane knowledge that the average person might not possess (wink). Because people will just think I'm showing off, or they'll get bored with me and not want to talk to me ever again. Sometimes, I feel it's better just to keep my mouth shut and smile and nod. That doesn't always go as planned because I enjoy talking to other people. And as a smart women, I would guess this is bound to show in what I do and say. Like it or lump it.

I'm not arrogant, and I'm certainly not egotistical, although posting that I am a smart woman may come across that way. It's just a fact. God blessed me with brains. I am a humble person, so I do tend to downplay that and focus on being down to earth, and being approachable is just a part of who I am. Now I can be as absent-minded as all get out, but that's usually because my brain is off thinking about some bizarre thing completely unrelated to what I'm doing at the time. And I certainly don't know everything. Far from it. But I digress.

There is a tension that comes out when it's clear that I am an intelligent woman. That my interests go past the level of the superficial and everyday. That I do think about things that most people don't give a second thought to. I'm more likely to watch The History Channel than I am to watch E! I can spend two hours watching The Universe, and won't spend one hour watching American Idol. I don't put down people who do watch American Idol or whatever else. I'm certainly not one of those people who say that television is mindless entertainment. What a person chooses to watch is her/his choice. But it does get frustrating to be considered a weirdo because my interests extend to the universe, and how a black hole works, how the Spartans lived and fought, and if ninjas really did exist. Or the physiology of sex. Who care about sexual physiology? People just want to have it. They don't want to know how our brains and bodies are wired for sex. I find it extremely fascinating.

As an avid fiction reader, particularly romantic fiction, I sense a real bias against smart women in books. Nine times out of ten, when I read posts on a book group, the smart heroine is the one who is least liked by readers. They don't think she's realistic or she's too hard, or she's unlikeable. Or she's just not sexy enough for the divinely hot hero. That really saddens me. In my opinion, the smart women deserve to meet Mr. Right just as much as the cute girl with the fantastic shoe collection. Or the bombshell who has every man at her feet. That is not to say that the smart girl can't have a fantastic shoe collection and be a bombshell with brains. Woman can be many things at once. An author on one of my groups said she has gotten emails in which readers have complained that the characters are too smart. I had some trouble wrapping my brain around that one. I love a smart heroine. They are some of my favorite. And a hero who loves and appreciates his smart heroine is even more beloved. Think Jane to Vishous in Lover Unbound by JR Ward. Or Ashaya to Dorian in Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh. These two heroes really believe that smart is sexy. In fact, I prefer a smart, intelligent heroine to one who's always kicking butt without stopping to assess the situation. Or always getting herself in trouble because her brain doesn't consider that the macho hero might have given her some good advice. Now a girl like Sydney Bristow on Alias is the best of both worlds.

One must wonder why the smart girls come off as being prickly and unapproachable. Could it be the many rejections we have received? Being teased by other woman and ostracized because we don't fit in, or being treated as if we are unfeminine because what real woman would be that smart and not hide it. Could it be that we'd rather stay home on the weekends instead of playing dumb just to get a guy to like us? Not because we hate men or are asexual. I suggest that we are prickly and have built up the armor against the world in pure self-defense. Being intelligent and erudite as a woman is a bit of a vicious cycle. You pursue scholarly interests, get more intelligent, become more of a social outcast, end up spending more time alone with said interests, get more intelligent, and it just continues. Or some of us just give up, throw our books away and decide to pretend that we're no smarter than the man we want or the rest of the crowd. I can't tell you how sad that makes me feel.

Well I have decided that I'm intelligent for a reason. I wouldn't trade that for anything. Having a good heart and being a good person is obviously far more important. But there is nothing wrong with being smart and being a woman. The world needs us. Woman are the other half of the equation in this world. And a good scientist knows that an equation must always be balanced on both sides.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Manifesto as a Black Geek

I've been thinking a lot about the dual concepts of being African-American or Black, whatever term you prefer, and being a lifelong nerd/geek/dork. Those two aspects are very much integrated into my self.

My question is, why does the world seem to ignore us Black geeks? We are out there, probably more than would admit. We are lurking in the shadows, but we're the ones who help sell tickets to comic book movies, who buy urban fantasy, read paranormal romance novels, and who rock out to music that should be considered inappropriate for us Black people.

Why do we have to deny our geekdom? We shouldn't have to. We have just as much right to be proud of being nerds, geeks, and dorks.

Well, I have decided to embrace my nerd-dom. I never have and never will be a 'cool' Black person.

Why I consider myself a Black Geek Girl

1. I love science fiction and fantasy. Always have, always will.
2. I gravitate to the nerdy/geeky/slightly dorky characters on tv/movies
3. I embrace my right to be a smart person and not feel like I have to hide it
4. Being cool is not important to me. Being myself is.
5. I am a fountain of useless information. Heck, Wikipedia is one of my top five favorite websites.
6. I own thousands of books. And I cannot seem to refrain from buying more.
7. Any day of the week, I'd rather curl up with a good book than go out to the club and party.
8. I'd rather rock out to Interpol or sing along to Duran Duran than listen to Usher or Lil' Wayne
9. I love science. Biology is so fascinating to me. Much more fascinating than shoes and clothes on any given day.
10.The sexiest traits in a guy for me are smarts, a sense of humor, and kindness. Yes, I stare at cute guys just as much as any girl. But the personality is what keeps my interest. If I can't have an interesting conversation, whether it's about Iron Man or the Milky Way, then I don't think there's going to be a future for us.
11.I love comic books as an art form, whether it's as an adaptation into movies or books, or the originals. I'm crying right now because I am here and not a Comic Con. Sob.
12. I love folklore, legends, and myths. I get so excited about them, it's probably a scary thing to most people.
13. I embrace my inner assassin/ninja/gunslinger/Amazon. Non-violence is a way of life for me. But inside there's an inner buttkicker. Think Elektra with browner skin and more clothes on.

So, I am here to say that I am a Black Geek, and I am proud of it. I am a nerd, and nerds rule. That's what the T-shirt says. This Black girl who happens to be a nerd is claiming her identity. Watch out world!