Long Winded Men and GIFs

You know this guy, the one who can’t post a comment shorter than a paragraph. Nine out of ten of his replies start with the words “Well actually…”. He fancies himself a philosopher, a scientist, and a theologian based on what he absorbed watching YouTube videos. 

He has all the answers, and he’s going to explain them to you. In detail. No matter how little you want him to. Sometimes (often!) he’s wrong, but he won’t let a little matter like factual accuracy get in the way of his pontification. He needs to emote at length, and he needs you to be his audience, villain, and foil. 

You may be tempted to debate him, to take his points one by one to prove he’s making things up or just plain wrong. When he assures you women could have equal pay if only they stop would stop choosing undervalued work, you may want to respond with data showing that simply isn’t true. Nothing could make him happier.

We’ve all heard ” Don’t feed the trolls!” It’s a clever online trick for holding people in minority populations responsible when majority group members treat them horribly; you must have done something to make him hit you. If you just ignore bullies, they’ll stop. It’s not even true. Trolls target people; people don’t attract trolls. 

So if calm reasoned debate is out, and ignoring assholes is no deterrent to them, what’s left? I’m glad you asked. What remains is mockery and the precious treasure that is GIFs. You see, long winded men want to waste your time. They want to exploit you for emotional labor.  They’re getting something out of your efforts to dissuade them. 

But GIFs are short, and easy, and mock him. When he angry types a four paragraph comment and you respond with a clip from Mean Girls, he’s wasted more time and effort on the interaction than you have. (Mean Girls is a TROVE of misandry potential, from “It’s never gonna happen” to “Why are you so obsessed with me?”) These short cut pop culture references let you express how unimpressed with his bloviating you really are, while sharing a laugh and an in-joke with friends. 

So, the next time a long winded man dumps paragraphs at your feet, laugh at him. With GIFs. 


Today is my ex husband’s birthday. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am each year to be reminded that he exists and still draws breath. Each August the reminder rolls around, about five weeks after the likewise upsetting anniversary of our nuptials. Both days I’m something of a wreck. 

I call these dates my traumaverseries, annual reminders of traumas past. They aren’t the only ones marring my calendar. Next month my son’s birthday, a happy occasion indeed, will also put me in a funk as I remember the trauma of a 98 hour labor. Hard things are hard to let go of. 

As the years pass, each one gets a little easier to bear. I would not have even attempted writing on this day last year or the year before. I can recognize that this hurts less than it used to, while acknowledging that it still hurts now. That fear and regret and anger are reasonable responses to what he put me through. 

I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely free of this, or past it.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to shed this damage like a snake’s old skin. I hope so. I don’t want the worst men to still dictate who I am long after I have rejected them. I don’t want to always associate Wednesdays with the first time I was molested as a child. But I do. 

No one resents the staying power of trauma more than victims. It can be hard to support a friend recalling past dangers you can’t see threatening them now. It can be difficult to understand how a ten or twenty year old event can still fuck someone up today. If you can’t be supportive, be silent. Or absent. Don’t tell them to “get over it”. There’s nothing they’d like more and nothing they feel so powerless to achieve. 

It’s gonna be a rough day, maybe forever. 

Gay Willow 

I have been rerewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s something I do often. Amazingly, the story seeems to change as I change, and after seventeen years I still feel like I get something new from it. One of my biggest changes in perception is how I feel about the one queer character. 

When the series first aired, I was a high school student and out as bisexual. When Willow Rosenberg, Buffy’s best friend on the series, began dating a woman and came out as gay, I was initially upset. She had dated a guy before, and had a years long serious crush on another.  I could believe she was bi, but how do you go from liking guys to not? 

I called it bi erasure and each time the character said “I’m gay now” it irked me. Now I realize I could have learned from Willow sooner, that just because I’d dated or even had crushes on boys I could be a lesbian. Now that I know I’m gay rather than bi, Willow’s story arc doesn’t feel the slightest bit unrealistic. 

What I once saw as bi erasure now appears to me as lesbian confirmation. Her past experiences with male characters didn’t override her orientation. She didn’t realize she was gay until adulthood, but once she knew, it changed things for her. Sometimes lesbians have that exact path. 

We don’t have enough queer characters for everyone to feel represented yet. When only one character on a series can be queer, and that character is cis, there’s a real limitation on how many identities that character can represent. Maybe I really needed gay Willow, and someone else really needed a bi character. Willow repeatedly insisting her attraction to guys was all a lie can sound a lot like being asked to “pick a side”. 

Maybe you consider Willow an example of bi erasure, but I’d ask you to consider why the lesbian character gets that accusation while the dozen heterosexual characters don’t. Why is lesbian representation bi erasure but endless versions of heterosexuality are free of critique? We need more lesbian characters and more bi ones too, so we’re all represented and none of us feel like freaks no one can relate to. 

Hobbies Include…

I never knew how to answer questions about my hobbies. The word seemed to suggest a more structured or purposeful activity than the video gaming, internet browsing, and Netflix inhaling I do for leisure, yet not as properly organized as school band and little league. Hobbies also seemed to me to involve purchased supplies or materials: crafting, or model train building. At the end, there’d be some art or collection to show. 

My pastimes are plentiful, especially if I consider them over time. I’ve enjoyed swing dancing, Dungeons and Dragons, and training my cat to touch his nose to mine on command. (The command is “Boop!”). Between my disabilities and single mom life, it’s easy to forget I do some things just for fun, so I’ve decided to make a list I can refer to on harder days. 

  • Passive aggressively saying ” love and light” to crunchy moms
  • Taking screenshots of threads I know will soon be deleted
  • Tricking men into thinking I have gold eyelids and shiny lips with the witchcraft of cosmetics
  • Drinking full calorie soda straight from the aluminum can
  • Choosing lower traffic routes to avoid catcalls
  • Screaming obscenities at drivers
  • Being queer at school functions 
  • Hating that fake Victorian couple with their blog 
  • Getting teens off my lawn by being an awkward adult in their presence
  • Roaming the aisles of the grocery store, wailing in indigestible despair
  • Refusing to die for marginal taxpayer savings
  • Smashing patriarchy
  • Encouraging women to dump their loser boyfriends
  • Melting the frozen peaches of bigots with my flaming gay block button
  • Telling men not to be so emotional online
  • Avoiding men offline
  • Surrounding myself with queer misandry 
  • Fighting to cure allism. For their own good of course.
  • Vaccinating my family against disease
  • Eating GMOs
  • Teaching my son to question and reject toxic masculinity

“Stay Safe”

I understand. This is a scary world sometimes. You know there are threats your LGBT, PoC, and women friends and family have to face. Perhaps you feel powerless, so you say the one thing that provides you a moment of relief: “Stay safe.” You say this out of love. 

You may not know what “staying safe” is really asking of us, or what long lists of “rape prevention tips” and “how to placate a cop tips” we’ve pored over. You may not realize that “Stay safe” to an LGBT kid can sound exactly like “Stay in the closet.”

When who you are is a risk factor for violence, there’s a limit to how much you can protect yourself. “Stay safe” might mean “Text me when you get home” to you, but still be heard as “Don’t be out after dark.” One man’s self defense classes is another woman’s crippling agoraphobia. 

The fact is the world is not as safe as we need it to be. That’s going tyo take more than individual caution to address. Broad cultural support for racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia needs to be addressed and dealt with. We can’t really “stay safe” until then. 

Combat these attitudes every day. Confront the casual hatred of your friends and family. Don’t excuse grandpa’s racism because he’s old. That just means he’s had longer to get it right. Don’t forgive the homophobic sermons of your preacher because you get a lot out of services. Demand your state process its backlog of rape kits, and push for minimum sentences for domestic and sexual violence. 

Each time you tell one of us to stay safe should be matched by at least three times you’ve told others to be safer, to stop hurting and killing us. If we’re the only ones you’re talking to about this danger, it won’t get better. Do something. 

Sexual Violence of Modesty Bans

I would hope all my readers already recognize that it is wrong to force a woman to wear extra clothing and cover more of her body. Whether we’re talking about the Taliban’s reign in Afghanistan where women were forced to wear burqas or the FLDS Mormon cult in the United States which requires high necked floor length skirts for women, such rules originate from the belief that women are inferior and sexual beings. Objects of temptation and lust. 
I’m less optimistic each reader will already recognize how likewise wrong it is to force a woman to wear less clothing or uncover more of her body. A series of laws targeting the dress styles of Muslim women have gone into effect in France, making it unlawful for a woman to wear a face veil in public, or a girl to hear a hijab in public school, or for a woman to wear a burkini (a full body swimsuit with hood, very similar in appearance to a wet suit) at many of France’s public beaches. 

This week on a beach in in Nice, France armed law enforcement officers forced a Muslim woman to remove her burkini tunic. Four men with guns were called upon to address the threat posed by a Muslim woman lying in the sand at a beach. Four men stood over her to ensure her compliance. Four white men watched as they made a woman of color undress for their desires. 

This is state sexual violence. Imposing immodesty, with fines and armed men, is such a clear violation of bodily autonomy. Women should not have to meet a certain level of undress to participate in society. Dress codes are inherently authoritarian whether they call for more or less skin showing. Dress codes targeting women and girls are sexist and defended with sexist arguments. American schoolgirls are policed on the basis their bodies distract boys. Muslim women in France are policed on the lie that their bathing suits cause the make violence of terrorists. 

The fact is, my non Muslim western culture both socially and legally requires me to keep my breasts covered in public (with a few exceptions). If modesty laws were changed today and I was allowed to walk around topless, I probably still wouldn’t do it because I would feel naked and exposed, no matter what the local definition of nudity was. The idea that armed police could stand over me and force me to remove my shirt, to expose myself, in the name of secularism horrifies me. That’s what happened to, what was done to, the woman in Nice. 

Fruits of the Tree

My grandmother’s best and worst traits or fruits come from the same tree. It took both intelligence and ambition to begin nursing college away from home at 17. It took arrogance and confidence, as a new wife in 1963, to insist on her husband changing the pronunciation of his own surname. It took a certain, dare I say it, feminist streak to defy religious gender roles to preach and lead her own cult. 

I’ve written before, quite lovingly, about my son’s rebellious nature. He gets that from me, and I in turn got it from my grandmother. It is she who taught me the importance of frequent voting, how to rabble rouse, and a kind of fighting spirit that has kept us both alive longer than once predicted. It is that seed of her narcissism in me that let’s me think my words are worth writing down. 

More and more I am coming to believe that who my grandmother became was a result of choices she made, not some inescapable destiny of personality disorder or upbringing or fate. She could have chosen, when she was a registered nurse, to fight sexism in the medical field in so many ways. Instead she chose to respond by starting a faith healing cult which endangered and ended the lives of several people. 

Her actions were choices. Sometimes they were choices made from limited options, but she was not a woman without agency. I have spent most of my post cult years worrying that I might somehow, without intending to, become her. I’m afraid of hurting people, of convincing people to do things that lead to early deaths. This fear is not particularly realistic. 

People don’t start cults by accident. People don’t take habitual and routine advantage of those closest to them without making choices along the way. Even though some of her traits have passed down all the way to my son, I don’t look at him and fear he will become a cult leader. I see goodness in him that would never let him make the choices she did. This gives me some encouragement for myself. 

Fears aren’t always about what’s likely. My fears are based on the risks I feel I can’t control, luck and happenstance. But they’re also based on the realities I’ve seen of the damage cults can do. Yet it is this awareness, and my compassion for my fellow current and former cult members, that makes the fear so unrealistic. 

On the TV show Once Upon a Time, they have a thematic quote that’s used again and again. “Evil isn’t born. It’s made.” I’d like to believe that’s true, to think there is no destiny, no certain fate for me. Because I don’t think I’d choose that evil if it were up to me. 

I worked for Home in Zion, her cult, for many years. I sent out newsletters, called in outstanding debts, shipped books at the post office, and even answered emails and phone calls requesting prayer. I have long wondered what those devout, rural, homeschooling Quiverfull adults would have thought if they’d known their requests were being received by a 15-year-old with purple hair and no virginity.  I feel guilt over my role in promoting faith healing and the cult. In the past I’ve tried to figure out if any of the ones who died got their faith healing supplies after they’d passed through my hands. 

It’s not a choice I’d make again. That’s worth something. 

My grandmother taught me many skills and passed on many traits.  What charisma I possess was honed with her guidance. She had me practice giving press interviews as a child, so that when in my 20s my abortion became a viral news story, I was ready for the media attention. I’ve already used what she taught me to defy her will. She was not a good person, but I think she could have been. And that means I can too.