Monthly Archives: April 2012

Bullshit?

I think I’ve been hoodwinked. I think the vast majority of us have been bamboozled. 

Here on campus, I’ve participated in quite a few discussions about “the art of bullshitting”. I’ve often heard it referred to as the number one skill gained by a Princeton education: the ability to sound like you know what you’re talking about when you’re really making it up as you go along. Just a few weeks ago, I was marveling at my own ability to read 30 pages of a 200 page book and still answer questions my professor asked the class during lecture. A few nights ago, I was talking about a course I took last Spring that I tried hard to do poorly in (I was taking the class pass/fail) by not doing the readings, bullshitting in precept, making up fairly outrageous paper topics and writing the papers the night before they were due, etc. I don’t know exactly, but I’m almost positive I got at least an A- in the class. 

This and other experiences/conversations have called me to reconsider the nature of bullshitting. The OED defines the verb “to bullshit” as “to talk nonsense (to); also, to bluff one’s way through (something) by talking nonsense”. Urban dictionary agrees, defining it as “to generate stuff that is made up for the purpose of placating someone, or passing an exam, or getting elected to office. Most often false or ridiculous.”

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that that’s not what we’re doing in class/precept/papers the vast majority of the time. “Nonsense” is too strong a word. What we’re saying is informed by something–if not the course’s “required” readings, then by previous knowledge gained from other classes, things picked up in lecture, or even personal experiences which can be quite relevant and illuminating. …I think that what we so often call “bullshit” is actually “original thought”. No one called philosophers and founding scholars of various disciplines bullshitters when they sat around thinking and wrote their various treatises. They were contributing to scholarship and developing intellect and I think that, on a much smaller scale, obviously, we’re doing the same thing.

So I’m making a resolution to stop referring to my work in academic settings as bullshit, even when I didn’t put as much effort into it as I could have. That feels like selling my academic work, my academic self, short. It feels like I’m not giving myself credit for that of which I’m capable. It sounds like I’m denying that what I think and say and do is important. I feel like existing in a culture that refers to such work as “bullshit” most of the time encourages us to distance ourselves from our scholarship, to not take pride in our work, to discredit that which we are and do. And THAT is some bullshit.       

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My little sister turned 18 yesterday.

And I feel ancient. One of the weird things about going to college, or leaving home in general, I guess, is how while you’re off growing and changing, it’s really easy to forget that everyone you left back home is growing and changing too. When I started my freshman year, my brother and sister were 13 and 14, respectively. They were practically still little kids in my head: W was in 8th grade and A’s first day of high school was about a week before I moved in. But now A’s high school graduation is two days after my graduation from Princeton, and they’re 17 and 18 as of a few hours ago. 

Is it weird that knowing that I can remember all 18 years of A’s life makes me feel older than simply being 22? Is it weird that her graduating high school almost feels weirder than me graduating college? I’m not ready for me to be an adult–how can she be one?

Reblogged from Indie. Radiant.

Sternberg’s Love Theory

freedom fighter posted this image a while ago, and I bookmarked it because it makes me think. It makes me think deeply and a lot. It makes me contemplate my relationships and my choices and my definitions of things and it makes me ask myself what I’m looking for in my life. It’s rare that I come across an image that seems to actually be worth a thousand words, but this one warrants deep exploration.

Love is a word I have so much trouble with. I want to use it in relation to so many things, but sometimes saying it is incredibly serious and sometimes it’s not. I don’t always know what kind of love I think I feel or am definitely feeling or want to feel. But this might be a helpful (if somewhat problematic in its own ways) way to conceptualize it.  The triangles don’t have to be equilateral–the length corresponds to how important that concept is in the relationship.

Nonlove doesn’t register on any of these three axes. That seems fair. I don’t think you can have something worthy of the word “love” in any form that doesn’t have any of these features.

Romantic love is defined as featuring intimacy and passion, which also seems fair to me. I can imagine that many of my friends would balk at commitment not being included in that model, but I for one am perfectly (in fact, perhaps even more) comfortable with romantic love outside of long-term commitment. JB would argue that monogamy is in and of itself a commitment, which I suppose is true in the most basic of senses. I, for one, have never been one to need to fight potential suitors (and/or…suitresses?) off with a stick, which results in monogamy as a general condition of my life even when the situation does not call for it. I have at this point always been functionally monogamous, if not ideologically monogamous, so I guess I don’t really see the ability to hook up with other people as this significant thing I’m giving up when I get into a relationship. Regardless of any level of mutual ownership (or partnership if that construction bothers you) engendered by monogamy, however, I don’t think it implies any sort of longevity in terms of the commitment by definition. It’s a fragile commitment, one that exists between individuals temporally but which is not committed to itself–it’s almost an obligation rather than a commitment, and to me, that’s why commitment isn’t on the triangle for romantic love. 

Friendship is intimacy without passion or commitment. This makes sense too–our friends are among the persons we’re most intimate with, but most of the friendships we make throughout our lives are temporary. They exist in certain times and/or places, and while their memory is carried with us and they may be rekindled briefly or for a substantial period of time, we are not committed to actively building them every day of our lives. 

Fatuous love seems like “dating just to date” to me. Like the first relationship I was in, which was based more on my desire to revel in his desire for me than in anything else. We were giving to each other, but not of one another. 

Infatuation is pure passion. Again, a no-brainer. No actual relationship is involved in situations of infatuation, so intimacy and commitment are impossible.

Companionate love might be the most interesting to me. I think that this is most clearly where friendship and love overlap. These are the friends you consider family. The kind of friends you say, “I love you” to. The kind of friends you don’t have to say you love for them (and everyone else) to know. These are the kind of friends you know you’ll have forever, even when that means actual phone calls and trips to see one another–that’s where the commitment comes in. Friendships you will actively work at despite adverse circumstances fall under companionate love, in my mind. This is what I feel for TN, KS, SP, SH, EY, etc. I can also see this describing love between old people, who are completely devote to each other but past most/all forms of sexual desire. Hmm–this might be why really close friends are so often compared to old married couples.

Empty love makes me sad inside. It makes me think of people who are trapped in loveless marriages or who are too scared of starting over again to get out of a relationship they no longer want to be in. I want to banish it.

And finally we’ve reached consummate love. To me, this is conventional Love-with-a-capital-L love. It’s a The Notebook kind of love. If I’ve ever come close to this triangle, it was a weird scalene version with intimacy being the shortest end, passion the longest, and commitment somewhere in the middle, but honestly I don’t think the sides actually touched in the situation to which I’m referring. This is love after the romancing bit is over. When approaching equilateral-ness, this is a “real love”, whole satisfaction embodied in one other individual. This is the kind of love for which I’ve been told sacrifices don’t feel like sacrifices and obligations to the other resemble obligations to the self. This is the deep kind of love that mostly terrifies me, though a small part of me wants it at some point in the future.

An excerpt from a recent Thought Catalog article that really resonated with me:

I’ve been raised in a society that both exalts love and fears it. A society that tells me love is rare and experienced only under particular circumstances; beginning with family and radiating outward to long term relationships and close, time-worn friendships. To love too quickly is deemed foolish. To love too many, is superficial. Our tragedy is that we believe something can only be beautiful when it is rare. We exist in a society that dismisses the beauty in everyday life. We overlook the small, fleeting moments that make up our day, because we’ve become jaded to the heaviness of a cat sleeping on our lap; the warmth of someone else’s fingers filling the space between our own… Sometimes it’s okay to abandon caution and open yourself up to the possibility of a connection with another human being. It’s okay to be vulnerable. We were born with an incredible capacity for love…The English language doesn’t contain the vocabulary to express different levels of love—instead using one abstract word to encompass the entire complicated spectrum of human emotion. In Spanish, love between family is separated from love between spouses. In Greek, there are four distinct terms, each with its own meaning. Working with such a limited capacity for expression, it’s no wonder our society as a whole appears to perpetually be in turmoil over the concept of love. We’re in constant pursuit of it, yet question it when we experience it; herald it’s beauty, yet fear that we will be left broken in its wake. Love becomes a contradiction. It simultaneously becomes the root of our joys and our woes.”

I have been told before that I say those words too easily. I’ve had friends freak out when I drop it in casual conversation. I’ve gotten raised eyebrows from others when I direct it towards a friend. I’ve even had people criticize my and my ex’s use of the phrase during our relationship. …Such interactions confuse and annoy me. There are so many kinds of love. I’m sick of everyone privileging romantic and consummate love over all of the other loves. And then next time someone suggests that I’m wrong in my usage, I’ma direct them here, to what I think is a comprehensive guide to all the ways you can love someone who isn’t family. 

The Politics of Sex Blogging

“I might seem to be a ‘straight no chaser’ blogger, but if you look back, you don’t see a lot of discussion on sex and dating.
That’s because every time I tried to write those posts, I was afraid someone would know too much about me. That I might be a bad girl. And bad girls are always punished, at least in the Black community. There’s very little room for a respectable Black woman to be erotic and talk openly about it. But I’d like to do that.”

–B.C. Flippin aka Honoree Fanonne Jeffers aka PhyllisRemastered

“The erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who does not fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough… The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos and power of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For once having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves… The function of the erotic is to encourage excellence and to give us the strength to pursue it… When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the life-force of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives…

The erotic is the nurturer or nursemaid of our deepest knowledge… Another important way in which the erotic connection functions is the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy… Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing ourselves to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor merely the safe… We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings…but when we begin to live from within outward, in touch with the power of the erotic within ourselves, and allowing that power to inform and illuminate our actions upon the world around us, then we begin to be responsible to ourselves in the deepest sense. For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering, and self-negation, and with the numbness that so often seems like their only alternative in our society. Our acts against oppression become integral with self, motivated and empowered from within…

When we look away from the importance of the erotic in the development and sustenance of our power, or when we look away from ourselves as we satisfy our erotic needs in concert with others, we use each other as objects of satisfaction rather than share our joy in the satisfying, rather than make connection with our similarities and our differences. To refuse to be conscious of what we are feeling at any time, however comfortable that might seem, is to deny a large part of the experience, and to allow ourselves to be reduced to the pornographic, the abused, and the asburd.”

–Audre Lord, “The Uses of the Erotic”

A couple of weeks ago in my Black Women and Popular Music Culture class, we raised the question of whether Black female musicians can manifest images of their own sexuality that don’t contribute to their own objectification. That question resonated pretty deeply with me when Professor Brooks asked it in class, and it wasn’t until I started reading that post on PhyllisRemastered (which is a great blog, btw, and you should all check it out) that I realized how applicable it was to Black female bloggers as well.
My less-safe-for-work posts are generally the ones that get the most attention on this blog. And though nobody really has the gall to say it to my face, I feel like a lot of the reaction I garner from people (especially the people with whom I interact on a regular or semi-regular basis) is something to the effect of I’m “doing too much”. Some individuals commend me for talking about things there are unwritten rules about not mentioning (shoutouts to BD and SM who are coming to mind), but sometimes I wonder whether people think I focus too much on sex and sexuality. I think about what would result from my being Googled by my boss (do they do that even once you’re employed?) or by grad schools in the future or by my father again (though the disillusionment this would engender is on him this time; I told him not to) or some other member of my family. I wonder whether I should put my website or my Twitter account on my LinkedIn profile–are they “professional”? Well, this blog is about my passions and my passions inform my scholarship and interests…yet they remain unlinked.
Can I, as a Black woman, be open about my sexuality (in ideology and in practice) without seeming hypersexual(ized)? Am I contributing to the Jezebel stereotype by openly being a Black woman with an interest in intimacy, a preoccupation with passion, an enthusiasm for the erotic? Am I hurting myself in some social aspect by getting to know myself [and others] intimately? Am I hurting some larger “us” of Black women?
…These are the kinds of questions I could let keep me up at night. But I value my sleep. And even more than my sleep, I value myself and my right to express all that I am in my own space. A non-trivial and growing part of myself is a sexual being. I am also a social being, political being, an intellectual being, an activist being, an ever-questioning being, a poetic being, a musical being, a creative being, a womanly being, a Black being, a fun-loving being, etc. etc. etc. And I won’t be limited in any the expression of any of those selfhoods by pressures for “respectability” or “not airing my dirty laundry” or any such similar bullshit. I want my whole self to be a being centered in the erotic as defined by Audre Lorde. I won’t see parts of that self diminished, disfigured, or dis-empowered by so-called strategies for avoiding or delegitimizing stereotypes that are just as restrictive as the stereotypes themselves. I will not be a “lady”. Nor will I be a whore. I am neither and both and a million stops along the way. I contain multitudes.

D.O.D. [Updated]

Dick on demand. It’s an interesting development to have in one’s life, and I seem to be developing it in my own. 

I’m trying to figure out how it works. How do I refer to this? We’re friends, I suppose. He is someone I have been friendly, at least, with for a few years. Does that make us friends with benefits? I feel like, ideally, a friend with benefits should be a closer friend than this. Like, a person you would hang out with on an one-on-one level and are also sleeping with. Me sitting here wanting to text him to see if he wants to come over feels more like we’re fuck buddies.

…What exactly is the difference? 

UrbanDictionary will tell us!

Friends with benefits: 1) Two friends who have a sexual realtionship without being emotionally involved. Typically two good friends who have casual sex without a monogomous relationship or any kind of commitment. 2) two fairly close, or very close friends have the hots for one another. they do have some sort caring for one another, but it is not one of a romantic couple. 3) Two very good friends that share in sexual acts with eachother with no emotional connection or boyfriend-girlfriend label. Just engaging in the act of sex for fun.
Those all sound well and good except for the “typically two good friends” “fairly close, or very close friends” “very good friends” parts. Let’s see what it says for fuck buddy: 
1) A sex partner to whom you have no special attachment. A person you occasionally have sex with who is not your S.O. 2) A person who is not your boyfriend or girlfriend (or farmyard animal), with whom you have sexual relations, on the mutual understanding that you both want sex and nothing more. Strictly, for the term ‘fuck buddy’ to apply, both people involved have to be single. 3) All the benefits of being in a relationship minus the bullshit like not doing enough for Valentine’s Day or her birthday, not spending 3 months salary on a stupid ring, and not spending enough quality time with her. 4) The excellent arrangement of a good friend of the opposite sex (or same sex if you so want) who you can fuck hard and long as long as you both shall want, but without the strings attached so you can go and happily hang out together as friends and have a laugh together (or not see one another for another 4 weeks) rather than go through all the pointless crap of forking out your hard-earned cash for valentine’s day or bitching about each other’s annoying habits in public or being dragged away from your friends to spend quality time with one another (or do the washing up) or the “I wuv you – I wuv you too!” bullshit.
(Number four included just for the lolz.) 
This is somewhat clarifying, but my soph friends who are currently in the Large Library agree with me that FWBs are people with whom one would hang out as friends. I would like some clarification as to whether this means one with whom you would hang out with INDIVIDUALLY as friends or like, in a group as friends, because that is highly relevant to my situation, but hey. 
The point of this post is that whatever this is, beside yay I’m having good sex…I don’t know how it works. So he said that when I want to sleep with him, to bluntly tell him that. When can I do that? What time of the day? Only in the wee hours of the morning? How frequently? Should one or both of us have been drinking before? Are there rules?
Can the rule be try it and see what works? I like that philosophy.

[UPDATE: Wee hours of the morning is not a good look. It wasn’t even 1AM when I texted him last night to see if he wanted to come over, and he texted me back at 8AM saying he’d been asleep already. Soooooo, that’s not gonna work, haha. I’m mad I sat around waiting for it to feel “late enough” and missed my chance. My best friend from middle school is visiting today/tonight, so now I either have to try again on a school night or wait a whole week! Ugh.] 

Being feminine is being desired and hated at the same time. A feminine body or mind is expected to be open and receiving to everything from others’ emotional baggage to sexual fantasies of total strangers. At the same time, receptivity (not that this defines femininity by any means) is considered weak and inferior. The result of this is often violence. Femininity is to be present for other’s needs and then destroyed for its perceived weaknesses.

Being feminine and of color is especially dangerous. Not just because we are a walking target for racist, stereotyped sexual fantasies but because so often we are blamed for being that.