Thursday, March 30, 2017


I was practicing driving on Saturday with my driving instructor and we were doing some drills in the parking lot. Over on one side of the empty lot were two men, both wearing helmets, one motorcycle between them. At times one was riding the motorcycle in circles around the other. Not sure what they were doing, but it kinda looked like they were doing what I was doing: practicing something.

I followed my instructor's directions whenever he told me to go up and down rows, and at one point we came riding up to these fellows. Who, instead of moving the way people generally do when they're, you know, in front of a MOVING CAR, they just . . . stood there. In the road. (Okay, the parking lot, but it was the part of the parking lot where cars drive.) So of course I slowed down and stopped because they weren't moving, and one of them made a "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" kind of gesture at me like he wasn't the one standing in the dang road.

My instructor made the same gesture back at him. They didn't move.

So the instructor told me to go around them, which I did, and as I swung around them one yelled, "WHY DON'T YOU GO PRACTICE SOMEWHERE ELSE???"

I told my instructor I didn't feel safe here anymore and we left the parking lot. But that kind of stuck in my mind for a while.

Like, it wasn't their parking lot. They didn't have more right to be there than we did. And yet, still, because they were there, they thought they could tell us we shouldn't be. And they thought the best way to communicate that was through aggressive language and confrontational gestures.

Some folks are very territorial. Some less literally, too.

I was thinking about this over the course of this month: there are certain people who feel invaded anytime someone comes into their space, whatever that space is. Obviously it's a little understandable if you have a physical space you are enjoying, like a bedroom or a lunch table, and someone you didn't invite barges into it and shares the space with you, regardless of whether they interact with you. But if you're not hurting anything or making the space less welcoming by being in it, or if other people in it don't have more right to it than you do, it seems like coming into it shouldn't be a violation of personal space rules. Like, if I sat at your lunch table without being asked, you'd probably think it was weird. But if I got into the same section of the bus as you, that's what I'm supposed to do. It's even pretty typical if I sit right next to you provided the bus is crowded. As long as I don't, like, sit on your lap. But it's certainly not trespassing if I get on the same bus, or eat in the same cafeteria. 

In less literal spaces, like scientific fields or fan communities, you also see this territorial behavior, and the one I want to focus on is how aggressively men defend space against women. If you think this doesn't happen, you have either never observed the interactions that happen between men and women in these spaces or you have never experienced it yourself and therefore believe it is invented by hysterical ladies whose descriptions of aggression they face are not reflective of reality. (That attitude--that it rarely actually happens and women are crybabies who probably don't belong in those places if they can't "take it"--is actually one of the many attitudes they are subjected to and is often cited as part of why women don't enter some communities or fields as readily as men do.)

Let me start by talking about comic books. Comic fan communities are largely male dominated because mainstream comics are historically enjoyed by men in much larger numbers. Women report the following treatment when they try to engage or interact:
  • Doubting of their authentic appreciation of the material ("you're not really a fan")
  • Requests for proof of their fan status ("if you're a fan name three of your favorite Spider-Man artists")
  • Refusal to listen to women's perspectives on how their gender is presented in comics ("no, the way they clothe the female superheroes in extremely sexualized ways isn't a good reason for you to feel uncomfortable reading them, and if you don't like it, you shouldn't read it")
  • Assumptions about their tastes ("you wouldn't like this because it's about war, but I know some comics about fashion and girl rockstar groups you'd like")
  • Frequent misogynistic language used around them or directed at them ("haha, you're a chick? go make me a sandwich, bitch")
  • Frequent sexual harassment/unwanted advances ("oh, a lady--bra size? single?")
  • Accusations of getting a job/receiving a reward simply because they are women ("she only got the position because Affirmative Action wants us to hire more ladies")

Pretty similar stuff happens in male-dominated professional fields. Men doubt women's abilities, ask them to prove themselves more thoroughly and doubt their findings/results, interpret their accomplishments with a more critical eye, process them as exceptions, laugh at them for "being offended" if they don't like guys in the workplace using sexualized language about women or making misogynistic jokes, expect them to assume secretarial/clerical/janitorial duties even if those duties are not in their job descriptions (like always expecting the female engineer to take notes or get the coffee during a meeting where she's an equal participant), make blatant negative statements about typical women's abilities in that field, hit on them at work or make sexual comments to them or in front of them, and sometimes, pay them less (while claiming the discrepancy is based on performance or lack of negotiation skills).

And what do these dudes have to gain by keeping women out of their spaces? Why are they so territorial? Societal messages have taught both of those genders that there are certain "places" for them and certain roles associated with who they are, and sometimes they feel threatened if someone who doesn't match the description is in their space. Perhaps some of them feel that their workplace or their fan community is a boys' club, and the ability to do things that offend, alienate, or disrespect women must be very important to them even though those things aren't/shouldn't be an inherent part of whatever they love. If being asked to be less sexist "ruins the fun," you have to conclude that their fun partially depends on being sexist. And rather than admit that, many of them prefer to assign some kind of inherent flaw to the women trying to come into "their" space.

They're too sensitive (to things designed to hurt them more). They're not aggressive enough (in a society that has punished them more and called them "unfeminine" if they are aggressive, while for men that same aggression is often seen as being a go-getter). They don't have the skills (in a field they've been raised to think they aren't naturally good at, and in situations where men wouldn't think to question other men's competence). They're offended when they're treated like they should be sexually available at work (by guys who always, always see women in a sexual context before they see them in any other context). They need/want mysterious LadyThings™ (certainly they'll call in sick every time they have period cramps! and since most expectations for child care land on women, she'll take more days off to care for sick kids, which is NOT a question/concern anyone has about fathers). They might not be taken seriously by other people (yo, we're not sexist here, but it's a fact that if we have a woman on the team then we might not close the negotiations if the decision-makers are sexist! Can't take the risk!).

You'll notice that they try to come up with "reasons" why women don't belong there that don't boil down to "I don't want them here because I have sexist beliefs." And yet, most of the reasons men don't want women invading "their" space are based on sexist beliefs that they're trying to present as facts. It all more or less goes back to untrue beliefs about the fundamental difference between men and women (and the belief in women's inferiority) and the perception that we women are basically alien beings who are Too Different From Men to ever really fit in. And another shame is that when some women get through to men that they aren't different in the ways they were suspected to be or that the ways they are different don't point to being unqualified or that they aren't nosing around somewhere they don't belong . . . they are still often processed as an exception to a rule that is still in force. In other words, if a woman does prove herself to men who believe like this, they'll usually decide she's not like the other girls, instead of deciding that maybe my beliefs about women were fundamentally untrue in the first place.

But the fact remains that in many areas where we'd like to be accepted and allowed to fully participate, we are instead assumed to be interlopers until we go out of our way to prove otherwise. We're treated like we're moving through their spaces instead of treated like we have equal ownership of those spaces. We're treated like this is their territory, and that they control the rules to who belongs there, even though when you ask them for the "rules" nothing about women's participation there actually violates them.

Sometimes I really wish people who believe this way would just hang up their "NO GIRLS ALLOWED" sign and admit they think we have cooties.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wednesday Factoid: Local Characters

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Who are the "characters" who make your town interesting?

You know, I'm kinda ashamed to say I don't know much about my area's local characters, and I'm sure there are loads more that people who are from around here would frown on me for missing, but two people immediately came to mind when I thought "local characters," so I'll share them.

One is someone I've never met, but who lots of people in my social circles know: a man known as "The Senator." 

He is an older gentleman who goes to a local dance club called The Castle wearing very provocative lingerie, and he is basically ALWAYS there and wanting to dance with young people. He is generally eager to pose for people's cameras so I don't feel like it's exploitative or weird to share a photo here:

Most of the photos you'll find of him online are much more revealing.
And the other person who came to mind is the Peter Pan guy.

He's actually relatively famous outside my area, I think, and his thing is that he is always dressed in some version of Peter Pan outfit and he has a "never grow up" philosophy in real life. I think he actually goes to the same club as the Senator, and I have at least personally seen him at Renaissance Faires. (He's married to someone who's frequently dressed like Tinker Bell.)

His website definitely reminds me of my website aesthetic of the 1990s. 

There's also this local celebrity named Julie Sondra Decker but she's just too famous to have time to tell you about herself right now.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Personal Digest Saturday: March 18 – March 24

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday was Drink and Draw, and also a few popular people on Tumblr shared my several-week-old fan comic about Opal and I just kept getting all these awesome encouraging comments. (I'm making a collage of them.) I prepared for the art event and Eric came over early to get me. We hung out a bit and then headed out to the café, where we had some new faces but some significant old ones missing because the event invitation didn't go out properly. It was a good night. And also, for the first time in literally years, no one owes me any money.
  • Sunday was music day as usual. I played a ukulele song that was pretty hard for me and a new karaoke song. I hit a milestone on my cartoon blog (500 followers!) so I drew a piece of extremely ridiculous fanart to celebrate it. It's really not good but I don't care, it's funny.
  • Monday involved a LOT of design stuff at work (and I kept monitoring nice comments on my blog, awww). I ended up leaving a little later than usual and the buses were hellacious. I had to wait for one for over an hour. It is not any fun at all to leave my house at 6:30 AM and not get home until AFTER 8 PM, and then my noisy upstairs neighbors stomped and screamed so I couldn't even sleep. Awful.
  • Tuesday I had to take a paid ride to work because I was so exhausted from the bad day yesterday that I didn't get up in time to get the bus. It was a good day besides that! A co-worker had brought donuts that I enjoyed heartily, and then later we had a sandwich order because we had a meeting. And then a co-worker drove me home! I had Mom over and she took me shopping, and before that we hung out a bit. I had a chat with Meg on the phone. Her husband is in the hospital, boo.

  • Wednesday was a good day too. I did graphics and e-mail at work, and then Jeaux and I met for Best NY Pizza. At my house again we just chilled and then read the new Steven Universe comic issue together. It was a really, really good one! Maybe my favorite yet! (It was about Stevonnie. Dang. They are a severely underused character and we need more.)
  • Thursday I learned something called plus stations in the design program and spent a bunch of time putting them on a plan sheet. I got to draw at lunch and after I got home I talked to Victor and drew the rest of my webcomic. It really sucks going to bed at a "reasonable" hour.
  • Friday I woke up late again. Not doing so hot on this. Got to work without issue and had an okay day, but there were some server issues that impacted the office's productivity and I got an assignment to learn a program (Access) that I'm really unfamiliar with and doesn't really seem intuitive to me. Not sure I can learn to get it to do what my boss wants me to do with it. Oh well, I'll try. Finished a book on the bus ride home and then when I got home I gave a phone interview to a student doing a story on asexuality. Then I posted my comic and fell asleep.

    Reading progress:
      New singing performances:

      This week's performance was "Romeo and Juliet" by Indigo Girls.

      New drawings: 

      Ridiculous fanart I drew for my cartoon blog hitting 500 followers: it's Garnet in human clothes that Steven picked out for her and approves of mightily, and also he gets to wear her glasses.

      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0619: "The Present."

      New videos:

      My latest unlisted ukulele video is "It's Over, Isn't It? from Steven Universe. (This is a pretty great song but not so great on ukulele sadly.)

      (And if you're wondering, yes, it's a lady(ish) character singing about losing the lady(ish) love of her life to a man, noting that this is a single-gender alien race and they all use she/her pronouns but they are technically not women even though that's how most people who watch the show process them.)

      If you'd like to hear the song accompanied by piano, like it should be, watch this clip from the show. It's really gorgeous and the voice actor is a Broadway performer.

      New photos:

      Quality plating at Drink and Draw--Cheong was not a fan of Eric's off-menu order.
      Such a tasteless, tasteful drawing.
      First of two donuts at the office.
      Second of two donuts at the office. Seeing a pattern?
      Comic #2, awww yeah!

      Social Media counts:
      YouTube subscribers: 5,299 for swankivy (6 new), 621 for JulieSondra (3 new). Twitter followers: 848 for swankivy (2 new), 1,323 for JulieSondra (lost 2). Facebook: 292 friends (no change) and 206 followers (no change) for swankivy, 649 likes for JulieSondra (lost 1), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 127 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,490 (lost 2). Instagram followers: 104 (1 new).

      Wednesday, March 22, 2017

      Wednesday Factoid: City, Suburb, Country?

      Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Would you most like to live in a city, a suburb, or the country?

      Honestly I feel like the city is the best fit for me. It sounds a little weird because I do like nature and I do appreciate solitude, and actually I think some time out in an isolated cabin sounds pretty nice, but I like being in an urban center. I like being in one of the cities touring bands and acts come to. I like having a lot of choices when it comes to entertainment or shopping opportunities, and I like that I can get to most areas of my city on the bus. I like that I'm not far away from lifesaving care if something awful were to happen, and I like the mood of cities and the flavor of quirkiness they inspire. 


      Tuesday, March 21, 2017

      17 years

      Whoa, how did that happen!

      In a couple of days Jeaux and I are "celebrating" 17 years as friends.

      It's not a nice round milestone or anything. And we don't really do anything special on our anniversaries, though sometimes we call it our 'versary and go to a slightly nicer restaurant or something. (This week we'll be shopping for comics. But we always do that.)

      But it's pretty neat to think about. This person has been in my life for 17 years. We've had a predictable schedule of meeting about once a week and doing fantastic friend things together. We can help each other out in times of need. We can text each other frustrations and cartoon theories. We can have someone to go to things with if we want a someone.

      I have a lot of friends who don't really have longtime friends. And they find it AMAZING that I have some friendships that are over twenty years old. My friends Meghan and Victor have been in my life even longer than Jeaux--for Meg we met in 1993, and for Victor we met in 1996. I have friendships that are more than two decades old.

      I've said this before and it's probably starting to get tiresome now, but I'll say it again as Jeauxversary approaches: I find it obnoxious that people assume those who don't have a romantic partner do not have meaningful partnerships at all.

      My connections with these other people are not romantic, and they are not committed with any ceremony, and they are not what you'd call "partnered" relationships, but they are worth celebrating on anniversaries and worth celebrating daily. We have such a weird fixation in our society on relationship permanence only working in one particular way, even though everybody knows tons of divorced people. And if you asked people, of course they wouldn't say friendships can't/don't last or that lifelong friends don't exist. So, if marriage is not a guarantee of permanence and there are other types of relationships that are known to last a lifetime, why is it that when I say I'm single and/or not married, people immediately respond with pity and thoughts of "oh wow, she's alone/lonely"?

      Jeaux and my other couple of lifelong friends make certain I'm not lonely if I don't want to be alone, but furthermore, they understand my boundaries well enough to know when they're needed/wanted. Jeaux has been known to say it's nice to have a friendship where the other person isn't needy and clingy but is reliable and available, and with whom outings and visits are predictable. We both value being able to know what to expect, and so we fit very well together.

      Hooray for Jeaux. :) 

      Saturday, March 18, 2017

      Personal Digest Saturday: March 11 – March 17

      Life news this week: 
      • Saturday was a nice break from a hectic week. Woke up at 10 AM which now feels late to me, and that's hilarious. I made some important phone calls and got nowhere, and did some Internet stuff. Made an asexuality video and did some fan art.
      • Sunday we had Daylight Savings. Blah. I processed Saturday's video, made my karaoke and ukulele videos, and cleaned up my house a little. And I organized my new markers and administered some refills on my Copics that needed them, which took like an hour.
      • Monday it was back to work. My computer had been worked on over the weekend but was still unusable for me, and the computer guy acted confused as to how that could be but it had no programs or anything on it. So I had to work on someone else's most of the day while he fixed that. I was asked to become a notary for work so I took the education and did the application. Neat. Did some edits on marketing letters, then went home and didn't really get stuck in the rain that had been annoying all day. I just kinda chilled for the evening, though I also made a silly asexuality/aromanticism-related comic and posted it on Tumblr.
      • Tuesday I finally made some successful phone calls and did a bunch of design work at work. Went home on the bus and had Mommy over. I made some really gross soup that was basically inedible so I made us sunflower seed butter sandwiches instead and Mom actually ate a little bit. And I played my ukulele a little.
      • Wednesday I had a weird day of very small things going wrong all day. I got up early and biked to the bus stop so I could leave my bike there for picking up at Jeaux Day, but I had trouble getting it locked up to the fence. :P And it was really cold all day. I also accidentally left my keys in the bathroom and had to borrow my boss's keys to get them back. :P I met up with Jeaux after work and we ate at Applebee's and also did some errands at the AT&T store, Staples, and Target. We listened to Night Vale at my house and hung out.
      • Thursday I wimped out and took a paid ride to work because it was too cold. I spent like two hours at the office by myself and kinda failed at updating some memos for my boss because I just don't have enough information. I worked on design stuff the rest of the day. I had a really nice day for some reason though. One of my art posts on Tumblr (the Opal comic I made a few weeks ago) started getting really nice positive attention and people were privately messaging me to tell me how good it was. I cried on the bus because of that, haha. I'm weird. Victor called me but we didn't talk for long because I was sleepy.
      • Friday it was cold but I managed to tough it out and went to work. It was kind of a slow day and I did a bunch of design stuff. Did some drawing during lunch and continued to get really nice comments on the Opal comic. I was really lazy and almost didn't get my webcomic up in time, but I managed. Then went to sleep.
        Articles, Interviews, Mentions:
        • The Buzz Barr quoted my book and discussed asexuality and demisexuality in the context of a person the author knew in high school.
        Reading progress:
          New singing performances:

          This week's performance was "Winter" by Tori Amos.

          New drawings: 

          Fan art of Pearl and Garnet's dance from episode 63:
          Drawn for my cartoon blog hitting 400 followers.

          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0618: "About to Burst."

          New videos:

          My latest asexuality video is Letters to an Asexual #44, which is about someone stressing that we should pursue a cure, and that conceptualizing asexuality as a disease is based on an understanding of healthy biology, not bigotry.

          My latest unlisted ukulele video is "Try" by Nelly Furtado. (This is really sloppy, sorry.)

          New photos:

          It's a mystery who my favorite character is.
          I may have gotten a little enthusiastic with buying Copics.
          First of three coffee selfies this week.
          Mom wanted to borrow this DVD so I was showing her I had it.
          Second of three coffee selfies this week.
          Third of three coffee selfies this week.
          My head looks like a mushroom when I wear this hat.

          Front, February 2014
          Front, March 2017
          Back, February 2014
          Back, March 2017

          Social Media counts:
          YouTube subscribers: 5,293 for swankivy (lost 13), 618 for JulieSondra (5 new). Twitter followers: 846 for swankivy (no change), 1,325 for JulieSondra (2 new). Facebook: 292 friends (no change) and 206 followers (no change) for swankivy, 650 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 127 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,492 (1 new). Instagram followers: 103 (lost 1).

          Wednesday, March 15, 2017

          Wednesday Factoid: Hard or Easy?

          Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Are you hard or easy on yourself?

          My first inclination is to answer "hard."

          Most people who know me have heard me groan about not being productive enough, and no matter how much they reassure me that I do x and y and z, I never feel like it's really enough. I know how much I goofed off. I know how I didn't decide to fill my down time with up time. I have incredibly high standards for what I should be capable of. I think I should be able to meet those standards and I get pretty mad at myself when I don't.

          But overall, I'm probably pretty easy on myself.

          I say that because unlike some people I know, I don't hate myself, don't let expectations of society define what I should be doing or how I should think, and don't feel much of a need to seek validation. This is probably just an extension of my nature--I accept myself and most of what I want to do to be better is unrelated to feeling that I, personally, am a failure. I sometimes take this for granted and forget how rare and important it is to like myself and to not need other people's instructions or permission to exist how I like.

          So . . . both really. But yeah I'm pretty hard on myself because I know I can take it. :)