November 27, 2016


Now for something different!

This post doesn't have anything specifically to do with either of the countries I write most about. Instead, it is borne out of the reading I do, the videos I watch, and a conversation I had earlier this week.

This topic has weighed heavily on my mind since I read an article about gender on one of the many sites I follow (Vox).  The article shared stories from individuals who described how they preferred to be identified in regards to gender.  There were so many different terms, I quickly became overwhelmed.

Thanks to:

Reading all the way through, I could only think that the problem isn't with them trying to find their space in a binary world, but that the world (and society) is not binary.  If we all relaxed our ideas of what it means to be a man or a woman, there would be far less stress for everyone.

I let those thoughts settle for a while in the back of my head, not sure how to address them - or if I even needed to address them.

Then I had a work-related breakfast meeting.  

That meeting culminated in an older, white, man launching into a bit about how *all* women shop a certain way, and *all* men shop another.  Let's just say it wasn't kind to women - we were, collectively, deemed to be inefficient.  He proceeded to lecture the table on how men and women differ when telling stories.  He seriously went back to the caveman days to support this thesis.

I was the only woman at the table of 5.  The other men at the table stayed silent and just stole sideways glances at me.  How would it have been different if I weren't there?  Lots of jovial laughing and agreement?

Walking home upset (and crying - I'm 'such a girl'!) my thoughts circled back to the Vox article I read weeks ago.  I thought about how I am stereotypically feminine in some regards and masculine in others. And how my husband was once mocked - by a woman in the Air Force, no less - for learning to sew.    Why is it so necessary to have these rigid gender roles? Why, in 2016, do we find it odd that a man enjoys cooking or that a women handles the car maintenance?

I think these rigid gender roles lead to the confusion and obsession with gay and lesbian couples - "who's the man?! who's the woman?!"  Here's a handy guide:  if they are both female, both of them are women.  If they are both male, both of them are men.  It is shocking how many times I've had that conversation just in the past few years.

As a society, we've (largely) relaxed the structure around jobs which were once gender-specific. Let's keep moving towards relaxing other societal constructs, like shopping strategies and story-telling.  Maybe one day we can just all be people.

Footnote:  While researching for parts of this post, I came across the "Gender Identity" page of the Statistics New Zealand site.  So incredible to know that my chosen country has put some thought into their classifications of gender, and that another general review is scheduled for 2018.

Name Calling vs Calling Out

We are quickly nearing our 10 year anniversary of the move to New Zealand, and yet the latest election continues to distract and occupy our thoughts.

There's not much more to say that hasn't already been said by so many other progressive, devastated people.  So, just to reiterate a few thoughts:

1.  The sadness expressed by those who did not vote for Trump is not at all similar to the hate-fueled protests of those who did not vote for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

2.  We are tired at the thought of having to fight for civil rights already fought for (and won).

3.  We feel despair for those who will not survive or easily endure his presidency.

4.  There have been hundreds of hate crimes committed in the name of the President-elect. And while he may not have instructed such acts, he has not tweeted once about them.

5.  He has tweeted about Hamilton and the New York Times, though.

6.  Name-calling is not the same as 'calling out' one's racism/bigotry/misogyny. Identifying someone as a white supremacist sympathizer is also not 'name-calling', as it identifies one's actions.  Pointing to a person who has bullied another via actions and/or words and calling them out is not 'name-calling'.  This is name calling:

7.  There has been some hand-wringing by some liberals who feel we didn't listen to the underprivileged and/or blue collar white people who made up the majority of Trump's base.  I am not one of those liberals.  And here is why: poverty alone does not make one a Trump supporter; poverty + racism or ignorance does.  There is an odd acceptance in society when people of colour are poor.  But white people?  I am not interested in anyone telling me that they are poor because [name a race/religious group here] is to blame.

8.  Don't even try the economic argument.  Over 370 economists weighed in on Trump's economic plan.

I know there are people who are asking that we 'give Trump a chance' and that we should all get along and listen to the other side.  That we shouldn't lump all Trump supporters into the racist/bigot/misogynist group.  His supporters put themselves in that group. Their hurt feelings over being called out on this are not greater than the hate crimes already happening and the loss of civil rights to come.

Trump supporters and/or those who have passively accepted Trump supporters did not find racism to be a deal-breaker:

Misogyny also was not a deal-breaker:

Nor was whatever the fuck this is:

How is that not a deal-breaker?!  And you want us to come together now? No thank you.

As I said in a FB post, you bought the whole pig, not just the yummy bacon, and I'm calling you out.

November 10, 2016

America Has Shit the Bed

That is the kindest way I could find to sum up the 2016 elections.  What the shit, America? Did you see the UK's vote earlier this year and take it as a dare to see who could be more racist?

There's no good to find in the results.  Hillary won the popular vote, but due to the stupid, outdated electoral college, the US will instead have a misogynistic, racist, bigoted sexual predator as president.  The idea of it makes me want to vomit - and I haven't vomited in 30 years.

I have often imagined the US as a teenager compared to the rest of the world's much older countries.  And while it has gone through its immature bratty stage, it seemed to be on track for a promising future.  And now?  I think our little Johnny has joined a cult.  A cult that provides pointy white hats and lighters.

When we first moved to New Zealand nearly 10 years ago, we were embarrassed to admit we were American due to the Bush administration and the horrible, unjust war he had started in Iraq.  Instead, we often lied and claimed to be Canadian. Until Obama.  We were proud to be one of the many who had voted for him twice; proud of what he had accomplished despite the roadblocks put in his way time and time again.  But here we are again.  In January, we will once again pretend to be Canadian, if only to claim their feminist, refugee-accepting Prime Minister as our own.

Today is one of the first days I was happy to feel so isolated and far away from the US.  So many times over the years I have wished to be closer - in sad times, when family members died or friends lost loved ones; and in happy times, when marriage equality was finally legalized.  Today I embraced the distance and floated through town trying to pretend I wasn't surrounded by a cloud of doom.  And life went on, as it does.  Today I had an appointment at the radiologist to see what might be going on with my left hip.  While waiting for my appointment, I overheard a (white) Kiwi couple quietly discussing the election.  The chubby white man declared while wheezing "I'm sure he'll do a great job - they just need to give him a chance". Thanks, dude who has never worried about his place in society.  Thanks for that fucking insightful opinion.

I can't imagine a day where I feel ok about this election.  The US has validated a man who laughs off sexual assault.  A man who has given more power and validity to racists and bigots.  Our first black president will be followed by one endorsed by the KKK.  And just like that, 60 years of progress has been wiped away.

For now, I will revel in all of the moments left with Obama.  To that end, here's a video of the 2016 Halloween party at the White House:

November 08, 2016

Yes, We Still Vote

In fact, we vote in both the US and New Zealand.  All the voting!

We moved to New Zealand on Permanent Resident visas, which gave us the immediate right to vote in all New Zealand elections.  This right feels unusual to me (and I'm too lazy to look it up) - it certainly isn't something that the US would ever move to.  Legal "Aliens" voting? What?  No way!  The heads that would explode over such a suggestion!

New Zealand requires those who are legally allowed to vote to register.  Voting itself is not compulsory - just the registering bit.  Still, even the lowest voter turnout here is higher than the highest voter participation in the US.  This is likely due to a few reasons:

  1. Election day is always on a Saturday.
  2. Early voting is available.
  3. A person can vote at any polling place.

Of course John Oliver has addressed the out-dated US Election-Day-is-always-on-a-Tuesday business:

Being overseas, we sent in our ballots via "snail" mail, which is the only available method for Maryland (other States allow internet voting).  Our 'polling State' is Maryland because that is where we lived and were registered to vote before moving overseas.  We've been questioned about this by quite a few people, often in an accusatory tone.  "You can vote?!" We are still US citizens, despite our move.

Thinking back, I've been travelling or living overseas during 4 of the last 5 Presidental elections.  In 2000, I was in the UK visiting my then-boyfriend, watching all the messiness of the Florida hanging chads from afar.  By the 2008 election, Darren and I had moved to New Zealand.

The 2004 election still stands out to me - it had been too close to call when I went to bed on election night, and I woke up feeling hopeful. That was immediately dashed when I turned on the radio; I listened to the regional hip-hop station at the time, and I could hear the sadness in the DJs' voices.  I was so upset that Bush had been voted in legitimately, I burst into tears, woke Darren up and told him I didn't want to live in America anymore.  Two weeks later I took my life-changing trip to New Zealand.

While the 2008 and 2012 elections made me hopeful and nervous, this election fills me with more dread than any other in my lifetime (so far).  The vitriol and comparison of the candidates as "practically the same" has practically given me a nervous condition.  A couple of days ago, I finally decided to stop reading and listening to all news, stop checking 538 every hour, and stay away from Facebook.

And tomorrow - election day - I will do the same until the results are in.  Bush was bad, but there is no way to be ok with a Trump and/or Pence administration.  I truly don't understand how Trump has gotten this far, but I do know that nothing good can come from him winning.  His campaign has already done so much damage by giving racists, misogynists and sexual predators comfort and legitimacy.

It isn't funny anymore.  It never really was.

November 01, 2016

This Is Halloween

We are almost at the 10 year anniversary of our move here to New Zealand, and I've been wanting to write some posts reflecting on what we've learned and how we've settled in here.  Mostly, the posts are just floating around in my head - we'll see how many of them I'll actually write down!

So, we'll start with Halloween 2016.  You'll note I didn't add a picture at the top of this post.  Why?  Well...there's really nothing to take a picture of, sadly.

Halloween simply has not taken off here like other foreign celebrations (read: Octoberfest & Guy Fawkes) have.  In fact, there's still quite a lot of grumbling about it being an "American" holiday, with some people actually offended that children would go door to door asking for candy.  There are some minor Halloween-related events held by the City government, but they are always targeted towards children.  Very few people decorate their houses/yards, and only one person dressed up at my workplace.

There were a few years where it seemed Halloween was getting more popular - we'd see Halloween themed candy in the grocery stores as well as in the primary household-y type store (The Warehouse), along with a few basic costume accessories.  But this year, it seemed less popular.  We struggled to find suitable candy to hand out (to the kids who didn't show up anyway), and noted that all the stores had already set up their Xmas displays.

Yes, we thought we'd get some trick-or-treaters this year!  Mainly due to all the kids who appeared last Halloween when we were travelling in the US and our friends were watching the house,  but also because a new registry popped up on-line for people to indicate that they were open to trick-or-treaters. But only four kids came around, two of whom were our neighbors across the street.   Apparently the wealthier streets in our suburb attracted all the candy seekers.  Well...can't blame them. That is actually a good tactic!

Still, even as much as I miss Halloween, I miss celebrating it in Autumn.  The evenings are dark and chilly, the trees have shed many of their brightly colored leaves and there's that particular smell in the air that hints at a slowing of time.  It is my favorite holiday, and has been for as long as I can remember.  I really didn't know how much I'd miss it, or how wrong it feels during the Spring.  We often plan our US trips to coincide with Halloween for this reason.  Perhaps we'll see some of you next year...

A pic of us in 2013 wearing the last elaborate costumes we made (at Disney World).