28 years to twiddle your thumbs

I could use a whole thesaurus’-worth of synonyms for “appalling” and “disgusting” in describing the jail time given to John Xydias. This man raped eleven women over fifteen years, drugging them first and then filming the sexual assault. And his sentence? 28 years! This is despite the fact that the judge who dealt with this case is a woman. According to Justice Warren, Xydias’ actions were “very serious instances of a very serious crime,” yet he will be walking free by the time he’s 73 (if he doesn’t die in gaol).

Even worse is the fact that his sentence minimum is 20 years – which means he could be out by the time he’s 65. Despite the fact that he has drugged and assaulted so many women so many times, this man could be moving into your neighbourhood in twenty years. That the women were unconscious and don’t remember their experiences in inconsequential; likely every drink they ever have again will be a cause for fear, in case it’s been drugged. Every man casually making eye contact will be a possible attacker. Rape is something that survivors generally have to deal with for the rest of their lives. Why does this “man” have a second chance when he has damaged so many lives? He is sane, he plead guilty, he clearly knew what he was doing and that it was wrong. Maybe twenty years will be enough time for him to change his ways.

Even with the belief that every person deserves a chance at redemption, I can not honestly say in good conscience that I would be unconcerned if, in twenty years, this man moved into my street. Can you?

Hope

I came of age in the time of Animorphs. The story was, a bunch of kids are given the ability to morph into animals by an alien. It’s their job to save the world from another species of alien. The bad aliens are called Yeerks, and they’re intergalactic slugs which crawl inside your head and sit on your brain, controlling your every move. They enslave entire species in a twisted parasitic relationship, because while their minds are mighty, they’ve just got little slug bodies which can’t really do much without a host.

What got me thinking about the Yeerks again was trying to explain how it feels to have a mental illness. The more I reflect on it, the more apt a comparison it seems. The illness, whatever it is, integrates itself into your life, and even as you’re trying to overcome it, it’s warping your thoughts to make you do its bidding. The difference comes with killing the Yeerks. They need to feed off energy from their sun (or a synthetic equivalent for those off-planet), and if they stay inside a host for three days instead of coming out to feed, they die. A mental illness is not so easy to beat down. It grows stronger off your weakness, and, well, you can’t exactly blame an alien slug for the things you think and do. As much as it is separate from you, it is also a part of you.

Dealing with this unwelcome guest takes a lot longer than three days, and requires an arsenal of weapons. The harsh realisation I’ve come to is that defeating a mental illness is not about defeating it at all, but accepting it and learning to live with it and what it does to you. For all we know about the human mind, there are still many questions which aren’t answered, but I think those will come with time (and good funding for science programs). Maybe one day we’ll be able to better control the neuron storms inside our brains. Maybe not. Maybe, as they say, some suffering is necessary.

At the end of the day, I keep my own Yeerks at bay with the hope that tomorrow will be better. That there is a deeper meaning to this suffering that we can’t yet comprehend. Life is about survival, and hope is one of the best defences you can have.

Fearless Female Friday: Olivia Benson

I’ve decided to start a new weekly series called Fearless Female Friday. Girls rock, and the more shout outs they get for the awesome things they do, the better. This includes both fictional characters and real wimminz, because either way it is an inspiration for the rest of us.

My very first Fearless Female is Olivia Benson from Law&Order:SVU. This woman is a really kick-ass character, and as the token female on the squad (after Jeffries left in season two), she deals with what is still largely a male-dominated world with strength. Olivia was concieved as the result of a rape, and her mother was a raging alcoholic, and either despite or in spite of this, she is empathetic and caring to the rape survivors she comes into contact with.

What inspired me to shine the spotlight on Olivia Benson was a scene in an episode I was watching yesterday, in which she and her partner had to arrest a fellow cop for rape. The suspect’s partner gets mad, and Olivia calmly looks this guy in the eye and asks him if he is going to get out of her way.

I hope that when I am next faced with a difficult and intimidating person, that I am able to recall this and draw on that strength.

More than just a pretty face

So, for a long time since I was young, I wanted to be a model. I thought it would be fun and easy and glamourous and much more preferrable to being chained to a desk 40 hours a week.

I know better now. I know that, while I am physically attractive, I have also been genetically blessed in a far more important way: I have a brain, I am smart, I am a voice as well as a face. I know that being a model is a difficult and draining job. It is all style, no substance, and at the end of the day you have to ask yourself whether this whole beauty industry is making a positive or negative impact on the world.

After reading this article about the sleazy, sexual side of modelling (which, I will be honest, was never an issue I’ve seriously considered), the answer seems fairly obvious.

What do women want?

Beauty but not brains, according to an Oxygen TV poll. It’s from March, but the poll of women aged 18-34, 25% more women would rather when Amercia’s Next Top Model than a Nobel prize.

Just as disturbing are the results of another question asked: when asked if they would shave their head to save someone’s life, only three-quarters said yes.

What is wrong with women!?

You are beautiful just as you are.

I have been making positive and slight-but-impactive strides in life lately. I find out officially by the end of this week whether I got into the course I wanted at University (Professional Writing&Publishing). This has spurred a somewhat panicked flurry of trying to read, watch, listen to, play and learn as much as possible before the constraints of a syllabus make it more difficult.

Two things in particular have birthed the thoughts behind this post, those being The Sims 3 (namely, the new traits&attributes you can assign your characters) and a wonderful blog I’ve been devouring the archives of, The F Word. The F Word is blog dedicated mainly to eating disorder education, fat rights and feminism.

I discovered the fat rights movement a couple of years ago, and due to where&who I was in life at the point, I dismissed it as not something I have to worry about, just yet anyway (not that it matters, but I am and always have been naturally slim; parental reports tell me this will not last beyond my 20s). The basic theory behind the fat rights movement is the same as any other kind of rights movement, whether it be animal or women’s rights: Every being has the right to exist, and not be judged due to their differences, whether it’s gender, religion or weight. Unfortunately, in Western society, we’ve made great strides with recognising other peoples’ basic rights (ie. Indigenous cultures, women, homosexuals – not perfect, but definitely improving), but discrimination based on weight is still rampant.

Okay, to get to the point of this post, on The Sims 3, while designing a Sim or having one grow up, you get the assign them a certain number of characteristics. These characteristics include personality, behaviour and physical traits, and range from Brave to Dislikes Children to Light Sleeper. These characteristics then effect your Sim’s life, including their lifetime dream, their job, their skills and their personal relationships. At no point in the game are you urged to change your Sim’s personality. It is an option, certainly, but most goals are to do with self-improvement and not self-destruction.

This led me to the most interesting thought: everyone is perfect just the way they are. There is no set ideal, physically, mentally or emotionally. I guess this is kind of a good follow up to my previous post about changing. I realise now that while you can change your attitude and behaviour, you can’t change the things that make you intrinsically you. And nor should you want to. Even what seem like negative personality points are still a part of you.

Take me for example: I have terrible anxiety. I inherited it from my mother (whether genetically or environmentally is not important right now). It has been so severe at points in my life that I was unable to leave the house because going out would be one long anxiety attack. Things are a lot better now, though. I’ve learnt to cope with the more extreme anxiety attacks, and while I still get anxious over things (driving ugh), I have ways of handling it now so that it is merely a part of my life and not controlling it.

For a long time I thought that I would be “cured” of my problems one day; I’d wake up and life would be clear and non-threatening again. Now I’ve learnt that these problems are a part of who I am, and while I may never be free of them, I can learn to live with them. So I say now to people I meet, “I have anxiety, and it’s part of me, and I do my best to keep it from ruling me”. I tell my friends: “I need a hug, I’m getting really anxious”.

That kind of acceptance is something everyone should feel about every aspect of themselves. The only exception I see is people who hurt others, ie. serial killers (like my beloved Sylar). But even in those cases, I am not saying that the person is bad or wrong, merely that work needs to be done on managing that aspect of their behaviour so that they do not want to hurt anyone else.

Whether you are tall, short, fat, thin, lazy, over-excitable, absent-minded, you are the perfect you, and that is what you will always be, and all you ever need to be.

If I could kill for bacon, I would.

I highly recommend this hilarious essay by Taylor Clark dispelling some preconceptions people have about vegetarians.

My favourite part?:

Now, when I say that vegetarians are normal people with normal food cravings, many omnivores will hoist a lamb shank in triumph and point out that you can hardly call yourself normal if the aroma of, say, sizzling bacon doesn’t fill you with deepest yearning. To which I reply: We’re not insane. We know meat tastes good; it’s why there’s a freezer case at your supermarket full of woefully inadequate meat substitutes. Believe me, if obtaining bacon didn’t require slaughtering a pig, I’d have a BLT in each hand right now with a bacon layer cake waiting in the fridge for dessert.

Tonight’s dinner of lentil patties is not looking so delicious right now.