On This Date: Allen Ginsberg

6 Poets at 6 Gallery
6 Poets at 6 Gallery

Jack Kerouac is the gateway drug to The Beats.  It seems like everyone comes to them through On the Road.  I loved it, and I bought works by these men who sought to change a generation with their new style of writing.

James Franco’s portrayal of Allen Ginsberg and his reading of “Howl,” in the movie turned me on to Ginsberg.  And I fell in love.  Now I read Howl and Other Poems (the first collection of Ginsberg poems ever published) at least once a year.  This little book never leaves my desk.  It never gets tossed in with the other books in my collection.

It’s difficult to explain how much Ginsberg means to me.  He’s the first poet whose work I connected with.  After years of struggling with what schools had told me were great poems and poets, here was this free-flow of words which hit me right in the gut.  “This … this is what I’ve been looking for!”  Now I can say I dig poetry.  🙂

The more I read about Allen Ginsberg, the more I wish I had known him.  Yes, he was as screwed up as any of them (well, except for William S. Burroughs who was his very own special kind of screwed up).  But it seems to me that Ginsberg sought to make himself better, to make those around him better, and was always trying new ways to expand his consciousness.

One biography I read stated in the Introduction that no matter what people felt about Ginsberg, they all universally thought of him and kind and gracious.

About a year ago, I had a dream where I was walking through a crowd of people and came across Ginsberg.  He looked at me kindly, and I bowed with my hands together, “Namaste Mr. Ginsberg.  I am proud to have met you.”  He nodded and I moved on.

So today is one worth noting, not only for the introduction of Ginsberg’s poetry to the public, but for the profound changes he wrought on society through his views on civil rights and the obscenity trial in San Francisco over “Howl,” which changed the very definition of obscenity and censorship.

At the Beat Museum
With Ginsberg at The Beat Museum, North Beach, San Francisco

The Female Pose

My friends are all feminists. All of them. Especially the men. And we often get into discussions about the pornification of society and the expectations that for women to be deemed worthy  they must adhere to impossible standards of beauty.

One of the communities I used to be active in was science fiction/fantasy fandom. While the people who welcomed me were some of the most accepting people I’d ever encountered, and were willing to teach me the not-so-secret handshake, over the years I noticed the cliques, the gatekeeping (by males), and even more sexualization of women, especially in cosplay.

It’s so sad this happens and people make up excuses for why it’s acceptable, when it isn’t.

In 2012, Jim C. Hines and John Scalzi held a pose-off to raise money for charity. The object, male authors attempting to pose in the same positions in science fiction/fantasy cover art as women are drawn. Of course, they’re drawings, because those positions are impossible to hold by real, actual women.

Today, I came across this on io9:  10 Stupid Arguments People Use To Defend Comic Book Sexism.     (I look forward to the day when links and titles to articles no longer have numbers in them.  Why couldn’t this have been simply titled “Stupid Argument People Use …”?)

The conversation continues to be the about objectification.  Reducing women to only their body, and judging them on the impossible standards of beauty as enforced by society.  We feminists rail against this all the time.  We don’t want the children of the world growing up to believe that the only worth a girl has is based only on her appearance.

We need to understand that every person we meet is a fully realized individual with talents and interests that don’t show on the surface.  It isn’t about sex.  It’s about sexualization, and objectification. And those are wrong.

How do we change the conversation?  As always, we start with ourselves.  When we see someone handsome/pretty, do we think of them as people?  Do we wonder what stories they might have to tell?  Or do we just think of them only as something shiny and bright that would look good in a picture on our walls?

Changing the conversation means we train ourselves and those around us, especially kids, to see people as people.  To see women as people.  Seeing women as people means accepting that not every body is the same, and that no matter how much you think they should do something (lose weight, stop wearing stripes, wear tighter/looser clothing, etc.) to look good to you, they are under no obligation to do so.

Every person on this planet has a story to tell that is more than just how their body looks.  We all have interesting stories, and we need to be asking about those instead of judging people by their looks.

Catcalls

I want to write something about Jessica Williams‘ story for The Daily Show about catcalling but I find myself without words.

Where do men get the idea that saying those things to women is acceptable?  When called on it, men have said, “I’m just sayin’/I was kidding/Can’t you take a joke?” to me.

Men, it is not a compliment to stare at a woman’s body (in my case, usually my breasts).  It’s not nice to stare and whistle.  It is especially not good form to say things to women on the street/in bars/etc. you would not want said to your sister/daughter/wife/girlfriend.  Why do you think this is okay?  Trust me, women don’t respond well to this behavior, and would never date some jerk who said such things to her.

Instead of complaining, which I am really good at, I am going to make a suggestion.  It’s one many advocates for girls  and women make.  Let’s change the conversation.  Instead of teaching us how to survive this bullshit, let’s teach men and boys that this behavior is not okay.  Let’s teach them that girls and women are more than their bodies, more than their appearances, and do not owe a man anything just because he whistled at her.

We are not bitches/frigid/sluts/etc. because we choose not to engage with you.  Most of the time, we are afraid and disgusted by you and do not understand why you won’t just let us be.

It’s really not that hard.