A Year in Review: 2015

2015 has been a wonderfully interesting year of change and adaptation. Let’s take a little journey on this crazy and emotional year.

January: The new year started off amazing and I got the amazing chance to panel at IkkiCon. I love this convention and had a great time. Oh and I looked stunning, too.

February: Valentine’s Day was spent with a friend from back home and lots and lots of movies.

March: Suddenly in March I was let go from my agency job. It was a total shock. I never thought I’d recover. In one week, however, I was hired again at another ad agency just down the street. I was officially unemployed for 5 days and it was the most hellish experience of my life.

April: I took a once in a lifetime trip to Maui with my aunt. You can read more about it here and here. I had the most amazing time and it was absolutely life-changing. It was the perfect thing I needed to boost my confidence after the shaky month of March. I also quit my podcast with my friend…it was a terrible but freeing situation. I still think about the podcast. Whether I made the right call or not. But I can say that I feel better having left that situation.

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May: I adjusted to my new job and even made a few splashes at my current agency and started working on costumes and panels for the upcoming season.

June:  A blur of summer heat and costume choices.

July: I celebrated my 25th birthday with pernod cured salmon, homemade pumpkin ice cream and terror birds. So yeah, it was kick ass.

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August: In August, I got the news that I would be panelist for AnimeFest one of the biggest conventions in the state. I screamed/cried/yelled. Panel work began and more costume choices.

September: I went to AnimeFest with two of my best friends and had a…time. You can read about it here.

October: I celebrated both of my parents birthdays. You can read about that here.

November: I celebrated Thanksgiving at home with my family. It was a time…but the chill of November made me think about a few things that mostly stayed inside.

December: It’s still happening! I went on an amazing trip to the Missions that you can read about here and I’m looking forward to 2016 being just as sweet.

This year has been a rollercoaster. It was up and down and all the things in between. It’s getting easier to deal with these vast changes and I’m looking forward to what 2016 has in store for me.

Thank You

2015 has been an incredibly eventful year for me. I changed jobs. Changed relationship status a few times. Tried new things. Visited new places. Experienced new things and made new friends. I shed some emotional baggage and I changed a little or a lot as some would say. But that’s not why I’m here.

I’m here to say thank you

I’m here to say thank you to all the readers that made 2015 my  best blog  year so far.

Thank you to all the supportive people. New readers. Old readers. Friends. Thank you. Thank you to my readers across the world and the nation.

I look forward to creating more of the content you all have come to expect from me and to keep you all posted with the changes in my life.  So thank you for reading. Thank you for supporting my words.

Thank you for being awesome.

 

 

Careless, Conflicted Flattery

“We sometimes imagine we hate flattery, but we only hate the way we are flattered.” Francois de La Rochefoucauld

I’m not a social justice warrior. I’m not out to save the world. I’m not an overly sensitive young lady, either; I understand the difference between a compliment and a catcall. I’m just a young woman with opinions and thoughts. That’s why in many ways this is difficult to talk about but something worth discussing. Recently I’ve faced a few comments coming my way during my time in the city and it’s worth mentioning them. Not to glorify the act of harassment or catcalling but to mention the more poisonous social aspects of it.

The day had started like any other with me going to work but the deviation in my normal schedule arose from meeting a friend for a drink. This sent me to my bus stop a little later than usual but nothing terribly late: it was still light out. Two men sat down at the bus stop next to me, first asking what time it was and other comments along those lines.

“You’re really cute, even though you must be only 18 or 19.” I shirked away from the compliment mostly because it wasn’t true. I’m 25 and “really cute” is very subjective. And compliments aren’t negative, even if they can be intrusive. The older of the men was mostly a flatterer, and I was able to brush off his comments despite his insistence that I was only 18 years old. The other gentleman, however was a bit more forward. I had picked up a book, a classic tactic to show you are not interested and he kept pestering me over and over again about why his name wasn’t in my book.

Sir, that’s not how books work. This is a study of Paganism and Christianity in the 4th to 8th Centuries.

That was my reply to his incessant request to be in my book, again not understanding how books work. Names aren’t just conjured up without some form of effort. After more prodding and asking somewhat invasive questions about my age it was one about my bust that got me to walk away from the men. I went to talk to a police officer and I told him about the men that were giving me a bit of trouble and the police officer told me that I could wait by him until my bus arrived. It wasn’t until I remembered that those two men were waiting on the same bus that I was that I asked what steps I should take. I wasn’t worried about waiting in a public park and I wasn’t worried about my safety during my walk home; however on a bus with two men that have made comments to me that I rather not repeat was not something I was looking forward. The officer replied that the only thing I could do would be to take a taxi home. So I did.

I’m not going into further detail mostly because it wasn’t the comments that bothered me. What bothered me and still does is that I for my action of just taking a cab home and being entirely “too polite” to the men harassing me was shamed shortly after telling those close to me about it. I can’t tell how you many people have told me that I should have stood up more and that I shouldn’t ride public transportation because of such things. It was my responsibility. It was my onus to assure that I got home safely on my dime. It was my responsibility to stand up to these men on my own. The blame settled solely on me.

Now, I understand that in this case there was very little the police could have done. It is very difficult to police words; trust me I’ve been moderating forums and chat rooms for as long as I can remember and as condescending and terrible as it is there is some truth to being told just ignore it. I also take great offense to those that told me I should have been stronger in that moment for a simple reason: you cannot react harshly in those situations. Most of the time what a woman considers to be harassment even at her most sensitive is to some merely flattery. You can’t react in a bellicose manner to someone when they think they’re being nice. Also, riding public transportation is incredibly safe and it isn’t like women aren’t subjected to harassment in a variety of places from gas stations, to work or even in their own homes or via the Internet. Having a car wouldn’t have saved me in general, though would have in that particular moment. I don’t distrust public transit, it’s quite safe and many bus drivers are incredibly no-nonsense and helpful.

Normally, I don’t speak out about things like this, mostly because I understand they can be a bit of a powder-keg. I also realize that to many I’m being overly sensitive. They were just random comments, it shouldn’t get under my skin so much and I agree. But as I’ve pointed out I’m less upset at the comments and more upset over the response I received in the retelling of these events. We’ve socially accepted that when bad things happen to women, they somehow did something to deserve it and therefore should be responsible for getting themselves out of it. The real tragedy of this is that those comments I received though invasive and unwanted are nothing in comparison to some of the comments that have been directed at me in chat rooms I was moderating over and comments on many others face online. On a whole, I left that situation mostly grateful I could afford the cab fare home and thought about a woman that may be in a similar situation and may be less fortunate than I was who couldn’t afford a safer ride home. I thought about what it means to receive a compliment or to be a victim. What makes us victims? Is it reporting to the police? Quiet endurance or just acceptance? It even made me question some of the terminology used. For instance, I struggled calling it what it was even in this blog post but it was in itself a form of harassment and that doesn’t over-inflate or undermine the seriousness or lack thereof of that situation.

I didn’t want to make a big deal out of a random man not understanding how books work but after having person and person tell me I was somehow insufficiently strong in that scenario got to me. I met that situation the best I could, with patience, politeness and sternness and eventually entire avoidance and I think for that particular instance, that was the best way to handle it. Be kind to those around you. If they come to you and mention something distressing, even if you think they’re being overly sensitive; hear them out. Friends reach out to you for a reason, you can ground them in reality after they’ve calmed down. It’s scary out there for a short girl in the city.

Coming Out of the Style Closet

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.”- Gore Vidal

I am a young advertising and marketing professional.

I am an otaku.

I am a cosplayer.

I’m a traveler and filled with wanderlust.

I am a Southern belle and African-American woman.

I support multiple fandoms both Eastern and Western.

I am a theater brat.

I am a choir sister.

I am an orchestra member.

I am a writer.

I’m a lot of things. And the best way I express myself is through clothing. That’s true for almost all people. I have a lot of patterns and colors that I like. My personal style seems to be constantly at odds with who I am. Clothing is one of the most basic means of personal expression that we have but it’s also an amazing way to not commit to a particular style. As a cosplayer I am constantly becoming and changing who and what I am.

My personal style journey has been a complicated one. I spent most of my childhood as a hair show and mini-pageant baby. It was also the 90s so there were plenty of bad fashion choices made by my parents. As I grew up and became the sporty more tomboy-ish Amanda many of my friends and family know came to know I wore more denim and overalls. Lots of color. But one thing was always the same: my hair remained long. My father was very against me cutting my hair. So, my hair stayed long and perfectly manicured.

After my father died I faced an interesting act of rebellion: I cut my hair. At 13 or so I found my hair shorter and shorter and with that my choices in clothing changed again. I was a punk. Green Day, Blink 182, Simple Plan. I loved it all. Also by 12 and 13 I had found myself an incredibly dedicated anime fan, though at the time merchandise from these shows weren’t available. You kids these days, you have it easy with your J-List and Hot Topic carrying your fandom stuff. I date myself. I was also a Catholic school student so I didn’t spend a lot of time in “free dress”. I also had incredibly conservative and non-supportive aunts that did not like my punk rock music and cynical attitude and comic books that read in the wrong direction. So my clothing stayed conventional.

And then high school. Oh high school. High school was fantastic because with conservative aunties, my dress seemed to not reflect the otaku I was on the inside though it always managed to show out somehow on the outside. I hung out with the goths but was a bright pink spot in a sea of leather and black. I worked at Hot Topic but wore mostly purple and white. Then I’d spout out Maximum the Hormone lyrics and my “goth cred” was verified. But high school always felt like I was the most me. My style was a combination of preppy with argyles to nautical with blue and white stripes to general otaku wear: thank you, Hot Topic for carrying fan merchandise. But high school always felt like I was the most me. I found cosplay and cosplayers. I could be anyone. Anything. All the things. I could wear plaid and still be the otaku Amanda everyone knew and loved. College was a lot of the same. I was anime club president but also in honors societies. I was constantly in between looking like a high school age teen and a professional trying to get a job.

A few years ago I managed to get my first “real job” complete with going to an office and having to dress like a “professional”. I had learned about professional dress from the debate team which mostly involved Hillary Clinton-esque pant suits and pencil skirts with fitted blazers but working in advertising and especially as a writer, my work environment has never been incredibly strict with what I wore as long as it was more than presentable and I always have been. I could still be that somewhat preppy girl but with little accents of the weekend me via Hello Kitty rings, cake earrings, bracelets from my favorite bands and the occasional party that involved dressing up: Thank you, Halloween.

So why did I take you all on this journey through my history and closet?

Recently I picked up my first pair of Converse in years. Converse: the shoe that defined an entire generation of punks, emo kids and goths. I was one of those kids. My Chuck Taylors mattered more to me than some of my high school boyfriends. My Chucks, signed by my theater friends, anime clubbers and kept for years. Paint-spattered, messed up, faded: they were perfect. They were also murder on my incredibly flat feet so I stopped wearing them. Their expense also made them a less than attractive addition to my closet. But when I returned home for Thanksgiving, a Black Friday sale got me to buy not one but two new pairs of Converse.

I broke both in (a mint pair and a black and white pair, both low tops) and have been wearing them pretty regularly. It wasn’t until I walked into work with black skinny jeans, a black v-neck, my black and white converse and a black cardigan that I realized something: I felt like I finally looked good in something. I felt the most like…well, me. And that’s saying a lot. For someone like me who’s look never really matched all that was going on inside to feel comfortable in something was fantastic. A friend had made a snide remark about what that means about me and my character that I felt most like me in all black but it was easy to shake it off. I felt good. That’s what matters. To feel like me beyond the body image issues, dark spots (learn more about that here) and all; I felt like Amanda. The purest form of Amanda. Simple. Timeless but a medium for personal expression. It’s not the clothes. It’s the person. The clothes are an accessory to my personality.

It’s always weird for a young woman to deal with style. Society expects one thing from you. Family another. How are we supposed to be able to express ourselves and be true to ourselves and still maintain all that is socially and physically acceptable? As of now, I feel great with my new shoes and better outlook. Getting back into cosplay has been another great way to express myself and I still flash little peeps of who I am on the inside. You don’t have to abandon who you are and more times than not, the clothes we wear don’t mean much about who we are. You can be a pop princess in all black or a scene kid in argyle.

Stay true, readerships! And tell me in the comments what your personal style is!

The Social Darwinism Problem

“Prejudice is the child of ignorance.” William Hazlitt

Nikola Tesla. Charles Lindbergh. Thomas Malthus. Francis Galton.

These men were eugenicists. Eugenics is the idea that there are some traits in human beings that can be selectively bred out creating a more robust and better human being. Conditions like anemia and asthma; even death itself, could be selectively bred out to create a more superior person. A person without illness, of strong mind and body. A pure individual. Eugenics arose from Charles Darwin and his theories on Evolution via Natural Selection. In theory, natural selection could be applied to humanity with a little help from doctors and mystics to bring about a more capable and heartier person.

Let’s back up a bit. Because I’m sure by now you’re asking me: Amanda, why are you talking about eugenics? If you ever have the pleasure of meeting me or being a close friend or family member of mine you have certainly heard me claim that something was “the Ghost of Darwin” when a person trips over a patch of heavy air or after hearing a news story that seems to come straight from The Onion but is entirely too true. The Ghost of Darwin became a code to myself and my friends to rationalize when bad things happen to people that per the situation seemed to deserve it. We were practicing social Darwinism. Social Darwinism is a viral and visceral form of schadenfreude: a way to enjoy or take pleasure in something bad happening to someone else. It’s a rationalization for people who drive drunk through the PlayPlace at McDonald’s or to the man who falls into a fountain after aggressively catcalling a young woman. It’s more importantly a way to separate yourself from those receiving those misfortunes: deserved or not. It’s a means of distancing yourself from the general population. To a Social Darwinist they are above the rabble, they are somehow even slightly more superior than the rest. It’s a passive-aggressive eugenics way of thinking. Now again is probably the time you’re asking: Okay, Amanda. That’s all fine and good. But eugenics?

Pop culture.

I love movies and recently a few of my most beloved films have had a eugenics plot behind them.

The cult action thriller Machete Kills features a demigod-like villain named Voz. Voz is an almost Steve Jobs sort of man who has grand delusions and dreams about creating a perfect world and destroying Earth as it is. He then rounds up the creme de la creme of humanity and encourages them all to hop aboard one of his space ships to fly out into deep space while Voz destroys the world with a complicated matrix of catastrophes and man-made disasters. Voz and his followers were to enjoy luxury among the stars, even bringing servants with them to continue their elitist ways in the heavens.

Kingsman: The Secret Service pits villain Valentine against the top-notch spy agency The Kingsman. Valentine is a charismatic media mogul who decides that the world is terrible and the only cure for the world is to remove humans except for those he finds or ‘persuades’ into joining him. Valentine seduces politicians, dignitaries and elites with his mentions of how climate change is our fault (which it is) and that the only way to save the world is to trim the fat. Valentine then programs an app in his new free smartphones that triggers uncontrollable rage in the brain. This meant to cull the population of the world through hyper-violence and keep those treasured few safe to repopulate the world.

The ever so controversial Django Unchained features a Southern slave owner named Calvin Candie who rationalizes his cruelty and ownership of human beings with phrenology. Phrenology is a pseudo-science that dictates that you can measure and learn a lot about a person based on bumps and sections of the human skull. Candie states that because of a defect in the skulls and brains of Africans they cannot simply live on their own. They need slavery to function and he was a white landowner was doing everything right by owning other human beings.

Why is this dangerous? Because it glamorizes eugenics. Especially with Kingsman I remember leaving the theater thinking Valentine “made some good points” and it wasn’t until I was in the car with my friend driving back home that I realized how insane it was to say that. I was rationalizing what was effectively genocide, albeit a fictional one. We see these movies and we believe and understand the points made by these charismatic men. What we don’t see is the result of people being swayed by eugenics.

The result of eugenics and social Darwinism is nothing short of death. The result is the Holocaust. The result is the KKK and modern racism and racially motivated crimes. That’s the price of eugenics. When you believe you are better than someone else it’s very easy to more actively wish to remove them from the planet. Hitler ruled Germany through these poisonous thoughts and it allowed for the slaughter of millions. Plantation owners and racists used eugenics and Darwinism to enslave others and subject them to unspeakable terror. When we allow pop culture to even humor eugenics, we validate what these people’s thoughts; that there are people that are radically other than you and it is right and justified to separate yourself from them.

Charles Lindbergh was a noted American eugenicist and didn’t see the error of his ways until visiting the concentration camps of Germany and saw the horror that his perfect world that he wanted to create via selective breeding caused. He recanted his views on eugenics and never looked back on those ideas. As Americans we still have racially motivated crime and terror in our very recent memory and any movie, song, book or even joke that makes light of a movement that rationalized terror seems to be at odds with the needed eye-opening moment Lindbergh needed to have to stop his insidious passion for eugenics.

What’s the most concerning about these recent pop culture mentioning of eugenics and social Darwinism is who gets to decide who lives and who dies. In Machete Kills, it’s Voz and he decides on the elite and the rich. In Kingsman it’s Valentine who also for the most part chooses the elite, rich and academics.

So why the rise of eugenics in popular culture? Crisis. We are in a perceived time of crisis. Like Germany after WW I and the Antebellum South. Most people in the West see our current time with climate change and terrorism both domestic and international as a time of chaos and crisis. So when there is crisis, many find comfort in the idea that there are those that can and will rise above the masses and that the world will be reborn new and different with only the best and brightest. Sound familiar? A lot of dictators used this same rhetoric. The only reason it sounds familiar? It’s the base of the Judaeo-Christian Bible and many other creation myths. The story of the flood is one central to many cultures from Sumer to the Nile and beyond. The flood mythology has a giant flood as its main conflict and “god” or a series of deities select a good righteous few to carry on. The rest of the world are left to die in the flood and the good righteous few are left to repopulate the world with their goodness.

I’ll never police fun and things like The Darwin Awards are hilarious and the occasional jest at the expense of the specter of Darwin aren’t all in bad taste. It’s a habit I’m all too aware of and one that I and my friends do still sometimes commit. However, there’s a darker history is sometimes allowed but it’s important to remember the murky legacy of the statements we made no matter how light they may be in moments.