By now, all aspects of life have been altered or halted. The world as we know it has become radically different as we attempt to get a handle on this disease and stop the raising number of deaths each day. We are enduring trauma on a global and individual level. Trauma carries a myriad of emotions; anger and grief sometimes being the prominent two. And with the rising uncertainty paired with the increasing amount of trauma and grief we are all experiencing, we need to find ways to talk about our feelings, share, and move forward.
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Here is my first post for the Feminism and Religion blog!
Netflix released a new Sci-Fi drama series called Sense8 in June. This original series was created, written, and produced by Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix) partnered with J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5) to bring to life a world where certain humans were born with the ability to communicate and share through a mental link with other humans. They wanted to attempt to do something that had never been done before in TV, to change the “vocabulary for television production”* , the same way The Matrix became a major influence for action movies.** One of the main goals decided on was exploring the relationship between empathy and evolution in the human race.
The way Sense8 explores empathy and evolution is in the eight main characters, or sensates. All eight span the globe: culturally, religiously, and economically: Sun, Nomi, Riley, Kala, Will, Wolfgang, Lito, and Capheus.
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I have been remiss and have not posted in many moons. After my epic cross country drive there and back again, it was quite easy to slip into the regular ever pervasive grind of daily life. I recently took a trip to New Orleans and reawakened my focus on traveling, seeing and being in the world.
New Orleans had always been on my list – largely for two reason. One due to being French Canadian with ancestors who helped to explore Louisiana. Second I have a love for cajun and creole cooking. My quest to walk the streets of “Nawlins was encouraged with films that gave me glimpses of the wonders.
I have realized that one of the most important things to do when traveling to a new place is to allow for one to be open to whatever that place has to offer. To make a conscious decision to not let one’s ideas or outside pictures to influence how you actually experience the location.
From the moment I stepped out onto the streets of The French Quarter, I was instantly in love. The atmosphere, the street architecture, the food, the music that floats in the air, and even the smooth style of people. Now this love is complicated, there were street smells that were unpleasant, the ever present sad state of homeless, and the inundation of drunken people flooding Bourbon Street. Yet despite all of this, there was a unique soul of New Orleans which I not only enjoyed but want to return to
It was the richness of this soul which reawakened my own.
“People get it all wrong. You travel not to find your soul. You travel to feed it.” Genefe Navilon
Ken Burn’s documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” highlights the wonder, majesty, and necessity that perserving the wonders that surround us. There seems to be an infinite connection with observing nature and understanding one’s connection with the divine/universe. The forefather and driving force for the creation and maintanence of our natural parks not only was an avid adventure man/wilderness expert but a spiritual seeker. He states, “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” (John Muir) The sojourn to nature is used throughout the centuries and throughout the cultures.
My parents were instrumental in showing me the awe and beauty that surrounds me. Some of my earliest memories are of our family road trips up and down the state of California going from national park to state park. It was at the Grand Canyon that I heard the voice of my Savior telling me that the power it took to make that beautiful masterpiece was the same power and beauty that made me. It was the trees of the mighty General Grant at Sequoia/Kings Canyon that I started to see the rhythms and purpose of my life. Yet again Muir states, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” (John Muir) It is through nature that I am always reminded to always be positive, to always strive to do good, be good, and love instead of hate. It is nature that reminds me that the universe is all connected.
It is with this in mind that I made sure to carve out time to visit two different national parks while I was driving through Utah. I had been to Zion National Park as a kid. The colors had stayed in my mind’s eye and it was even more special as it was one of the first stops I made on my crazy solo journey across country. I felt emboldened doing something adventurous on my own. I walked along the river at the Temple of Sinnewawa and listened to the sounds of nature seep into my being. It was the recharging of courage, fortitude, and wonderment that I needed to complete my journey.
While Zion was lovely, it was Arches National Park that was truly calling me. I left Salt Lake City in the early morning so that I would have enough time to wander and soak it all in. The drive alone was magically. Full of colors streaming over the open plains, rocks, and canyons through the mist and sunrise. It felt like every mile was not only a mile closer to the park but to a new me. The red rocks were magnanimous. It was interesting the amount of stares that I received by other visitors when they saw that I was alone. It caused me to yet again think, would they look that strangely on a solo man? Why is it so weird or concerning to see a young woman wanted to experience the awesomeness of Arches?
The mighty awesomeness of nature, of its beauty, and its place in the grand scheme of things helps to become a visible reminder to why, what, and who we all are. It is also a reminder that even nature experiences change and imperminance. The mighty arches succomb to gravity and erosion and will eventually disappear. Just like each and every one of us must wax and wane in our human existences. We must remember that we all carry purpose, even our deaths allow for new generations to come forth. While our physical appearances will disappear, the aftermaths, the remnants, and the connections we make will always continue on.
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” (John Muir)
This national park in Northeast Utah is a sight to behold. I would recommend going for a couple of days or even a few hours. All the main sights are easily doable with a car and good shoes if you are feeling adventurous to hike.
“The national park idea has been nurtured by each succeeding generation of Americans. Today, across our land, the National Park System represents America at its best. Each park contributes to a deeper understanding of the history of the United States and our way of life; of the natural processes which have given form to our land, and to the enrichment of the environment in which we live.”
George B. Hartzog, Jr., NPS Director, 1964-1972:
The work that needed to be put in for the 1900 mile journey has been quite prolific. It all started with ensuring my vehicle, my control agent was ready for the task. New tires, struts, oil change, and clean from the inside out. I have two coolers packed with drinks, energy bars, and enormous amounts of snacks and gum. I have packed five bags of cloths, one bag of shoes, bags of dry staple food, and certain luxuries that I know I could not be comfortable without. (not excluding my electric kettle, my tea stash, some scented candles, a scented plugin, and of course some of my movies.)
The 1900 mile journey has brought up many different elements, is my preferred gas station available outside of California, what happens when my cell phone starts loosing battery, what about if I’m driving through an area without cell phone reception? I recommend anyone undertaking a driving journey to visit their local AAA branch. I have been taught by my father from the beginning of my diving career to read maps, to be able to rely not only on GPS. As a single woman I knew I wanted to be able to find my way regardless of cell reception and battery life. It was this that compelled me to go to the AAA office. I receive physical maps, travel books, and a step by step guide/map book of my journey. All of which were free with my membership.
I have gas stations, restaurants, and tourist sights mapped out, check in times with certain people to ensure that on the off chance something happens, cavalry can be easily located. I am purchasing a National Parks annual pass so that I will be able to hit up at least 4 different parks on my adventure. I have even planned out undertaking a micro-brewery/pub driving crawl across the US. I am going to take my time driving, having a two day stop in Utah and a two day stop in Kansas. It is shaping into not only a cross country adventure, but a journey of a lifetime.
The Calm before the Storm i.e. the days before the Journey
When I realized that I would have to go a different institution for the summer to further my education career I had a choice to make. Do I fly or do I drive. Could I live without my car for 8 weeks? Could I move for 8 weeks to a new place without some shred of my property? The answer became a resounding NO. So the task became how one goes about driving the 1900 plus miles from sunny California to the Midwest cheese state of Wisconsin. There were many hours spent on the internet tracking and mapping out my journey, I have been blessed to be able to arrange my trip and my overnight pit stops with friends and family. I logically weighed every element and factor and realized that the amount of money I would spend flying (plus shipping clothes and materials) would be just as expensive as the gas money and possible food on the road. I am a very thoughtful, logical, and almost extreme planner with all aspects of my life. So it was with this in my back pocket that I started to tell people my plans.
To say I was surprised about the reactions I received is an understatement. I knew that there would be a fair amount of responses surrounding the fact that I am driving by myself but I wasn’t truly prepared for the amount of disagreement and disbelief. I have had to endure on two different occasions people telling me that not only was I stupid, but that I could not undertake this journey. I was told that I wasn’t aware how long the trip it was or that I was stupid for wanting a car for the short 8 weeks. That as a single woman, it would be too dangerous for me to be driving across country. That because I couldn’t find someone to drive with me, I should just scrap the whole plan. (Yet, these people were unaware that the majority of my friends are also fellow students, who do not have the amount of disposable income to not merely go on this trip, but afford a flight back from Wisconsin. Added to the fact that I do not have the money to pay for their flights) they couldn’t understand my need for my car. Interestingly enough these naysayers were male.
It has been interesting that people outside of my inner circle; friends, acquaintances, even strangers were hopeful and exciting about the journey, about the adventure, and about the sites to be seen. Many of which were still supportive after they found out this was a solo journey. They offered suggestions about being smart while driving such long distances. But it was the responses of some of my closest people that took me for a loop. On one hand, I see that their responses were because of their deep connection and investment in my wellbeing and safety. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder 1. Would they be as vocal in their concern and disapproval if I was a man? 2. Would they be this concerned if I as a woman was going with others (and more specifically if one of those said companions was a man?)
As a woman, I have been conditioned, trained, and molded to understand that lurking around every corner is a potential threat towards my person. My father paid for self-defense classes, I attended many rallies about female safety and rape prevention events at my undergraduate university, and I even had an ex-boyfriend proceed to teach me many different ways to kill, maim, and evade physical threats. One of the lasting fragments from all these years of ‘prevention’ has taught me that one of the best things a single woman can have is the ability, independence, and a form of control over a situation. It just so happens that my car has become all of these. The ability to not only transport more of my stuff for this eight week intensive program, but also the capacity to go and come as I please for these said eight weeks. The locality of my gender and my relationship status seems to dictate a life which is not acceptable any longer.
The best situation would have been to have company along the way, to share the memories with someone else. Alas, it is not so. So despite the optimal outcome, I have decided to make lemonade out of life’s lemons, to grab the bull by the horns, and to take the plunge. The naysaying only encouraged me further. It only lit the fire more to show that as a single woman, I can be smart, I can be aware, and I can drive the 1900 miles all by myself. It is my rite of passage, it is my quest to show the world that despite the hardship, ugliness, and violence that lurks around every corner, it will not deter me it will strengthen my resolve.
So I know I created this blog to document my summer adventures across country but I thought I would kick it off with a rant and plea about the much loved show Game of Thrones. (This is a forewarning that there will be ALL forms of SPOILERS on this post)
To situate you to my position. I am an avid reader of the series written by George R.R. Martin and have waited patiently for the new books and the new seasons. I am also currently a phd student studying women’s studies, popular culture, and religion. I am versed in how people create and use all forms of social media. It is this very reason that I have a huge beef with the writers of the television show.
To start, the series A Tale of Ice and Fire includes rape and violence in all of the novels as well as including all forms of sexual encounters. Martin has been very vocal in the discrepancies and problems he has faced with the adaptation of his books to scenes, most poignantly any visible scenes of women being pleasured. Game of Thrones exploded onto television filled with fantasy, heroism, honor, and violence. It also exploded with the graphic sexual scenes every episode. Now I don’t consider myself a prude but I do consider myself an equal opportunist. The amount of time spent on the naked female body is prolific. What is fascinating is that while the female body is heavily shown from top to tail in every season, the male main characters only truly have to show their butts. Even the scene where Theon gets his member removed, is done off screen. Even Khal Drago was not given a FULL frontal. Game of Thrones has become trapped into the Hollywood’s apparatus of showing the female body for the male spectator, for the pleasure of the viewers and it is never reciprocated. It is not a women’s pleasure being depicted but FOR the pleasure of the audience…unlike the multiple scenes in almost every episode that shows a man being pleasured, asserting his manhood, and driving home his member.
I should also probably state that Jaime Lannister is one of my favorite characters of the series. Mainly because he represents the figure of trying for redemption but having problems actually living out the steps. Even within the show, Jaime has been shown as an extremely complex and honorable character. Honorable in a true sense that does not seek out recognition, he knew what had to be done, what was right and he did it – regardless of the aftermath. His public shunning of being the Kingslayer. It is also his growth and relationship with Brienne of Tarth that is amazing. It is through Brienne that the readers and the audience see Jaime’s true character. He stops Brienne from being raped and later saves her. Yet, somehow the writers disregarded what they had been building up with Episode 3 and then so casually sweep it under the rug in the next episode.
So with this in mind, we come to Season 4, Episode 3. It is this episode that has hindered my love of Game of Thrones, to the point where I stopped watching and am currently forcing myself to watch the remaining episodes. And I am not the only one. Many fans of the books and shows have voiced their outrage, their concern, and their disgust with Episode 3. What I am talking about is the ‘rape scene’ between Cersei and her brother Jaime. The book details these two having sex in front of the corpse of their son and the only objections were that they would be seen. The writers for some weird and twisted reason decided that this scene wasn’t scandalous enough, you know brother and sister getting it on while their dead son lays in wake isn’t creepy enough.The scene plays out with Jaime forcefully kissing Cersei and proceeding to sexually advance on her despite her pleas.
What I am infuriated with is the apparent use of rape as a plot twist and as conflict narrative. To make matters worse, the director and writers of the episode have all gone on to say that while the scene initially played out as rape, in the end it turned consensual. The director states that you can hear Cersei finally screaming a Yes when the scene starts to fade. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Please lets continue the perpetuation of the assumed understanding that when women first say NO, they really mean Yes. And please lets continue stating that all women are asking to be rape, that they all enjoy it. This scene is one of the very reasons that rape culture exists, that victims of sexual assault are still put on trial for what they were wearing, where they were, and their past sexual histories. It is this very reason that many people do not truly understand the meaning of consent. Any person, at any time has the RIGHT and POWER to say no, to change them minds and stop.
Maybe my rage and disgust isn’t solely on the director and writers of Episode 3 but on our society’s lack of understanding of what the depictions of rape and violence on a woman’s body does. How it perpetuates the notion that a woman’s body is to be looked at, to be used, and to be broken. Just because we live in the 21st century, in a ‘civilized’ country does not mean that people, and especially women, have to combat the constant assault of depictions and experiences of violence on their persons. So please, dear readers, next time, question why there was a scene of violence on a woman’s body instead of pleasure, if the rape or sexual assault was necessary for the plot, and how it resonates with you.