They

“Who are they?/Where are they?/How do they/Know all this?/And I’m sorry, so sorry/I’m sorry it’s like this” –“They” by Jem

I’ve seen a lot of recent posts on Facebook recently that claim that “they don’t want you to know…” followed by something that often sort of makes sense, or at least seems partly based in fact, then takes a turn for the paranoid and tells you to rise above and see the truth and don’t let “them” keep you down.

It’s a good idea in principle, rising above and seeing the truth and not letting people keep you down, but I’m a cynic, and I’m convinced that the people who spread these messages have just as much of an agenda as the “they” to which they refer, whether “they” are Republicans, the Obama administration, your high school administration, big pharma (and corporations in general), the Illuminati, Bronies, Hare Krishnas, ceramic artists, and just about any other group-like entity you can think of. And sure, they all probably do have agendas. Some of them are likely rather more benign. I’ve yet to uncover any information leading me to believe that Bronies are out to do anything more than convince us all that friendship is magic. Heck, I’d say that’s a fairly honorable task!

All joking (well, most of it, anyway) aside, this fear-mongering and spreading of vague quasi-information with an inflammatory bent just sort of reminds me of how the Them (a quartet of 10-year-old miscreants) from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens are trying to figure out how the world works and wind up parroting their parents in all sorts of ridiculous ways. Are there people out there to get “us” (whoever “we” are) and destroy the world/society/ice cream as we know it? Almost certainly! But a lot of them aren’t nearly so under-handed about it. That’s kind of how you make change: by making it known.

Anyone who tries to tell me “They’re wrong/trying to oppress you/behind [name your catastrophe]—I have all the answers!” has got a long way to go before I’m convinced. In my opinion, anyone who claims to have all the answers to my problems—or anyone’s problems—is either deluded or lying. As Arthur Weasley so eloquently puts it in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.” You’d probably think that, by this coin, I’m a dedicated anarchist. Nope. I do believe that we need some sort of societal regulation—it just needs to be open. While I believe that people are good on the whole, I don’t necessarily think that we function well outside of some sort of structure as it stands now: it’s just far too ingrained in our brains right now to make a radical shift.

Like many things, I am a moderate in regards to rules. Of the nine alignments, I always test as neutral good. I believe in the flexibility of rules when it pertains to helping people. (Like, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, healing the sick, etc; not creating golden parachutes and corporate immunity.) I believe in people doing what works for them in general, as long as it doesn’t infringe upon anyone else’s rights. Above all, I believe that extremism is detrimental to society, even extreme moderation. I mean, you do have to wander outside the norm sometimes! I just have a hard time going one way or the other on a lot of issues when both sides make sense to me.

But getting back to conspiracy theories and theorists… I’m not sold. I don’t appreciate the mentality that others are out to get us. To be mistrusting of anyone who identifies one way or another leads to a pretty miserable life. There are definitely better ways to spend your energy. The boyfriend is always telling me not to worry about this, that, or the other thing. In regards to what “they” are planning (obviously my total destruction because I’m far too sensible…), I’m taking his advice, but then, I didn’t really need it to begin with here. I mean, by most estimates (at least, those of my age group), the government has been plotting to take us all out for about 12 years now. In fact, they’ve always been on the brink of it. So, if they want to do it, and they have the resources, what’s been stopping them?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s that this was never an issue to begin with. The issue at hand is just making crappy decisions based on bad information because sometimes, that’s the best we’ve got. But God forbid the people in charge of our country should make a mistake! That would make them… human! Like us! Oh, the humanity! (Pun so very much intended.)

However, in terms of more real (or at least more pressing) concerns, I’m all for activism. As I said earlier, you can’t change what’s going on if people don’t know about the change! (If you’ve listened to “They” by now, it’s because it’s not true that ignorance is bliss. But neither is paranoia.)

That said, maybe I ought to start campaigning for sanity. Seems a bit of a scarcity at times nowadays.

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Just because I’m X doesn’t mean I Y or can’t Z

I don’t know why I remembered this recently, but I did, and… snowball.

In high school, I worked at an after-school childcare program. My boss had run the program since I was three, and she’d watched me grow up, so I was kind of grandfathered in. (That’s not to say I was bad at it—it’s how I got a lot of stable babysitting jobs.) Her son, who was about ten years my senior, also worked there. He was fairly nice, but a little quiet. No. This is not going where you think it is. In fact, it’s about to go exactly the opposite.

A few days after I turned 18, I was talking about the low-key party I’d had (hanging out on the beach with friends and then scarfing down a neon pink and green cake at my house), and the first thing out of this guy’s mouth was: “You’re 18? Now you can model as a centerfold!”

It took me a second to realize what he’d said. During that time, he got a pretty good dressing-down by his mom. I think most of that was motivated by me being a “good” girl who would not in a million years pose for Playboy. “Good” is, of course, a subjective term, but whether or not I am, I’d never pose. Just not something I ever want to do. Given my body type, I doubt they’d have me, anyway. So, everyone’s happy there.

But really, is that the first thing people think when they hear someone’s turning 18? Yeah, there are a lot of “legal adult” things that being 18 entails, but why zero in on objectifying women? I suspect the guy was joking, but why not joke about cigarettes or how I don’t know how the election system works and I’d probably just write myself in for every slot? None of these are things I’d do, so I guess that sort of puts them on fair ground, and I guess it could be considered a compliment if he really thought I’d pose. But then, it’s also a huge knock if it’s “Hurr hurr… You’re such a fatty and they’d never use you.” (I was quite overweight at that point, so this is not outside the realm of possibility.)

I’m probably making far more out of this than he ever meant. It was probably just a harmless joke, but it still rankles a little. It’s an implication that that’s what I’m there for: to be looked at and enjoyed. Like my brain is suddenly of no use to me unless I’m thinking how to do some sort of sexy pose (which I’d be horrible at), or put on makeup (which I rarely wear), or how tight/high my skirt should be (not a fan of micro-minis, but that’s just me).

Let me be clear: the girls who choose to model for Playboy aren’t doing anything wrong in my eyes. As long as it’s their choice, and as long as they’re okay with it, that’s fine. I don’t think I’m better than them—I just don’t want to be known as a sex object. But I can’t say that other women shouldn’t—I can’t make that choice for them. What I can say is that it’s not flattering to every woman to be looked at like that, so think before you objectify. If you think someone is hot, great! But there’s a time and a place to express that.

This guy’s friend, who also worked there for a year, was even worse. He was clearly misogynistic, and I got into verbal fights with him more than once about what girls can and can’t do. Apparently, for no other reason than that I’m female, he believed (and probably still does) that I didn’t know how to jump a dead car battery. I could do this at the age of ten. It’s not hard at all. A car battery is pretty obvious, and it’s even color-coded for your convenience! I’ve had to teach others (mostly women, but also a guy or two) how to do it, and every single person has had no trouble with it. (As a side note, I can also change a car’s tires and oil, and each of these was met with equal disbelief. What’s next? I can’t pump gas?)

It’s hard to define a line in these cases. What’s okay to assume, and what isn’t? Well, ideally, we wouldn’t make assumptions at all. But, because we do, there’s gotta be some line separating appropriate from inappropriate. For instance, you generally don’t walk up to a stranger on the street and tell them you want them in your bed five minutes ago. You also wouldn’t assume a woman knows how to cook, or that any man can change the oil on your car. Not everyone knows everything—I hope that’s obvious—and not everyone knows what people of their gender are “supposed” to know. Honestly, I have no idea how one applies eyeliner. I’ve seen it done. I get the theory. But I can’t actually do it. I am also not incredibly good at sewing, and God forbid I need to use a sewing machine. Um, halp?

Of course, a lot of people know things that their gender “isn’t supposed” to know. I know my way around cars. I know guys who are good at braiding hair and cooking and cleaning. There are men out there who *GASP!* teach elementary school.

This world we live in can’t be defined by strict gender roles. Yes, only biological women can carry and birth babies, and it takes one of each biological gender to make a baby. And that’s about it. Women can program, men can be nurses, and we can all just get along. Women aren’t property or objects—they’re allowed the same desires as men, including the desire to just be left alone sometimes. I’m probably preaching to the proverbial choir, here, but if that’s the case, it’s nice to know I’m not alone.