I Am Thessa Fucking Mercury

30 04 2010

You may have seen the beautiful burst of self-confidence that went (and hopefully is still going) around the feminist blogosphere. Begun by the inimitable Sady Doyle, who, in my mind, is my bestest Internet friend ever because she’s so damn cool, and continued by the ever-lovely Harpies and OH MY GOD KATE HARDING and her horde of equally awesome Shapelings, this is an attempt for women to claim what is awesome about themselves, without reservation or shame. I’m sure you’re intelligent enough to see where this is going. Read their posts first.

I am Thessa Fucking Mercury. I am an AWESOME creative writer. I know my way around a page. I was writing stories before some kids could read them. I have a great grasp of imagery and detail, and I know how to manipulate my audience’s emotions. If I want you to be sad? You will be sad. Angry? You’ll be ready to burn shit. Amused? You’ll laugh your ass off. I know how to write, dammit.

I also happen to be a kickass editor. Send me your sloppy, your clichéd, your dangling participles yearning to make sense, and I will fix that shit. I can bring English grades up full letters, coax timid voices out of clumsy prose, and teach punctuation to the comma-impaired.

What’s more, I’m fucking smart. 1440 SAT (800 writing), 35 ACT, AP exams all 4s and 5s. Graduated third in my class of four-hundred-plus from one of the best high schools in the region, and going to college on a full ride scholarship. I will engage critically with anything that’ll sit still long enough, and I can articulate my thoughts clearly and succinctly.

 You know what else? I am a fucking BFA Theatre Performance student. I decided one day, two weeks before the deadline, that I wanted to audition. I prepped a scene, a monologue, and some paperwork, and with the help of a truly fantastic scene partner, I nailed that thing. Five out of fifteen students were accepted, one of them me. And I’m not even really a theatre person.

Hmmm, what else? I can speak and read French fluently. I bake fucking delicious vanilla cookies that have yet to last a week in our house. I make beautiful bracelets for my family and friends. Though it may not always show, my vocabulary kicks ass. I can recite Poe’s The Raven and large portions of Shakespeare from memory. I am an awesome friend- funny, generous, and caring. I am intensely curious about anything and everything. And you know what else? I am a fucking HOT woman.

I am Thessa Mercury, and I am not fucking ashamed.


Poet Not Such A Douchecanoe After All

23 04 2010

Some of you may remember a previous post, in which I ranted and raved about a very poorly-thought-out reference to rape in a poem I critiqued for an English class. (If you don’t: https://thessamercury.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/douchecanoe-poet-also-trigger-warning/)

So today was the last day of that class, and we were reading excerpts from our chapbooks and passing them around. It came to Douchecanoe Poet, and he presented a rather interesting experiment dealing with intertextuality and disintegration of the text, and other things only English majors find interesting. Then, out of the blue, he says, “Oh, by the way, Thessa, I changed that first poem in there.”

He did. The lines that pissed me off so much are gone- replaced by much better lines. It was mindblowing for me, because I agonized over whether or not to speak up about that. I did, and it made a difference.

I don’t think it was an “alter-the-line-to-shut-the-crazy-feminist-girl-up” thing either, because another poem in the chapbook contained a reference to a rape- but handled with infinitely more maturity and sensitivity. And it was about 100x more effective. In addition, we wrote little paragraphs to each student about their work and how they’d changed, etc. etc. etc. In the one I received from him, he mentioned my objection to that poem- I think it was something along the lines of, “Damn, girl, that was fierce.”

So the lesson to take from this? If it bugs you, if it’s stupid and wrong and upsetting, speak up. You might have as much effect as a raindrop on an elephant’s back. Then again, you might not. Some people are willing to change. Here’s to you and your maturity, Not-Such-A-Douchecanoe. Here’s to you.

Downtown, Where Your Life’s A Joke

15 04 2010

I recently wrote a critique of the musical Little Shop of Horrors for my Theatre 101 class. There was a lot to talk about (acting, staging, lighting, scenery, etc.) so I didn’t get to mention this, but I noticed something very odd in how the musical deals with class issues. There are two songs that deal with this, and one of them is pretty awesome, while the other one… fails kinda hard.

The entire thing takes place in a low-income neighborhood- Skid Row. The protagonist is (originally) poor, as are all the sympathetic characters. The one professional character is Orin, the sadistic dentist (who has one of the best villain songs EVER, but that’s another matter). One of the first songs, the awesome one, deals with working-class life in a shitty neighborhood, and it’s great. Not just because it’s catchy and, in the production I saw, incredibly well-staged, but because it is not funny. At all. It’s a day-in-the-life song about minimum-wage jobs and bad neighborhoods. “Eating all your lunches at the hot dog carts/The bosses take your money and they break your heart.”The characters’ lives are crap, and that is taken seriously.  The song ends with Seymour and Audrey singing their lungs out about their desire to escape. It’s a really awesome number that stays with you.

And then not long after that, there is fail. Audrey gets the song “Somewhere That’s Green,” where she sings about her dreams for a better life. It’s not a bad tune, and it could be a very touching scene… except it’s played for comedic value. Her ideal life is still depicted as distinctly unbourgeoise:

A matchbox of our own
A fence of real chain link,
A grill out on the patio
Disposal in the sink
A washer and a dryer and an ironing machine
In a tract house that we share
Somewhere that’s green.

This is a JOKE. People in the theatre laughed. Oh, she has to go to the Laundromat, because she doesn’t have enough money for a washing machine! A real chain link fence! Hur hur hur! She’s poor and that’s funny, because I’m not! You fucking assholes. And you fucking assholes Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. I don’t care which of you wrote this, but it’s not, technically speaking, funny.

(Disclaimer: I have only seen the one production, so perhaps this is supposed to be a lovely and sentimental number, which this director fucked up somehow. Or maybe the audience was just laughing because they are a a fucking group of douches. If that is the case, I apologize.)

And you know, it’s really entertaining for me, too, to go to the theatre and be surrounded by people laughing at the same kind of slurs I’ve heard all my life- you walk to school barefoot because you’re too poor to buy shoes, you think the garbage man’s a waiter, you wash your clothes in your neighbor’s sink- yeah, that really made my night. Whoever is responsible for this? FAIL.

Gives Me Hope

14 04 2010

Today was not a good day. I made the mistake of reading the comments on Amanda Hess’s latest Sexist Beatdown. There is so much hatred there- I don’t even want to think about it. It made me despair. Men like them are all around me, and I have to go through the rest of my days surrounded by men who don’t believe I’m a human being, who’d rather see me dead than not. That’s not a thought to inspire hope, courage, or anything other than a desire to crawl under the blankets and never, ever come out.

Which is why I am so grateful to the friend who sent me this video. It’s a completely different issue, and there is a line or two of abelist language, but to hear someone- and not just anyone, a famous, white, (presumably) cis dude- stand up for the unprivileged almost made me cry. In the best possible of ways. Enjoy.

Nice (Girl) Clothes

13 04 2010

First, some points of clarification: I identify as a cis woman who usually presents low femme. By “low femme,” I mean that, while I do not typically take any steps to make myself appear more feminine, others usually read me as “female.” Every so often, I will indeed femme it up- skirts, heels, makeup, jewelry, etc. This is, strangely enough, usually on special occasions.

Aside: I’m going to try and focus on my own experience and behavior and how society affects that. As always, YMMV.

I presented high femme at prom, homecoming, and graduation (well, underneath the ugly white gown), formal dinners, weddings, funerals, important presentations, etc. Why? I’m sure there are formal clothes for low-femme presentation actually, I know there are. I have a lovely black pantsuit of which I am very fond. Why, whenever a formal occasion comes around, do I feel the need to ratchet up my femininity? Especially since I usually hate presenting high femme. It’s time-consuming, boring, and really, really hard to get right. So why?

First, femme can function as a bonding experience for women. My friends and I had pre-dance parties where we did our hair and makeup together. At prom time, I bonded over dress and shoe shopping with girls I hardly knew. Before my cousin’s wedding, all the women involved convened in one hotel room to prepare. Once, my friends even did my makeup before we went out. And you know what? It felt good. Not wearing the makeup or those godawfully painful heels, not the can’t-reach-the-zipper shimmy I did to fit into my dress, but the feeling of an exclusively female space where we weren’t accountable to anyone else. It’s just a damn shame that that experience had to happen while we were grooming ourselves for patriarchical acceptance.

Secondly- this is not completely clear in my mind, so I apologize if it comes out garbled or if I need to go back to 101- I think society frowns upon low femme as acceptable formal wear because it is a threat to the patriarchy. Stay with me here. What are formal occasions? They’re first and foremost times when we will be seen publically. (God damn, how did I get to this point? This was supposed to be about why I hate skirts. Never mind. Forward!) Society reserves the right to judge us when we appear publically. The patriarchal structure is offended by public women, but even more so by public women who do not display the coding and behavior of “good” women and instead usurp the coding and behavior of “good” men. Hence: pantsuits are more threatening than a skirt and blazer, which is more threatening than a sundress. It’s a method of enforcing gender norms and the binary: either high femme or high butch, nothing in-between. Low femme is someone the patriarchy reads as “woman” without much of the outward coding of “woman,” which transgresses the idea(l) of “woman.” Worse, when it’s done with a high visibility (i.e., in a formal situation), it is a public threat to the patriarchy. And that kind of thing cannot be encouraged, lest it expose the system as a lie.

None of this is condemning high femme or those who choose to present that way- if it’s more in line with your expression of your gender/sexuality, more power to you. But I wonder how many people would change from high to low femme or butch if all those choices were equal.

Prom, And Why It’s Important

7 04 2010

Recently, here’s been quite a (justified) uproar in the progressive blogosphere over Constance McMillen and the clusterfuck her school made out of prom because she wanted to take another girl. So I am going to bore you all with memories of my prom and thoughts on the entire phenomenon (promenon? No.)

I’m from the North, and obviously there’s a very different culture here, but at our seniors-only prom, we were allowed to take one other person from another year or school. Did we exploit this to get as many people as possible there? Oh, you bet. My best friend took one of our junior friends as a birthday present. Another girl took a friend who had graduated last year, and another friend took her church buddy. It didn’t matter. There is a lot of shit wrong with my hometown, but that was one thing they got right. Let people take whoever they want to prom, regardless of gender, relationship status, or just about anything else. Who wants to dance with whom is not something the school should worry about. But they do, of course.

 Prom is REALLY important to high school girls. REALLY important. Unless you have been a high school girl, you have no idea how important this is. It’s kind of like a wedding, only all of your best friends are getting married too. Even I, lowest of the low femme, postponed a surgery so I wouldn’t have to wear a walking boot to prom. It is a fucking EVENT.

Everybody knows this, and it’s become something of a joke. Scratch that, it is a joke. I see that reflected in some of the abhorrent comments floating around the blogosphere that “it’s just prom.” It’s only one night. To you. To you. To these girls, this might be the thing they’ve looked forward to all year. It’s their night to shine, to go out and have fun with the people who matter most to them. I see in those comments the pervasive idea that women’s/girls’ feelings don’t count. Prom can’t be important, it’s girly!

Others have written elsewhere on this discounting of female emotion and experience. I just want to say that prom can have greater implications. As the entire fiasco in Fulton demonstrates, it is an important social marker of who is socially acceptable. There are class issues out the wazoo and more, but I just want to say that personally, prom was important in my progressive awakening. And now I’m going to get sappy.

There was is was this girl. I was am was in love with her, despite the fact she was dating a guy, and I was so deep in denial I’m surprised I didn’t drown. Slowly, though, I realized I had what they call “feelings” for her, and started coming to terms with my bisexuality. At prom, I was finally comfortable enough- well, as comfortable as you can be while violating social taboos and being seventeen around the person you like- to ask her for the second-last dance. (The last dance was Flo Rida. Yeah.) David Cook, Time of My Life, and she wore black satin. Most beautiful girl in the room. It was perfect, the most romantic memory I have, and also a moment that cemented my sexual identity. If that had never happened… I don’t know where I would be now, but I suspect I would be much unhappier.

So prom is important, on a personal and social level. I know it’s a very privileged experience to have, but like other privileged experiences, everyone should have the chance to have it. Yes, Fulton, Mississippi, even lesbians and disabled kids. Fuck you.


27 03 2010

A conversation from that pinnacle of progressivism and high intellectual discourse known in university parlance as “the Hub,” a.k.a. a file-sharing program with a chat function. (I… saw it on my friend’s computer. Yeah.) Ladies, gentlemen, and genteel persons outside the gender binary, please hold on to your lunches: 

[09:34]<rlstine> have you ever read the Memorial of the Cherokee Nation?
[09:35] <Douche> no…and im not gonna…if i had my way back then it would have been done differently…but its over
[09:36] <rlstine> alright, I was just gonna say it’s really eloquently
[09:36] <rlstine> written really eloquently*
[09:39] <Douche> i do think that people were treated shitty in the building of this country…but im not gonna feel bad for the native americans, blacks, etc.
[09:40] <Douche> i hate that about society today…they are still actually trying to get reparations
[09:40] <Douche> fucking ridiculous
[09:41] <rlstine> I agree with that lol
[09:41] <rlstine> I was, however, referring to it in a historical context
[09:41] <rlstine> not present day terms
[09:41] <rlstine> they now have casinos and shit that net them millions of dollars at the expense of our people
[09:41] <rlstine> it’s like payback, only without the death lol
[09:42] <Douche> right…maybe i was wrong about that…all im sayin is its bullshit that we are programmed from birth essentially to feel bad for all of them
[09:42] <Douche> i didnt do shit to them so i dont feel bad
[09:42] <Douche> BUT…
[09:42] <rlstine> lol
[09:42] <Douche> if i was to make the NAAWP im a racist
[09:43] <rlstine> true


 I see stuff like this, and think, “They’re college students. One of them even chose the screen name ‘Douche.’ What do you expect?” Then I get indignant and say, “More! Some kind of effort! Basic respect for the rights and autonomy of other human beings!” 

And then I feel disappointed and nauseous, because I know that so much of the time, that really is expecting too much. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, other than to say that so many people in the world are either (a) genuinely evil and hateful, or (b) too lazy to examine why they have the beliefs that they do. I fall into category (b) myself many, many times, so I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. But the basic refusal of compassion exhibited by these two make me worry that (a) types are more common than I want to believe.