Monday, February 02, 2009

If you hate Uke's, then you hate me: disgusting, stereotypical, submissive femme I am.

I have a disease called MSA-c variant AAN, which according to the Vanderbilt Study says on AVERAGE, I should have been dead several months ago. Okay.

Now, due to MSA I have nerve destruction in my whole body, I have organ destruction, heart destruction, and my entire autonomic system is dying just for starts. Yet I am still that female who worked up to five jobs simultaneously while doing my Ph.D. (one 37.5 hour one from Friday 5:00 pm to Sunday/Monday 4:00 am). I ran several times a week, I did 10Ks, I did marathons, I hiked over 1000 miles, I did rock climbing and I did fencing. I was fit, I was extremely powerful, and I was over six feet tall (and thus had men hitting on me ALL day long – some guys like women in charge! As in being picked up or spanked).

Okay, these days, I need a person who is strong, who is powerful and who can understand what is going on with me medically to take care of me. I need a person who even though I THINK I am independent, will ensure I am taken care of. This isn’t the adapted chivalry of today, this is the chivalry of 1930’s; I’d have to progress UP to be June Cleaver. See, I need a strong someone to help me on with my coat, and off again. I need someone to make sure that even if I THINK I am okay, they put their jacket around me (because otherwise I get frostbite). And yes, that is a picture of Gwen. I need a person who says, “Oh are you going down to the store? I have something I need to get, and I'll go just in case you need a hand.” And I say, with my little huff from down in my wheelchair that I don’t need a hand and I am very independent. And they say nothing but follow along and then when I get tired they get me a drink, and they get me the DVD’s down from the top shelf and they pay because I can’t talk without slurring or drooling, and then they do give me a hand to get back. Do you start to see? I like Uke’s and I like reading about people like Gwen because I WANT a place in this world, and right now, the only place I can find it, is in manga, in the Seme/Uke relationship. And that I see Gwen as a girl (as does Linda, and most people) works even better. And yeah, I probably have that 'little bit lost' look on my face, and 'I need to be rescued' and I probably have freaky large eyes.

The problem is that people WANT to see me as the ex-fighter, the still fighter, the about to be fighter. Except in the last 56 hours I almost died nine times; I completely stopped breathing over 21 times, I had four grand mals (we don’t count the minor seizures or partials or ones where I lose speech), I bruised my ribs, tore muscles between my ribs, fell down, bruised my hip bone, and lost parts of speech and time function perhaps permanently. And I have had a de-compensating body off and on every day for a week. So, no there is not going to be the dramatic return, I have taped ribs, I am on pain killers, I wake in pain every 30 minutes for as long as I can remember and I have brain damage, recent brain damage. And my body spiked a fever for no reason this morning which almost killed me. Welcome to the interesting parts of MSA-C variant AAN: this does not include not being able to sweat, or having to hydrate or having my heart not beat correctly most of the time or having a heart ventricle that has atrophied and doesn’t really work, or retention, or losing weight, or the rest of it. Or that fact that without being on oxygen almost all the time I would be dead long ago and have to go between the four levels of oxygen concentration.

I bring that up because I used up a crap-load of energy on writing about Uke’s (not ME, but Uke's who I have no idea why I am interested in) in a post on how Uke’s are able to choose within the freedom of femininity to change roles, change clothes, change everything they want. I used over 45 pictures, with 20 different Seme's and over 28 different Uke's to demonstrate those changes. People didn't like the post. I had to explain over and over again to people who didn’t like the post, and this made me upset. This wasn't, "They don't like my favorite character" but genuinely hurt. Why? So I looked at why I was and then understood that the post was in many way about ME.

The post on Uke's was important to me because before I was ill I had clothes that were for running or working out or training, slightly sexy but functional. When I went into the wheelchair, I went for the corset, the miniskirt, the whole, “I’m a woman, and you better notice me or I’m going stick my boobs in your face!” look. Except that getting ready to go out, which used to take 7-12 minutes took 40 then 90 minutes, then 120 minutes and now 240 minutes sometimes. So getting out the thigh high stockings or getting into a corset for the two hours to go one place before my nap along with everything else, sometimes just isn’t worth it (often). So I’m changing my look again; Victoria Secret hoodies, sexy/gothic tank tops and jeans or joggers. That’s the freedom of being a woman, I CAN change. So now it is simple earrings put in by my home care workers, simple foundation or no make-up at all. And I can leave now in only 90 minutes.

So, if you hate the Ukes, if you hate Gwen, if you hate vulnerable, you hate me. I am the weak individual who needs protecting, I am the person who gets into trouble and needs a strong person to get me out. I need doors opened, drinks opened (sometimes I can’t lift a can of coke). I need someone to hold me when I am scared and when you have a 10-48 hour memory and seizures wipe your mind and you don’t know where you are, you get scared a lot. I need someone to tell me, ‘it’s okay’ and hold me. I AM vulnerable and I will never be able to give back adequately to this person (Linda). She does it because she loves me and because I am vulnerable. I would be HATED by the lesbian groups I was part of in the UK and most here in the US. I am the super-femme who can’t do anything by herself, who has to be reminded when to sleep and then helped into bed. If there is a stereotype for women (except the cooking for one’s partner), I fulfill it. I like getting flowers (it isn’t like I get out a lot), I like getting attention, I like Linda driving me to pet stores so I can play with a pet, which she does, willingly! If there is fun time together or seeing something it is because LINDA created it, LINDA, opened the door and lifted me into the car, LINDA packed my wheelchair, LINDA drove me there, and carried me out, and that is how we go places.

The problem is that I have been the strong one in our relationship, only we reached a point where I COULD still be the strong one....and die, or we could CHANGE. That’s right, we changed roles, so I could live (We were partners, but I had more strength and endurance, and better in emergencies). And I am trying as hard as I can to accept being the weak, helpless, cute but maybe a little clueless femme. Because that is what I am! And I NEED someone who will protect me, who will take me places but let people know, “There is any problem come to me” while letting me know, “It’s okay, I’ve checked your temp and I’ve helped you with your jacket and you can go look around, don’t be scared!” Now that image may make some people VERY uncomfortable, it sure did yesterday with the Uke’s (or maybe it is just that they were maybe guys but looked like girls? In which case, why does that matter?). But that is what I need, and not just in my life, or in my schedule but in the bedroom as well. I need a partner who will carry me to the bed, who will accept and EMBRACE my vulnerability and make me feel sexual for being vulnerable (because being made to feel bad about something you can't help isn't sexy!). Also do you think I LIKE this, or want to be like this? Not really, but I LIKE living so I made a choice: I will be vulnerable, I will be the weak one and love and admire the strength of Linda who protects me because if I don’t, if I don't let myself be weak and Linda be strong...I die.

So, when you talk about how distasteful Uke’s are, or how filling stereotypes or gender roles like this invites abuse, or how Gwen is disgusting or how much you hate her because she is so helpless and her eyes say that she needs to be rescued, you are hating and disgusted by me. Because I need to be rescued, and I need it often. And Linda comes in and rescues me. And I LOVE being rescued because you know what? Being a female means I CAN change and so I can LOVE being action girl and then turn around and LOVE being goth girl and be excited about that and now turn around and LOVE being vulnerable girl. And yes, I don’t speak well, and I get confused and I think I am independent and then need being rescued because I get lost or scared or need to be carried back. And I love it. I love the feel of Linda’s strong back when she carries me into bed. Because that is who I am now. I love that she watches over me, I love that she cares for me, and that means helping me drink, or finding me a straw, or maybe bringing me freaking bon-bons, if you want to imagine that. I love it! Because she is the strong one, and because of HER strength she allows me to BE independent. That’s right ALLOWS ME. Because she COULD let me shower myself and use up all my energy for four hours or come in, over my protests, wash me and then I can go and do a blog; or do some postcards. It is her strength and my acknowledgement of my weakness that lets me have that independence, within her loving care (is that dominance? Or submission? Not to us). So if you hate the Uke’s, and you don’t find them attractive, please don’t tell Linda because, she finds me attractive and I find her attractive. She likes being strong. She likes seeing me when I am happy or excited with some fun she has created, watching me enjoy myself within range her watchful eye.

And right NOW, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Kate J said...

I'm sorry I still don't understand the issues around the uke/seme stereotypes... and I guess I will continue to not understand it, and why it can possibly arouse people's anger (?!). I mean, why? At different times in our lives we identify with different heroes/role models/stereotypes. Vulnerability may be for life... but it may just be for a time in one's life. For you, that time seems to have been when you were a child, and again now. I am amazed that you say the Lesbian groups you were in before would "hate" you now, I find it difficult to believe, because surely many of the women in those groups themselves are or have been vulnerable. If not now, then in the past... if not now then in the future.
I myself like the Uke images because of their ambiguity, as well as their beauty. I know that when my son was drawing some manga-style pictures I assumed were of girls and women, and I noticed a certain ambiguity, let's say, in the "groin" area, he challenged me and asked "why do assume they are women?" He was so right. We all make assumptions and try to make people fit into stereotypes, when actually, all they are, all WE are, are people. Vulnerability is about a stage in one's life, or the shit that life has thrown at us, it doesn't demean us as people - at least it shouldn't. A couple I know, (gay men as it happens) started with a very stereotyped role division, until the "strong" one got ill, the roles got reversed, then dissolved into the supportive love they had for each other, which continued until the one died.
Not sure what all that was about, (apart from showing my own ignorance about manga...) but what I mean to say is that my regard for you as a woman, a writer, an activist, has always been high, but has grown since I first started following your blog, back before the wheelchair, back before the grand mals and all the rest of the agony you are living with.
And I still think Gwen is beautiful... and so, dear Beth, are you.
Love & peace

Lene Andersen said...

I just don't understand some people. What is it to them? They can be whoever they want to be within their life, but why judge others if it doesn't hurt anyone? I think you made it very clear that the Uke/Seme were about making choices. Sigh...

As someone whose instincts are to be independent, the whole "me do it" to the point of having injured myself instead of asking for help, I can tell you this: it takes far more strength to be vulnerable, to admit a need and to graciously accept that the people who love you will occasionally walk in and take over when you need it. It is one of the greatest expressions of love, both from the stronger, more able person who made something easier for you and from you, as well. It shows your love of them, but you know what? It also shows your love for yourself. That you care enough about your health to change yourself.

And I suspect that the people who didn't get it have never needed someone to help them on with their jacket. Or needed help going to the bathroom. Etc.

Lene Andersen said...

and another thing! (Sorry, I may be just a little bit irate about this)

Isn't part of love the desire to protect your loved ones? If the person you love gets hurt, don't we all get overwhelmed by the urge to fight for them like a mama lion defending her cubs? That's part of it, part of being vulnerable, part of being strong. The desire to protect the ones you love and the willingness to be protected.

Who said that no man was an island? Well, no woman is an island, either.

Baba Yaga said...

Mmmm. Firstly, you are very far from disgusting, vulnerability and all.

Vulnerability isn't disgusting. It just is. After all, it's universal, though for most of us it doesn't (yet) take such uncompromising form as yours.

Hell, sometimes it takes enormous courage to let one's vulnerability be. You may no longer be The Strong One, but the strength you show in becoming 'the weak one' is enormous: you said something pertinent in the last post about the Uke's ability to show his tenderer feelings. That can take strength. & is much of why I read you.

Secondly, - well, sorry. I'd kick myself, if I didn't have both feet in my mouth! Hopefully, I can extract at least one foot.

No, I don't get the (general) eroticism of vulnerability. Or of big strong protector types.

I do get how the specific vulnerability of a person whom one loves in the round, how the protection of a person whom one loves in the round can be highly erotic. As part of a whole - well, love which doesn't acknowledge the vulnerability of both parties ain't going to get far.

Your vulnerability - I see it - I admire your use of images, so often of Uke's, so often perfectly chosen, to illustrate your current predicament. And it doesn't repel me. As part of the whole you, it draws me - you are not just vulnerable, but vulnerable in a Beth-like way. As your Beth-ness appeals to me, so must your Beth-like vulnerability.

And therefore, if I were Linda, I imagine I'd find an erotic appeal therein.

I bring my own baggage to the Uke/ Seme thing, however. I was never anyone's strong one, least of all my own, and my vulnerability always showed - and because I was vulnerable in my way, it attracted creeps, who had no interest in any other aspect of me. Accordingly, I have a jaundiced view of the erotic stereotype.

And accordingly, my understanding of the Uke/Seme thing is one-dimensional - and perhaps my response was one-dimensional.

You've just given me a second dimension, by connecting the dots between stereotype, and a more rounded reality (because you are you, and Linda is Linda, & both of you have many dimensions).

FridaWrites said...

Vulnerability can be intensely sexy (in men too). It's that which can be erotic or eroticized. It's not as the devotees would have it--the illness or disability fetishized-- but the intimacy that comes from two people needing one another as circumstances create (the Seme is no less needy). And there are circumstances other than disability than can also create this kind of vulnerability between two people.

Where I think many people can get balky when looking at gender roles is when they're imposed on us by society rather than by choice or arising from life circumstance (as with illness/disability). Many of us grew up among conservatives/in a culture that demands women capitulate their needs and become subservient.

I become intensely angry if someone does something for me that I want to do for myself--it's okay sometimes if someone makes an error in judgment, but when they just think, it was just easier for me to do it...that's not okay. I am still fiercely independent in many ways. In other ways I still need help, and I don't see anything wrong with connecting that with intimacy. While there are obviously more neutral care relationships--a family member or friend can help with something--in a relationship that connection can intensify the trust and closeness. We can even argue about something and in the middle of it he'll help me with something I can't do or keep me from lifting something I shouldn't, even when we're in a temper.

yanub said...

OK, when you explain it that way, I understand. I didn't see how strongly you were identifying with the uke role, or how difficult it is for you to do that. Of course it's fine for you to be vulnerable and accept tenderness. Sorry I'm particularly dense; I hadn't realized that was the issue nor that I was insulting you.

Laura said...


Please don't let some peoples negitive attitude wee on your wheaties. They just don't understand. Ignorance for them is bliss. I found your blog interesting and informative. Different cultures have different ways, I thought that was something that people understood. I guess some people can't see it that way.

I can understand why you identify with the Uke/Seme roles. I am a contradiction myself. On the outside I am the strong quiet type but inside I am a bit of Uke too.

It kinda makes me wonder if, as in my case, the Seme can be strong on the outside but behind the curtain can allow the vulnerability to appear.

Still it is a good post no matter what some person said.

Well done!


Raccoon said...

Oh, crap.

I'm sorry, Beth. I'm pretty sure that I, for one, completely misunderstood the point that you were trying to get across.

I didn't realize that you were putting yourself in the position of the uke; I was just seeing the extreme of the uke, quite probably the sexuality presented, and getting uncomfortable (probably because I was seeing a female and being told it was male).

In person, I don't *think* I have this problem. I've been hit on by "effeminate" gay men, and had said "no thank you, you're not my type" and still kept up conversations (by the same token, I've been hit on by very masculine women, as well).

It might be because the uke does come across as helpless. I know that I've always been rather self-sufficient, and have never been particularly appreciative of the "oh I'm so helpless" attitude.

I don't see you as helpless. Needing help, yes, but that's different than being helpless. I know that I don't like being treated as helpless, myself, but needing help.

I need help getting out of bed, getting dressed, eating, showering, etc., but I can still do things for myself. I see the same with you. You *can* do things, you *do* do things.

I'm sorry if you thought that I hated you. I don't.

(I think there might also be the stereotype that I fell into -- not so much the "submissive femme," but the "vulnerable female.")

Elizabeth McClung said...

Kate J: I have to say I really can't understand the issues as well as most societies have incorporated them and by the sales rate in the US, I expect the romances to be hitting the shores of the UK very soon, and you see teenage girls (and boys, too) reading them, as they are the most popular in our public library.

I am a person who 'identifies' with literature, instead of is 'entertained' by it so it is important to find ME somewhere in literature portrayed. I think many people are like that; or there would not have been such conviction that Starsky and Hutch were gay and Cagney and Lacey were lesbians in the 70's (it is not like there were other role models).

Lesbians tend, while actually have a high incidence of abuse, have a HIGHER incidence of spousal and partner domestic abuse than average in the population (along with alcoholism, depression and a few other things). But when many lesbians have been shunned or attacked, and see themselves and independant strong women who have faced adversity, they have a very poor reaction to accomodation. In South Wales there was no attempt at accomodation and we even asked, "What if a woman in a wheelchair wants to come." And the answer was either, "She wouldn't." or "Well she won't be able to."

In Victoria, it is the same, at Pride there are 4 stalls for gay male support groups for HIV or other ailments and when asking if the main lesbian campout is accessible, "No.", "Planning to be?", No.", "Movie night accessible?", "No." - are the monthly breakfast/brunch at an accessible resturant? No. - I was the only manual chair using female there - I was told straight out by several female groups that 'my table is of no interest to you.' - I hope it doesn't take the equivilant of a lesbian HIV to actually bring caring and community because no one else will.

I like the fact that Uke's seem smart, they have figured out that they can appropriate everything from the emotional variety to the dress sense of femininity without going over the top; just be who they are (Though in Gwen's case that IS over the top at times).

Vulnerability IS a stage of life, I had not remembered or thought of that. Thanks - I guess that is part of life we like to socially forget, like the annoucements at church, the people read through in a blur who are still at home ill.

I am grateful that I have been able to make choices with linda to prolong my life, however really unbelievably painful or wierd it might get. I just never realized how radically that change might become. And while part of me wants to rebel and say, "Not me." the part that is smart says, if you have to eat oatmeal every day; then learn to LOVE oatmeal.

Lene: I think that many people, myself included brought some hidden baggage to the post so that it was far more than an innocent look at the choices Uke's make but threatening or empowering, comforting or disturbing.

Yeah, I think if there is ever an award for "I'll do that!" to the point of injury - we will be both vying for it in points (you will win just for long term dedication in self injury because, 'just a bit more').

I think it takes a very strong person, maybe stronger than me to love myself enough to say, "will you please help me?" But what you say is true. It is also an opportunity for others, a choice for them. There is nothing but good choices everywhere and yet our society is all about self determinism and everyone can be Rocky or if you the female boxer in Million Dollar Baby and can't do EVERYTHING the only thing to ask for is death. Well, how about a drink first. Try that next time (idiot woman). Ask for a drink, ask for a piece of your favorite steak - I can't TASTE you TWIT! - see look at me, I am screaming at a movie person, who can't hear me up on that screen.

I know that women have tried to throw off the 'real women are waited upon' - but as a woman who could pick up guys (like off the floor, with one arm) - we ALL don't have to be body builders or fire fighters do we; isn't there enough room for the high maintainance, yoga obsessed girlfriends?

Yes, I am saving myself until Linda is ready to take my sword. I would say then I am ready to rest but really, I wouldn't mind, even on oxygen in the hospice hearing her talking about the day with the enthusiasm she used to have.

Baba Yaga: It took a LOT of courage of coming back and commenting and I want to thank you sincerely for that. I said last night, "And this is where my readership goes from 400 to 12". That is an act of strength and courage. Thank you.

Turns out I brought a whole hotel checked room full of emotional baggage to that post and I didn't know it, only by getting pouty and mad and going, "Why am I getting mad?" did I figure it out. So in a way, people did me a favor.

Interesting how other people can see so clearly: uncompromising - that is the truth and one I still have to fight against internally every day. It is uncompromising and yet, I am the person who has always changed the rules, found a better way.......UNCOMPROMISING!

Darn it, I guess I am vulnerable.

Thanks for saying that being vulnerable takes strength, I try never to take any lift or assistance from Linda for granted and she fights to treat me as an autonomous person (not control me) and still keep me safe; control the disease, comfort the person, a hard balance.

I would agree with you that the big strong lug talking about his 'lil woman' makes me want to find a vomit bucket. Along with the 'I have always depended on the kindness of strangers' - which makes me go, "What, you don't got legs? You can't walk out of here yourself?" - But yet, in intimacy I am a sucker for the moments of vulnerability, the pre or post coital moments where one reveals to the other something held dear, hoping the other person treats it with the respect and understanding in which it was offered.

I noticed that about the Uke images too - that the EXACT same images, linked together with the text of my specific life, somehow were made different, even though they were Gwen with Gorilla man, to become ME strong shoulder.

Linda likes being the strong one, she is trying it one for size and finds she kind of likes it. She liked that I was taller than her before, and took charge in situations like car broken down; but now she wears her leather jacket and is the problem solver. She is still working out all the angles of it.

I can understand in bringing that type of baggage particularly in North America which seems to have an abundance of creeps, that reaction. There is a book in my wish list where a female is SO tired of being objectified due to her face and breasts that she decides that she will sleep with someone if they actual just ASK her if she WANTS to have sex. But of course, they don't. They don't want to know what SHE wants.

I feel kind of sad that you never had the joy of someone who wanted to know you, who liked being with you, who wanted to take on those who hurt you; protector, listener, companion. A person who just makes you smile to see them across the street or a field. To have your body turned into a one dimension aspect of exploitation...that I can understand, and yeah, who would want to go back to there or wish that on anyone?

Sucks, what kind of pairing would make you happpy - two girls? Two mature guys? A couple. I have it all - and will probably do a blog on it all - though this is my last Uke blog probably - I am out of pictures.

Fridawrites: That is very interesting what you say, that the Seme is just an needy, indeed the being waited upon in order to please the Uke by the Seme is in some ways an act of love and tenderness; and that the Seme WANTS to be the "Special Someone" that is run to.

I agree, that when I joined a church and introduced myself as Dr. McClung and was on the 'coffee serving' list the next week while males were asked to present X or Q because "I think he had a year of uni" - I remember reading a book called "Women and God" in which a female General in the Army has to go incognito to church or they would freak and so is assigned to sell at the bake sale or to escort the children while the other 6 days she operates thousands of men, women and killing machines. But hey, she's just a woman, put her in charge of the five year olds. Haha! But also teeth gritting.

I think that is one of the hardest parts of a changing condition, like one you and I have, is to accept the limitations and others get ahead and don't understand how important showing to yourself and everyone you CAN do it is. At least to me. Of course, I still am trying to prove that long after I can't, and so there is some debate, which is usually ended when Cheryl pushes my head to the pillow with one finger. And I say, "I'm just letting you win...this time."

Yanub: until there were comments, I didn't understand it was about me - that's how dense I was. I put up a light blog all about me, and never asked myself; WHY? WHY Elizabeth are you so fixated on the Uke? Why not the Seme? Why not both? Why not gender bending? Why, when you see the majority of them as female do you still obsess on putting them up, showing the variety of ways Uke's can be.

Even what I list as my favorite is screaming: "HEY Elizabeth....this is YOU!" - but I didn't get it until we talked and I realized that I was not exactly baggage free, and through, well, considering I didn't exactly reveal why I did the post - the subconscious need for approval that I AM still a person, vulnerable but PART of a relationship. - I needed to do another to explain that, and stop some of the bleeding.

You weren't insulting me, you were voicing an opinion; how could you know what I did not, that I had personalized it to the point that I saw you AS insulting me. Sorry.

Laura: As I have to eat later I am going to ignore that metaphor, just in case I have wheaties ever again in this lifetime!

I think that the Japanese acceptance of the Uke is unique, compared to western society. Maybe becase it is a first world country that is making LOTS (like hundreds and hundreds) of books for export in English and German, and Spanish and sending them to North America and Europe and in Shojo Magazine and Newtype they are reviewing and saying, "This Yaoi one is really good and the emotions are very tender" or "This one sort of just trails off into a 'so when are we going to have sex' book - boring!" - not what I would have expected in teen+ mags.

I think a lot of strong woman have a side that has never been able to be revealed. In the same way they WANT to be the protector, but also, they wouldn't mind being the one enveloped, the one protected. People often confuse the job or the appearance for the person. 5'2" women aren't all 'lil princesses' nor are all 6 foot women 'Amazons"

Elizabeth McClung said...

Raccoon: Hey, Raccoon, add me into the club of people who missed the point I was getting across. I thought it was just an amusing thing about Uke's. To be honest, if people hadn't specifically pushed and prodded and said, "Ug!" or "Not for me" - I wouldn't have reacted and wouldn't have figured it out. So I can't go back and redo the previous post (my GOD, over 45 pictures!), so I did this one instead.

Yes, I too play the 'no way is that a male' game and then I go, "Oh who cares!" Because quite honestly, if most of these Uke's wanted to join a women's softball team, beyond pointing out it would chip their nails, I would say, "Fine by me." Growing up in a church which used to have women sit on one side and men on the other has sort of cured me of the gender police.

yeah, well, the problem is I AM a vulnerable female, as I try to point out, any worker who doesn't like me could just tip me out of my chair. I sometimes have nightmares like that.

And while I do tend to have a plan, the truth is that the internet makes me a competent person, it holds the best of me, while the other 20+ hours are people picking up the pieces.

The frustration of a degenerative condition is that just when there is a plan and everyone knows what it is, the darn thing changes. Suck!

So yes, I am needing help. I need help often and because I blew through my resources and thanks to Government Canada NOT having an agreement with one country, the one I worked in, I don't have a disability income or pension. So I AM dependent, a dependant literally and physically and that sort of is hard for a person like me to forget. So I probably put myself as MORE dependant simply becuase I know that Linda COULD (though I don't think she would) withhold everything from assistance to food and there is nothing I could do.

But again, thanks for coming back and commenting, I feel a bit of a fool because I didn't realize what it was I was posting and I wrote the darn thing. So I should not go off in a huff if people don't like pretty guys (or as I view them, pretty girls). Unless I am overidentify with some of them, of course. Hello BAGGAGE!

wendryn said...

I like the Ukes who are happy with it, who are enjoying. I don't dislike the ones who are afraid or sad, but they don't do anything for me.

I haver a serious problem with people who choose to be helpless and useless because they want someone to like them and don't think that strong or intelligent or capable will get that attention. I am impressed by you, because even when you need help, you are not helpless. There is a huge difference there. Being able to ask for help takes a lot of courage and strength. My baggage was seeing the ones who were unhappy - I promptly decided somewhere in my head that they didn't want to be there and that they were, in some way, being used.

I'm glad you are writing these kinds of things because I ahve to wrok my way through feelings I don't necessarily understand, and it isn't easy, and it forces me to grow and become more myself, less hidden in shadows.

I hope you get some sleep tonight, m'dear. *hugs*

yanub said...

Ah, Beth, then I am glad we had a difference, since you have discovered something important and precious about yourself, and about your love for Linda. I'm really excited for you, and touched again by your honesty.

Tom P. said...

I have a disease called MSA-c variant AAN, which according to the Vanderbilt Study says on AVERAGE, I should have been dead several months ago.

But you're not. And meanwhile, perfectly healthy young people are dying without any warning.

Brilliant Brooklyn Tech student and pal cut down in stolen car crash

As the wise man said, none of us get out alive. All we can do is is try to live to our best ability and keep our fingers crossed.

if you have to eat oatmeal every day; then learn to LOVE oatmeal.

Amen, sister!

Anna said...

"Lesbians tend, while actually have a high incidence of abuse, have a HIGHER incidence of spousal and partner domestic abuse than average in the population (along with alcoholism, depression and a few other things)"

This is not supported statistically. Not AT ALL. Maybe lesbians had a higher alcoholism rate in the 50's when it was very hard to come out... but this hasn't been the case for decades now. This description of lesbians as screwed up abuse survivors is a old, tired stereotype. We are better adjusted than you suggest!

Victor Kellar said...

I think when you talk about the roles switching, about one person happy to help the other and about that person happy to be helped ... well, that just defines a long term, caring relationship to me, regardless of gender. I think most people go periods in their life being needed or needing to help someone; certainly as kids we are dependent on our parents of help and eventually, in many cases that willl switch around and your elderly parents will need you

I have never been in a romantic relationship where the roles don't switch, I don't know of many, over a long period of time, where one person is always dependent on the other and it never changes, but if that was so and it worked for them ... then fuck it, good for them

I am a stubborn, idenpendent person. But over the years in my relationship with Collette I have learned that when you need someone, when you need thier help, it is not a weakness, it is the strength of the relatonship you've built with them

Elizabeth McClung said...

Tom P: And I guess someone just starved to death too. What the heck was that all about? And why do you seem angry that I am alive. I don't want anyone to die, much less from a drunk driver but I am actually a "young person" too, or do you want a link to dying children or something - why the anger? Because I talk about something people don't, becuase tragedy comes in a lot of different forms? Or because I have to talk about how I made decisions, and that included calcuating my life, if you were in the same situation, maybe you would spend time reading news articles. I spend time living.

Anna: Maybe Where you live is lesbian wonderland and Naiad press, the number 1 lesbian press whose books I have along with MANY others on domesic abuse and alcoholism and self destructive behavoir and how to get couselling centers to change styles for lesbians becuase if you use typical styles, you just never see them again. Here is a minor facts sheet:
I didn't realize I needed to put a bibliography on all my posts and actually the stats in the UK are FAR worse, because of Bill 81 which DID keep them in the closet. That is twice or higher than the general middle class population, and when you get to lower class - way, way higher. Hospital admissions put the rate very high, 10 times that of heterosexuals.

Just because we don't want to face our issues as lesbians - like how most are extreme anti disability - notice you didn't jump all over that one! If we don't face them, we can't fix them. Sorry, lesbians feel alone and somewhat isolated and not ALL are universally LOVED by ALL members of family and society - that has an affect, which ranges from depression to drinking, to frustation, to abuse - up to 90% psychologal abuse.

Victor: It sounds great to me, sadly 90% of men leave thier disabled wives. That's an almost universal north American statistic. And as for depression amoung those who are disabled, don't know if anyone asks for stats, because they assume you are. Going from needing help to needing help knowing your name, is a big change, and I am thankful Linda has been able to change with me. So, did you find the Uke's cute?

Elizabeth McClung said...

Tom P: I forgot, did you see the Uke post, which ones did it for you? Which where the most attractive, I think I left my list down at the bottom of the post.

SharonMV said...

I'm glad that you were able to change - to take what illness forced upon you, yet change your role & aspect to one you have chosen, and identify with. I love Linda for being able to change her role, and become the one who takes such good care of you.

I lost a lot of my independence and self-identity years ago. I never thought before that I wouldn't be able to work, or drive myself more that 15 minutes from home. It was hard and Dennis & my relationship changed and adapted in various ways. And in the last few years as my health got worse and I was dxd with very serious diseases, our roles changed again. It is hard being the sick one, the vulnerable one, the one who needs extremely expensive medical care. But I want to be here, I want to be here for Dennis. I see that as my most important job now. Making sure that I'll be here , that we'll have a life together.


shiva said...

Elizabeth: I just got your latest postcard, and i think it's one of the most beautiful images i've ever seen. The stark simplicity, using essentially only 2 colours, but... wow. Such nuance to it, such vulnerability and *at the same time* strength and power. I'm incredibly impressed - thank you.

I do admit to being a bit squicked out by *some* of those Seme/Uke images - in particular some of the ones with "Gorilla Man" - because, to me (and bear in mind that my interpretation of facial expressions is learnt, not instinctive, so it could also be partly that) the Uke looks like ze (can't quite bring myself to say "he") is scared shitless and REALLY doesn't want to be there, is being dragged off by the Seme against hir will - therefore, it basically looks to me like the prelude to a rape scene.

But there, it's not the Uke but the Seme who "disgusts" me - i don't see any love or protection there in his huge hands and frowning/gloating face, i see predatory brutality and male entitlement - "I'm bigger than you, so i'll take what I want from you, and laugh at you as you lie there broken". Sorry, i hope that's not triggering, it's just the association i get from those images...

I do like the ones with the red haired/blue haired couple, the purple haired "girl" in the gothic black dress, and the catgirl. (And i'm afraid i still can't see any of those as anything but female, no matter how hard i look... maybe it's because i know a lot of small chested, unusual hair coloured goth girls...)

I think i'm actually most attracted to those who have a *physical* appearance that could be classified as quite "vulnerable" (small/petite, curvy or femmey and/or physically impaired), but who, by the way they dress, talk, etc show more of what could be called "toughness", "strength" or even "masculinity" (tho i dislike the extremes of both the masculine and the feminine).

Anyway, i hope i didn't sound too much like a disapproving radfem-type there. Ukes are fine by me, even if i'm not attractedf to all of them... it's just Semes i really don't like...

Victor Kellar said...

Yes, I know about the stats, and I'm not here to argue with them; I know that men leave women for basically any (or no) reason at all. But I also know, that in my own life, the majority of couples have stayed togethered and weathered a variety of long term "disabilities" both physical and emotional; I dont know if that means I am surrounded by an extraordianry group of people, I just usually go by what I see

Do I find the uke's cute? Yes and no. I tend to go at it picture by picture. We've talked before by how you and I tend to analyze pictures differntly; I take each picture as it, looking at composition and the immedicate emotional impact. Like others, I play a little bit of the "is it or isnt it" game but mostly I'm looking at the emotional impact of each people. Sometimes the uke looks a bit clingy, sometimes manipulative, sometimes I see the semme giving comfort to someone he loves; I understand the protective impulse and I also understand the need to hang on, and just let someone hold you.

JaneB said...

Hi Beth, I didn't comment on the last post about ukes, because I have problems sorting out my own response to them. My response, I realise, is not so much to the people you describe as to the art-work. I don't see what you describe in the pictures, until you TELL me really overtly how you read the pictures (and perhaps what's going on in the back story), and then I become more comfortable with the whole thing.

The whole seme/uke, protector/protected, solid-supportive/artsy-emotional dynamic, which we culturally read as male/female, breadwinner/housewife - fine. Not my thing particularly (I want to be in a flexible partnership where we both get to play all those roles and a few others besides. I don't find fixed roles, or 'traditional' role-requirements, particularly sexy), but many people are very happy within that structure. But even super-women get 'flu and love presents, even girly-girls love being able to sort out a curdled sauce or mend a favourite garment for a big meeting, right? A healthy relationship flexes, as the partners needs change and grow and alter over time. I love that you and Linda are strong enough as partners to flex, and that you can write about finding pleasure in the new pattern, are able to accept and enjoy things rather than being bitter and focusing on the loss of the old way. I hope that bit of this post is a comfort and a pleasure to read for Linda.

But, Ukes. My discomfort is mostly about the visual images, I realise. I'm not that acculturated into manga's visual language. The Qwen/Gwen art is uncomfortable to look at, because what I see in all the images is a predatory, large, scary adult and a slightly foolish but mostly naive child/tween being controlled or about to get rather more than they bargained for when they dressed up. That is really, really uncomfortable for me. Seeing the lovely diversity of images you chose to illustrate the post made me realise how much of my discomfort with Qwen was about the Qwen-art, about the way these images spoke to me about control and imbalance and predation and agression and taking advantage. None of those things are remotely sexy, and I don't care if Qwen is boy, girl, or hermaphrodite, Gorilla Man is clearly (to my eyes) up to no good and Qwen is either ignorant of that fact or playing a very dangerous game. Some of the other pictures were quite delightful - maybe if I knew more about the visual language of Manga, watched more anime, I would read these Qwen-pictures differently.

Boy, girl, skirt, pants - I really don't see what the fuss is. I don't much like when boys dress as charicatures of women, overly sexualised and painted dolls, but one of the things that is so NICE about uke-art is that the ukes are not going for exaggeration, they are just trying out what born-women get to do in their world.

You post many lovely pictures of vulnerability, openness, hurt, caring, protecting - and all these things have an erotic component, I know, and so do many of your images. Qwen-art goes a little too far, to me, into controlling, exploiting territory. The problem is perhaps about how the SEME is always drawn relative to Qwen (although those huge violet eyes irritate me, they're TOO out of proportion) looming, so big, so grasping, and so possessive in a 'mine, put in box keep for ever' way not a 'mine and look how it can fly' way. Read as part of a whole story, seeing the strengths of the uke that you point out and seeing some kindness and honorable behaviour from the seme, these pictures probably look very different.

Also, I know that I often see manga characters as relatively young, reading adolescents and young adults as children, partly because of the difference between Japanese body morphs and western European body morphs. And I am a rather stuffy and old-fashioned person - I think that sex, sex-play, erotic dress etc. is the business of the ADULT, not the business of the youngster of 14 or 15 who has so much to learn emotionally, socially, physically. Crushes and undertones, sure, that's part of the emotional landscape, but the overt stuff is just... uncomfortable... in youngsters. So couple that bit of mental awkwardness with images of individuals that appear to be pre-pubescent or barely pubescent engaging in sex-play with much older fully adult individuals, or behaving in sexually provocative ways... I don't think it is appropriate behaviour for anyone. I worry, I imagine all sorts of hurts and psychological scars being formed or driving the behavious, and really, that just doesn't make for enjoyment of the art!

Well, teacher, I learnt something from being forced to try and explain my absence and my discomfort with those images... and perhaps, just perhaps, by explaining why some uke/seme images are unsettling and unpleasant to me not because of the genders involved or the gender ambiguity but because of the imbalance between two people they seem to flaunt (which yes, angers me. Like watching someone hit a dog or yank a child in anger or bully or threaten or taunt someone different angers me), I can share with the rest of your readers something of the way that some people read and respond to these images. For me, text dominates over visual when they come together - but visual without words is more susceptible to misreading.

Thank you for the lesson, and for sharing both the images you love and your feelings about the life you are living.

JaneB said...

wendryn said...
I have a serious problem with people who choose to be helpless and useless because they want someone to like them and don't think that strong or intelligent or capable will get that attention.

Yes, THAT'S it. I've known too many girls like that, bright girls who play that game because 'boys don't like clever girls'. Maybe they were right; I'm still single and they are all wed and mothers. But that sort of behaviour still annoys me hugely - apart from anything else it makes it so much harder for others who share the same characteristics (whether that's breasts or emotional openness) to actually act like a normal person, strong some days, needing help others.

Baba Yaga said...

Hi again. No courage on my part, just - there's enough pain in this life without the unnecessary sort.

When you describe the joy of someone who wanted to know you, who liked being with you, who wanted to take on those who hurt you; protector, listener, companion - yes, in that context, I do feel the appeal of a protector (and equal! - equality is perhaps the kind of pairing which appeals, 'though I'm afraid I have the bad taste to prefer men, ridiculous dangly apparatus and all).

I probably need to learn more about the vulnerability which isn't just helplessness. (I was helpless. & that's neither pretty nor safe.) About intimacy. Perhaps learning that lesson, from how you combine strength and vulnerability and humour, is another reason I read you. You tell truth.

It's funny, you write the truth is that the internet makes me a competent person, it holds the best of me - and that has been so true for me, though perhaps for very different reasons. I found a competent(ish) self here in the ether. Some of it has transferred across, if I don't ask too much of it.

& through it, I found friends, actual equals - there may not be one person who is all those things you describe, but there are people who count, and for whom I count, & that's a gift I never imagined when helplessness was most of me.

I like the idea that as you learn to embrace (sortofkinda) vulnerability, Linda finds 'the strong one' in herself: I don't begin to imagine the daily pain in the neck - and everywhere else - that this situation (not just illness, but all the other things, too), but you collectively seem to manage it with a grace I'm impressed by.

Now you suddenly know far more about me than that I like interesting book illustrations! Oh, well.

Rachelcreative said...

Struggling to read properly and to comment but just wanted to say I'm impressed with how you speak about vulnerability and about role changes through neccessity and through choice.

Very well said.

PS: I'll be sorting out something to mail to you soon.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Victor: Sorry, I remember we see thing different from visual maker to storyteller, I just can't remember anymore (duh, I hate my disease). I too play the is she or is he - which is why the naked one is probably the most fun (well not really cause I think the Seme is a creep who should get a knee to the groin) - but I KNOW, I KNOW that is a guy, a uke, but my brain keeps going, "Hot girl! Hot girl! Woo hoo Aroused!" - which is the sort of tittilation of gender bending I think. I like the couples that seem happy together, I think the girl/guy in the black cocktail dress holding the tie is a bit of a manipulator so I don't like her, but others do.

Most don't like those who are innocent or helpless, but to me, I find attraction in people who are willing to put themselves into circumstances where they are learning something new, where they are totally lost and needing guidance. It is why I do so many sports, I tell myself, "Once a year, I need to remember what it feels like to feel like a total idiot and klutz" - we forget what being 17 and 18 was like and many people brick up themselves behind what they know, while I like to try out new things. And as coaches will tell you, they prefer teaching girls to guys because girls are like, "I don't know what to do, can you help me please." While guys want to show that after listening to 1/2 they know it all. So when I see open, eyes wide Uke's like the pink haired girl, I see someone trying something new. Someone who is growing.

Jane: "because of the imbalance between two people they seem to flaunt (which yes, angers me. Like watching someone hit a dog or yank a child in anger or bully or threaten or taunt someone different angers me)," - I agree and did not choose any images where there was domination, that I could see, or uncaring, or at least I tried not to.

The people who read the books are teens, and since today most teenagers have 4 or 5 years of sex, and then by 19 or 20 in college, so many partners, I like to think that the books open up possibilities, when trying to find yourself. I for example even while teaching at university applied to be the person directing people to classes (they would not allow it, you know the UK universities "A lecturer can't be a clerk 1!" - why not. A maid does not diminish the person, does not mean that they are not attractive or competent.

The qwen pictures I find interesting because I am so large, because I have been called brutish, threatening, dominating, a danger, physcially incapable of knowing my own strength. So how does a person show they care in a same sex relationship under those conditions? I stayed with a man who was 6'8" and his wife was 4'11" - they had 4 children. He ended up killing himself because of the amount of comments over his height and the assumptions about who he was (he was actually a very shy, very timid invidual and people's fear of him, their jokes about him and his relationship eventually ate at him until he couldn't stand seeing himself through other people's eyes anymore).

I hate bullies. I am sorry that in some of the pictures it looks like Seme's are being bullies. I think they are being guys if their faces are sort of blank - I don't read guy's faces that well, to be honest.

I find Qwen facinating because it is NOT the Seme's interests we see, but Qwens'; as we see, if Qwen just toned it down she/he could pass and get dates like that. She doesn't want that. Is she vulnerable, is she fragile, probably teased too much? Yes. But I notice in the picture from the last series that when cuffed together Qwen was in QWEN clothes, and the Seme wasn't looking for the key, that is where they both wanted to be.

To be openly that vulnerable is scary.

As for the role playing, I tended to pick the more gender bender ones for Uke's, I could do one on Yaoi which is all guys smoking cigs which I find gross, or drinking, which I find disturbing (like don't have sex the first time while drunk, okay!). I suppose since a lot of people liked the slight aspect of domination between those of equal looking age and gender, I should do one like that, however uncomfortable it makes me. S&M is just a thing that makes me ill, even in play.

Tom P. said...

And I guess someone just starved to death too. What the heck was that all about? And why do you seem angry that I am alive.

One of the problems with written communication is that you can't see expression. I didn't mean it the way you read it. What I meant is that we should all live our life to the fullest, exactly the way you do, because none of us know what will happen tomorrow. My link wasn't meant to say that I am not happy that you are alive, I am very happy that you are alive. The purpose was to remind us that we shouldn't sit back and feel sorry for you because you are ill but should embrace the wonder of your life.

As to the Uke post, I have to admit that it is hard for me to see them as men. I'm one of those rare guys who looks at a woman's face before here chest anyway. ;)

The one that really caught my eye is that Gwen (especially the one with glasses) looks a lot like one of my daughter's girlfriends.

Maggie said...

Hi Beth-I just wanted to let you know that I'm not mad at you, not repulsed by you, nor do I think you have creepy eyes. Unfortunately, I am already late and can't write the post I would like too. I will visit late and leave more.

JaneB said...

I hate smoking, too, with you 100% on that!

A. J. Luxton said...

I'm glad you've found a narrative about gender that's something you like and something you can be...

I tend to identify with feminine male roles myself, for some similar and some different reasons.