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Archive for the ‘Women & Feminism’ Category

After immediate survival, the number one goal of human beings is to be fruitful and multiply. This is true of humans everywhere on the planet, no matter the continent or culture. It has been so true that beginning in the 20th Century, humans have multiplied themselves right out of water, food, and land in many places. Including places in the US.

A couple hours ago this thought struck me: When humanity is threatened, women become incubating chattel.

This thought arrived in the middle of reading The Stand by Stephen King. I was reading about a situation in the book where four men were gathering their own little harem for private use in the aftermath of a devastating plague.

Post-apocalyptic situations in which population has been decimated and society completely breaks down are excellent fictional tools for highlighting all sorts of things about human nature and the human condition. And despite The Stand’s central focus on a supernatural war between ultimate good and ultimate evil, there is still plenty of time devoted to these interesting topics.

When I had that thought I posted above, immediately following was one of those moments when a connection snaps together in my brain. Two seemingly unrelated things suddenly have a bridge built between them. In this case the two things are:

1) When humans are concerned about building up the population, the equality of women suffers as a result. This is because women are not only necessary to the procreational act like men are, but they must also carry the fruit that is being multiplied. It’s not difficult to rationalize all sorts of limits on women when they are required for this fundamental job of insuring the continuing existence of the human race. When that job becomes less important, the lot of women improves.

2) In the United States the population is undergoing a significant shift. Demographers estimate that sometime around 2050 white people will become a minority in terms of absolute numbers in the US population.

The connecting bridge between those two things is the resurgence of the war on women in this country. Issues that most of us considered resolved once and for all a few decades ago are now being brought up for debate again. They are being debated by white men.

I’ve been shocked this last year as not only women’s health and abortion issues have been put up for debate, but that birth control is apparently now on the table for discussion as well. The ability to control reproduction and plan families, rather than leaving it all to chance, is what allows women to become equal partners.

As a society we have generally accept this as true. And because we aren’t worried about humans dying off any time soon, it has been easy enough to make changes in public policy that have made family planning not only possible, but an expected way of life.

Except, white people are now feeling threatened. Those brown people keep having babies at a higher rate, and keep entering this country at a higher rate, overwhelming us white folks who have been procreating more conservatively in recent decades.

I don’t think it’s coincidental that white conservatives are suddenly refighting old fights at a time when it is becoming clear that their days as a majority in this country are numbered. I doubt that this is done on a conscious level for most of them. It’s a reaction growing out of a fear that is submerged in the dark swampy areas of our brains.

Us white folk need to bring this all out into the light, where the fears and sense of threat can be illuminated and dealt with. The population shift is going to happen. We need to get over it. Returning women to the status of incubating chattel is not an acceptable solution.

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Obama Wins a Second Term!

Yeah, everyone knows by now. I don’t really have anything of worth to add about that. But I will say that I’m giddy with relief. I think changing horses midstream at this point, especially to Mr. Can’t-hold-an-opinion-longer-than-two-weeks-and-forty-seven-percent-of-you-suck Romney, would have been disastrous.

Gains for women!

A record number of women will be representing American citizens in the US Senate. Currently there are 17 women serving, which was also a record. After the new senators are sworn in for the next session, there will be 19 women serving in the Senate. Possibly 20, if Heidi Heitkamp manages to pull out a win in her very close North Dakota race.

Even more exciting, Tammy Baldwin is the first openly gay person to be elected to the US Senate.

It’s rather discouraging that after all this time women will make up only 20% of our Senate when we are over 50% of the population. But at least we’re heading in the right direction, even if agonizingly slowly.

Akin and Mourdock lost their races, giving women everywhere reason to breathe a sigh of relief. If the names don’t ring a bell: Akin was the astoundingly ignorant candidate who thinks women have mystical woo-woo reproductive systems that automatically shut down in the case of “legitimate rape”. Mourdock holds the repugnant view that a child conceived via rape is “a gift from God”.

We’re here, we’re queer, we’re gonna get married!

Well, okay, I’m not gonna get married. Not my thing. But lots of my brothers and sisters will be tying the knot.

Maine had an initiative put on the ballot by the people to legalize same-sex marriage. With 75% of the votes tallied, it is passing by 53%.

Maryland and my beloved state of Washington had referendums on the ballot. Our legislatures passed marriage equality laws earlier this year and people who didn’t like that gathered enough signatures to put the laws on the ballot for approval.

With 97% of the votes tallied in Maryland, their referendum is being approved by 52%. Washington is a bit trickier because our elections are done entirely by mail, and any ballot postmarked by the 6th counts. So only 51% of votes have been tallied so far. But the referendum is being approved by 52%, and I’m optimistic that will hold.

The state of Minnesota had a constitutional amendment on the ballot. The amendment would have banned same-sex marriage. With 97% of votes tallied, it has been rejected by 51%. That doesn’t mean gay people will be able to get married in Minnesota yet, because there’s already an existing state law against it. But it does mean that the discrimination will not be enshrined in their state constitution.

This is all very big news. The fact that it’s a clean sweep is rather startling. Especially since polls leading up to the election in Minnesota were not very encouraging. Up until now, marriage measures, whether initiatives, laws, or amendments, have always failed when put up for popular vote. (There’s one exception, but it was turned back later in a followup vote.) Not only has that string of losses been broken, it was broken four times in one day.

But the other more subtle thing that I find interesting, and it’s a portent of real change, is the final vote percentages. Up until now there has been a significant tendency for people to misrepresent how they were going to vote on gay issues when being polled. (Many people would tell pollsters that they supported an issue, when they obviously ended up voting against it.) Also, most of those who stated they were undecided when being polled usually voted against the measure. What this meant was that you needed to add anywhere from 6-10% to the anti-equality poll numbers to get a closer reading on what was likely to actually happen at the ballot box.

A lot of that disappeared this time. It was still somewhat evident, but now falling more within the margin of error. The polls did a fairly good job of predicting the outcomes, or even in the case of Minnesota, underestimating support in the final days. This is a good sign for the future.

Reefer Madness!

Washington and Colorado have become the first two states to legalize marijuana. Not just decriminalize it, and not just allow medical marijuana, but legalize pot for personal recreational use for adults age 21 and over. It will be regulated by the state in a manner very similar to alcohol. (Colorado did it by amending their state constitution.)

The ballot measures passed by substantial percentages in both states, and not only in traditionally liberal areas either. It will be interesting to see how the federal government reacts. I have a feeling this issue will be heading for the Supreme Court eventually.

Passage in two of the three* states voting on the issue is a sign people understand that prohibition not only doesn’t work, but ends up costing us as a society. Both financially, and in the loss of people to the criminal system who don’t belong there.

* Oregon also had legalization on the ballot and I’m surprised at the results. They rejected the measure by the same percentage that it’s passing in Washington. Yet it usually seems like Oregon is on the forefront of these sorts of things. I haven’t looked into it at all, but it’s possible that there were problems with the specific law that people rejected, rather than the idea itself.

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Dangerous Beauty

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Dangerous Beauty is a 1998 film based on the book The Honest Courtesan by Margaret Rosenthal. It’s a biographical piece about the life of Veronica Franco (played by Catherine McCormack, who turns in an exquisite performance), who was a courtesan and poet in 16th century Venice. The movie had a very limited release at first, and even when it went into a broader release, it didn’t get a lot of attention or make much money.

It’s a film that provides plenty for a feminist movie lover to both love and hate. On the one hand, it depicts a rather Disneyesque, fairytale view of the institution of prostitution, rather like a more modern, and much better known movie, Pretty Woman. The male clients are charming and good looking, and the courtesans are not only appreciated for their beauty and skills in bed, but also for their talent, intelligence, and wit.

On the other hand, the movie clearly demonstrates the role of women as chattel, sold off in marriage contracts to old, rich men, if they’re lucky. Working at hard labor if they’re not. Late in the movie, in a short, but moving speech, Veronica’s friend Beatrice (Moira Kelley) pleads with Veronica to teach her daughter to be a courtesan when she’s old enough.

Beatrice has already seen her very young daughter being taught that a woman should have no voice. At the end she says, of the life her daughter will be expected to lead, “And when she dies, she’ll wonder why she obeyed all the rules of God and Country, for no biblical Hell could ever be worse than a state of perpetual inconsequence.”

But what I love so much very about Dangerous Beauty, and why it’s worth watching at least once, is how utterly beautiful it is. It’s one of the most visually sumptuous movies I’ve seen. The lighting is magical, the people are pretty, the costumes are fabulous, the sets are breathtaking. And then the score by George Fenton perfectly supports and reflects the visual splendor.

On the topic of pretty people, Jacqueline Bisset as Paola Franco, Veronica’s mother, lights up the screen. If anything, at the age of 54, she is more stunningly beautiful than ever. My biggest disappointment with the film is that she doesn’t have a larger role, because I could watch her, and listen to her talk, all day.

As with most really good films, the rest of the cast help elevate Dangerous Beauty to the best it can be. Rufus Sewell is handsome and believable as Marco, the man Veronica loves. Naomi Watts has a very small part as Marco’s wife, but gives a wonderful, understated performance. Oliver Platt is at turns amusing, then villainous, as Marco’s resentful, jealous cousin. And Fred Ward is dashing and charming as the uncle.

If anything mars the perfection of the movie, it could be said it’s the final long scene, in which Veronica faces the Inquisition. It’s over the top, and highly improbable in terms of historical accuracy. Yet still, it’s uplifting and moving anyway.

The final biographical notes at the end of the movie make it sound like the rest of Veronica’s life was a storybook affair, which fits the tone of the movie and provides a feel-good experience for movie-goers. But in fact, Veronica died, impoverished, at only 45 years of age.

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First let me get out of the way that I’ve been a sidetracked blogger for the last month and a half, so I’m way behind on my Book Bits, and all other kinds of posts and reviews.

I spent the end of June and most of July focusing on a large project and making the most of a free trial month of Netflix. I’ve never watched so much video (and done so little reading) in a 30 day time span!

I also attempted failed combat against a highly irritating, and ultimately intransigent, computer virus that ended with resorting to doing a clean OS install that resulted in no computer for almost three full days because, of course, it didn’t go well. (All my fault, I thought I knew what I was doing. I didn’t.)

Plus there was all the resulting, seemingly endless, setup and reloading of data and programs that made for limited computer utility for a few days more. And to cap it off, had to deal with another 12 hour period of online and computer withdrawal due to a power outage. I’m only now finally getting back to normal! The good news is, my computer seems to be okay.

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So today I wanted to discuss two types of harassment that I came across in my net wanderings yesterday. They are very different. The only things that they have in common is that one or more persons harassed another person or persons, and that I read about them both on the same day. Rather than doing two separate posts I figured I’d lump them together in one long-assed post.

The first is a case of sexual harassment. A Hugo-nominated writer attending Readercon this year was harassed by a man also attending the con. It’s a good case to use for discussion of what exactly constitutes harassment, and what is required to make space welcoming and safe for women.

The acts of harassment, when taken individually, do not on the surface seem to be severe or worthy of lodging official complaint. After all, women put up with those sorts of things all the time, and rarely remark on them, except maybe comments to a close friend.

That fact alone is worthy of discussion. It’s shocking just how little most men know about what the average woman deals with in her lifetime. And because it’s so seldom discussed, women, especially young women, are much too ignorant as well. Meaning, they often can’t even identify actual harassment when it happens, being trained by our culture to not trust their instincts, let alone how to do something about it.

Women are trained to accept a certain amount of boorish behavior from men. We are also trained to apologize for the bad behavior of others, as if it is somehow our fault. So it sometimes becomes difficult to identify just when average, ill-considered behavior crosses a line, unless the behavior is blatantly abusive or predatory.

The Readercon case was not an instance of blatantly abusive behavior, and the stalkerish nature of it is not necessarily immediately obvious to someone who is only reading a brief recounting of the weekend after the fact.

But women need to feel safe within their communities, however community is defined at that moment. And feeling safe means that they should not have to wait until a man physically corners them or whips out his penis before it’s acceptable to expect action be taken by whatever the local authorities are for that situation, whether it be event organizers or local police.

My main point in bringing this up, though, is to link to Genevieve Valentine’s excellent blog post about her Readercon experience. In the last half of the post she lays out, in concise, easy to understand bullet points, the social cues that all men must recognize and abide by.

And most importantly, she stresses that women do not owe men any further contact, even if it’s a chance to apologize, once those men have violated boundaries. This goes against our training, but I think it’s vital for women, as well as men, to learn this particular point. As Ms. Valentine states in her post: “When you have made a woman uncomfortable, you show her you are sorry by leaving her alone.”

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The second issue for today is a case of public cyber harassment. This isn’t the usual sort that makes the news, where a bunch of teens gang up on another teen to bully them and make their life as miserable as possible. In this case it’s hypocritical adults abusing internet tools.

I’m not a member of Goodreads (haven’t had the time yet), but I’m somewhat familiar with the site. A small group (if it’s not a single individual posing as a group, which is entirely possible) has taken it upon themselves to try and clean things up, get rid of bullying, and make it a better, friendlier place.

That all sounds well and good. But here’s the problem: the “bullying” they are decrying is not in fact bullying. What they are taking issue with is some reviewers who have posted negative (sometimes filled with liberal amounts of snark or mockery) reviews about books. Yeah, you read that right. They’ve equated stating an opinion as a consumer with bullying.

But that’s not the worst of it. These hypocritical net thugs have employed some of the tactics used by actual bullies in their crusade to stamp out what they, in their massive ignorance, define as bullying. They have set up a website where they have posted out of context screen captures, but most reprehensibly, real life info about their targets, including family info, real names, locations, and photos*.

That is NEVER okay.

It does not matter if the info was easily obtainable with some inside help spying on private pages and from public pages elsewhere on the net. It is NEVER OKAY to collect and post people’s private info on the internet. Doing so is not only a form of harassment, it invites additional harassment from unrelated weirdos, and potentially puts people in real life danger.

Foz Meadows made a great blog post about what is and is not bullying that sums it up as well as anything I could do.  (The first part of her post discusses the Goodreads environment for those not familiar with it.) Though she’s much too soft on calling out the offenders, making it sound like what they’ve done is no worse than posting a negative review, which I most stridently disagree with. Still, it’s good reading.

This post at Gossamer Obsessions proves that though the personal info is no longer on the STGRB site, it was at one time.

To make my position on reviewing clear:

Once a book is published, the author relinquishes control over how that book is perceived and discussed in the public domain. Once an author is published, they become a public figure, and their behavior, in real life and/or in cyberspace, will be discussed.

Readers have the right to offer up their honest opinions about books they have spent their valuable time (and usually money) reading, without any interference from authors, editors, or publishers. It is in an author’s own best interests to let readers alone to do what they do, even if the reader is being unfair or out of line.

I do not think reviewers should be nasty or malicious towards the author in a book review. There are some who don’t follow that rule, and I’ve probably skirted that line in one or two of my reviews, but it unfortunately comes with the territory. I understand that hearing negative things about your hard work hurts. But that also comes with the territory.

Authors who can’t accept this should never put up anything they have written for sale. Post your work on a blog, where you maintain full control of content and feedback, if that’s the case.

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[As a sidenote: Despite only being a distant outside observer, I’m pretty sure I know who the operator of the Stop the GR Bullies site is. A few months ago on an Amazon forum a woman posted a link to her blog where she had supposedly written a post about how to make the online world a better place. But when I followed the link I found a post centered around dredging up an old conflict from Goodreads in which she made many off-target accusations.

I commented at the time that I found it curious that a post supposedly about how to counteract bullying in a positive manner was in fact antagonistic, focused on conflict, and spreading misinformation.

Some of the same misinformation posted on that blog is now posted on the STGRB site. It’s clear to me that the author (and she is an author despite claims otherwise) has an axe to grind and is unable to let issues from months ago die their natural death.

Since I have no intention of sinking to her level, I will not out her here by revealing her name. I just found it interesting that something that was old news, and was overlooked by most book-oriented netizens at the time, has dots neatly connecting it to the recent mess, which has gained plenty of net buzz .]

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* The photos are posted without permission, which is a violation of copyright.

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This woman is Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, and she is the current Prime Minister of Iceland. She is the first female Prime Minister of that country. Impressive enough.

Jóhanna is also a lesbian. She became the first ever openly gay head of government in the modern world on February 1st, 2009. That’s really impressive. Her wife is Jónína Leósdóttir (an author and playwright). They entered into a civil union in 2002, then converted it to a marriage in 2010 when same-sex marriage was legalized in Iceland.

I must admit that, like most Americans, I am not exactly up on my foreign heads of state. I discovered her when I was reading this article about the fact that two of the approximately sixty world leaders attending a NATO Summit in Chicago are openly gay. The other is Elio Di Rupo, the Prime Minister of Belgium. He became the second openly gay head of government in December 2011, and is the only openly gay head of a European Union country.

Kudos to both of them, but especially Jóhanna, because this proves that lesbians rule. ;)

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I stumbled over a link to this on a site where I was reading a totally unrelated article. It’s, as the title for this post says, brilliant and hilarious. (Uh, looks like I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to imbedding video, so I’ll give the link to click on. Note to self: learn how to imbed video on blog.)

Republicans, Get In My Vagina!

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A while back I posted this long piece about my frustration with the state of feminism. So when I saw a link to an article by E. J. Graff  while web wandering a little bit ago I clicked and read with interest. She was pointing out that it’s a bit of an odd time to be a lesbian. We’re making a lot of progress for gay equality, while at the same time antagonistic pressure is mounting against women.

One thing that made my eyes pop, or synapses fry, as Graff put it, was this little tidbit she mentioned and linked to. Did you know that The United States ranks only 71st in the world (tied with Turkmenistan) for percentage of women elected to parliament/congress? Yeah, I didn’t either.

A lot of the countries doing better than us don’t come as much of a surprise, countries like Finland, Australia, Germany, and Sweden. But did you know that Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Uganda are all at least 40 ranks higher on the list than we are? Yeah, I didn’t either.

Now you know, and so do I. If you could see me right now, you’d see a big frownie face.

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Anne McCaffrey, award winning science fiction and fantasy author, passed away on November 21, 2011 at the age of 85. She has left a monumental and lasting legacy.

When The White Dragon was first published as a paperback in the late 1970s it caught my eye on the book rack at the drug store. (My major source of reading material, since it was on my way home from school. That store ended up with a large portion of my allowance over the years.) It looked like something I just had to read!

When I saw that The White Dragon was the third in a trilogy I went off on a quest to a bookstore  to hunt down the first one, Dragonflight,  because I can’t stand reading out of order. The quest resulted in finding Reading Heaven.

I was a teenager at the time and had read quite a bit of science fiction and a little bit of fantasy by then. Mostly Heinlein, Clarke, Herbert, and Lewis. But most of the books were primarily about boys and men. The stories were enjoyable, and sometimes great, but unconsciously I was getting weary of rarely reading about characters I could relate to on a deeper level.

McCaffrey’s books, with strong female protagonists, marked a turning point in my life as a reader. Finally I’d discovered there were actually books readily available about girls and women having adventures in fantastical settings. These were the books I’d been craving. Fantasy has been my favorite genre ever since.

I went on to read and love the Crystal Singer books, the brain ship books (starting with The Ship Who Sang), and so many others I’ve lost count. My two gray cats I’ve owned were named after McCaffrey characters in the brain ship and Rowan books.

In my 20s I started to outgrow McCaffrey. I tend to like things a little grittier and her books are always accessible as juvenile fiction. But still, over the years I’d occasionally pick up a new one and enjoy dipping back into one of her worlds. I introduced my mom to the Pern books when I first read them and she is still reading McCaffrey novels to this day.

Anne McCaffrey was amazingly prolific and her contributions to science fiction and fantasy can’t be underestimated, especially where her impact on female readers is concerned. She gave me and millions of others a treasured gift, and I will always be thankful. May she rest in peace.

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Pembroke Park by Michelle Martin. One of my favorite Naiad Press books - published in 1986.

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I just found out that Barbara Grier passed away a week ago at the age of 78. I couldn’t let that go by without writing.

There are many people in this world who devote their lives to helping others and making the world a better place. I have benefited from many of those people, but it’s almost always in an indirect manner. Barbara Grier made my life and my world better directly. Without ever even knowing that I exist, she touched me in a very personal way.

Ms. Grier was one of the founders of Naiad Press in the 1970s. A small, independent publisher of books. Lesbian books. Books by lesbians, about lesbians, for lesbians.

As an avid reader in the process of coming out as a lesbian in the mid-1980s, one of the first things I looked for was books. Trying to find other gay people to associate with was important too, but that came second. Reading has always been my primary means for understanding the world, learning about new things, and sometimes, especially in this case, understanding myself.

I was already a regular shopper at the various independent bookstores on Capitol Hill in Seattle (there were many back then), and living on Capitol Hill I had some exposure to gay culture simply through osmosis. But as I became a little more convinced of my orientation I hungered for confirmation. Which led to those first nerve wracking visits to the sections with gay and lesbian books on the shelves.

There were several small publishers putting out quality gay books, but almost immediately I learned to recognize Naiad Press on the spines of novels. It was a signal and an invitation – here is a book for you.

Because Ms. Grier was a visionary and cared about making the world a better place for lesbians in a concrete way, by putting books especially for us in our hands, my life has been so much the richer. Naiad Press closed up shop a few years ago when Ms. Grier and her partner, Donna McBride, retired. But they left a lasting legacy. There aren’t words enough to say how much it meant to me over the years, and how thankful I am.

Wherever your spirit wanders on, Ms. Grier, I hope it’s a wonderful place, with lots of lesbians, and lots of books. You are one of my heroes.

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Today was one of those perfect Seattle summer days. The sun shining, temperature in the high seventies, not humid, and a light breeze blowing to keep it comfortable. It was the kind of day I love driving in my car with all the windows rolled down and the stereo cranked up with Melissa Etheridge singing California and Ann Wilson belting out Queen City.

On days like this people pour outside to make the most of it. Pedestrians everywhere. A woman working in her flower garden. People walking their dogs and riding bikes. The little city park near me fills with children, boys playing basketball, and families barbequing picnic dinners.

On the other side of a tall hedge from the park is the parking lot for a small office complex. There’s a corner in the shade, a perfect spot to park my car on weekends when no one else is there, and read.

That might sound a little odd. Why not sit on the lawn under a tree at the park and really be outside? But I love the privacy of that corner and being in my own mobile personal space, surrounded on two sides by giant leafy bushes and maple trees which attract squirrels and birds. I open the moon roof, roll down the windows, and enjoy being outside with the comfort of being inside.

So what does any of that have to do with boobs, burdensome or otherwise? As I was sitting there I noticed in the side mirror that a man had passed through the hedge into the parking area. He was wearing only shorts and sandals, no shirt. And it struck me in a visceral way that he was enjoying the perfect Seattle day in a manner that is off limits to women.

Men can go topless, women can’t. Boobs make all the difference. I don’t think most of us spend much time thinking about what that actually means though. It’s usually considered in terms of being an unfair nuisance.

But as I sat there I got to thinking about what it would be like to strip off my shirt and bra. Exposing skin that is normally clothed to the outdoors air feels wonderful. It’s different than being inside. On a really warm day the caress of wind on bared skin is soothing and sensuous. Women can strip down to just a sports bra and most people don’t bat an eye these days. But it’s not the same thing.

It’s those darn boobs. They’re why we can’t go around completely uncovered. And keeping them covered, even if that’s all that’s covered, is missing the best part. Wearing a tank top or sports bra leaves a lot exposed, but it’s truly amazing how much those little bits of cloth accomplish in creating a barrier.

My thinking about this naturally wandered on to swimming. Sure women can be naked in a cramped bathtub, if they even like taking baths, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about what it’s like to be fully immersed, freely moving, with no artificial barrier between you and the water. I don’t have the words to describe the incredible, luxurious sensation. It’s literally like nothing else in the world.

Do men even notice it? I have absolutely no idea, I’ve never even thought to ask one before this.

I don’t have a history of skinning dipping or anything of that sort to draw on. My experience is mostly relegated to large, semi-private hot tubs with friends. But today my mental meanderings took me back to a day twenty-eight years ago when I was visiting a close friend in California.

We’d met in college in Washington, but I had to leave school after our second year and she transferred down to UC Santa Cruz, closer to where she’d grown up. I visited just after the start of the school year. She and a roommate were renting a small house only a few blocks from the beach. We went swimming in the ocean a few times while I was there.

The first time was it was dark, lightly raining, and we were fully clothed in jeans and sweatshirts for our midnight dip in the sea. A generous quantity of imbibed beer prior to our stroll to the beach was responsible for some of that. My lifelong magnetic attraction to water and her ‘what the hell’ attitude in life did the rest. It was a great night.

The next time it was a sunny afternoon and we were properly attired in our one piece bathing suits. We were swimming in the deeper water beyond the breakers when my ‘what the hell’ friend, who, unlike me, wasn’t terribly constrained by American attitudes about nudity, pulled down the top of her swimsuit so it was down around her waist. Emboldened by not being too close to shore, though remarkably, no beer this time, I did the same.

Fantastic, amazing, and unbound are the only words I have to describe how that felt.

As we go through life we collect experiences, and later on savor our memories of perfect days or perfect moments. That time in the ocean in the company of a friend I cared deeply about, with the glorious feel of water on unfettered breasts, is one of my treasured memories of perfection.

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