A feminist

I love what Dr Jen Gunter writes, on abortion, empathy, privilege, feminism, and incidentally on trans people.

An advert on facebook led me to an article from last month’s NYT on vaginas. Male partners sometimes criticise healthy vaginas as too loose, or smelling wrong, or tasting wrong, as a way of controlling women and making us feel insecure. This is not OK. I decide how I want to look. Women may actually harm themselves trying to make their vaginas acceptable. As a gynaecologist, Jen Gunter hears a lot of women describing the men’s manipulation.

In the comments here, I see different lines on “Not all men”. It gets clearer to me how that is offensive. Indeed, not all men rape women, and perhaps some men have never pushed women’s boundaries or wronged them in any way, but when a woman complains of shitty male behaviour, why should a man feel the need to say not all men? That’s irrelevant, she is not complaining of all men, but some men. The man may not be saying it never happens, but is derailing: it happens, it matters, and we should consider the experience of it, rather than judging the way it is shared. And, why feel any need to protest, if you do not feel guilty? What she wrote was “This is a form of control men often use”- not, all men; not, women don’t do something similar, though women may have less power in a relationship so might not, so much; but, men do it. Let us agree it is a bad thing, and try not to ourselves.

I dislike the line that “men suffer the same way”. Yes; but she was not claiming a right of retaliation, only saying it happens and is wrong. Someone signing a woman’s name accused Dr Gunter of an offensive, gross mischaracterization of an entire classification of people based on gender. That was not what I perceived. “Not all men” becomes a way of saying SHUT UP rather than a reasonable response.

She is worth reading for the facts on late abortions: after 25 weeks, a woman with a wanted pregnancy but health problems making continuing pregnancy too dangerous would have a C-section or induced labour. The child would be cared for. Concealed pregnancies, perhaps of a frightened teen or a rape survivor, are very rare. Sometimes a foetus has severe defects but the mother elects to carry anyway; but a foetus lying horizontally cannot be delivered vaginally.

She continually calls for our empathy. Some women don’t want a C-section in this situation for baby who can’t live. I think you can understand that. And Some women just can’t bear continuing. Imagine everyone touching your belly asking if you are having a boy or a girl and you know your baby has no brain? I have heard that story. It breaks people.

This post is particularly good on empathy, privilege, and thinking your way into someone else’s situation. You can’t experience the same situation, every situation is different, yet you should be able to imagine theirs. Assuming what someone else felt or might have felt based on your own experience (or wanted experience) is the opposite of empathy.

Once as a resident I rolled by eyes when discussing a woman who was presenting for her third abortion. I mean really, I thought. She’d been sent home after both of her previous abortions with 4 months of free birth control pills and here she was just six months later. My attending, an older man, took me aside and reamed me for that display of privilege. I’ve never forgotten that. In fact, it prompted me to design a study to look at that very question, why do women have repeat abortions? Guess what it turns out is a big factor? Domestic violence. Though empathy may be too much of a stretch for Republican authoritarians concerned for their own moral rightness.

I checked whether she had anything on transgender. She mentions it in passing, but always in a friendly way. The agency tasked with enhancing the “health and well-being of Americans” now believes that certain religious beliefs are more important than health care. This could apply to contraception, abortion, vaccines, addiction medicine, sexually transmitted infection screening, and transgender care just to name a few… government planning will be all based on some non science ideas such as life begins at conception, pre marital sex is wrong, anything but marital sex between cis women and men is wrong. If we think too much about the hostile people it colours our view of humanity. Here is a woman working for the rights of women, who is positive about trans people, and uses our words such as “cis”.


Other people think differently from me. I may not realise that. I may just generalise from my own thoughts and feelings, imagining others feel the same way, or project my feelings onto them. I want to understand more. That means learning how they think.

There are countless ways to differentiate one person from the next, but psychological scientists have settled on a relatively simple taxonomy, known widely as the Big Five:

Extroversion: gregariousness, social dominance, enthusiasm, reward-seeking behavior

Neuroticism: anxiety, emotional instability, depressive tendencies, negative emotions

Conscientiousness: industriousness, discipline, rule abidance, organization

Agreeableness: warmth, care for others, altruism, compassion, modesty

Openness: curiosity, unconventionality, imagination, receptivity to new ideas

I got that from The Atlantic on Mr Trump. My friend’s hands shook so badly for some weeks that I poured the tea for him: his psychiatrist labelled this an “Adjustment disorder”, a physical symptom of adverse circumstances. When there is no chance of changing the thing, and rather than serenity most people would feel long term shock and terror, “Pull yourself together” is the response.

Here’s a post on Personality change. Personality may change because we want it to, or because of brain injury or illness.

I am worried about that situation, and I should really pass it on to those people. The trouble is, I do not trust them. They are not like X, so I think of them as less. And- I do nothing, because I am not certain that what I imagine an optimal result will happen- but doing nothing may be worse. What do they think? What would they think? What would they do?

I want greater empathy. This is an introverted person. This is an authoritarian person. My moral judgment of good and bad gets in the way of understanding, and I am too quick to see something as bad, rather than different.

And I am paralysed from acting when “success” is too important to me. Rather than trying something in the hope of making things better I want to do something which will make things right. That’s impossible, so I do nothing.

Trump is a rich source of material on personality difference. Here’s Emily Thorson: those interested in politics are, on the whole, ideologically consistent. People who are ideologically consistent hold beliefs that line up with each other as we’d assume in modern party politics: For example, a liberal who supports gay marriage probably also supports government spending on social programs and protecting the environment.

Many of us intuitively believe that there is something “right” about these particular combinations of beliefs—that a liberal or conservative ideology reflects an underlying and internally coherent worldview. While that is not entirely wrong, it is also the case that our beliefs about which issues “go together” are shaped by political elites’ efforts to establish winning electoral coalitions. People not interested in politics aren’t “consistent” in this way.

Blake, the three Marys at the Sepulchre

Empathy II

Two dolls, Milly and Mandy. Milly places her marble in her basket, and goes out to play. Bad, bad Mandy takes Milly’s marble and hides it in her box. Milly comes back, and wants to play with her marble. Where does she look for it?

Quite young children will say, her basket. They realise she does not know Mandy has taken it. Some children with autism will say the box. They cannot conceive of other minds, with other understandings.

I was saddened when a woman said she would not walk alone on her local nature reserve- or any remote woods or lanes- because of fear of male violence; shocked when a therapist said she would feel a “natural stranger response (fear)” on the couch of a male psychoanalyst she did not know. I think of counsellors, certainly, but even analysts as strongly pro-social. I file away the fear of the analyst- some women? Most women?- as part of my world map.

I want you not to feel that fear, or need to.

This felt mindblowing, and after, I wondered why. Chatting with R in the caff, I suddenly imagined myself as him, looking at Clare and enjoying her company. Well, of course he would, or he would not do it; and he evinces pleasure. It was a moment of empathy rather than an Out of Body experience. I don’t know- perhaps I just don’t think about it, I enjoy meeting, he is willing to meet and that is enough for me, but right now I feel pleasure in the thought that he values my company.

Or possibly it is that generally with empathy I imagine myself in a similar situation, and imagining myself as the other is more empathic.

I imagined F at a radical feminist gathering, and when it became known that she persuaded a tranny to revert her kudos increased. This is paranoid. There is a difference between having an attitude to my transition and treating me as a project. I am not entirely comfortable with the thought, though.

Man convicted of manslaughter, only 19 years old. He drove a stolen van at a policeman, saying to his friend “Watch this!” Did he not care, seeing the policeman as an enemy, or imagine the policeman would get up after, like in an action flick? Imagine the exhilaration…

That blogger. She considers trans folk, my lot, sharing our joys, sorrows and fears, in disgust, and shares those comments which she finds most disgusting. It is a risk I take, sharing as I do here, possibly because I have difficulty imagining someone seeing things so differently from me. “I have suffered!” I would say, and of course your heart would go out to me.

Arthur Melville, An Arab interior

Listening each other into existence

I become real when you see me. I know myself when reflected in you.

We do not know ourselves as others do. Others see things in us which are too frightening for us, so we deny them. Then we cannot deny our characteristics any longer, and get to see them- which can be so painful it feels like being born again.

Yet we have unconscious awareness of those qualities, and when we see them in another and admire or despise that other that is a clue, that this is something in myself.

And I am simply myself, but if you name my quality- my “courage” or “confusion”, whatever- it becomes me, it is a label I must live up to or cannot escape.

David Bowie said, something like I am what the greatest number of people believe me to be. He did his thing, and others named it, understanding or not understanding, some interpreting him to the wider public in a way he might like or not.

Or we can listen and permit, and give the other space to simply be and know themself for the first time. We can listen each other into existence. If you can hear with all the Love you have in your heart, accepting me, then I can tell my story, and hear it too.

Feminist theologian Nelle Morton, quoted at length here: I knew I had been experiencing something I had never experienced before. A complete reversal of the going logic in which someone speaks precisely so that more accurate hearing may take place. This woman was saying, and I had experienced, a depth hearing that takes place before the speaking – a hearing that is far more than acute listening. A hearing engaged in by the whole body that evokes speech –a new speech—a new creation. The woman had been heard to her own speech. The first time Nelle experienced this, the woman began, hesitating and awkward, but became wonderfully coherent. This can be revolutionary, empowering the disinherited.

It appears to belong in woman experience, says Nelle. Not necessarily because women are different from men, but because women share the same oppression by Patriarchy.

Sister let me be your servant (or, Brother, sister, let me serve you/ Brother let me be your servant)
let me be like Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace
to let you be my servant too

That is a song by a man. Is it subtly different? How do we approach equality, suffering together? Nelle says a woman started in patriarchal culture, alien to her nature, and spoke from her conditioning- which is a lie: yet heard, she spoke true. We know and own the words and the images as our own words and our own images that have come out of the depths of our struggle.

Is this a uniquely woman’s experience? Possibly it happens at Alcoholics Anonymous.

In my own moving experience like this, more than a year ago, women and men- and one whose sex and gender is interpreted by others, in a way I might like or not- heard a man, and he confessed his Wrongness- as he had been conditioned to see it- and we told him he was Not Wrong. This is not quite the same, even if he heard our love, as I think he did. Or with trans women at the Sibyls, we spoke together- dialogue, not extended time as in Nelle’s groups- and accepted the impossible, accepted we had to transition.

Patriarchy lies about me too. Is my oppression my way in to women’s experience? Is its difference insurmountable, or can empathy pass through that? Oh, do not reject my Love, for my Love is all I have to give!

Monet, Canoe on the Epte


We have been discussing horrifying things, and we both have bad news, so why am I so cheerful? Trigger warning of extreme violence and a rape which child abusers might find appalling.

I did not get the job. He notes that this means I will not be leaving Swanston, and is happy about that. That’s OK, you are allowed to be selfish, and counting my blessings I note that I do not have to uproot myself again. I have friends here. We go on to the evisceration of social care. The Severe Disability Premium is abolished in Universal Credit, as “Social Services will address needs”. That is monstrous: they cut £61.85 a week from the income of disabled people on means-tested benefits, the most vulnerable group in society apart from the homeless. And Social Services, facing crippling cuts, cannot meet the needs they were juggling already.

He asks if he had ever said why he could not be a social worker. He has not: I would have remembered this story.

He had seen appalling things at the hospital. He had been able to continue working, and control his own feelings, after the case of a man who had broken into his former partner’s flat, smashed everything there, and broken just about every bone in her body. Then he was involved in a case where a baby a few months old needed reparative vaginal surgery after her own father had raped her. He was physically sick on the way home, and could not be involved in social work any more. So he changed his Master’s degree from social care to social policy.

I always seek empathy. I imagine the man, holding his daughter and not seeing her, holding a baby and not seeing a human being, but a lump of meat on which he relieved sexual urges. Or, perhaps, finding a way to attack the mother, and make her insane. My mind recoils, I cannot imagine it. I can imagine violent acts undertaken in anger- Hume’s example of preferring the end of the world to a cut on my finger comes to mind- but not that. I do not recognise him as a human being. I hope the other men in the segregation unit killed him. I want him crushed like a bug, expunged like a virus. My lovely, gentle friend- too gentle, perhaps, for his own good- had murder fantasies about him. I had heard of the lie that sex with a virgin would cure AIDS, and an epidemic of the rape of babies in South Africa; but even that has a motive, and is less monstrous than this.

Someone has to deal with such people- but not me, or my friend.

Why were we cheerful, after? Because he is still affected by it, decades after. He remains angry. I could hear his anger, and sympathise with my friend; and drain a little of his hurt. So I validate my friend’s feelings, and we feel together. And cheerful, after, perhaps because we could leave the abomination behind.

I will not be affected by it. I was not involved.

Another strong personality

Someone called me an idiot. I don’t mind. God protect me from people who think they know what’s going on.

Tim, an utterly sweet gay man with a great love and knowledge of Manchester- he was passionate about the restoration of the Victoria Baths– told me that he had had relationships where he was Top, and others where he was Bottom, and he found the erogenous zones on his body changing between the two. We change to fit other people. One highly empathetic woman, a life-long carer, told me that she had had a series of dreadful relationships because she liked dominant men and they overwhelmed her: they were the centre of their Universe, and became the centre of hers. She felt the same way they did. So now she has a partner who respects her and, aware she can change like this, they both guard against it.

The hierarchy in any organisation can set the tone of that organisation. This is how things are done, how we see things. This is how we all feel. There is great pleasure in feeling the same way as another: we feel together, so we feel closer. It is hard to change it from below.

Don’t do that to me. You attempt to exert the force of personality to change mine, my feelings, my opinions. That took me aback, actually. Is that what I am doing? It was more than disagreement- some shock, some distress. I thought, after, it might be evolved primate behaviour, just the way we are with everyone, influencing or being influenced. But I can engage my conscious mind to prevent it. Your freedom is important to me. You are far more beautiful, free, than anything I could control you into.

I distressed myself completely falling into what I imagine might be another’s mind set. It seems to me I can choose my feelings. So, man tells of triumphs from decades before. I can choose to see this as boring or pathetic, or I can share his joy in the triumph, however old it is. How lovely of him, to share with me something which still delights him!

I choose that feeling which most brings us together. I want that togetherness, here, now. How lovely of him.

And- I am myself. I will see the world your way only for the moment, then I am otherwise, for I am myself. I too am a strong personality.

Ingres, Louise de Broglie

Attempting empathy

window rightAs Sutekh said to the Doctor, “Your evil is my good”. I can only explain the attitude of the Catholic Truth blog to myself in terms of sickness, damage or sin. At best, they defend what they value against what I see as an unreal threat. Delusional, then. Can I begin to understand the sense of threat? Well, I know a lot about feeling rage and terror.

I have been doing lumosity problem solving games. In this thought process, I can make a sub-optimal move, but if I do, I am looking down on the person, and my aim is to avoid that.

Many people use alcohol to relax. Some people use alcohol to escape reality, to block out uncomfortable feelings, to turn away from the problems they should face. That harms them, and others. People also behave selfishly. I accept the reality of temptation and failing, even as I do not judge those who fall, because I do not know the pressure they were under.

Against this, there is the possibility of Sanctification- the human being behaving in the best way possible. The way to it is the Church, given by God.

In the best way of being, the human is always in control, always overcoming that Id monster or sarx/flesh or our sinful nature. Temptations feel strong but must be resisted, or you fall into that lesser way of being, outside the Kingdom.

I could attack this in various ways- it is Gnostic, I pontificate, spirit good matter bad; or it is setting your morality above that of all human beings, your understanding is better than theirs- but then everyone does that, or we would reject our lesser morality. I don’t accept the judgment that gay sex is necessarily always sinful, but perhaps the majority of humanity always has done.

I avoided the weakest moves. “So tempting to see onesself as better than others”- but that is not it, “There but for the grace of God go I”. It is not necessarily in-group/out-group thinking: We are Right, but accept everyone who will join our Right way, the strait and narrow path, because that is what Catholic means.

I feel there is rage and terror there, the fear of Falling Away, anger that things which should be Catholic such as the SVP and CAFOD and even the Pope aren’t, really, not properly, but in principle one might live like that without it. And on my side, of course I deny that my sin is sinful, because I like it and do not want to give it up.

There are places that I cannot go, places holy to Mormons or Catholics. It behoves me to accept the things I cannot change. It is not a threat really. They are not bad, just different.


Sympathy with the devil

EarthriseWe create what we need.

Seeking to enter in sympathy with all human conditions, I pick on the Nazis as a good theoretical example. Certainly they were the baddies. I was pleased to read of the Ustaše that while they allied themselves with the Axis in the second world war, this was a way of building alliances against the greater Serbian kingdom of Yugoslavia, their historic oppressors, historically clients of Russia.

Nirad Chaudhuri tells of the riots in Delhi during partition, that there was an inoffensive Muslim street-food seller, and his Hindu neighbours decided to lynch him. Chaudhuri exhorted them to leave him alone, and go with him into the Muslim areas to defend their fellow Hindus. They refused. I can admire the moral act of Chaudhuri and sympathise with his neighbours, in that situation of black and dark grey.

And with the Estonians who suffered under Russian rule, with Russian rather than Estonian the medium of education and ethnic Russians moved in to their country, who restrict those Russians’ descendants now to tolerated residence but no citizenship.

Where are you, and where does your act come from? A reason may not be an excuse, but may help one understand, may be some mitigation, for people do their best under difficult circumstances and under appalling pressure people do appalling things.

And- if I can sympathise with such monsters, I might even come to sympathise with my own monstrosity, cowardice, stupidity, perverted deviance and uselessness.


No, I do not think of myself only or constantly as those things; and there is an undercurrent of self-loathing in me which I overcome so gradually. It could, I suppose, give rise to loathing of all humanity; and in me it has produced an attempt at sympathy, feeling with all sorts and conditions of people. This is sometimes theoretical rather than actual; it is not my only constant response; it is part of my response to my world.

I am kind.
I seek reconciliation.
I seek the healing of hurt.
The wounded surgeon plies the steel

Picture, title, ideas: I do this with clichés, with the tools I have.



I know some people listening are thinking,File:Seurat Angelica (après Ingres).jpg “That’s a bit sad”, and- some people are thinking, “Yes. Mmmmmm….”

I heard the first bit, and thought, he is projecting. He thinks his own interest in the ZX Spectrum computer, with its 48 kilobyte memory- it could barely hold that Rich Text File I just emailed- is a “bit sad”. And then he says something positive. Is he projecting then, too?

There will be people who dismiss his interest as a foolish failure to interact with the real world, and there will be people who sympathise- all kinds of human reactions- and all these reactions are in him. Even though he is interested, he judges his interest, and finds it wanting. All those reactions are in me- so I can feel with the man who rejects, and with the man who affirms. Actually, the phrase “that’s a bit sad” was the words used by the man on the radio this morning, but I have not quite remembered the words he used after. They were affirming, but “Yes. Mmmmmm….” is my expression, I think slightly different from his- though I am not sure quite how. Like trying as an adult to make a sound in a foreign language, Japanese or German, or even a different English accent such as Scouse. Others can hear a difference I cannot.

Or it is the way I want to recall it.

In my ritual space, after hearing this, before putting on my gi, I feel playful. Yes, I could channel Qi to my chakras, but that is not the mood I am in, now. Such a wide range of human emotion and reaction in me, that I may relate to so many different humans. Yet with my own accent or idiolect; some seen and recalled, some seen at a slightly different angle. And- of that wide range which I can be in my ritual space, some I can recognise and welcome, some feels strange or frightening- conditioning, it seems.

The All is in me, or its Emanations, with a distinct Clare flavour. So beautiful, when I can bear to look at it.

Emotive argument II

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3f/Auguste_Renoir_-_A_Girl_with_a_Watering_Can_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/746px-Auguste_Renoir_-_A_Girl_with_a_Watering_Can_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgIt is an odd feeling, at the refectory: that goes with that, but is not what I want. I do not feel revulsion, exactly, I was eating it only at lunchtime, but I am quite clear that it is not what I want now. D remarks on the odd combination on my plate, bits meant for the other main course, bits from the salad bar, some for taste and some for need- something carbohydrate- and more from impulse or instinct rather than the usual learned habitual response. I normally have a cooked breakfast when I am away, and this morning I did not want one. Someone comments that is “good” of me. Strange that we think of impulses as harmful, and restraint as moral. For me, then, it was instinct and desire rather than conscious restraint, and I think of self-care as morally neutral, just what one does, rather than virtuous.

So I am happy with emotional decision-making. What feels right? What calls to me? What hunch do I have about what will enhance my life, rather than what arguments can I create? Often the arguments feel like post hoc rationalisations not reasons.

We communicate these emotional decisions. It feels good to be with others who feel the same way, and I follow those feelings. A dominant person expresses feelings to mould the feelings of others.

Empathy seems to be a good way to make group decisions.

I want to please people. This shames me, it feels like part of my hiding away, and also pleases me, as a way of getting closeness I desire. Strange. It is what I want.