Monday, October 5, 2015

#AmberRoseSlutWalk2015 vs. #SlutWalkLA2011

So, I finished radiation (yay! more on that in a future post), and my first big foray into the world was to attend the 2015 AmberRoseSlutWalk.

So, what is SlutWalk? From Wikipedia:
SlutWalk is a transnational movement[1] of protest marches which began on April 3, 2011,[2] in TorontoOntario, with subsequent rallies occurring globally.[3] Participants protest against explaining or excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman's appearance,[4] and call for an end to rape culture.[5] The rallies began after a Toronto Police officer suggested that "women should avoid dressing like sluts"[6][7] as a precaution against sexual assault.
The protest takes the form of a march, mainly by young women, where some dress as "sluts" in revealing, sexy attire such as short skirts, stockings and scanty tops. In the various Slutwalks around the world, there are usually speaker meetings and workshops, live music, sign-making sessions, leafleting, open microphones, chanting, dances, martial arts, and receptions or after-parties with refreshments.[1][8] In many of the rallies and online, women speak publicly for the first time about their identity as rape survivors.[9][10] The movement's ideology has been questioned and its methodology criticized.[11][12

Every SlutWalk, in every city has had its critics, from the very first one in Toronto, and this one is no exception. My full post on the first LA Slutwalk is here.

So, who is Amber Rose, and how/why did she get to take over SlutWalk, or at least, SlutWalk Los Angeles?

Amber Rose is a lovely young model and fashion designer and mother, who has also been a stripper, and involved with and married to several famous rappers, as well as releasing her own music. She's releasing her own clothing line, and one criticism of her is that she took over the SlutWalk brand for her own self-promotion.

My take? That may be partly true.  And if so, so what?

The reality is, few (if any) other volunteers were picking up the ball and running with it. SlutWalk the movement-slash-brand, seemed to be dying on the vine - I certainly wasn't devoting my life to it. Social movements do morph and change, as people join, become more active, become less active... It's the nature of the beast. And none of them, ever, are perfect incarnations of the ideals expressed.

The differences between SlutWalk, LA, 2011, and the AmberRoseSlutWalk, LA, 2015?

Mo Money, Mo People, Mo Everything

SlutWalk LA 2011 contained a few hundred lovely protesters, in a small West Hollywood park. AmberRoseSlutWalk LA 2015 had thousands, in Pershing Square, downtown Los Angeles. Major stage, sound system, pre-printed signs and many booths for vendors, food trucks.

Though there were still many wonderful handmade signs.

Not Just a Bunch of Old White Feminists

The organizers of the original SlutWalk, in Toronto, were two white college women, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis. Not that there is anything wrong with being white; to quote Lady Gaga, I was Born That Way, but although all women suffer from slut shaming, it is women of color, sex workers, and transpeople, who suffer the most. Because Los Angeles is a diverse city, Slutwalk LA 2011 contained men and women of many skin tones, but in all honesty? Probably over 50% white folks.

This SlutWalk was dominated by women of color. The panelists, dancers, performers, and crowd were predominantly people of color.

And that was awesome.

There were plenty of male allies there. And women and men who are older of my generation, too. But mostly, it was a young crowd.

When white people did speak, like SlutWalk co-founder Heather Jarvis, and actor Matt McGorry, they spoke about white privilege, and how people of color have been disproportionally affected by rape and slut shaming. Yes, rape and slut shaming hurts everyone. But I have never been assumed to be a slut simply because of the color of my skin.

People in Transition Were Not Pushed to the Back of the Bus

I have to confess, it isn't until recent years I gave much thought to transpeople. And while I still have so much to learn, I have been lucky enough to become friends with a few, who have kindly overlooked my ignorance and insensitive verbal blunders. I am coming to better understand the pain, struggle, and body dysphoria they live with, every single day. The fact that, Caitlyn Jenner notwithstanding, transpeople are much more likely to be attacked, sexually assaulted, even killed, just for being who they are, or trying to present, on the outside, what they feel like on the inside.

I know there were a few transpeople at Slutwalk LA 2011. I have no idea how many were present at AmberRoseSlutwalk 2015, because I am learning to not look for signs that someone is "trying to pass." If someone is presenting as a woman, I will treat her as a woman, and if someone is presenting as a man, I will treat him as a man, and if someone is presenting in an androgynous way, I will treat them like any other human being. I loved that every speaker talked about the slut shaming and danger our transgender brothers and sisters endure.

The Emphasis Was On Sexual Freedom, Not Rape

When it comes to rape myths, that battle is already won, or almost won, at least in SoCal. As I walked around downtown LA with my "No Shaming This Slut" Slutwalk sign, people asked about it, and everyone nodded their heads in agreement, that of course no one deserves to be raped because of what they are wearing. (There may be a few troglodytes who still feel differently, but they are also the tinfoil hat kind who believe we faked the Moon landing, so, whatevs.)

There seemed to be a shift in emphasis, in that more and more people are adopting the philosophy espoused by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy in The Ethical Slut, that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.

This message deeply resonates with me, and did long before I joined the fabulous organization Sex Positive World, Los Angeles chapter.

SPW's awesome founder Gabriella Cordova wears the message on her sleeve sexy ass.

More than a few of the SPLA members there to represent.

And while Amber Rose might not (yet) be a member of our happy tribe, she sends the same message. Consensual Sex is nothing to be ashamed of.

In fact, we should be proud of owning our sexuality. Whether we choose to be celibate, monogamous, swingers, sex workers, or polyamorous or a combindation, we choose. Whether we choose to wear burquas or bikinis or bare-breasted, we choose.

That's a message that hasn't changed, from 2011 to 2015.

Have you ever participated in a SlutWalk or this one?
Your thoughts?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Time for Class! Bondage, Business, or Both?

Sorry for the long absence, but I've been all tied up.


Besides the day job and lotsa doctor appointments to deal with the cancer thing (more on that, below), I've been taking workshops and attending events. Bondage and Meditation. Yes, it's a thing.

Thanks to the magical Michael for being my partner this week, to awesome Alexandra the week before,
and to terrific Tim and amazing Aaron the week before that.

And all props to Orpheus and Indigo Black, Nina, and the other workshop facilitators
Yes, the word "loose" instead of "lose" bothered me at first. But it's actually just as appropriate,
because when you are bound physically , you are also loosened, mentally, emotionally.

It has been a sensual, peaceful, wonderful way to connect with my body and spirit in a healthy, joyful way. I highly recommend it.

Also, it can make for terrific foreplay, if you learn the ropes and have a lover who is willing to play that way. [insert happy smile here]

But besides that workshop, I've also been busy preparing to give one of my own, through LARA (Los Angeles Romance Authors).  Here's the deets:

 August 2015:  The Business of Writing 101

Beverly DiehlregisterINSTRUCTOR:  Beverly Diehl
DATES:  August 3 – 19 (2.5 weeks)
COST: $30
LARA member cost: $20
CLASS DESCRIPTION:  Most writers would rather enjoy a root canal than talk about business. And yet, sometimes both are necessary (and with a little laughing gas, both can be made less painful).
In this six-part, two & a half week online workshop, participants will learn the essentials of running their writing business successfully:
  • A Douchebag By Any Other Name (why/how to choose a pen name)
  • To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate (overview of different organization structures & the pros & cons of each)
  • Poindexter, Your New BFF (Accountants – what they do that writers need, how to choose one)
  • Avoiding the Death of a Thousand Paper Cuts (What forms need to be filed)
  • Separate Ways (Basic principles of business record-keeping)
  • It’s Never As Easy As It Looks On TV (How to choose an accounting software package)
  • And more!

I'd love it if your schedule permits you to join the rest of the participants for this workshop. You know me - there will be mancandy.

Another thing starting on August 3 is my first radiation session. Six weeks, five days a week, three minutes of being zapped. I cannot honestly say I am looking forward to starting radiation, except in the sense that the sooner I start it, the sooner I will be done with it.

But six weeks goes fast, I'm as prepared as I can be, I'm very grateful to be one of the lucky people who does not need chemo. I have a generous supply of boob cream to get me through any skin discomfort, plus medicinal marijuana product to get me through any anxiety.

As electrifying career coach Shelley Mazer of Step Into The Possibilities told me and the Los Angeles Romance Authors at a recent presentation, "It's good. It's all good."

Here's hoping it's all good with you as well.

Your thoughts, or questions?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Choosing to Dream with Jennifer Senhaji

I've needed to do a writerly 10-Question interviews in a while. Here now is lab experiment brave volunteer, author Jennifer Senhaji stepping to the screen.

1) You published Sweet Dreams in July 2014, a story in Unwrapping Love in December 2014, the novella Sea Breeze in May 2015, and you have the sequel to Sweet Dreams, Choosing to Dream, coming out this month. You also have a full time job, a husband, and children. Do you sleep? Can you unpack for us how you make it work, writing with all those other major demands competing for your time? 

Honestly, I am constantly sleep deprived. I do sleep, but am hard pressed to get more than six hours a night, and I love sleep. My body really needs at least eight hours. My husband works nights, so I get most of my writing done at night while he’s at work. It’s hard. Time is something that I am always battling. But when you are passionate about something, you have to pick and choose what you want to spend your time doing. I’ve pretty much given up TV. It’s always on in my house, two kids and all, but I usually just catch glimpses of the Food Network or cartoons over the top edge of my laptop while I work. A normal day includes the day job, home at 6:30 pm, homework, dinner, then laptop. I don’t write every day. I work on blog posts, catch up on marketing, edit, and then write.

2) In Sweet Dreams, cafe owner Jenna Morris begins a secret romantic friendship with A-list actor and sexiest man alive Jacob Walker. Have you ever had a secret friendship or romance with a celebrity, or know someone who has?

I haven’t. I’ve met a few celebrities in my life though, and I’m always surprised at how normal they seem up close. Totally different than our perceptions. I will let you in on a little secret… Sweet Dreams is actually based on a recurring dream I’ve had for years where I did have a secret friendship with a celebrity.

3) You seem to like the "J" names for your characters: Jordan, Jenna, Jacob, Jerry. Where did "Eric" in Sea Breeze come from, name-wise? You did know there were more "J" names available? 

Ha. Yes, I like using "J" names. Actually, in Angels in Disguise, my holiday anthology story which will end up as the kick-off to a new series, the main characters are Alex and Gabe. Supporting character is Jaime though, so I didn’t escape the "J" name there. Eric is a name I have always loved and come to think of it, I did once know and work with a bartender named Eric. He was not the inspiration for the character though, just a funny coincidence.

4) I notice you used a LOT of songs that wrapped their way into the story of Sweet Dreams. Do you decide on a song list for your novel before you begin writing, and have that inform your story, or does the story itself, as you're writing it, suggest songs that you add to your playlist? Do you put song X on repeat as you are working on that chapter, or...? 

The songs come to me during the scenes. When it feels right, I jot them down and add them to a playlist that is also edited down to the final list once the book is edited and done. When I am writing a particularly juicy scene, like the wedding scene in Italy in Sweet Dreams, I do keep the song on repeat, in this case Anything, Anything by Dramarama. It really amps up the tension for me and puts me smack dab in the middle of the action.

5) Jordan in Sea Breeze mixes a drink quite impressively. Tapping on your own skills, or just great research? 

I have worked in almost every facet of the restaurant business including being a cocktail waitress and a bartender. I certainly know how to mix a cocktail and always loved working a busy bar. There is something about the adrenaline of pouring drinks at a busy bar. I can spin a shaker in my hand, but that’s about it. I’m an impressive klutz, so being a flair bartender was never in the cards for me.

6) Both of us belong to a group of women (and a few men) called Writing Wenches. Can you tell us how support groups, online or in person, help a writer advance her/his career? And is there any downside to social networking among peers? 

Honestly, I’ve made wonderful friends in writing groups. Here’s the thing, I’m a member of a lot of groups, and it’s hard to find the right one. Some are purely marketing based. Some are more friend based. Others are writing based. I have found a perfect medium in the Writing Wenches for me. We support each other because we are friends, not out of obligation. Some groups will have requirements and rules that need to be followed, so make sure to read those carefully before joining a group. The only downside is finding the group that works for you. It can take time and patience, but in the end is absolutely worth it.

7) Complete this sentence, "I know I will have 'made it' as a writer when..." What's your own happily ever after?

When I quit the day job to write full time… But I don’t know if I will ever quit the day job, I love my career. Instead, how about… I will have made it when I can travel and write on location. That is the dream.

8) Moroccan. You bio says that you speak Moroccan (along with Spanish and a little French). For the ignorant among us *raises hand* who did not know that the people of Morocco had their own language, can you educate us a little on the people, the culture, and the language? Will we be seeing any Moroccan or Moroccan-American characters in a Jennifer Senhaji work of fiction anytime in the near future?

Fifteen years ago, I married a man from Morocco who I met while I was traveling in Morocco. I’ve been there several times and love it. The culture, the food, the people. It’s a happy blend of ancient and modern, that you can see in the architecture of the old medina surrounded by new construction. It’s a Muslim country, but extremely tolerant and open-minded with a European feel. The official languages are Arabic and French. However, Moroccan is the local dialect that is spoken in all households. When they write, it’s in French or Arabic. The nightly news is given in Arabic, French, and Moroccan. I learned the language through my husband and his family. My daughter is fairly fluent and my son is learning. The language itself is a combo of Arabic, French, Spanish, in my opinion. All Moroccans can speak to and understand people speaking Arabic and French, but they have their own language as well. A country full of people that speak three languages fluently is pretty impressive. And when you go to northern Morocco, most people also speak Spanish since Spain is only a ferry ride away. I will incorporate Morocco here and there in different books down the road, but eventually I will publish my story, when I’m ready. That is the first book I ever tried to write and had to put it down because it was too close. Someday.

9) Choosing to Dream releases this month. What will we love about Jen and Jake in this book? Do we need to read Sweet Dreams first, or does each book work as a stand-alone? 

The angst is definitely amped up in this book. It’s all about long distance relationships, which is something I know a little about since my husband and I dated long distance for almost two years before we got married. You do not have to read Sweet Dreams before this book. However, the story of Jake and Jenna coming together is so awesome, I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to.

10) What question have you never been asked, but always wanted to answer? And what's the answer?

Hmmm, this is hard. But I’ve often wondered why no one has asked me about my logo “Your Sweet and Spicy Romance Author,” and whether or not it applies to my regular life and not just my writing. The answer is yes, and I am fairly certain my husband will agree.

Jennifer Senhaji was born and raised in San Francisco, CA. About herself, she says: Music is an addiction. I can often be found in the car, singing at the top of my lungs with whatever is playing. I work full time, and I split my spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. I’m a habitual quoter. Lines from films and TV shows constantly pop into my head—my kids are the only ones that really get it. I’m an only child, and so of course I married a man who is one of ten children. Other than English, I speak Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. I love to travel, but don’t do enough of it. Reading has been a passion for most of my life, and I now love writing. I’m a klutz, and in my own mind, I’m hilarious.

Questions? Comments?
If you've read Jennifer's work, what did you like about it?