Romy Shiller

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

My Gallbladder Surgery – A Review

In About, General, review on March 19, 2015 at 9:09 am


Well, this is self-indulgent. On March 13 I had the surgical removal of the gallbladder. This is called a cholecystectomy. My symptoms went way beyond the gallstones they found. I won’t disgust you with tales of nausea and vomiting nor will I scare you with late night emergency ambulance rides… I ended up not being able to eat oil, mayonnaise, margarine etc. No alcohol either – so no beer, wine or champagne for me! *sigh*

The challenge of being creative with fruits and vegetables wore off – quickly. Actually, I might write a cookbook now. I am a non-dairy vegetarian so I was severely restricted. I also do not eat tomatoes or tomato-sauce because I have acid-reflux. I can’t be the only one limited generally though… I’m almost a Vegan but with other limitations. My veggie stews and soups rock.

It was more than simply inconvenient to keep my gallbladder – it was dangerous. The threat of infection and another attack was ominous. I mean sure it was hard to give up cooking with oil and no mayo sandwiches but it could be done. I am not a fan of general anesthesia at all but the serious nature of my condition became apparent.

I was superstitiously worried that my surgery was scheduled for a Friday the 13th so I took to Facebook where many friends mentioned that the number 13 was very lucky for me. *phew* Sometimes social-media kicks butt.

So, about a week before my surgery I found lung-expanding exercises on-line and I started using ye old stationary bike. If it weren’t for this gallbladder thing I’d be in wicked shape! If I had to do anesthesia, I’d be prepared. They had wanted to do emergency surgery when I went to the hospital in late January – I would not let them. Now I could be physically and mentally ready. Maybe it was foolish to wait but I’m glad that I did. For me it was in keeping with who I was. [I am not advocating my personal choice for anyone else.]

At the pre-op clinic I was able to discuss my surgery with a nurse, a doctor and an anesthesiologist. I had done the physical tests when I was hospitalized in January so it was relatively quick. I was given the ‘all-clear’ for surgery.

At the pre-op clinic I was given a booklet, which included what to bring to the hospital. I checked what I already had like toothpaste, and went to a pharmacy.

There was a suspenseful nature to the whole thing. They would only know if I would have laparoscopic surgery or open surgery once they started. Yikes. Open Surgery would be much more painful afterwards and take longer to recover from. Laparoscopic surgery might be too complicated because I have a brain shunt threaded into an abdominal cavity. Crapcrapcrap. After much doctor deliberation I had laparoscopic surgery.

I had to get to the hospital 2 hours before my surgery.

My surgery was delayed for 10 hours because they had to deal with an emergency. I had no breakfast, lunch or dinner because when you have general anesthesia you’re not allowed to eat and initially I stopped eating for my planned hour. My blood sugar fell, they had to give me intravenous fluids and I was going to go home but they were suddenly ready for me.

They wheeled me into the operating room. I was not apprehensive in the least. As a matter of fact, when my stretcher rolled past my parents I told THEM not to worry.

After the operation I woke up in a postoperative ward where they took my vital signs… I was discharged 2 days later and haven’t felt this good in years.

*I’d like to thank Arleen Solomon Rotchin for the idea for this article.

A Heads Up

In General on September 8, 2012 at 10:36 am


This is a heads up… I’m upgrading my site by adding older articles and additional info. You will get emails for these posts – I can’t alter this. I am so sorry for any inconvenience! Your presence on my site means the world to me. Please bear with me.




In General on September 8, 2012 at 9:11 am

According to the book Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box by the head of women’s studies at South-Carolina U., Merri Lisa Johnson, I’m a third wave feminist. I can imagine that you are getting many letters regarding your provocative cover featuring a superman Barack Obama. Obviously, he holds many views that feminists hold dear and indeed he considers himself a feminist. I do believe that men can be feminists. Does he belong on your esteemed cover? No. Your magazine defines feminism in female terms. It is important to realize that not all women are feminists by virtue of their biology. In your case it is absolutely necessary to keep women as a focus: Like black men, there is a major history for women and a continuing struggle. So yes there are parallels here but is that reason enough? You have the honourable and incredible opportunity to locate women who surpass their confines, who themselves represent change. In my own work as a gender specialist I validate the spectrum of femininity and masculinity for females and males. It would be entirely seamless for me to endorse your cover. I cannot. Look, if I were American (I am Canadian) I gladly would have voted for him. In my estimation he is remarkable, inspiring and transformative. I am thrilled he is your president. However, he would not be on the cover of my (hypothetical) feminist magazine.

Romy Shiller

3rd Wave Feminist

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online.

Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word

In 3rd Wave Feminism, General on September 1, 2011 at 11:00 am

(originally published May 5, 2010)

My article is‘Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word.’ I examine some of the roles we are forced into and the damaging effects of ideology. I am not against marriage at all – I am for free-will.

If divorce has increased by one thousand percent, don’t blame the women’s movement. Blame the obsolete sex roles on which our marriages were based.Betty Friedan:
speech, New York City, January 20, 1974Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word

You know, to be a single woman over a certain age really enacts a double standard. Men are labeled ‘bachelors’ – lots of doubtful questions arise for women that do not exist for men. Is she gay? Does she have trouble committing or holding down a man?

In my non-fiction book Who Knew?A continuation of You Never Know: A Memoir I say, “Wow. To be an unmarried woman is so suspect. I certainly could have gotten married and will – one day. I remember having a teacher in high-school who was unmarried and I definitely pre-judged her. I was not outside of ideology or expectation. It is kind of bizarre to be in a similar situation now. I was doing a Masters Degree and a PhD. I studied singing at The Royal Conservatory of Music. I had a band. There were relationships and jobs. I acted on film, a TV series and theatre, wrote articles, studied French and took seminars on photography and voice-work. Sorry if marriage was not a priority. I feel like it does not matter what I did – marriage would have been a measure of success.”It is so bizarre to me. I do so much yet validation from most others would be based through my relationship with a man. Sorry – but like it’s so hard to get married? Look, I do want to be with someone forever and marriage would concretize that idea but there are no guarantees, eh? Amy, a third-wave feminist like me says, “society has valued marriage to the extent that some people stay in marriages that aren’t healthy — and do so, because “not being married” or being “divorced” in this society punishes people — especially women — even those for whom divorce is a ‘life saver.’” ( A stable partner would be great, but if marriage is not an option, so be it.Like many children, fairy-tales were read to me. Instead of idealizing a prince-charming, I may have regarded the situation as make-believe. I never immersed myself in an ideology most take for granted. I still don’t. Good cake at weddings though. Usually, free drinks too. An excuse for a party? I’m honestly not a hurtful person; I just get a kick out of making fun of things.A New York Times article says, “The most recent crop of reality television shows taps the fantasies we first learned from fairy tales: castles and fortunes, true love and romantic destiny, and above all that most perfect storybook union, the ”fairy tale wedding.” On the rose-strewn finale of ”The Bachelorette,” Trista chose the shy fireman Ryan, who promptly got down on one knee and held out a diamond. ”I don’t think that I could have imagined a better ending to this fairy tale story,” she sighed. Meanwhile, on ”Joe Millionaire,” 20 would-be Cinderellas competed for the hand of a modern-day Prince Charming.” Ich but firemen… (“Fairy Tales and a Dose of Reality.”)Gay marriage – well, if it’s legal for straights, I say why not? “Brad Pitt gave one hundred thousand to fight the passage of Proposition 8, an amendment that would outlaw gay marriage in California. Brad’s donation is the biggest that any A-list celebrity has donated to this date. But it comes as a shock that Ellen DeGeneres or Portia haven’t given a penny to the cause. Rumors have it that eleven million dollars has been raised to fight Prop 8.” (Associated Content)

“Brad Pitt, ever the social activist, says he won’t be marrying Angelina Jolie until the restrictions on who can marry whom are dropped.” ( Way to go Brangelina!

I know some absolutely fabulous women, pioneers, who feel judged because of their non-marital status. If as much energy around them would be focused on their incredible accomplishments instead of analyzing why they’re single there would be such a positive shift for everyone concerned. This gets me mad on so many levels.

I was looking at the website, Single-Woman.TV. It celebrates singleness. This truly opposes dominant belief structures. Instead of judging and being negative there is pragmatic positivity and a very welcome breathing space. You are not suffocated into fitting-in. The very opposite of a Stepford wife is enabled: “The term “Stepford wife”, which is often used in popular culture, stemmed from the novel [The Stepford Wives is a 1972 satirical horror novel by Ira Levin], and is usually a reference to a submissive and docile housewife.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

In my non-fiction book You Never Know: A Memoir  I say; “I guess the way my mind works is pretty revolutionary. I do not think like most people I know, that’s for sure. By many standards, I am pretty unconventional. My actions speak for themselves. Two things I can think of right off the bat are that I am unmarried and I do not have kids. Not that I do not want either, but they obviously have not been a priority for me. I was never the kind of girl who dreamt of her wedding day. Having a stable partner is very nice, but I never thought I would need to get married to have that. I remember when I was eight years old, a little boy asked me to marry him. I know we were too young to get married, but I cannot shrug this feeling that I was hard-wired for resistance early on.” (pp. 117-118.)

It is revolutionary to go against the grain, to resist a standard, a dominant ideology. It takes a lot of courage and strength to do things differently and I admire, no esteem, those that do. I know very well that I opt out of the so-called ‘normal’ (I can’t stand that word) but for me it’s like breathing air – a habit which takes little effort on my part. I do validate the effort and challenge most face though.

There is a ton of pressure to fit in and conform. Mark Twain said; “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” In You Never Know: A Memoir I say; “Difference is something that most people avoid. Fitting in becomes a goal. Personally, I think difference is valuable. It’s the “same” that irks me. Variation is not the same as inconsistency. One can be incredibly multi-tonal and consistent.” (p. 23)

Pat Donnelly’s article “How not to find love” (The Montreal Gazette) describes how playwright-actor-dancer-singer Fenulla Jiwani in her play, 30 Dates, draws upon her own dating experiences and feelings about arranged marriages. The pressure to get married is fierce. Donnelly adds, “Looking for Mr. or Ms. Right? Now that online dating and speed dating have entered into the equation, the comedic possibilities have multiplied.” I know that “arranged marriages” are cultural but the inference…

Even celebrity Carmen Electra feels pressure to marry: “The former ‘Baywatch’ star – who got engaged to the KoRn guitarist in April after a whirlwind romance – insists the couple are in no hurry to tie the knot but are constantly being asked if they have set a wedding date.”

She said: “It’s funny; everyone else puts so much pressure, asking, ‘When are you getting married?”
“If it was up to everybody else, we would be married and divorced already.” (“Carmen Electra Feeling Under Pressure To Get Married.”)

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia says; “Divorce or dissolution of marriage is the final termination of a marriage, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between married persons. In most countries, divorce requires the sanction of a judge or other authority in a legal process.”

I’ve had excruciating break-ups and the torment of divorce must be horrific. There is a great temptation, I’m sure, to be pain-free, to avoid conflict. There might be a fire one has to walk through to get to the other side. This side may ultimately hold mega-relief. Probably, stepping outside the ideology of marriage to some, feels very risky. I know so many people that are in bad marriages. Obviously, I think it’s worth it to get out. Breaking up is never easy, but why suffers permanently? All of the rationalizations in the world don’t seem to cut it. “Recovering from a breakup or divorce is difficult. However, it’s important to know (and to keep reminding yourself) that you can and will move on. But healing takes time, so be patient with yourself.” (

The power of ideology cannot be underestimated.

Accessed September 16, 2009.
Accessed November 30, 2009. “Carmen Electra Feeling Under Pressure To Get Married.” June 9, 2008.
Accessed October 4, 2009.

Levin, Ira. The Stepford Wives: a Novel. Fawcett Publications. 1972.
Marriage Quotes
Accessed September 16, 2009.

Shiller, Romy. Who Knew? Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2010.
—————. You Never Know: A Memoir. Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2008.

Accessed September 21, 2009.

The New York Times. “Fairy Tales and a Dose of Reality.” March 3, 2003.
Accessed October 4, 2009.

The Quote Garden
Accessed October 3, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
Accessed November 30, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
Accessed September 21, 2009.

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought.

Romy Shiller is a 3rd Wave Feminist according to the book Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box by the head of women’s studies at South-Carolina U.

Books are available online. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing.


In 3rd Wave Feminism, General on August 4, 2011 at 11:52 am


It is difficult to believe in a religion that places such a high premium on chastity and virginity.


I do not believe in Virginity. Radical, eh? Many people are confused by that. Sexual activity that is predicated on intercourse between a man and a woman leaves no room for gay people. Our entire culture and many religious systems internalize this falsehood. I am a disbeliever in mandatory heterosexuality. I also do not think that having sex means you ‘lose’ something. Having sex is a celebration, not a loss. To me, like much else, Virginity is a construct. So even if one is gay and has decided to make the term their own and they believe they are ‘losing’ their Virginity, I don’t think they are. Re-appropriation is great and validating but I don’t appropriate the ‘term’ in any way.

“A Virgin (or maiden) is, originally, a woman who has never had sexual intercourse. Virginity is the state of being a virgin. It is derived from the Latin virgo, which means “sexually inexperienced woman”, used typically of adolescents, but also of older women, and even goddesses [“Athena…another of the three virgin goddesses (in addition to Hestia and Artemis).” Women in Greek Myths].” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

These days guys use the term ‘Virgin’ but its roots are feminine. I feel the term is based in misogyny – “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.” ( Some absolutely amazing people use the term, but most people do not think like me.

The emergence of chastity rings speaks to an emphasis on Virginity: “Is it too radical to suppose these kids could have education about STDs and have a healthy sex life? In the popular high school film Twilight (2008) the lead characters are in love but do not get it on because he is a vampire and is scared he might kill her. I am sensing a disturbing trend.” (Shiller, POP goes the TEEN.)

The idea that many young people wait until marriage to have sex gives ‘Virginity’ a currency. I am not encouraging kids to run out and have sex but the premium on abstinence makes me ill because it is so wrapped up in ideology – it is the opposite of free-will. Certainly, if one chooses not to have sex – fine. The reasons behind this decision need to be explored – freely.

Look, for a heck of a long time there has been a Virgin/Whore dichotomy. “The Virgin Birth of Jesus is a religious tenet of Christianity and Islam which holds that Mary miraculously conceived Jesus while remaining a virgin”. (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia) I am certainly not the first or last to address this: “Feminists and other social commentators use the term to describe a deep dichotomy in modern culture used to oppress women via a sexual double standard, establishing rigid categories for female sexual behavior while permitting male sexual behavior to range from abstinence to promiscuity without similarly disparaging social judgment.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia) At least it’s acknowledged. It is powerful to make fun of this dichotomy – to be ironic about it, but I also think it merits serious attention because it is so insidious. Believe me; I’d like nothing more than to dismiss it as a phase. There is a catch-phrase one of my friends used: “men want to [have sex] with the whore but marry the virgin.” Often true and VERY boring.

I remember an episode of Sex and the City (1998-2004) where Charlotte had to explain to her new husband that she was a ‘sexual being’ so that he’d have sex with her and not see her as a virginal mother figure. Sad. What is truly interesting is that all of the characters have a framework – Sex – the show is called Sex and the City after all. A dichotomy is set up in this instance. Ideas of the Virgin and the Whore are established.

Because we internalize so many ideas about the Virgin/Whore we owe it to ourselves to examine into which part of our lives these ideas are seeping. Like so many things we take for granted, this may be invisible. Let’s try to make it concrete.

I don’t believe there is a metaphorical line drawn by what we have or have not experienced.

The semantics of the term ‘Virginity’ creates meaning. I personally do not think we can escape its negative impact, so I opt out. I really do not think that my voice or opinions will change things. Someone said; “…voices to quash those stereotypes will fall to the wayside over time if that change does not occur.” I believe that, and while I am glad to tell you how I feel, I know the ideology will remain. I was going to say that it sucks to be me, but it doesn’t really – I’m just realistic.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Accessed August 3, 2009.
Sex and the City. Creator: Darren Star. Darren Star Productions. 1998-2004. Accessed August 6, 2009.
Shiller, Romy. POP goes the TEEN.
Twilight. Director, Catherine Hardwicke. Goldcrest Pictures. 2008. Accessed May 1, 2009.
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Accessed August 3, 2009.
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia August 6, 2009.
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Accessed August 2, 2009.
Women in Greek Myths Accessed August 6, 2009.

Double Standard?

In 3rd Wave Feminism, General on July 15, 2011 at 7:36 am

(originally published July 27, 2009.)

When I’m good I’m very, very good but when I’m bad I’m better.

– Mae West

Maybe this is a booty call. Do females do that? Do I care? I think many women are worried about seeming desperate or as being perceived as a slut. Do males worry about those things? defines double standard as “[a] set of principles permitting greater opportunity or liberty to one than to another, especially the granting of greater sexual freedom to men than to women.” 

In an article entitled, “Does the Sexual Double Standard Still Exist? Perceptions of University Women,” we find that “[t]he sexual double standard has been the focus of considerable research since the 1960s. Ira Reiss (1960), the pioneer researcher, defined the orthodox double standard as prohibiting premarital sexual intercourse for women but allowing it for men. This standard evolved into the conditional double standard in which women were permitted to engage in sexual relations only within a committed love relationship, whereas men were permitted to have as many sexual partners as they wanted without condition. In studying the double standard, researchers have generally focused on one of three main issues: sexual behavior, evaluations of men and women who engage in certain sexual behaviors, and personal preferences regarding’ the sexual background of hypothetical partners.”

The bottom-line is that research has found that a double standard still exists.

I was thinking, who would fall for a disabled feminist? For one, there is a misperception that feminists hate men or are anti-men. We are just pro-women. My many disabilities mean I cannot rely upon image to help out. Cosmetic botox and liposuction are meaningless to me. I cannot, like many people, wish I were younger or curvier as if those changes would make a difference. I love that those things do not apply to me – they never did – but it might be nice to fantasize an option. I might have to re-configure. For example, I adore male eye-candy which is as realistic as looking at Playboy. (I was watching the film The House Bunny where it is claimed that to be 27 years of age is really 59 in bunny years. Ha!)

I have been single now for the longest period since I was 16. Yes, I have had to deal with loads. [I had non-malignant brain tumour surgeries and I was in a coma for five months]. I do crave a relationship though. I have major hope. My friend inspired me. She lost her husband more than a year ago and goes on dates now. She has been out of the “scene” for over 25 years but she challenges herself to try. I know she will always love her husband who passed but she is moving on. Amazing.

David Cook sings about being kissed on the neck – dreaming is good… So, what do I want? Sex and a relationship. Both. With someone who rocks my world. I have so much to offer but my physicality…I honestly believe that how I look now is problematic for many men. That sucks, eh? I enable “the gaze” for women in most of my articles. Women are sexual, play with gender-roles and inhabit various subject positions. Women are free. The big fat irony is that I feel constrained. If “come and get it” were an option, swell, but it is not.       

A kind man I know said, “Intimacy is about getting past obstacles, to various kinds of truth, communicating without obstacles or fear…Relationships are difficult enough when you’re a shiny new 20 year old who can take their beauty and intelligence for granted.”

Julia Pearlman wrote an internet article; “Sex when you’re disabled – Being disabled doesn’t mean you can’t have a good sex life, but you may need to make a few adjustments to make things as enjoyable as possible. ” ( Le oh.

There is something very intimidating about having sex in a different body and for someone extremely liberal to say that is something, I assure you. On the one hand it’s an amazing opportunity to start anew, to explore my comprehension of “lessons.” On the other hand it’s incredibly scary. Imagine. 

An article entitled, “Avatars for the wheelchair-bound: The value of inclusion in digital spaces,” (Theory and Research in HCI.) explains what “Avatars” are; “Avatars are the representation of the user within digital spaces, and can range from flat, non-animated pictures to pseudo-3D models that explore virtual worlds.”

I am currently writing a novel where a sexy young woman makes love to her very hot boyfriend (sounds much too Harlequin® ). I can be any character I want and while being virtual is amazing, there are real limitations. Ayn Rand said, “Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.” (

I adore the dream-world but it’s like the film The Matrix, (Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, 1999) eh?  In an article by Nancy Shute: “Girls With Sexy Avatars Face Greater Risks Online”(May 26, 2009) she says, “Do you know what your daughter’s online avatar looks like? If it’s sexually provocative–more Bratz than American Girl doll–it’s time for a chat. “I’m amazed at the grotesqueness of some of these avatars,” says Jennie Noll, a developmental psychologist and associate professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center who asked 173 teenage girls ages 14 to 17 to make avatars, then rated their provocativeness–skimpy clothing, body piercings, exaggerated curves. Girls who created provocative avatars were more likely to get sexual come-ons online, not surprisingly, and also more apt to agree to an in-person encounter with someone they met online. Noll’s study is published in the current issue of Pediatrics. The girls who chose provocative avatars were also more likely to be preoccupied with sex–and, Noll speculates, they might be more likely to try on the role.” ( Okay, I won’t speculate on the meanings associated with “provocativness.” I do want kids to be careful even though I might question the ideology here. A famous Macbeth quote remarks, “Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.” (Act 1, Scene V)

My “Bratz doll,” that Shute refers to, is hardly “offensive.” I use it on various internet sites. I think it is kinda cute.

I say that “identity is drag.” (Facebook – Facebook is a social networking site.) I’ll often post my profile picture on Facebook as a glamorous Hollywood actress. My author picture is of a way I used to look.  

Most pictures we choose to represent ourselves are inaccurate, right? Most of us cannot stand our driver’s license or passport pictures. May as well be a movie-star or look like the old me. Drag-identity is liberating. As I will often explain, to me “drag” is not “cross-dressing.” “Drag” is about layers of difference. I find “otherness” preferable to sameness. If my disabilities put me on the fringe – great. If the way I think belies convention, so be it. I am glad that I have a Ph.D but I do not fit or follow a conventional model of that at all. My “difference” permeates many aspects of my being. The ways in which I present identities now are not false, they are drag.

I watched the trailer for the film Surrogates (Jonathan Mostow, 2009) and it got me thinking…if I had a “surrogate” not only could I be able-bodied but be blonde, have straight hair, good eye-sight, be super thin etc. The promo states that you feel everything your surrogate feels. Hmmm. Yet, it feels like an evolution of The Stepford Wives (Bryan Forbes,1975) to me. I understand that the film Surrogates problematizes a substitute self which is great. I’m all for cyborgs but an idea of using one as a replacement is anti-responsibility.

In my book, You Never Know: A Memoir I say, “I never felt slim enough or beautiful enough. What a wake-up call, what a friggin’ realization! I know these are issues that many women struggle with, but what a major lesson for me. I used to be good friends with a model. Talk about always feeling like you just do not measure up. She would never make me feel inadequate overtly, but what a standard. Not because of her, I felt fat and ugly most of the time. I still deal with feelings of inadequacy. It is a huge paradox because I was in an industry (performance) that valued looks. She was also married to a model. Getting together with them was so full of meaning. What a stunning family they were to me. Of course, they also had a “gorgeous” baby. Oy. I used to be an actor, so I did have a version of what I looked like beyond my perspective. You do not need to act in order to know what your “reflection” is. I still held on to the belief that I was less than acceptable physically.

Even though I had lovers and people were attracted to me, it was difficult to accept that I was all right. And I knew better on several levels, yet this was incredibly challenging for me. A friend once told me to avoid beauty magazines because of my issues with body image. I knew they airbrushed everything, including bodies to make them even thinner, but they were so compelling. Even if it is all ideology, it’s a bugger.” (You Never Know: A Memoir pp. 35-36)

I like that one can inhabit a fantasy being via an Avatar; there appears to be an awareness that it’s not real, eh? Also the world is virtual. So while the access here is phenomenal it is a construct – which is not good or bad it just is. It is not like in the film The Matrix: “the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” There is no hidden world – Avatars are virtual drag. If I want to be an able-bodied Avatar so be it. It is not like a representation of self here (or most places) is accurate. I wonder if people who have plastic surgery consider themselves “real?” The flexibility of identity is truly interesting. Do driver’s license photos accurately identify a person? Do you like your photo? Does it look like you? What about your passport photo? Ugh.

There is a “double standard” separate from the sex of a person. There is a double standard of identity. On the one hand photos are supposed to identify us – but we alter, we change. If I stayed the same I’d look like my author picture but I no longer do. That WAS me at a certain point in time. Even then it was hardly accurate. A make-up artist was used, lighting was dramatic and I hired a professional photographer (Helen Tansey). Manipulation of my “look” occurred.

Ugly or gorgeous we’re looking at mis-identity. I know that my eye-candy is false. My disabilities veil aspects of who I am. I think I have always been “veiled.” In Who Knew? I say, “I truly believe I have been underestimated intellectually my entire life. Because of my investment in image, fashion, camp etc. I have been labeled as superficial or less than intelligent or deep. Someone I know from graduate school was apparently “surprised” by me when he read You Never Know: A Memoir. I still get comments from people whom, I think, relegate me as “vapid.” Someone compared me to Jane Austen’s Emma. I am a big fan of Jane Austen but the character of Emma lacks a gravitas and is often mistaken in her own perceptions of the world around her. That is not me but is the perceived me. I am far from clueless.” (Emma, Jane Austen’s novel is modernized in a film, and given the title Clueless.)

In the television series Battlestar Galactica (Michael Rymer, 2003) there is an entire “race” of cybernetic beings (cyborgs: part person and part machine). An emphasis is if they have “humanity.” There are “lines” which look identical but which have certain anomalies in behavior. One “line” is nicknamed the Sharon’s. One Sharon is in love with a human and has a child with him. A Sharon called Boomer by those in the human Battlestar Galactica fleet to which she belongs, thinks that she is human until she is “activated.” So, even though they look identical to one another their identities differ. Taking it further, the distinction between human and machine is blurred. What we can know by “looking” is put into question. I saw the film Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009.). Talk about questioning identity.  Our appearance does not define who we are.

Layers of unexpected identity are my thing. My doctoral dissertation, “A Critical Exploration of Cross-Dressing and Drag in Gender Performance and Camp in Contemporary North American Drama and Film” addressed that. It is my strong belief that we need to examine the world around us. Donna Haraway’s 1985 essay, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” in her ground-breaking book Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, develops a political myth around the image of the cyborg, “a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (149)

An extremely bright man said, “That interconnection you allude to in passing seems particularly rich, between human and machine, between our minds and the various extensions we now can attach. We have phones and keyboards for sending, various devices for receiving, to say nothing of the many ways our memories and senses are augmented. While on the one hand, you walk and dance slower than you used to, you have other tools that allow you to take giant strides and speak with a fantastically amplified voice, reaching many, many people. In your publishing career and its interconnections through blogs and social networking sites, you’re another sort of cyborg (as are we all after a fashion).”

I do now call part of what I am experiencing cyborg-drag because I have a permanent shunt in my head to drain excess fluid off my brain. In my article Ogre-Drag I say, “Drag intervenes with identity. Gender seems to be a focus. Many identities would be effective tools for discussion and exploration. For instance, I have a permanent shunt in my head to drain excess fluid off my brain. I am taken out of the realm of being human into a new world, occupying cyber territory. I am now a cyborg. To me this is cyborg-drag. “Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess” (Haraway 181). 

As before, I did not ask for a shunt, but I do have it. I am not making light of my situation by calling it drag. The confusion arises because “drag” is often considered silly. It is serious to me. The idea of foregrounding identities by practical means is substantial. It is critical.”

The cyber or virtual world provides a freeing universe within which one might explore difference or the unknown. In my book Again I say, “Exploring the unfamiliar might invoke a host of emotions like fear. We obviously try to avoid fear, yet haunted houses and roller coasters are pretty popular. The unfamiliar can be thrilling and entertaining. Fear can be enticing. Scary movies make huge profits. Funny, I do not watch horror films or engage in any fearful activities, yet I am more than willing to explore the unknown. My friend Lisa said that she explores the known and I, the unknown. She says, “In school I always loved math, science and history – because it was a known.” She says that I am the yin to her yang: “I need more yin!” (Again pp. 119-120).

What is this virtual world? “The computer accesses a computer-simulated world and presents perceptual stimuli to the user, who in turn can manipulate elements of the modeled world and thus experiences telepresence to a certain degree. Such modeled worlds may appear similar to the real world or instead depict fantasy worlds. The model world may simulate rules based on the real world or some hybrid fantasy world. Example rules are gravity, topography, locomotion, real-time actions, and communication. Communication between users has ranged from text, graphical icons, visual gesture, sound, and rarely, forms using touch, voice command, and balance senses.” (Biocca 1995, p. 41,47. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

In an article entitled, “Avatars! Exploring and Building Virtual Worlds on the Internet” Bruce Damer says, “When you don your avatar and join thousands of other people who are trying out life in virtual worlds you are joining in a great new experiment in human contact.” (Damer) Human/not human…interesting.

I was invited by a lovely gay man to participate in a site that included virtual sex. I couldn’t do it. Participating would be great for my status as an academic, 3rd wave feminist etc. but my preferences seem to outweigh all of that. Am I simply enacting prescribed ideology, a double standard? I am very aware of the limitations for women and I think that I’m on the outer edge of that. So, there appears to be a dichotomy.  In my book “Again” I say, “Keep one foot firmly planted in your personal beliefs and one foot in the pool of Ideology. You might get a little wet, but it is only water. Water evaporates. It is like a bridge between worlds.” (p. 86) So, that is what I’ll do – bridge worlds.

Predators do exist so watch out, “Young adolescents are the most vulnerable age group and are at high risk of being approached by online predators. They are exploring their sexuality, moving away from parental control and looking for new relationships outside the family. Under the guise of anonymity, they are more likely to take risks online without fully understanding the possible implications.” (webAWARE) 

There are standards for much that are false.



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