1.15.2014

Three Strikes . . . But Not Out.

Roxy Rogers
Me
My life is a seriously fun dose of bad juju lately, peppered with a little cosplay. But then, I don’t really believe in juju. I’m not superstitious. Okay, so I’m open to the possibility that we might physically (magnetic fields) gravitate toward or attract whatever it is we’re focused on. If that’s so, I believe it to be scientifically quantifiable, but likely without a branch of science to measure it accurately as yet. I also know that when I focus on gratitude and the wonderful people in my life, more positive things occur, and the less traumatic this bumpy road of juju feels. Nevertheless, the road for any artist is already a bumpy one, so several years of major trauma and minor catastrophes without any relief in between them all can be more than a little challenging, sometimes depressing. At least I haven’t cut off my ear (apologies to Vincent for that gratuitous mention).
So during this ride I've spent a lot of time observing other people’s reactions to me, and mine to them. I've come to understand that while I don’t think of myself in terms of labels or boxes, other people have, and continue to do so. I define myself as quite a bit more than just a “writer of erotica and romance,” but until someone gets to know me, they don’t see any of the other things I am, either as an artist or a person. And because I've often been too trusting of others, and become more guarded as a result, it’s becoming harder to get to know me. So I’m increasingly aware that from other people’s viewpoints, I sit in a kind of twilight zone intersection of “labels.” I have, in effect, three strikes against me in the moral majority’s view:
-I’m childless (by conscious choice)
-I’m atheist
-I’m female

You may argue that last minority group is debatable, but consider that most of the current "majority” voting on the bills introduced in congress in the U.S. are older, white men. Many of them have introduced a plethora of female reproductive-related bills in congress over the last two years that if passed, would remove most of my rights to sexual health and reproductive decision making for my own body. 
As I entered my 40s, it became clear that for many people (surprisingly far more women than men) being childless by choice seemed odd, unreasonable, even “abnormal.” Many were quite vocal about it. Some individuals even pointed to my failure to believe in an all-knowing, omnipotent deity as the justification of why I decided against having children. (i.e., "Well if she had any faith, god would tell her she needs to have children because that’s her primary role in society," etc. etc.)  Add to this mix that I write fantasy and science fiction with heavy doses of magic and religion in the plot, and label-seekers often seem truly befuddled by what they perceive as incongruous (i.e., "How can you not believe anything yet write about magic and religion?") Never mind that it's a fallacy that atheists "don't believe in anything" but that's another blog entirely. I ask you, how does a film director represent the emotions and experience of a rape on film without ever having participated in one? One of my eBooks is a prequel to a series of Archangel romances I’m writing which redefine the nature of religion as theists see it. So what? It's fiction. It doesn't have to mean anything.
If that makes me odd or abnormal, that’s probably a good thing. Why? Writers and other artists have seldom represented the majority in their thinking or living. Artists historically do not fit into a single box, mold, or underneath labels. But then I don’t believe anyone should. Artists are often sponges, accumulating data, emotions, and thoughts. Some of it is painful. Social upheaval, personally and globally, can singe us like lava flow from a volcano and drive us hermit-like into seclusion. When we are too vulnerable, we are canvasses upon which other people’s chaos, violence, and “stuff” is splashed and played out because of our receptivity and the very qualities that make us good at our art. I don’t know if any of that is good or bad, and I’m not passing judgment. I only know what it feels like when it happens. What I do know is that it often seems part of who I am: to listen, observe, and absorb input, views, thoughts and emotions until I’m full. Sometimes it makes me brittle, but it all becomes valuable to my writing. As it is for most artists, finding a healthy balance between being that sponge-like canvas and having a measure of self-protection is probably a lifelong pursuit. Not taking other people’s attacks personally is a particular challenge, and forgiving myself for allowing others to work out their crap on me as if I was an inanimate object is something I’m not sure I’ll ever master.
Despite being heavily affected by the chaos of others in my environment, the core of who I am remains unchanged. I’m still an atheist, I’m still happy without being a mother and a sex change operation is certainly not in the cards. If those are strikes against me as a member of society, perhaps I should be asking whether my art exists to illuminate an opposite viewpoint? Perhaps minority, creativity, difference, unique choice, and anything that falls outside the status quo exists to stir our thinking up?. . . to inspire us, remind us that “normal” might be simply the current majority’s social “agreement,” and not right or absolute.

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