Posted by: CeCe | November 3, 2014

Auf wiedersehen for now!

A year ago, I registered this domain with the idea that I could renew again this year. It’s only $26, after all. Unfortunately, times have been tough this year, and I just don’t have the funds. Probably at midnight tonight, this website will be closed. I don’t know when or if I’ll be able to open it again, and if I am, I don’t know whether or not my posts, views, and subscribers will remain.

I’ve had lots of wonderful times writing here. I’ve received amazing comments and feedback, both here and on Facebook, and have had some really incredible ups, like when Anne Rice shared two of my posts with her fans on her Facebook page. I will always, always be thankful for that.

So thank you all from the bottom of my heart for reading my blog. I hope that I’ll be able to return at some point. I’d be lying if I said I’m not sad, but c’est le vie. Best wishes to you all!

Posted by: CeCe | November 1, 2014

Hey beautiful!

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog. I’ve had lots of things that I wanted to write about, but didn’t have the time to get them done before completely forgetting everything I meant to write. But here I am now.

Some of you have probably seen the video going around with the woman getting cat-calls in New York City [link will open in new tab/window], and have already formed your own opinion on it. From what I’ve seen in discussions about it, people generally fall into one of two camps. The first camp says that yes, this is harassment and we hate dealing with it. The second says, for various reasons, that it is not. I’d like to address the latter, giving their reasons for saying such and responding to each of them. This is by no means a comprehensive response, but maybe it will be helpful to a few people when engaging in conversation about it.

First, let me say that I have been cat-called and hit on in public, just like most women have. Some of the times I’ve been hit on have been kind of nice, like the gentleman who hit on me a couple weeks ago, and then backed off politely when I said I have a boyfriend. That was so wonderful, really; he took no for an answer and did not persist, although we made polite conversation for a few minutes after that. I can’t express how much I appreciated it! Other times, it’s been creepy and downright scary, like being followed by men who loudly expressed what kind of things they wanted to do to me. Granted, those latter instances have become more and more rare as I get further into my 30s, but they did happen with alarming frequency when I was a teenager and in my early 20s.

When I watched the video, it really hit home for me, because many of the creepy instances I experienced started off with a polite “hello” or “hello beautiful” but did not end there. They usually ended with the men getting in my personal space when I responded, or becoming hostile when I didn’t. It’s amazing how fast “beautiful” can become “stuck-up B*TCH!” when one chooses to not respond… and scary. It’s also scary how a simple nod and a smile can be taken as an invitation to sexually proposition a woman, or to touch her. Truthfully, for many women it becomes “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. If you respond in any way, you’re leading them on. If you don’t, you’re stuck-up. There is no middle ground, like that you responded because you’re polite and trying to be nice, or that you didn’t respond because the person gave you the creeps and you’re tired of it.

So the last couple of days, I’ve been reading the responses to the video on Facebook, on various pages to which I subscribe. Here’s a sample of the responses I’ve seen:

1) “How is saying hello harassment?”

Truthfully, merely saying hello to someone when passing them on the street is not harassment. When I’m out for walks, I may nod to those whom I pass, and if they meet my eyes and tell me to have a good day, I’ll say “thanks, same to you”, and continue on my way. However, if you watch the video, the woman in question was not making eye contact. She was not smiling or nodding at those whom she passed. She was walking quickly, and she had a very clear “don’t talk to me” look on her face. Talking to someone you don’t know when they’re giving off these signals, especially when they’re given as clearly as she was giving them, is harassment, plain and simple. Does a person really have to carry a sign saying “don’t talk to me” in order for people to leave them alone? These men were ignoring her clear signals. That is rude, presumptuous, and disrespectful.

Not only that, this was not Smalltown, USA, this was New York City, the same city where Kitty Genovese was raped and stabbed to death in public while her neighbors did nothing to help her, although several heard portions of the attack. When you live in a city, especially one as heavily populated and immense as New York City, you have to be on your guard, whether you’re male or female, but especially when you’re a female, because although men are more likely to be violently assaulted, women are likely to be assaulted simply for being a woman. Being a woman walking alone makes you a target in a city, whether it’s broad daylight or the middle of the night. I can say that instances in which I was followed by cars full of men, loudly propositioning me out the windows took place during the day, and it was still just as terrifying as it was when it happened at night. It can be scary being a woman in public! And you never know if that man saying “hello” to you is one of the creeps, or is merely being polite, so it’s best sometimes just to ignore them all.

2) “If she didn’t want the attention, she should have worn looser/less revealing clothing!”

First, I didn’t realize that wearing a t-shirt and jeans was considered “revealing”. Second, while the t-shirt and jeans in question were both fitted, they still covered her completely and weren’t overly tight. They were just the correct size for her, that’s all. Third, it really doesn’t matter what we wear. I’ve been lewdly and rudely propositioned wearing everything from shorts and a t-shirt to exercise clothes that fully covered me, and I’m sure other women can say the same. Fourth, this is just victim blaming, and akin to people who try to justify a woman being raped because of her outfit. Just because a woman looks nice does not mean she’s looking nice for you, and to think otherwise is egotistical.

3) “By not responding, she may have missed out on meeting someone special, like her future husband!”

This one is one of the stupidest responses I’ve seen about it. Not every woman who dares venture out of her house (when obviously she should be in the kitchen or raising kids /sarcasm) is looking for a boyfriend or a husband. Maybe she’s already taken. Maybe she’s a lesbian. Maybe she just doesn’t want to date anyone right now, or ever. Isn’t that her business?

Also, generally speaking, women who are walking down the street are either exercising, or trying to get from one place to another. They’re not trying to meet anyone. And even if they are, it doesn’t mean they want to meet you in the same place where they’re often harassed and cat-called. If you want to meet someone, save it for a place where it’s more likely the women there are looking to meet someone, like in a store, cafe, restaurant, bar, or club. Women generally feel safer in these places than they do on the street, and are more likely to be receptive, if they’re single and you’re what they’re seeking.

4) “Some women like the attention!”

Yes, but most women don’t. Isn’t it better to cater to the majority of women rather than the small minority who enjoy it? Why would any man want to risk scaring 9/10 women, just to find the one that actually doesn’t mind? Do you not care that this makes the vast majority of us uncomfortable? If you don’t care, that makes you a creep and maybe you’re the one who shouldn’t be allowed out in public.

5) “She’ll miss it when she becomes old and invisible!”

I can honestly say that when I’m out walking and the most I get are nods and smiles from passersby, I feel relieved. I can’t tell y’all how many times I’ve been out walking and at some point I encounter a man headed the opposite direction, and I’ve breathed a sigh of relief when he didn’t do more than nod at me. I would love it if that’s the only attention I got, and I’m sure I’m not the only one! I love it when I’m out and about and all I get are polite reactions, rather than the “hey baby nice t*ts/butt” and “smile! You should smile!” comments I’ve gotten in the past. Now that I’m getting older, I love the fact that I can now sometimes walk in peace!

Not only that, but to think that you know what a woman will think/feel in the future is incredibly conceited and egotistical. If you can’t read her clear signals when she wants to be left alone, what makes you think that you know how she’ll feel 20 years from now?

6) “What, can’t a man ever talk to a woman or acknowledge her beauty?”

One time, I was out grocery shopping with my now ex-husband, and at one point, an African-American gentleman who looked to be in his 40s or 50s approached me and he said, “Hey, I just wanted to tell you that you look really beautiful today. I hope you don’t mind.” I said thank you and smiled, he told me to have a good day, I wished him the same, and that was it. He didn’t make me feel uncomfortable at all. In fact, I felt flattered, even though I wasn’t attracted to him in the least bit. He was nice about it, not creepy, and I appreciated that.

Another time, when I was a teenager, I was standing outside a grocery store and a man who looked to be in his early 30s started to pass me, and then he came back and said, “Hey, you’re just as cute as Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island! If you were older, I’d ask you out on a date!” While I was standing there trying to figure out how to respond to this, he asked me how old I was (17) and if I had a boyfriend (yes). And then he continued asking me questions (where ya going? Are you from here?), while I was trying to back away and find any excuse to leave. It isn’t that he was horribly bad-looking, because really he was average and some women probably would have found him attractive, but just the fact that he kept trying to come on to me after I told him that I had a boyfriend and was under 18 was creepy. And I was sending off clear “leave me alone” signals, which he ignored.

So there you have it, one example of the right thing to do, one example of the wrong thing to do. But here’s the thing: Yelling out “hey sexy” or “hey beautiful” to a woman’s back while she’s out walking is pretty much always rude, disrespectful, and sometimes downright creepy.

Saying hello to a woman in public is fine, if you are just being polite. It’s not fine when you’re doing it as she’s walking away from you, while staring at her butt. Paying a woman a sincere compliment is perfectly okay, like the former gentleman I just mentioned. It’s not okay when you’re leering at her, staring at her breasts, “complimenting” a single body part (“nice legs/breasts/butt!”), getting into her personal space, or ignoring her signals that she wants to be left alone. Women are not here for your personal enjoyment. Get over yourself.

7) “If women don’t want attention, they should stop wearing makeup/doing their hair/wearing nice clothes!”

This is kind of related to number 2, but it’s not exactly the same thing. Why assume that a woman wearing makeup/nice clothes/styled hair is doing it to get attention directly from you? Kind of egotistical of you, don’t you think? Not only that, but society has certain expectations of women, particularly women who work. Going to work without clean and neatly groomed hair, makeup, and clothes that fit and look nice can get a woman fired, disciplined, or at the very least, prevent her from being promoted. Maybe she’s dressing that way because it’s required, not because she wants “compliments” from random guys on the street. Maybe she wears makeup and does her hair that way because she likes it and it makes her feel beautiful. Maybe she’s off to go on a date with her boyfriend or her husband (or her girlfriend or wife, whatever), and she wants to look nice for them. Even if she is looking for a prospective mate or attention, it doesn’t mean that she wants you. Again, get over yourself.

8) “If the guy looked like Brad Pitt, the woman probably wouldn’t mind!”

That is not necessarily true. Some men assume that women are shallow, and while we can be, most of us look for more in a man than just his appearance. For example, a woman may be looking for a man who is kind, stable, has a good sense of humor, is able to go along with her quirks and will accept her for who she is, is respectful of her, is well-groomed and takes care of himself, and is fun. If he looks like Ian Somerhalder and has a bank account balance with seven figures to go along with his great looks, that’s just a bonus… but it’s not everything. And a creep is still a creep, whether he looks like George Clooney or is an old fat drunk guy. Don’t be a creep.

9) “But don’t all relationships start off with two strangers?”

That may be the case, but there are times and places for meeting people. School, work, cafes, stores, bars, restaurants, through mutual friends, at church or other social gatherings, at parks… those are all great places to meet people. While a woman is walking down the street? Not so much. Leave her alone.

10) “Well maybe women should just stay home then!”

Yeah, because it’s not like we’d ever need to shop, work, hang out with friends, or whatever. Maybe you shouldn’t leave the house if you’re unable to control yourself. If you think like that, you are a waste of space and oxygen. Full stop.

Other responses that possibly deserve a mention state that this is a first world problem (it’s not, this happens everywhere), that this kind of thing only happens in large cities like New York City (not true), or that it’s harmless (it’s not, because it’s terrifying and makes some women never want to leave the house), or that with all the other issues in the world, perhaps this isn’t worthy of concern (yeah, it only affects about 90% of 50% of the population, no big deal /*snark*). Street harassment is insidious, and only exists because of the prevailing attitudes towards women in society. It is a symptom of a larger problem, which is that women are still not granted full autonomy and the right to exist in public without being subject to victimization just because we happen to have a vagina rather than a penis. I don’t know if we can ever eradicate the issue of misogyny in society, but at least we can address some of the behaviors that it causes, and teach these men who engage in such behaviors that it’s not acceptable.

It should go without saying that I realize not all men do this, and not all people have the kind of thoughts I detailed above. I know that, and am thankful for it. But having seen these comments and been angered by them, I figured the best thing I could do was write about it and get it off my chest. So there you have it.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to tell me your thoughts in a comment. If you are a woman reading this, have you ever faced street harassment? Please don’t hesitate to tell your story, even if you do so anonymously.

Oh, and happy Halloween and blessed Samhain to those who are celebrating!

Posted by: CeCe | May 31, 2014

Yes, all women

This post has been going around in my head for a few days now, since the news out of Isla Vista broke last weekend, but truthfully I was too hurt and angry to even think about tackling it. Now I need to write this before I explode.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about how I had asked a question of my Facebook friends regarding whether or not they had ever been sexually harassed or assaulted. In the post I link above (go ahead and click it if you want, it’ll open in a new window or tab, depending on your settings), I focused on the men. This time, I’m focusing on the women. I’m not going to say how many women answered the post I reference. What I will say is that all but two answered yes. Just let that sink in for a moment. All but two answered yesAll but two answered yes.

I look at the world and what we women face, and I’m terrified, terrified, for my nieces, for my boyfriend’s adorable five year old daughters, for all the girls in my life who someday are going to have to face this, or worse, already have.

I think about how I began being sexually assaulted on a regular basis when I was the same age as my boyfriend’s daughters [edited, I realized that after I wrote it]. I think about how unsafe I felt on the bus because men nearly twice my age or older didn’t let the fact that I was only 16 stop them from hitting on me in the creepiest way possible. I had one guy put his hand on my leg like that was perfectly okay, and even when I pushed him away, he kept trying to put it further and further up my leg. And this was on public transit. And I was too terrified to yell at him, because first I had no idea how he would react (he was close enough to stab me and I didn’t know if he had a gun or not), and second, as women we’re often taught not to rock the boat, we’re supposed to be polite at all times. I remember a guy who told me he was fresh out of prison hitting on me in spite of my insistence that I wasn’t interested, and I was looking around wishing that someone would say something, but from the disapproving glances I received from some of the people on the bus, I think they thought I was leading him on somehow. Asking for it, obviously, just by merely existing. My fault for being a female in public.

I got to the point where I started to wear a ring set that was made to look like a wedding set, just to keep men from hitting on me. “I’m married!” And even that didn’t always work. “Oh yeah? What’s your husband’s name? How long have you been married? Are you happy? Do you want to have an affair?” Ugh, seriously?

I think about how street harassment is so normal that many of us have simply learned to try to ignore it. But it’s so hard, because sometimes just ignoring the creeps doesn’t work. Sometimes they decide it would be just hilarious to follow a woman at 9 o’clock at night, yelling things about her butt and what they’d like to do to her, until finally giving up after several blocks. I think about how responding is dangerous, but not responding doesn’t do any good either, because sometimes it just inflames them and makes them yell about how you’re some “stuck-up b****”. I think about how quickly a “nice guy” can become the type of guy that would call a woman all kinds of horrible names no matter how polite she is in turning him down. I think about the guy at a bar in Oklahoma who wouldn’t leave me alone, to the point where I had to beg a couple friends for intervention. While we were just having friendly conversation and he was sneaking me drinks (I was under 21), it was fine, and I was perfectly okay with a little bit of flirting but then later, when I went to use the bathroom, he grabbed my arm and demanded to know where I was going. I had a couple friends who were there help me create a distraction so I could escape without him seeing me when I came out. I hope he waited outside the bathroom all night.

Worst part? They weren’t surprised. They just accepted that yeah, I needed a distraction to get me away from this creep, and no, telling him that it’s not acceptable to put your hands on a woman without her consent would not have worked. It never works in situations like that. Men should know better, and most men do know better.

I think about how I know I’m not alone in these experiences. There are so, so many women who share them. The creepy guys at the bar. The ones who won’t take no for an answer. The boyfriends who tell lies. The perverts who hide amongst family and family friends and at church. The ones who abuse their positions of power. The rapists. The abusers. The list goes on and on and on.

And no, not all men are like this. We know that. But it’s so hard to know the difference, when even the men we trust hurt us. And it’s so hard not to be furious when everywhere I look, there’s someone talking about how women “owe” men this, or “owe” men that, or how sometimes women should be blamed for their own sexual assault, or how women who reject men rudely should be punched in the face.

Sigh.

I’m furious, yes, but I’m more terrified. I keep hoping that I can help instill the girls in my life with strength, independence, and the idea that they own their own body. I hope I can teach them that if they’re harassed or assaulted, it’s not because they did something wrong but because the world is wrong.

What’s the solution? I don’t know, but I do know we badly need one. Maybe the solution will begin to manifest if we keep having this conversation, if we drag it all into the light, if we continually talk about it and not allow ourselves to be shamed into silence.

So here, few people who may read this, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Ladies, please feel free to tell your stories here. Men, please listen to us and understand that we know it’s not all of you who do this. We know, and we appreciate that more than you’ll ever know. But we badly need you as allies. Just not being one of the evil ones is not enough. We need you to actively reach out to the women you know. But more importantly, we need you to teach your sons, your brothers, your friends, and your coworkers that this is not acceptable. We need to have this conversation, over and over and over again until something changes, and until the creeps can no longer hide in the shadows.

Thanks as always for reading, and feel free to hit that share button!

Posted by: CeCe | May 4, 2014

Guess who’s back…

I know it’s been months since I’ve updated here, and I don’t want to go into the reasons why because they’re personal. Let’s just say that I went through a lot of transition in my personal life, and due to the upheaval, the last thing on my mind was coming here and writing anything. The thing I most wanted to write about (and still do) is so deeply personal and would hurt people whom I love, and as such, it was unconscionable to come here and try to write about something else. So instead to get beyond my rustiness, because I haven’t written more than a few words the last few months (apart from Facebook updates and such), I may be going over familiar ground but this is something that I wanted to write in order to end my dry streak.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen a few friends share this photo:

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Sigh. Okay, I appreciate the sentiment, but shall I iterate the things wrong with it? No? Too bad, doing it anyway, because I’m an “angry” feminist. 😉

First, why is it about saving a girl’s “dignity”? Excuse me? Do the people who made this caption have any idea how insulting that is? As a sexual assault survivor, I still have my dignity, thank you very much, and I’m sure there are at least a few other survivors out there who would say the same. Being assaulted may change a person inwardly, yes, but it does not destroy their dignity in any shape or form, period. If anyone’s “dignity” is destroyed by sexual assault, it’s the person doing the assaulting, because they’ve revealed themselves as a poor excuse for a human being. A person who has been assaulted has done no such thing. I could go on and on about this and how the idea that a survivor is somehow “less than” after having been assaulted is part of rape culture, but everyone has heard it too many times already. Still, it is rape culture to view a survivor as having lost their “dignity”. It’s that mindset that allows men to stone to death women who have been assaulted. After all, they see women who have been assaulted as being worth less than women who have not been assaulted, and as such, they’ve brought dishonor on themselves and their families. It’s a disgusting attitude, but far too many people seem to have it.

Second, let’s look at the first picture in the graphic, in which the woman is being “attacked” by a man who is approaching her in a threatening manner from the front with his hands outstretched. I don’t know about anyone else, but I wish it was that easy to differentiate between someone who means to cause you physical harm and the person who just wants to holler that they like your butt from their car. Fact is, most women are assaulted by someone they know, and it’s very unlikely that the perpetrator is going to come at them with his hands out to wrap around a victim’s throat.

Finally, while it is important for people to learn self-defense, it is not the be-all/end-all to ensuring one’s safety. There are a multitude of other factors involved, like where one lives and the nature of the crime being committed against them. And the thing is, expecting people to learn self-defense in order to avoid having a crime, any crime, committed against them cultivates a culture in which it’s easy to victim-blame. It is not my responsibility -or anyone else’s for that matter- to avoid having crimes committed against me through the use of self-defense. Urging caution is one thing, and I have no problem with that, but to put all the emphasis on self-defense rather than teaching boys and girls that it is not acceptable to touch someone without their explicit consent perpetuates a culture in which it’s easy to blame the victim and harder to convict the perpetrator. Much like the society in which we currently live, go figure.

Look, I’m all for teaching self-defense to both men and women. But let’s make sure that we understand that it is not going to be effective in every single case, that it’s not about saving a woman’s “dignity”, and that a person is not automatically going to know whether or not another person means them harm.

Thanks as always for reading, all comments are welcome!

 

Posted by: CeCe | January 8, 2014

Let’s start a movement!

I actually began this post well over a month ago, and just never finished it, and now I’ve been absent for so long I’m probably more than a little rusty.  However, I’ll do my best to finish this out without hating every word.  Ah, but we are our own worst critics, yes?  Onward and upward!

I have a confession to make.  For years, I have struggled with being a “mean girl”, and I’m just now beginning to recognize all the many ways my critical eye toward all my flaws has turned outwards to notice the flaws of others and pick at them.  For example, I had this friend in high school, and I used to joke that she was “all butt”.  The irony, of course, is that my derriere itself is not exactly small (I think I just won understatement of the year, six days in), but that’s not the point.  The point is that I was very mean about her body and overly critical.  And she’s not the only one.  I have started to recognize that I was picking apart nearly every woman I saw, looking for flaws, and then doing the same thing to my own body when I looked in the mirror.

What I’ve noticed, however, is that the less I pick at myself, the less I pick at others, and the more I focus on the beauty of others, the more I’m able to see my own.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this obsession with flaws is extremely harmful both to me, and to others.  I don’t know how men are towards each other, but I do know that in many cases, we women have a very bad habit of being overly critical of one another.  This has to stop.

There is a somewhat new movement being started at universities all over the United States called the “body acceptance movement”; I’d like to see this go nationwide, among all men and women.  It’s similar to the “size acceptance” and “fat acceptance” movements, except that instead of placing emphasis on those who are overweight, the acceptance applies to everyone, regardless of gender or size.  And this is so very important.  I’ve come to believe that not only does picking at others make us actually feel worse about ourselves, but it also communicates that this kind of behavior is acceptable.

It is not.  It’s damaging and unhealthy, and gives us a skewed idea of what beauty really is.

So, I’ve made a vow to myself: I am no longer going to pick apart other women, regardless of their body size or their facial features.   I’m also going to stop picking at myself.  Each day, when I look in the mirror, instead of picking out things about myself that I hate, I’m going to make myself see things that I love.  I’ll still try to change the things I can, but I’m going to stop hating my body over the things that I can’t change without surgery.  And most of all, I’m going to stop being envious of the women whom I believe are more beautiful than I am.  Instead, I’m going to recognize and embrace their beauty, without even a touch of jealousy.

If the fashion industry wants to push an unattainable standard of beauty, this is my push-back against them.  I refuse to be part of that movement.  Will you join me?

Posted by: CeCe | January 8, 2014

Happy anniversary to me!

While I’m finishing up a blog post that has been on the back burner for several weeks, I’d just like to acknowledge that today marks exactly two years since a friend started this blog for me.  I haven’t written as much as I would like, but perhaps this year I will.  And who knows, maybe with a little help from my friends, I can reach 20,000 views this year!

Here’s to a great two years with WordPress, cheers!

Posted by: CeCe | November 25, 2013

To this day

***POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING, please proceed with caution***

I know I’ve probably written about rape culture too much (example here), and people out there in WordPressland and Facebookland are sick and tired of hearing about it, but I’ve had this going around in my head for a couple weeks now, and I think it would do me good to write down my thoughts.  Please be aware that some of this may be a trigger, so if you have been sexually assaulted, please read with caution.

For a little background and an explanation of my inspiration, I’ve been reading through a lot of anti-feminist literature the last few weeks, because the way I see it, how can I call myself a feminist if I’m not willing to examine the other side and argue against it?  I’ve said many times before that I think it’s important to explore the other side of whatever philosophy or “ism” one happens to follow, and I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t follow my own advice.  As such, it means that one of the things with which I’ve been confronted is the argument that rape culture absolutely does not exist, it’s just a feminist construct, a disorganized and loose group of thoughts that often conflict, etc.  I’m not going to address this in this particular post, at least not directly.  Instead, I’m going to write about my specific experiences with rape culture.

The truth is, the first time I was confronted with rape culture, I had no idea what it was.  In fact, I didn’t even know what rape was, or even sex for that matter.  I’ve written before that I was assaulted by a family friend when I was a child.  I don’t know when it started, but I do know that I couldn’t have been any older than 6, because by my 6th birthday, I no longer wanted to wear dresses.  My parents chalked it up to me being a tomboy, but I really fought with them tooth and nail over wearing dresses, especially to church.  Some people may think that my parents must have been blind to not have seen what was actually happening right under their noses, but they were occupied with my father’s failing health, and the loss of several close family members, like my mom’s parents, my dad’s brother and brother-in-law, and my mom’s brother-in-law, on top of making a move from one end of the country to the other.  I can’t and don’t blame them, nor should anyone else.

Truth be told, I don’t remember very much about what happened with this person.  There are fragments of memories, some of which surface still in the form of nightmares, and I’m not really sure how much of it is accurate, but there are also concrete memories that come to me unbidden while I’m doing mundane things like playing a game on Facebook, doing the dishes, or fixing dinner.  I have a fear of walking down hallways with open doors leading to dark rooms, and I don’t know why.  Sometimes in my nightmares I’m walking down a hallway and a voice whispers my name from a dark room and I don’t want to go but my feet won’t obey me, and I start to walk and then I wake up suddenly in a different dark room, for a few moments unsure of where I am.  These were more common throughout the time between the ages of about 8 or 9 and 16, but they still haunt me on occasion, and the fear of darkened rooms with open doors is still very real, even to this day.

So that’s the context for my first experience.  I remember being teased by a couple kids at church who called me names that I couldn’t understand.  They knew what was happening, but instead of helping me, instead of telling an adult or telling me that it wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t doing anything wrong, they called me names of which I now know the meaning: Slut.  Tramp.  I was a child.  It started before I was even six, and I was blamed for it.  Because of this and several other factors (like the very real fear that my father would have another heart attack if I told and it would be my fault), I was silent about what was happening, and held that silence until it exploded out of me when I was 14 and having an argument with my mom.  To this day, I still remember the look of horror on her face, that something so terrible could have happened to me.

For a long time, I blamed myself for what happened.  Maybe it was because I started developing early.  Maybe it was because I was wearing dresses.  Or maybe it was because the “man” who did that to me was a monster and a bastard.  I don’t hate him anymore at least, and I don’t hate God, but I guess some part of me still hates myself, for not telling anyone, for not putting a stop to it, for not telling him to get his hands off me and keep them off.  But I was so innocent and naive that I didn’t even realize that what he was doing was wrong, until it had already been going on for close to three years, and we had a guest speaker at our school tell us all about “bad touching”, and suddenly I realized that it was not okay for him to have his hands up my skirt.  I almost told them that day what was going on, but the thought of my dad having a heart attack kept my hand out of the air and my mouth closed.  And I know on a surface level that hating myself, even a small amount, is not justified, but unfortunately when something like that happens it shapes who you are as a person, and when you’ve been called names even for something that wasn’t your fault, you just can’t help it.

So that was my first experience with rape culture, being called names for something that wasn’t my fault.  That was the first instance of a permissive attitude towards sexual assault that I witnessed, but alas it wasn’t the last.

I’ve written before that I was sexually assaulted a little over 11 years ago, when I was 21.  However, there was an instance before that which I very rarely talk about outside of a small circle of people.  I was 17, and through a friend, I was introduced to this guy whom I’ll call Marvin because I don’t like that name, and I don’t know anyone with that name so my opinion of them won’t be colored by what happened.  So Marvin and I met, and he made it very clear that he was interested in me.  However, I had a boyfriend, so I told him we could be friends and that was it.  He said okay, and so we continued occasionally hanging out, and talking on the phone.  He had told me he was 20, but looking back, I think he was lying.  I think he was actually closer to 30.  But whatever, one day, he called me and asked to hang out, and said that he would bring beer.  I wasn’t a big drinker then and I’m still not, but back then I wouldn’t pass up a chance for free beer.  So he came to my house, and then from there, we walked over to the house of one of my girlfriends, who was hanging out with another girlfriend of ours.

Looking back, I realize that he really had set it up.  He hardly drank any of the beer; us three girls drank almost all of it.  Eventually it was getting close to my one friend’s curfew, so Marvin, her, and I caught the bus to her house to drop her off, and then he and I caught the bus from there to a park near my house.  While we were on the bus heading to the park, he kissed me, and truth be told, I liked it.  He was a good kisser.  However, I told him not to do that again, because I had a boyfriend and I wasn’t a cheater.  So we went to the park because it was still early (about 7 or 7:30), and I remember thinking that I was safe from anything bad happening, because I had him there to protect me.  In the back of my mind, I was remembering everything I’d learned about sexual assault, and I was thinking that if any rapist jumped out of the bushes at me, I’d be safe.

It seems hopelessly naive now.

So we were sitting in one of the shelters (known as the smokehouse), and … well, I’m sure you know how it went.  There’s no need for me to relive it, or to force anyone else to picture it.

At first, I wasn’t even sure it was rape.  Everything I’d ever learned about rape implied that it happened between strangers (I now know that that is very inaccurate), that it involved some creep jumping out of a bathroom stall or out of the bushes with a gun or a knife.  I never thought for a second that I would be raped by someone I called a friend, without the use of a weapon or any real physical harm.  After that, he walked me home, and I went to bed early, making the excuse that I didn’t feel well.  The next day was Easter Sunday, and I woke up in the morning and took a long hot shower.  I knew that was the one thing that I shouldn’t have done, but at the risk of sounding cliche, I felt so dirty and I just couldn’t help myself.  So I went to church (not by choice), and then had dinner with the family, and everything was normal.  I was quieter than usual and some people noticed, but not enough to really realize anything was wrong.  That night, I was talking to a friend on the phone, and I told her what had happened, and then I asked her, “Was I raped?”  And she sighed and sounded like she was on the verge of tears, and told me yes, absolutely.

The next day, I told my boyfriend, and he called my mom, told her what happened, and we met her at a local clinic.  And this is where my second very personal experience with rape culture begins.  After the doctor had performed the rape kit, we talked for a short time.  She asked me if I was sure I was telling the truth.  I wasn’t angry, but I was surprised, and even though I was still doubting myself, I said yes, of course I was.  So then she asked me if I was planning on pressing charges, and I said I didn’t know.  So then she told me that if she was me, she wouldn’t.  I asked her why, and she said the first reason was because I wasn’t a virgin, and hadn’t been when it happened.  What that had to do with anything, I don’t know, but while I was still reeling from that, she asked me how many partners I had had (it wasn’t very many, more than one but less than five), and when I told her, she said something to the effect of, “So you’ve already slept around a bit.”  If your reaction is anything like mine, you’re thinking, “Wait, WHAT?!”  And I said no, of course not, these weren’t strangers, these were people I had known for over a year, and in each case, I was in a relationship with them.  How is that sleeping around?

So then she told me that although there were slight lacerations, it would just look like I wasn’t very aroused, not like I was actually raped.  She went on to tell me that even on the off-chance it went to trial, it would look like I had sex, regretted it, and then made up the rape to “get out of trouble”, like for drinking underage.  But the truth was, my mom didn’t even know I was drinking that night.  I wasn’t late for curfew, and in fact, I was a couple hours early.  If I had had consensual sex, I just wouldn’t have told anyone.  It’s not like Marvin would have told anyone either.  So what trouble, exactly, was I trying to avoid?  Still, her words stung, and so when the cops came and questioned me, I was very unhelpful and told them straight out I didn’t want to press charges.  My mom and boyfriend were both disappointed and couldn’t understand why, and I didn’t want to tell them.  And I never did, either.

Afterwards, some friends that I told asked me horrible cliche questions, like what was I wearing, was I flirting with him, how much had I had to drink, etc.  As for the first one, it doesn’t matter, but I was wearing baggy jeans (a pair of my boyfriend’s jeans, actually) and a t-shirt, like normal.  I wasn’t even wearing any makeup, which was also typical.  Was I flirting with him?  Does it matter?  I was friendly, like I always was.  How much did I have to drink?  Enough to be slightly buzzed, not enough to be sloppy drunk.  It was just beer, not hard liquor, and three 40 oz bottles split between 4 people is not very much, even when three of the four are girls all under the age of 17.

Because of the doctor’s comments and the comments from “friends”, I spent years just trying to forget what happened, to the extent that I still rarely talk about it.  I’m always afraid that people won’t believe me.  But to this day, I still won’t set foot in the smokehouse.  I still hate doctors with a passion.  Every time I go in for my annual womanly exam, I always think of that doctor’s words, and I hate it.  It took two years of therapy to even get to the point where I would call that instance rape.  Usually I just wouldn’t talk about it at all.

For years, I didn’t know what to call my experiences with society’s attitudes towards rape.  Usually I’d just call it messed up.  But now I know that there is a term for it:  Rape culture.  I’ve said before that one aspect of rape culture is victim-blaming, and I’ve experienced it first-hand.  Could I have prevented what happened to me?  Only through hindsight.  Sure, if I’d known that the three men who have assaulted me were rapists, I would have avoided them.  But it’s not like it was tattooed on their forehead, right?  So how was I supposed to know?  I did things that were so innocent.  I hung out with someone that I called “grandpa”.  I had a couple beers with some friends.  I hung out with a guy I was dating and his best friend of nearly 20 years.  These are things that people do all the time, and yet in my case, the end result was something terrible.

It’s because of this that I know for a fact rape culture exists.  I’ve lived it.  I wish I hadn’t, but I did.

So there you have it.  If you’re still with me, thanks for reading… and all comments are welcome.

Posted by: CeCe | November 23, 2013

Diamonds: Not always a girl’s best friend

I don’t know about anyone else, but it kind of feels like I’m being inundated with commercials from jewelry stores, and it’s gotten me thinking.  My wedding set is over 80 years old (it belonged to my grandma, and then my mom), and the only cost to us was having it soldered and re-sized, which was a little over 100 dollars.  The diamonds on it are small, but that doesn’t bother me.  I don’t like ostentatious jewelry.  I look at the costs for some of these rings (1600-9000 dollars!) and I can’t help thinking, what kind of woman would demand something like that?  Personally, unless I was dating a multimillionaire, I’d rather save the money for something practical, like the down-payment on a house, car, or new furniture.

I suppose the idea behind such an expensive ring is that it shows that the man values his girlfriend enough to spend an ungodly amount of money on her, but maybe I’m weird in that I just don’t understand this concept.  If my husband had spent that kind of money on my ring, I would have felt that he was irresponsible and impractical, and more concerned with the appearance of “status” rather than actually investing in our future, and I would not have considered marrying him.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think that some of the rings displayed on these commercials are beautiful (they’d better be, with as much as some of them cost!), but I just don’t think it’s worth it.  It’s the same thing when I hear how much people are spending on their weddings.  According to slate.com, the median cost for a wedding varies between about $8,000-16,000 depending on the region of the United States.  Although the median is far lower than the $26K+ average widely reported by numerous sources (for example, here, here, and here), it still seems ridiculously exorbitant to me.

The total cost of my wedding, including my dress which was $750 with all the accessories, was less than $2000.  My now ex-sister-in-law made the cake, which was beautiful.  My other sister-in-law did all the floral arrangements, except for mine and my husband’s, which I bought at a local florist company for less than $150 for both.  My eldest brother was the photographer, and the reception was held at the clubhouse of my mom’s trailer park.  The wedding itself was held in the backyard of my sister’s employer at the time.  The reception lunch was simple: burgers and hot dogs.  I’m nothing if not easy to please!  What meant more to me was just being able to marry the man I loved, with my family and a few close friends present.  There was no need to spend the cost of a nice car to get married, when it could be done for much cheaper.

In my opinion, too many people place too much emphasis on the wedding, and not enough on the marriage.  Spending thousands upon thousands of dollars does not tell the world that you’re committed to the person whom you’re marrying; it just says that you’re willing to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars for what basically amounts to a party (Monica from Friends would kill me for saying that!  You get a cookie* if you understand the reference.).  I think that society tries to convince men and women that they need the 9000 dollar engagement ring, the 2000 dollar wedding dress, the tuxes, the fancy cuisine at the reception, etc. etc. etc.  But none of those actually prepare a couple for the journey ahead of them, nor do they guarantee a successful marriage.  Only commitment and a willingness to put your spouse above yourself (and have them do the same for you!) can do that.

Maybe the reason our divorce rate is so high is because too many people put all this effort into the engagement ring and the wedding, and not enough into marriage.  That’s what I think, anyway.

What are your thoughts?  Do you believe that spending a lot of money on an engagement ring and/or the wedding is important?  Why or why not?

Thanks as always for reading!

*no cookies, sorry.  I lied.

Posted by: CeCe | November 6, 2013

Fatties are worse than Nazis!

So in an earlier post (here), I mentioned a fat-shaming blog post that I happened across.  I was going to let it go, but I’ve been thinking through some of the things said in it, and I decided that I wanted to write a rebuttal.  So that’s what I’m going to do, point by point.  Ready?  Sure you are.

Now, my rebuttal is not going to include those points made with links back to the person’s own blog as a source, simply because, well, what kind of person posts links to their own blog as a source?  And also, as before, I will not link to that person’s blog, but if you do choose to search for it based on the arguments made, be warned that it is not pleasant.  

So, beginning with point 1:
1)  The first thing that this blogger posts is that people who suffer from obesity are also most likely to also suffer from anxiety disorders and PTSD.  They then use this piece of information to make the point that “fat girls are crazy”.  First of all, suffering from anxiety disorders and/or PTSD does not make one “crazy”.  These disorders are treatable, and in many cases, they’re caused by external influences.  For example, PTSD can be caused by sexual assault.  People all deal with anxiety and PTSD in different ways.  Sometimes it will manifest in poor eating habits and reclusive behavior, both of which can lead to obesity.  However, even if an overweight person who suffers from these conditions loses weight, that does not mean that their anxiety and/or PTSD is going to be cured.  So instead of being fat and suffering from anxiety and/or PTSD, they’ll be thin and still suffering.  Further, correlation does not equal causation.  These conditions are likely not caused by being overweight; instead, being overweight may be caused, at least in part, by those conditions.  Therefore, treat the conditions, and chances are you’ll be treating the weight.  

2)  The second point they make is that fat acceptance doesn’t include men.  First, well, it does, and secondly, there is no denying that society tends to be harder on overweight women than it is on overweight men.  For example, overweight men are still depicted in TV shows as having gorgeous wives; take King of Queens as an example.  Overweight women in TV shows, on the other hand, get overweight husbands, get to be punchlines, get to be the funny neighbor or friend, and get to be the social outcasts.  As another example, the study I quote in point 5 states that physical attractiveness for women means “thin to very thin”, while physical attractiveness for men means “average or larger”.  In other words, yes, larger men can be seen as attractive, while larger women… not so much.

3)  Their next point is that fat girls are very unlikely to ever find love; instead, they find “sloppy drunk sex” from guys at bars.  Well, that’s funny, because pretty much all of my overweight female friends are married or are in committed relationships, and most have never done the “sloppy drunk sex” scene.  I’ve been married to the same man for over 10 years, and my wedding dress was a size 20.  So much for fat girls never finding love, yeah?  It’s also interesting to note that I never had a problem finding men who wanted to date me.

My husband and me on our wedding day:
Shawn and me

4)  The next point they made was that one of the “best” things a person can do to a fat girl is starve her of attention.  To quote, he wants them to treat fat girls like they would treat a “child molester or a card-carrying Nazi”.  No, I’m not kidding, this is a direct quote.  I wonder, if it’s all about health, then why don’t they go after severely underweight girls?  Starve them of attention too, right?  After all, they’re often unhealthy, and an argument could be made by some that they’re not attractive either.  What if we treated all people who didn’t fit this definition of beauty and whose lifestyles had the potential to make them unhealthy this way?  Why limit it to fat girls?  See that underweight woman?  Tell her to go eat a cheeseburger.  Tell her that she’s worse than a Nazi or a child molester.  Would that be acceptable?  No.  Body-shaming is never, ever acceptable.

Oh, but they do make one exception: Women who are trying to lose weight.  sarcasm\How kind of them/end sarcasm!  Now my question is this: How would they know a woman or anyone else is trying to lose weight, unless they asked or unless the person told them?  It isn’t always immediately obvious, until what they’re doing is working and they lose a significant amount of weight.  Losing 20 pounds doesn’t make much of a difference when you’re severely obese.  If they’ve made changes to their lifestyle, it may not always be apparent.  Sure, maybe your overweight family member that you see once a year is pigging out because that’s what they do… or maybe they’re having a cheat day after having lost 20 pounds.  Is it really any of your business?  Really?

5)  They then make the “point” that “fat girls are vermin” (almost direct quote), “stupid”, and “unpleasant”.  They include no source with fat girls apparently being “vermin”, but for “stupid”, the point they make is that since black people supposedly have the lowest average IQ (please don’t hate me, this was part of a study, found here) and the highest rate of obesity (no source, they don’t provide one), that obviously these two things are correlated.  First of all, IQ is genetic.  Second, weight usually is not.  There are many different possible reasons for obesity: Medication, anxiety/PTSD, poor eating habits, poor exercise habits, upbringing, an over-abundance of processed food, etc.  While a person may be genetically predisposed to carrying more weight, obesity is more often than not environmental, rather than genetic.  It’s also interesting to note that the lowest average IQ is supposedly found amongst black Africans.  What is the obesity rate in those countries?  Probably not very high, all things considered.  So the idea that IQ is somehow correlated to being overweight is absolutely false.  A person can lose weight, but although they may be able to educate themselves, they likely won’t be able to raise their IQ.

As far as fat people being “unpleasant”, not from what I’ve seen.  I know this is anecdotal, but that’s as much evidence as they provide too.  Sure, some fat people are unpleasant, but so are some thin people.  I’ve known some extremely unpleasant, angry, and judgmental thin people.  And it’s also interesting to note that when I was bullied for my dad being dead and for wearing glasses, it was never the fat kids who were guilty of it.  So does that prove that thin people are all bullies?  Of course not.

6)  This actually should have been part of the last response, but the next claim that they make is that fat women are “sluts”, citing the study found here.  The problem is that the evidence regarding that idea is ambivalent, though the study does state that overweight women were more likely to have more partners.  From this study here, which was cited in the aforementioned study, however: “With the exception of ever engaging in sexual intercourse with a man, sexual behavior differs little between women of different body mass indices [emphasis added].”  Another study cited in the former study states that “dating and sexual experience were unrelated to subsequent dieting and weight concerns.”  Now perhaps overweight women are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, or maybe not, but generally speaking, one’s sexual behavior is informed by three factors: Societal moral values, personal/familial moral values, and childhood exposure to sex.  If a person is molested or assaulted, they’re more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior later in life.  If a person suffers from anxiety or PTSD, they’re more likely to self-medicate, which often leads to risky sexual behavior.  However, this can happen regardless of a person’s weight.

7)  This also should have been part of point 5, but I figured point 6 was long enough and it was time to move on.  The next claim that they make is that fat women are horrible, abusive mothers.  As a source, they cite another blog (which I won’t link here because it’s awful), and the Daily Mail.  Never mind the fact that the Daily Mail is hardly better than a tabloid, I went to the article itself and what I found is that although they cite a study, they do not link to this study at any point during the article.  That is bad journalism.  One should always cite their source when it comes to making claims like that.  What’s more, the claim that was actually made was that women who gain a lot of weight while pregnant do tend to pass on diabetes and other health problems to their children.  This is nothing new, really.  Women are encouraged to gain no more than about 25-30 pounds while pregnant for this very reason.  I did find a study which states that women who were “obese, diabetic or had high blood pressure during pregnancy” had an elevated risk of having a child with autism or other developmental disabilities, but the risk was still very small.  Let’s also keep in mind that the autism spectrum has expanded greatly over the last couple decades, and children who would not have been diagnosed as autistic even fifteen years ago might be diagnosed as such now.  

Overweight women are more likely to have overweight children, yes, but it’s not necessarily because they stuff their children’s faces with Oreos and double cheeseburgers.  I would consider that abusive, if they did.  And here’s the thing: Even thin parents can pass on bad habits to their children.  Not every person who is thin is that way through always eating healthy and exercising regularly.

8)  The final point they make is that “fat-shaming does work”, citing the fact that Asian women, who are often picked on by their families if they gain any weight, tend to be thin.  What they fail to say, however, is that eating disorders among Asian women are on the rise.  Oops.  See here, and here.  It’s also interesting to note that “fat-shaming” tends to have a hugely detrimental effect on young girls, because they begin to see their “physical attractiveness” as being the most important indicator of their self-worth.  This is especially dangerous, because a fear of gaining even five pounds and having a distorted view of one’s body can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, both of which are extremely unhealthy.  See source here.

The best thing that we can do for our children is teach them healthy habits, rather than picking on them for their weight.  It’s obvious that yes, there is an obesity epidemic in western countries, and yes, many of us have horrible eating and exercise habits.  However, if we engender healthier habits rather than harping on weight, we won’t have to worry about the obesity rate nearly as much.  Girls and boys should both be taught to love their bodies and treat them with respect, and should be taught to understand that their self-worth is not determined by how “attractive” they are to others.  Otherwise, we risk raising a generation of both boys and girls with very unhealthy standards towards others and themselves.  And I don’t know about the rest of you, but that is not what I want for my own children should I ever have them, and I don’t believe anyone else should want that either.

Please feel free to share your thoughts in a comment, and thank you as always for reading!

Posted by: CeCe | November 6, 2013

Metal for people who don’t like metal

So I know I’ve done loads of music posts, but I thought I’d do something a little different this time.  My friends on Facebook probably get sick of me sharing videos all the time, and as such, I figured I’d put a few of my favorites here, so that they’re all in one place.  Okay?  Okay!

As the title suggests, these are songs from metal bands.  However, even people who are not fans of metal may find that they actually love these songs/bands, because they also combine elements of folk, classical, opera, and even some spaghetti western and jazz.

So the first band I’m sharing is one of two bands of which I consider myself a fan: Nightwish.  I’ve shared them over and over again on Facebook, so much so that I’m pretty sure that the few friends who are still subscribed to my posts (haha) are sick to death of them.  For a little background, Nightwish was first formed in Finland in 1996, with keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, classically trained vocalist Tarja Turunen, and guitarist Emppu Vuorinen.  Later, they added Jukka Nevalainen on drums and Sami Vänskä on bass.  With that lineup, they released Angels Fall First (1997), Oceanborn (1998), and Wishmaster (2000). However, there began to be serious conflicts with Sami, and so they replaced him with bassist and vocalist Marco Hietala (of heavy metal band Tarot) in 2001, in time for the release of the album Century Child (2002).  The next album, Once (2004), is arguably one of their best, with not a single weak song on it.  In 2005, Tarja was let go, and was replaced by Anette Olzon in 2007; with Anette, they recorded the albums Dark Passion Play (2007) and Imaginaerum (2011), both of which are amazing albums in my humble opinion.  While on tour in 2012, they parted ways with Anette, and quickly called in Dutch vocalist Floor Jansen (formerly of After Forever, currently the lead singer of ReVamp) as an emergency, temporary replacement.

It was apparent to nearly every single person who saw Floor sing with Nightwish that this was a match made in heaven.  In fact, years ago, even before Tarja was booted from the band, I said that Floor joining Nightwish would be absolutely EPIC.  Nice to know I was right.  😉

I was thrilled but not surprised at all when a month ago, it was announced that Floor had officially been made the new lead singer.  She is absolutely magnificent!

So without further ado, here is Floor with Nightwish, singing the song “I Want My Tears Back” from Imaginaerum.  Be sure to check out the duet with Troy Donockley (uilleann pipes) and Pekka Kuusisto (violin) starting a little over 3 minutes in, it absolutely rocks!  And watching Floor dance… she is just adorable.

The second song from Nightwish I’m going to share is one of their most popular; most fans, when asked what their favorite Nightwish song is, will name this one.  It’s not my personal favorite (that title is reserved for “Planet Hell”), but it’s certainly in my top five.  The name of the song is “Ghost Love Score” from the album Once, and trust me when I say that even if you don’t like metal, you may like this song, because it’s just beautiful; the orchestration on it will take your breath away, if you’re anything like me.  And, as much as I adored Tarja (and still do), Floor’s ending is about a million times more awesome than anything Tarja did on this song.  You can hear the entire crowd get behind her when she hits the final notes starting at about 9:25.

To see a comparison of each of the three leading ladies singing this song, check out this link here.

Did you think this post was going to be all about Nightwish?  Well, as much as I would like for it to be, there are a couple other bands whom I don’t want to go without mentioning.  The first is Leaves Eyes, and I’m not going to provide a whole history on them, mostly because I don’t know it.  Remember I did say that I’m only really a fan of two bands (Nightwish and Pink Floyd), though there are many bands that I love.  This is one of them.  Even if you don’t like metal, just listen.  Liv Kristine’s voice is wonderful and ethereal, and the song itself isn’t really all that hard.  The song is called “Into Your Light”, and it’s from the album Lovelorn (2004).

Another band that I absolutely adore is Tristania; I come very close to being a total fan of them, as I’ve got most of their albums, and I know the lyrics for a good portion of their songs.  However, I don’t know everything about their history; I just know they’ve been around for forever (okay, 1995), and were formed by Morten Veland, who is a household name in his native country (Norway).  This particular song is from their album Ashes, which was released in 2005, two years before Vibeke Stene, the female vocalist left; it’s called “Equilibrium”.  She has since been replaced by Italian vocalist Mariangela Demurtas, who is wonderful but definitely not the same.  She’s more edgy than classically trained, like Vibeke.

Just three more bands to go; the first of which is Sonata Arctica.  Unlike the other bands I’ve shared, their lead vocalist is a male, Tony Kakko.  Tony has actually done duets with Nightwish, in the very early days (check out their rendition of the Nightwish song “Beauty and the Beast”, from Angels Fall First, here, and keep in mind that they wrote this song when they were all only 19/20!), and they are immensely talented.  The particular song I’m sharing, “White Pearl Black Ocean”, is one of my personal favorites by them; it’s from their album Reckoning Night, which was released in 2004.  I love the different rhythm changes, and how it really feels like several songs in one.  Plus the lyrics are amazing and tell a story.

The next to last band I’m sharing is The Sins of Thy Beloved, which is a gothic/doom metal band from Norway.  This particular song, however, is a lovely ballad from Lake of Sorrow, which was released in 1998.  Anita Auglend’s soprano voice is ethereally beautiful, and I just love Pete Johansen on violin.  He has a solo beginning at about 3:51 that is just breath-taking.

Okay, final band.  It was really hard to narrow it down to just these six, because there are so many great artists out there (maybe this will wind up being part one of many!), but since I’ve been listening to these guys a lot the last few days, I decided to go with them.  Like Nightwish and Sonata Arctica, these guys are from Finland: HIM.  HIM is mostly known for writing lots of songs about death and love, usually at the same time (example here), and for Ville Valo’s voice, which is melodic, distinctive and dramatic.  I’ve loved their music for years, and I actually have several of their albums, which I listened to nonstop at various times.  This song is called “One Last Time”, from their album Razorblade Romance, which was released in 1999.  The chorus is one of the loveliest I’ve ever heard in any song, but the verses are fantastic too.

Honorable mentions (links attached):
Nightwish: Rest Calm (it starts off kind of hard but doesn’t stay that way, and the children’s choir starting about 4 minutes in is just beautiful), While Your Lips are Still Red (hauntingly beautiful ballad, with Marco singing, Tuomas on piano, and Jukka on drums), and Turn Loose the Mermaids (lovely ballad!)
HIM’s album Uneasy Listening (Yes, the whole album!)
Sirenia: The Other Side (one of two singles with former lead singer Monika Pedersen) and Path to Decay (first single with new lead singer, Ailyn)
Within Temptation: Ice Queen and Our Solemn Hour
Leaves Eyes: For Amelie (such a gorgeous ballad!) and Return to Life (I love the piano during the verses, and the notes that Liv hits just before the chorus are amazing)
Tristania: Destination Departure (a song about loss; Vibeke’s voice on this is just… unbelievable)
Amorphis: House of Sleep and Silent Waters

Jeez, I could name a lot more.  This is enough!

Did you listen to any of them?  Please feel free to tell me about it in a comment!  And thanks, as always, for reading!

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