Uppity lady writer wanted bodily autonomy and respect. What happened next will not surprise you!

Uppity lady writer wanted bodily autonomy and respect. What happened next will not surprise you!

Today on Facebook I reposted a powerful essay by my friend Anna Lind-Guzik – the essay deals with sexual harassment and the awful feelings that presidential candidate Donald J. Trump evokes in many of us who know what it’s like to be preyed upon by men. I then posted a picture from a happy day on a nude beach.

The reaction from one of my followers was swift. I am pasting it here in full, without editing a word (for personal and professional reasons, I am omitting this man’s name). I have also written a response, and it is posted below.

Just saw you re-posting a long piece about sexual harasment is bad, and how Donald Trump is a scary man. Then you post a picture of yourself naked on a beach. I thought long and hard about writing a response. Simply put Natalia, I like & respected you for a long time. But when you write “don’t sexually harass me” and pos naked, I have to wonder, just what kind of a double standard you are trying to promote.. ‘Here I am, naked, but don’t grab and harass me’. Because I also follow your (very beautiful) Instagram, I know you also recently posted a picture of yourself with ample cleavage. I like that picture more, the nude beach one is not very flattering though you get bonus point for your nice tummy. I guess the question I have for both pictures is, What is your message? Trying to have it both ways? I like and respect your writing, would it be HARASMENT for me to say that your pictures make me hot and bothered making it difficult to appreciate you? Just thinking out loud and trying to add to the conversation. It seems You want people to vote for Hillary, and you want females to be respected, and then you act like one of those non-credible women that Trump is (I think, baselessly) accused of doing whatever to. It doesn’t make for a very strong message in my opinion. Because of my respect for your dignity I wanted to write this to you in private. But would appreciate your response.

Dear Man on the Internet (I’m leaving your name out of this, mostly out of respect for your family),

I made a rookie mistake. I assumed that my body is my own, and that I can do things that I like with it, and not be punished for it.

Posting about my disdain for harassment AND my love of frolicking on the nude beaches of southern Crete was hypocritical. I want “females to be respected,” after all, but how can I (or any other “female”) demand respect while simultaneously inhabiting a female body and doing what I want with it? These things are mutually exclusive, after all.

You are also absolutely right that it is “baseless” to accuse Donald J. Trump of inappropriate conduct. I mean, what’s the big deal about grabbing someone “by the pussy” and bragging about it? Those women really should have thought about it before leaving the house, pussies in tow.

Coincidentally, Trump’s wife Melania has also posed nude – but that’s OK, because she’s beautiful and, more importantly, married to a rich conman successful businessman. A rigid class hierarchy is an important function of our social order, and if you oppose that, you’re probably a dirty communist.

You’re right to point out that my picture isn’t very flattering. I had this silly idea that I dress/undress for my own benefit, and who cares how someone might rank my body, but let’s face it, your opinion of me is what really matters. Thank you so much for at least awarding me bonus points for my tummy, because I would have thrown myself off of a bridge otherwise (it would’ve been extra bothersome, because I live in Chania right now, and there aren’t any high bridges to save/end your life).

This line: “I like and respect your writing, would it be HARASMENT [sic] for me to say that your pictures make me hot and bothered making it difficult to appreciate you?” is particularly inspirational.

As many of my friends know, I have a bit of a crush on a famous, award-winning male journalist. I finally know how to express my feelings to him.

“Dear X,” I’m going to say. “I like and respect your writing, but you are also too handsome for words, and so I can’t appreciate you. I want to like you for your MIND, but it’s so hard since you’re so hot, you filthy manwhore.”

Haha, just kidding, I would never say that to a man. Everybody knows it’s OK to denigrate women if they’re too good looking, or not good looking enough, or when they’re being uppity and unladylike and wanting to run for president (lol, let’s face it, that stuff is only cute when a five-year-old girl with pigtails says, “Daddy, I want to be president someday!”, not some old harpy, right, fellas?), but you can’t denigrate men like that, that would just be misandry, and misandrists are all lonely women with a lot of cats, and cat food is expensive.

If I were unfeminine and unsophisticated, I would push back, of course. I would say things like, “I lived in the Middle East, where I was always covered up when I went outside, and that did nothing to stop harassment, not to mention the fact that some of the worst instances I faced happened when I was wearing a bulky coat on the streets of a European city, so maybe the harassment issue has nothing to do with clothes/lack of clothes and everything to do with whether or not we think of women as human beings?” or even something like, “Who are you to tell me what to do, you creep?” but then you might not praise my Instagram cleavage again, and I live for backhanded compliments from guys who can’t spell “harassment.”

So thank you. Thank you from the bottom of said Instagram cleavage. This entire election has already been almost too beautiful and inspiring for me personally – and for women in general – but it’s always good to know that things can always get worse more beautiful and more inspiring.

Life advice for when the mind is full of scorpions

Life advice for when the mind is full of scorpions

When life has gotten strange, and it’s more than you can handle, the absolute worst thing you can do to yourself is go, “Well, of course. Of course this would happen. Because this always happens to ME.”

This locks you deeper into the general awfulness. This *cements* the awful. And makes you more likely to subconsciously choose the paths that will lead you to more awful in the future.

What happens is only part of the general plot. The other part is how you react. Such an obvious point, but so easy to miss when you’re under heaps of stress.

Many years ago, I was in a stressful situation. I was worried about events not under my control. I couldn’t sleep. I had also recently read Macbeth, and set about re-reading the play, convinced that the not sleeping thing was not accidental. Macbeth shall sleep no more, etc.

I hadn’t stabbed a sleeping guest to death in cold blood, nor executed a potential political rival’s family and servants, but those were details. Continue reading “Life advice for when the mind is full of scorpions”

From Pavel Sheremet to Trumputin: my summer 2016 links for your reading pleasure

From Pavel Sheremet to Trumputin: my summer 2016 links for your reading pleasure

I don’t usually archive the links to the work I do elsewhere, but it’s been a long summer with few updates, and I thought you guys might like to take a look at a few of these anyway:

An important online flashmob on sexual violence recently began in Ukraine and quickly spread to Russia and Belarus. These are NOT the countries you associate with any kind of frankness on the topic. So it was a pretty big deal. And being a big deal, it attracted plenty of trolls and critics. I wrote about how the flashmob and the reaction to it are great examples of this region’s collective PTSD.

Also in Ukraine, a very prominent and gifted Belarusian-Russian-Ukrainian journalist was tragically killed by a gangland-style car bomb. I wrote about what happened – and the implications.

But of course in the States, all we can really talk about the election. And Trump. And, nowadays, Trumputin. I wrote about the bad bromance between the Republican presidential nominee and the Russian leader – and how it may not work out that well for the Kremlin (in spite of every other American writer currently pointing out how Putin is the one who’s playing Trump. Which is true, by the way. He is playing him. But it will be hard to play him in the long term – and the Kremlin is remarkably bad at long term planning).

Last but not least, a link to my essay on Eurovision, Jamala, the Dakh Daughters, and Ukraine’s new femininity. I finally got to use the phrase “kill your boner” in a serious piece. I don’t know if it gets any better than that.

In Russia, August is traditionally associated with disasters. May we all avoid them to the best of our ability. Stay beautiful. Stay fabulous.

walk walk fashion baby

His Sin, Her Soul: On Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (republished from The Second Pass)

His Sin, Her Soul: On Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (republished from The Second Pass)

Original publication date: MONDAY NOVEMBER 30TH, 2009. Republished with kind permission from John Williams.

His Sin, Her Soul
By Natalia Antonova

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The luster of scandal wore off Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita a while ago. Anyone reading the testimony of Roman Polanski’s teenage victim on The Smoking Gun must have little capacity to be shocked by Humbert Humbert’s fictional crimes. I’m willing to bet that for the modern reader, the only shocking thing about Lolita is how the writing transforms the subject matter into a thing of startling beauty, and how effortlessly Nabokov avoids prurience in order to create something more chilling.

But while the scandal of it may have faded, the book’s vocabulary continues to live a life of its own. When a young girl is called a Lolita, we imagine a knowingly hyper-sexualized child, one who wears too much of her older sister’s make-up and lets her underwear peek out as she wanders into the peripheral vision of some man. If “Lolita” isn’t always code for “she was asking for it,” it’s at least a suggestion of some impropriety or mitigating factor, an indication that an older man’s younger victim wasn’t exactly a gentle-faced virgin — or she certainly didn’t look like it, Your Honor.

In light of this cultural appropriation, I wasn’t surprised when a fairly good friend asked me why on earth I — a stridently vocal survivor of sexual abuse, someone who screams her head off every time someone shrugs that “boys will be boys” — would profess so much admiration for Nabokov’s most famous book. Don’t I realize that Lolita the book and Lolita the term feed off one another in the public sphere? And that even if it were possible to separate it from the hiss of cultural static that has amplified around it over the years, Lolita is still a book that takes an extremely ugly story and makes it extremely gorgeous? Implicit in these inquiries was the real question, of course, which emerged after my replies failed to satisfy: “How can you stand reading it, with everything you say you have been through?” Continue reading “His Sin, Her Soul: On Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (republished from The Second Pass)”