#55 On moving some place better (part 12: the starving artist phase– South Beach, FL)

The idea of the “starving artist” is one, which during the first part of my time in South Beach, I revered and practically worshiped. It’s one thing to tell you about my “aesthetics” specifically, but quite another to tell you about how I conceptualized what an “artist” is, how I evolved in the sense of identifying myself as an artist, and the story behind that evolution.

This story begins with my father who was a photographer and a painter who possessed extreme (maybe excessive?) fascination with female sexuality, nudity, and pornography, and who exposed me to the imagery of female sexuality before I was even a teenager. It was through my father that I was also exposed to and influenced by the works of Picasso and Van Gogh. As far as my own interests were concerned, by the time I was 9 or 10, I discovered the world of television, movie acting, and John Travolta. In fact, Travolta became my hero and idol. I became a sort of expert on his career and he is one of the earliest direct influences in my attempts to conceptualize art, as well as career, and to have a career as an artist. 

Even before I developed a conscious love for movies and acting I was, it seemed, inherently creative. I would pretend my life was a series of television shows. I would determine theme songs of these “TV shows” and when nobody else was around, I would ever pretend to give interviews about them or explain what had happened “previously on…” whichever imaginary show, or what would happen in the next “episode.”

Through studying the works of Travolta (along with Tom Hanks and other actors) I grew exposed not merely to film acting performances and a notion of career, but also I became a kind of autodidact of film in general, specifically film dialogue and the themes in movies, such as race relations, the Holocaust, American history, love, art, et cetera. 

The girlfriend I had while living in South Beach, was, herself, an aspiring filmmaker with a profound passion for film. By the time I was living in South Beach I was more interested in poetry than film but the notions of art and film that propelled my artistic inclinations as such were so deeply embedded within me that despite other problematic aspects of our relationship, our shared love for film became a foundation for our romance. 

(TO BE CONTINUED…) 

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On Sexism Against Women (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog– episode #19)

...out of six women candidates, to suggest that they’re all uniquely unqualified in contrast the remaining 18 men would be highly suggestive of an appearance of a prevailing misogynistic or sexist impulse in our politics.

I see no reason why, after over two centuries of male leadership in the executive branch, at a time when a quarter of the candidates are female, a woman should be denied the presidency at this point. I do believe there is a role for inclusiveness in things…when there is a disproportionate amount of people excluded from something I think we need to ask how there can be more inclusion.

TRANSCRIPT:

It delights me to chat with you today folks. (By the way, I’m searching for the right greeting. I’m sick of “greetings ladies and gentlemen!” because it assumes everyone watching is a lady or a gentleman” ((not that I’m assuming impolite society is watching here but I do strive for as much accuracy and objectivity and as few assumptions as possible)) and “greetings” as I’ve said in videos for over a decade now just sounds too…generic…to me. Greetings?What kind of greetings? Right?)

Anyway…today I’ll be chatting with you exclusively about women.

Evidence suggests that my vlogs–almost entirely… fail to interest the female sex, compared to men and this troubles me. Last night before bed I was contemplating this issue, worrying, thinking, wow, what the hell is wrong with me? How could I so unilaterally repel– virtually– an entire sex?

You see, I use an application called “Tube Buddy” to track how many or how few people watch my YouTube vlogs. For example, Tube Buddy tells me that 60.7 percent of my viewers are between the ages of 25-34. 68.4 percent of my audience watches these vlogs on a desktop computer.

Now, when it comes to male versus female viewership, 94 percent of my audience, according to Tube Buddy is male.

I find this unacceptable on my part and this means I do need to seriously evaluate possible causes. Forgive me if something seemingly, and implicitly sexist ever came out of my mouth for I seek to live as decent person.  

My friend from William Paterson University, Rahinne Ambrose, suggests I ask you directly- what issues are important to you? So I’m asking you: gals out there…lasses (i love the words “lad” and “lass) what issues are important to you? And I suppose another thing I’d like to know– do you have any thoughts on why men might not prioritize these issues as much as you do?

In the meantime, I’m an extremely impatient person so I wanted to start researching this issue of matters that women care about in 2019 to gain a better understanding now.

Three particular articles struck me most this morning.

The first is an article from ThoughtCo which highlighted sexism and gender bias as a top issue on the female mind these days.

In the context of this as a video-diary vlog of a white, straight, heterosexual male, I wonder, what might be the most appropriate and meaningful way for me to appreciate this particular concern of sexism and gender bias?

I suppose taking the time to think and talk about it would be a good start.

I feel especially sensitive to this issue of sexism and gender bias.

I lived for a time under the roof of a single mother. My mother left my father when I was three. So that would have been around 1990. I remember the day we “left.”

My mother picked me up from preschool and said we were moving. I said “is Dad coming?” and she said “no.” Strange though it may seem, I didn’t appear on the surface worry about my father not moving with us. I had not seen him so much up to that point in my life. Or if I did, I don’t have any memories except for one…him sticking his dirty, hairy feet in the bath tub when my little brother and I were taking a bath. To the best of my knowledge my father worked long days and come home late and wasn’t so much a part of my earliest upbringing.

I don’t really know the full details of why the marriage between my mother and father ended. But to bring this story back to the topic of sexism and gender bias I actually, just upon thinking about this, note some things.

My mother had custody of my little brother and I. Yes, every other weekend I saw my father and that was okay, but what does that signify about my father’s view of fatherhood, man’s role in raising children, in contrast to the woman’s?

I do realize my mother was bound to be the one who had custody over us…but that to me is a major point for consideration. My mother took responsibility for raising my brother and I…she did so in a manner that was quite gung-ho.

What did this mean to my father?

To what extent (if it all) and how (if it all) might he have grappled with this?

In some respects his apparent negligence really seems without excuse.

My father was a psychologist who specialized in couples counseling. To say he couldn’t have wrapped his mind…intellectually– around a father’s responsibility to his children, not just as a father to his children, but as a partner in parenting with the woman he had children with, as someone with concern about her well-being in the situation, quite regardless of their romantic relationship …I just think that seems like an illogical supposition.

My father liked, also, to cling to how awful his father was.

(That is one thing he opened up to me about quite vividly in our final years together).

The story goes, as I know it, that my father’s dad, according to my father, only married his mother because he wanted to know he could have her…to have sex with her and make her his wife and that after this he no longer was interested in marriage or family life and so he went to fight in World War II.

Upon returning he started a new family with a new wife, had a daughter and acted for many years as if he was not my father’s dad.

I am told my father once went to visit him at the insurance agency where he worked for decades and when my father introduced himself to his father’s secretary asking to see him the secretary said something to the effect of: “I’ve known your father for so many years and he never once said anything about having a son,” and this is something my father pointed to as traumatizing for him.

I don’t doubt that but still don’t believe this excuses his lack of emphatic parental responsibility and respect for the undue burden this put on my mother, who for a time, went to night school, while working a job…meanwhile, how very comfortably my father lived with his substantial income as a private psychologist. I don;t claim to know the economic/ fiduciary details of talks and agreements or lack there of or issues between my mother and father but I have no evidence that he went out of his way to help my mother out in any truly substantive way beyond child support money which was often late.

What exactly explains my father’s treatment of my mother and his fatherhood role?

He was perhaps not so different in certain respects from his father because he can’t even claim to have some kind of intellectual disinterest in women considering the fact that one of his life passions was photographing nude women and speaking at length of his views on the justification of sexual liberation, pornography, and things of that sort.

It almost seems…but I won’t say I can quite claim…but still it seems…as though my father actually objectified women and viewed them mostly as sex objects, prioritizing his nudist photography and stock pile of pornography over a substantive relationship with a woman.

Of course…things are never that simple.

Philosophical, psychological and contextual questions would need to be addressed.

By that I mean….what was the source of my father’s view of women?

I think a Nietzschean examination would be interesting. One of Nietzsche’s most interesting points…to me… is his Will To Power idea…his idea that people cling to that which they believe brings them so much power. A possible suggestion then, from this point of view, might be that my father viewed…sexual prowess or sexual indulgence as more empowering than husband life and fatherhood?

That seems still like an over simplification though.

And meanwhile, maybe I’m talking too much about him right now and not enough about my amazing mother.

He had the experience of retreating from the demands of day to day parenting and all the stress and complexities, from the psychological, to the economic to the practical, et cetera, that my mother did not have.

I cannot help but think of that line by Jason Isbell

all the years I took from her just by being born.

What if it could have been the other way around? If my mother could have explored something in life (for my father it was psychology, and sex…it would seem) that deeply interested her beyond parenting, and intense economic concern (not that we were poor so much as we grew up mindful that we were not rich and that every dollar counted. In contrast, my father often didn’t hesitate to hand me a fifty dollar bill and say “get outta here.”)  

I’m not suggesting my mother would have wanted it another way, or not significantly another way.

I understand that being a mother is something she was interested in.

But how could her life have been better if she had been treated better by my father.

By the way…I am not saying that has to mean I wish they stayed together. I love my stepfather and every way I imagine the possibilities I see him as the best thing in the world for her. My stepfather treats my mother right– he openly speaks about his interest in her well-being.

Sadly, I do not recall my father ever saying “how is your mother?” Maybe he did and I just forget but clearly then he never went out of his way in such a fashion that it burned in memory.

I think my father may have indeed been a sexist.

 He failed at marriage three times. Now I have no right whatsoever to delve into the details behind precisely how those marriages ultimately failed but I can tell you I saw more of an indication from my father that women served a purpose of sexual thrills than deep relationships that took interest in the wider well-being of the women he was most intimate with…well at least in the case of my mother.  

I don’t begrudge my father’s deep interest in sexuality, or his deep interest in sexual connections with women. That seems to me, unfair, over simplifying things, even to a point of mistreating women…because women are sexual just as men are and those aspects of life are important aspects of life…but did it take precedence over my father’s view of the ramifications of a society where men and women did not and still do not often quite fare the same? Did my father feel profound concern for my mother’s economic well-being? Did he feel concern about how his negligence in the field of parenting negatively impacted my mother and how deeply unfair and harmful it was?

Another article I came across that struck me is an article published by the American Psychological Association. In this article I read in the introduction that

a large number of cross-sectional, longitudinal, and cohort-sequential studies have provided evidence that across cohorts, samples, and measures […] men tend to have higher self esteem than women

This is another troubling finding about our society today and I believe in fact that the topic of self-esteem stretches beyond sex and/or gender though for the remainder of my time with you, I will confine this to the element of this topic concerning women.

While I do not believe politics ever serves as a panacea, I do believe policies can have tremendous cultural impacts.

In light of this, I believe, with the 2020 Democratic primary election coming up we are in a unique position to bring special attention to women’s issues.

6 of the 24 candidates for president in the Democratic primary election are women. Now….I’m very poor at math but I know 6 x 4= 24 which means one fourth, one quarter of the candidates are female.

In my thinking….out of six women candidates, to suggest that they’re all uniquely unqualified in contrast the remaining 18 men would be highly suggestive of an appearance of a prevailing misogynistic or sexist impulse in our politics.

I see no reason why, after over two centuries of male leadership in the executive branch, at a time when a quarter of the candidates are female, a woman should be denied the presidency at this point. I do believe there is a role for inclusiveness in things…when there is a disproportionate amount of people excluded from something I think we need to ask how there can be more inclusion.

We have the means for women to become much more inclusive in American politics than ever before in this election. I believe this is something we ought to do. And I believe this could pay major dividends in elevating the self esteem not just of women but all oppressed groups.

I believe this would be taking a lesson from winning corporate practices in Europe. As the economist reports in the February 17, 2018 article “Ten years on from Norway’s quota for women on corporate boards:”

In 2008 Norway obliged listed companies to reserve at least 40% of their director seats for women on pain of dissolution. In the following five years more than a dozen countries set similar quotas at 30% to 40%. In Belgium, France and Italy, too, firms that fail to comply can be fined, dissolved or banned from paying existing directors.

Following this notion of a quota, of ensuring inclusiveness, I believe pledging to support a female candidate, when so many women are running, is a good move.

Public Comment is a personal journal vlog where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

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