Grounded for Life: What Happens When There Is No Escapism

Act One of last week’s episode of This American Life was a story of Andy, a then 15-year-old young man, who ran away from home with the idea that he would live with his idol, science fiction writer Piers Anthony. It is a rather charming story about risk-taking, reality, and other such life lessons. Near the end of the act, Piers Anthony reflects on his own difficult adolescence, and the importance of escape, “People talk, you know, they sneer at escapism. Well, there are those of us who need it.”

 

I have taken to cooking every weekend. “Cooking” is not the right term. What I love about the process of cooking is the prep-work. I enjoy boiling, measuring, mixing, feeling as if I am making things. The actual “cooking” part of the process is an inconvenience I try to pass off if I can, because what I really love more than anything, is all the cutting.

We recently bought a mandolin, but I continue to julienne by hand because it requires my complete attention.

 

I have also begun to meditate. It helps me ward off all the things I should have done, could have done, need to do that push out all of the things I want.

These are the things I do to escape. I am painfully aware that my escape mechanisms only ground me in the present even more, but this is what I feel left with now.

 

The recent hubbub in the video gaming community about sexism, misogyny, and sexual harassment have been a long time coming, but it has been bittersweet, which is why I have avoided writing about it even though it has stayed in my psyche like a burr in a shoe.

Yesterday a friend sent along this BBC radio program about misogyny in the gaming community. It is a succinct summation of what’s going on and what’s been going on to women who dare to play online (components of) video games. Two words: horrific and abusive. Misogyny and racism mingle to create hostile environments for female gamers simply because they are women.

[Note: sexism within the community has been the target of attention, not racism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, classism, etc., and how they relate to society as a whole, which is why I have not been overly eager to write about the discussion going on]

This is nothing more than the policing of strict, binary gender roles—no different than rape myths that promise women safety if they monogamously couple with a bigger, more powerful man, only wear “modest” clothes, never use any intoxicants, never leave the home, and other such nonsense that generally makes living (forget enjoying life) near-impossible.

Further, some have defended misogynist attacks against female gamers with assertions that gaming has always had a component of trash talking (and that racist, misogynist threats of rape are talking trash and not, you know, racist, misogynist threats against a person’s bodily integrity), implying that women are simply too sensitive, but also too independent (venturing into a sphere that is historically largely male). One gamer on the BBC program went so far as to suggest women shouldn’t be surprised at being the targets of verbal attacks, and that they ought not to play video games if they don’t want to be subject to sexual hate speech.

 

And, that’s where we get to escapism.

I used to play video games. I used to read comic books. I used to devour fiction indiscriminately. I used to go to movies that only seemed tangentially interesting.

That all has stopped in increments. There have been catalysts for every section of my interests as they began to shut down. In 2009, I walked out of a movie in which a woman was beaten and humiliated until she urinated on herself and had to be carried about by a man. When I asked for my money back from the theater, I was told that I should have expected the violence because the movie was rated R. I am not so naïve as to think there will be no violence in a rated R movie, but I don’t understand why it was only the woman who was violently degraded while the men were depicted as dying in a shower of bullets and bravado.

Essentially, the message I got was, “What else did you expect? That the female characters be treated as the males?”

I felt that the only way I could really protest was to just not give these major corporations my time or money.

 

I am one of those who needs escapism. The truths I deal in are messy and impossible to swallow. They keep me up, trying to figure out how to get at the root of it—trying to figure out if there is a way to get at the root to kill it.

I need to escape desperately, but lately I feel that all I have are vegetables and fruits and a cutting board and kitchen knives and the possibility of making something worthwhile.

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