Consent is for awards shows too
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Today I performed at the Fraser Valley Music Awards, which were part of AbbyFest, a celebration of diversity in Abbotsford. I won an award for best Experimental Artist. And I had an experience the likes of which I’ve had many, many times over in my life. But today, I viewed this experience differently than I would have in the past.

Allow me to put this handy screenshot from a conversation with my friend in context. When I perform, I wear white face paint. I feel more comfortable that way. And as you can see, my weirdo appearance seemed to make more than one older gentleman feel like unsolicited physical contact and a gently condescending remark was the thing to do.

I didn’t feel “distressed”, “violated”, or “put down” when this happened. My Left Brain shrugged and said, “Yup, that’s an older man for ya.” And then, suddenly, my Right Brain, which has been soaking up #metoo posts and think pieces about Louis C.K. and Harvey Weinstein for weeks on end, said, “You know what? I absolutely HATE being touched by strangers, and I know this wouldn’t have happened to a dude.”

This isn’t a post to complain. I actually want to express gratitude.

I’m GRATEFUL that in this time of nauseating cultural expectoration, men are not the only ones receiving an education. Equally, I’m being sensitized, instructed, and enlightened. I’m learning to see things differently. I’m learning to see MYSELF differently.

For most of my life, I’ve been the queen of brushing things off. Things need to get gnarly before I will “make a big deal” of them. My bottomless capacity for never making a fuss is part of what kept me entrenched in psychologically and emotionally abusive situations in the past. I always bought into the idea of myself as a “tough lady” and an entire system of predation and dehumanization was happy to leverage that.

A dumb-ass joke and a dumb-ass shoulder squeeze are among the more innocuous and survivable acts of gender-based disrespect I’ve experienced in my life. Believe me. But today, I allowed myself to actually register that disrespect and FEEL offended.

I’m grateful for that feeling. I need that feeling. I’m going to rely on that feeling from now on. It’s the only thing that’s going to fuel timely confrontation in the future. Next time, instead of the deer-in-the-headlights, dopey, fake-smiling passivity my numbness has always engendered in me, I want to respond by asserting my boundaries. I want to feel offended rather than numb and say, “Don’t touch me unless you have my consent.”

I also want to say thank you to the organizers of the FVMAs and Abbyfest. I was grateful to be part of the proceedings. The rudeness of a few participants doesn’t detract from what you’re doing.

Men, don’t be afraid to let your hearts wake up during this time of investigation and accountability. Women, trans folk, POC, marginalized people everywhere, don’t be afraid to let your hearts wake up during this time of investigation and accountability. How we FEEL—when we are disrespected or abused by others, or when we realize that we have disrespected or abused others—could be a life-saving, revolutionary force. Numbness never did shit for me. It won’t do shit for any of you either.

xo

Union

Hey…today Racoon Moon Records is releasing “Union” a 6-song EP I made (with glorious arrangement input and production from Simon Bridgefoot). Stream or download for free if ya like (just put $0 as the “price you name” on Bandcamp).

I’ll be honest. It feels weeeeeird to publicly share this music. I wrote these songs 4 years ago and I’m currently recording music through my Residency thing with Abbotsford Arts Council that I (naturally) feel more connected to. Plus, sharing “art” feels weird. Plus, sharing much of anything online feels weird (to me).

BUT…I am genuinely quite happy and proud that I finished and released these songs. I really love the time capsule they represent. When I wrote them, I was a freshly-minted divorcee who had just quit her very adult and involving job with no plans for future employment. I was just wrapping up a few years of intense, personality-mutating misery (and thank G-d my previous personality didn’t survive the voyage). I was a gleefully happy woman and I wrote a bunch of vaguely dance-y songs in a month just because I had the time and space to do it.

When I hear these songs, I think about: feeling happy to be angry; feeling happy to be crying; feeling happy to be up all nite; feeling happy to be weird; feeling happy to be uncertain about my future (or anybody’s future on this exponentially transforming planet); feeling happy to think about cyborgs; feeling happy to have crushes; feeling happy to invent stories and play characters; feeling happy to get older; feeling happy to be decidedly immature; feeling happy to have dodged several bullets; feeling happy to be riddled with holes.

I might never feel like a “legit musician”, but I can say that expressing myself through music has helped bring me legit, enduring, multi-faceted HAPPINESS. I’m grateful to share music-making with other people, and investigate with them what it means to use art as a mental health and community-building tool. I’d say, at this stage of the game, it wouldn’t hurt for each of us to keep a few extra tools of this nature on hand. So cheers to you while you find yours and thanks sincerely to all of you who encouraged me to find mine.

 

Kristin van Vloten
I Am A Molehill

I am a molehill
humble terrestrial teat
a home for the blind
an afternoon’s work

But you have made a mountain of me
So now climb to the top
and dip your head into the soapy fog
so you can begin to grieve what the ascent reveals:
All that can be seen
and all that can never be discovered
not from any vantage point on earth—

and certainly not from this place
standing on the soul of your lover
a meager pile of soil
an unflinching black cavity
through which living creatures
have fled in fear

Kristin van Vloten
At Twilight

Twilight soaks colour from the land
Like a dirty sponge pressing down
it empties the fields, the fenceposts, 
the sky, the pebbles in the path 

I can see the future
I can see the Enemy before I must engage Him 

Across the field
a walker and his dog
slink darkly through grasses nearly void of green
moving like pupils in a gaze that follows me
My dog strains the leash
pointing his black muzzle like
the gloved finger of an accuser

Kristin van Vloten
List of Experiences Occurring on October 14th, 2016
  1. Overwhelmed by the thought of what’s being pursued.  
  2. Dark old fears of histrionicism. 
  3. Creeping hyper-vigilance. 
  4. Hovering specters of failure and aimlessness. 
  5. Social comparison brain. 
  6. Mild pessimism. 
  7. Mild paranoia. 
  8. Doubts about handle on “reality”. 
  9. Beauty sometimes departs; humility takes over the watch.
  10. Dogged hope. 
  11. Pleasure and plenty of it. 
  12. Genuine enthusiasm and plenty of it. 
  13. A commitment to hard work and plenty of it. 
  14. High and low stakes vulnerability. 
  15. Convergent and divergent thinking. 
  16. Affection from the gut.  
  17. Mild embarrassment. 
  18. Lost in the mirror. 
  19. The reflection changes faces.
  20. The stark shadows of desire. 
  21. A lack of being held and then a fear of being let go. 
  22. Acceptance. 
  23. Shaking hands with the banal again, being congenial. 
  24. Serene nihilism. 
  25. Cute narcissism like a toddler’s.  
  26. Pockets of relief. 
  27. Expectations of goodness. 
  28. Little speckles of fear in a great shaking peacock tail of freedom. 
Kristin van Vloten