Gendercide in India

The United Nations estimates that on average, there are 105 females to every 100 males in most countries.  In India, the gender ratio is a shocking 93 females to every 100 males.  The main cause for this disparity is female gendercide, especially in the forms of feticide and infanticide.  Feticide and infanticide happen for a few different reasons.  These include economic, cultural and social reasons.  Although there are laws and regulations intended to limit and stop these practices, they are rarely followed or enforced.  The horrible practices of female feticide and female infanticide in India have a few factors and although there are laws designed to stop and limit theses practices, they are rarely enforced.
To understand the problem of female infanticide and feticide, one must first understand what female infanticide and feticide are.  Female infanticide is the killing of female infants shortly after birth.  Female feticide is newer, but no less harmful.  It is the killing of fetuses for the sole reason that they are female.  Infanticide has been practiced for centuries, however a relatively new way of killing has emerged.  Female feticide became common practice in the late 1900s with the introduction of ultrasound technology to India in 1979.
Infanticide in India was first documented by British officials in the late 1700s, but there has been a sex preference for centuries.  The severity of the problem of female infanticide became obvious in 1871 when India’s first census was taken.  A significant disparity in the sex ratio was observed: 940 females to every 1000 males.  The female to male sex ratio in 1901 was 972:1000 the gap has gotten progressively larger over 100 years, 2001’s census reporting a sex ratio of 933 females to every 1000 males.  This number is different in rural versus urban areas, rural areas having, on average, 31 fewer females per 1000 males than urban areas.  According to Dr. Sabu George, a public health activist in Delhi, India and China, the two countries where gendercide occurs the most in the world, more girls are killed than the total number of girls born in the United States every year.   More evidence of the disparity of the sex ratio: 25% of girls do not live past puberty and the mortality rate of girls ages one through five is 40% higher than that of boys the same age.
Female gendercide has a few different factors.  There are cultural and social factors and economic factors.  Social and cultural factors include common sayings and religious verses and blessings.  A Sanskrit blessing given to Hindu women at marriage says “Be a mother of eight sons” perfectly illustrating the stress on women to bear many sons, but no daughters.  A common Hindi saying calls a daughter “a burden on her father’s head.”  A religious verse states “let a daughter be born somewhere else.  Here let a son be born.”  When a daughter is born in Rajasthan, it is said that “a thief has come” referring to a dowry payment.   Social factors also include advertisements for sex determination tests.  Another social factor is an ingrained son preference in India.  Families want to keep the property in the family, women are abused if they cannot produce a son, women are coerced into getting sex determination tests and abortions.  Evidence of this gender preference are in the numbers.  Census reports show a clear disparity, but other studies show a preference.  A study done by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences shows that of children who have been hospitalized at least once, 64.6% were boys.  Both girls were found to get sick and injured as often as boys with similar severity, meaning a lot of girls’ parents didn’t seek medical attention because they did not care whether or not they lived or died.
Economic factors include dowry and the cost of living in general.  Dowry is an amount of money or property given to a groom and his family by the bride and her family.  The amount of dowry is usually very high and difficult for families to pay, making more and more families avoid having daughters at all.  Many parents see infanticide and feticide as a mercy killing because of the poverty they are faced with and the inequalities and struggles that are imposed on women.
There are different ways in which females are killed.  One way is abortion, in which the sex of the child must first be determined.  Sex determination can be done in three ways: amniocentesis (extracting amniotic fluid from the amniotic sac surrounding the fetus), chronic villus sampling (testing of the placental tissue), and ultrasonography.  The first two methods were first developed to determine birth defects, but introduced the possibility of feticide based on sex.  The ultrasound machine has made sex determination easier than ever, and revolutionized the practice of female feticide.  For families who cannot afford the prenatal diagnostic tests or abortions, infanticide is their method of killing.  Infanticide can be carried out in any way imaginable.  Methods include, but are not limited to : feeding infants poison, feeding them unhusked, uncooked rice which punctures their windpipes, suffocating them with wet cloths, strangling them, and pouring acid on them.  When some Indian women were asked to tell of some of the methods they used or heard of people using, they giggled as they spelled out the gory details.  This illustrates how culturally acceptable this gendercide is, that the women are not ashamed of killing the tiny humans, but they laugh about it.
Despite the prevalence of feticide and infanticide, there are laws attempting to limit and stop it.  In an attempt to stop the problem at its source, the Indian government made the practice of dowry illegal in 1961.  Although abortion is legal in India, it is limited to certain requirements due to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) act.  The MTP act made it so that an abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy poses a threat to the life of the mother, the child is at risk to be born handicapped, if the child was conceived as a result of rape, or for family planning purposes.  To be lawful, the abortion must be carried out before 18 weeks, when the sex of the child is still hard to determine.  The Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) act was passed in 1994 and made it illegal to determine the sex of a fetus through any diagnostic techniques, requires all owners of ultrasound machines to register the machines, and made advertising for prenatal sex determination illegal.  In his 2010 Academic Journal, Nehaluddin Ahmad states that the Indian Penal Code of 1860 has relevant sections that
can be used to prosecute offenders when: death is caused by a person (Section 299 and Section 300), a pregnant woman is caused to miscarry the unborn baby (Section 312), an act done with intent to prevent a child being born alive or to cause it  to die quickly after birth (Section 315), a quick death of the unborn child is caused (Section 316), a child under 12 years of age is exposed and abandoned (Section 317), [and] the birth of the child is concealed by secretly disposing her/his body (Section 318).
In March 2008, the Conditional Cash Transfer for Girl Child with Insurance Cover (CCT) scheme was announced by India’s Women and Child Development Minister.  The scheme allots  “a total of ≈ 1-2 lakh rupees ($2500-$5000) [to]  be distributed to the family of a girl child provided they meet the conditions of birth registration, immunization, enrolment in school, retention in school and delaying the marriage … [until after the child is] 18 years [old]”.  The CCT scheme aims to end or at least lessen the mistreatment and killing of girls through monetary compensation.  This scheme should have an impact on the amount of feticide, infanticide and mistreatment of girls because one of the main causes of these events is the cost of raising a daughter, and this plan is designed to cushion the financial blow.
Sadly, these laws don’t mean much to the Indian people.  The laws are rarely followed and almost never enforced.  Many physicians simply ignore the laws, conducting illegal abortions privately.  Advertisements still exist, telling of the economic benefits of aborting female children.  In Bombay in 1994, Sonalda Desai noticed posters that advertised sex-determination tests that said: “It is better to pay 500 Rs [rupees] than 500,000 Rs (in dowry) later”.   The lack of enforcement is evident. In the years since the PCPNDT act was passed, very few people have been convicted.  This does not mean there weren’t any females killed or aborted, just that the government doesn’t care if the laws are broken.
The alarming disparity between the world average gender ratio and India's gender ratio has one major cause: the death of females. Whether it be in the womb in the form of feticide, or after birth in the form of infanticide, the population of females in India is significantly smaller than that of males. Feticide and infanticide have a few different causes. These factors include cultural and social causes as well as economic ones. Unfortunately, despite regulations and laws trying to stop and limit female infanticide and feticide, it still continues.  Female feticide andinfanticide have a few different causes and their is little chance of stopping them, despite laws against them.


My Journey Into and Out of Religion

   I know all of you are so interested in what has been going on in my life since my last post so I'll key you in. I have been getting out of religion. It's true, Brandon is entirely done with religion in general and never wants to go back because he is enjoying his life so much right now! I had no idea what all I was missing. I had no idea how good cigars were before I threw religion out my window.  I have learned so much about myself and cigars in these past few months. I've even learned about my sexuality, about bars, and about what not to do while intoxicated. America!!
   A couple months ago I went to my first gay bar and loved it though I'm not quite sure where I fall on the sexuality spectrum at the moment. I'm glad I finally started to wake up and live my life without the shackles of religion pulling me down and dictating the parts of life that are so important like sexuality.  I never would have considered going to a gay bar because my religion said no. Not a very fun or fair way to live your life I have found.
  This whole coming out of the darkness phase happened after I looked at the world around me in 20/20 vision. I started asking myself the important questions like why am I here? How did we get here? And my favorite, why is there so much suffering? The last one did it for me and religion along with my whole high school experience. After high school that was it for me and the religion train. I still believe in God but I don't consider myself religious anymore and don't plan to anytime in the near future. It's way to inhibiting. It blocks the creative self in each of us.
  Religion can and is used in wrong ways everyday. Every circus has it's clown just like every religion has its radical. That's what makes it so dangerous. Not always but a great majority of the time it is dangerous, so I don't plan on brainwashing my children with it anytime soon. I do plan on living the best life I can and enjoying while I am here the rest of my life.
  This article is going to piss a lot of people off I can see it now, so I just want to say that this is the United States of America and I think everyone has the right to practice any religion they choose and do anything they want (within reason) this article is merely a collection of my opinions and what has worked for me.

My Eternal Love for Harry Potter

I recently reread the first Harry Potter book. Unsurprising it is still incredibly awesome. It's a great book. It's the most popular books ever. Honestly if when its all said and done Harry Potter is what are species is remembered for I can live with that. But why do people love the series and its characters so much? What is it people connect to?                            

For me Harry Potter is something which is very dear to my heart. I think part of that might be because I always felt that I was very different from most other people. From a very young age I imagined leaving all the Muggles behind and making friends who were like me. I think a lot of kids have felt that way. Another reason I like the series is that it really teaches a lot of great life lessons but in a way that's accessible to a lot of people. Kids know nazis are bad but when they read about Voldemort and the death eaters it can feel a lot more real to them and make them understand how horrible people can be to one another. Rowling chose to tackle the big issues and that's something which can be pretty risky for a children's book author.

 J.K. Rowling not only showed kids what real evil looked like but she also showed them the value of love and of friendship, Harry Potter is about being brave even when you're scared. It's about beating the bad guys but it doesn't over simplify things. Tom Riddle was a sad little kid and the man Harry though tried to kill him during his first quidditch match turned out to be one of the bravest and most heroic characters in the entire series.

Harry Potter is a fairy tale that in my opinion has a lot more truth to it then most religious texts. J.K. Rowling opened the door for millions of people to invite magic and creativity into their lives. Sadly I will most likely never get my Hogwarts letter but I have learned a lot more important things from Potter than I was ever taught in Muggle school. Thank you J.K. Rowling.



What I'm Thankful For

  I know this post is more than a little overdue but I've been feeling kind of pessimistic lately and I feel like I should do this.                                                                                                                    

1 antibiotics. Thanks science.                                                                                                                  

2 Tom Lehrer's music. Thanks Tom Lehrer                                                                                              
3 democracy. Thanks dead white guys.                                                                                                    
4 Xmas specials.  Thanks invasive theology and capitalism.                                                                  

5 atheism. Thanks logic.                                                                                                                            
6 my friends. You know who you are.                                                                                                      
7 my family. Thanks chaotic universe.                                                                                                      
 8 the first amendment. Thanks again dead white guys.                                                                            
 9 Doctor Who. Thanks Sydney Newman and hundreds of other people.                                                
10 Gravity. Thanks physics.                                                                                                                      
11 Harry Potter. Thanks J.K. Rowling.                                                                                                    

12 Benedict Cumberbatch. Thanks Benedict Cumberbatch's parents.                                                    

13 Gummy worms. Thanks gummy worm sex.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Thanks for letting me waste your time with my optimism. Stay alive for the foreseeable future.                                                         


Why SuperWhoLock?

If you’re at all familiar with the world of Tumblr or are a simply a 21st century geek chances are you’ve heard of the phenomena known as  SuperWhoLock. If you’re not familiar with this term I can most easily describe it as a thing (picture, video,story etc..) made by fans that expresses enthusiasm for  three different fandoms. These fandoms are Supernatural, Doctor Who and Sherlock. While I have not personally contributed to the vast ocean which is SuperWhoLock and have decided to dedicate a blog post to expressing my love for each of them.


 Supernatural is an American television show which has recently started its tenth season. Monster hunting brother Sam and Dean Winchester are the focus of the show. They travel around America (for the most part) hunting down and destroying threats to humanity. The first few seasons consisted largely of standalone stories with a new monster each week (not unlike Doctor Who) but as the series progressed the story arc became more complex resulting in multiple apocalyptic conflicts.  My personal favorite character in the series is Charlie Bradbury(Felicia Day). She is a lesbian, a nerd and a totally geeky bad ass. She turns average episodes into very good ones and very good episodes into great episodes.

Doctor Who is definitely the fandom I am most strongly associated with in my personal life. This is because as Matt Smith’s Doctor would say, it’s cool. It’s a British science fiction program which originally ran from 1963 to 1989. Their was a TV movie starring Paul McGann in 1996 and it returned as a weekly series in 2005. On November 23rd 2013 it reached it turned fifty and it’s still looking good. The shows longevity is remarkable. It has survived because it’s a story machine that thrives on change. Doctor Who is about an alien called the Doctor who travels through space and time in a ship called the TARDIS which is disguised to look like a blue box.

  The Doctor picks up people he likes and they travel around in the TARDIS having adventures and saving the day on a regular basis. Thirteen versions of the Doctor exist within the program’s canon. This is because the Doctor is an alien who rather than dying regenerates changing his physical form and certain aspects of his personality. This plot device allows for a new actor to put their own spin on the role and keep the series going. Because of this their is no end in sight for the popular franchise.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation Sherlock Holmes has been popular all over the world for over a hundred years now. It is safe to say that he is one of the most iconic characters of all time. Sherlock’s keen observational skills have helped to revolutionize crime investigation protocol and the stories in which he originally appeared have inspired countless other and shaped the mystery genre as we all know it today. Now in the 21st century Holmes and Watson are back at it again in the popular British show Sherlock. 

 Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is incredibly captivating and true to the character. Cumberbatch’s Holmes can at one moment come across as cold, calculating and in control and the next seem like an angry and alienated child. His character is complex. He is brilliant but not always and he’s selfish but he cares more than he likes to let on. While he would never admit to it he is most certainly a hero. Martin Freeman’s Dr Watson has wonderful chemistry with Cumberbatch’s Holmes and their relationship always come across as being very real. They are two very different men who understand each in a very unique and important way. They depend on each other and they both have many invisible scars.

  A possible explanation for why the series Doctor Who and Sherlock share so many loyal fans  perhaps lies in the writers. Gatiss and Moffat (the co-creators of Sherlock) have both written for Doctor Who. Moffat is actually Doctor Who's current headwriter. I think their's something more to it though. Supernatural, Sherlock and Doctor Who all have their own unique appeal but they are each in their own way about freaks and monsters and trying to deal with the chaotic world in which we live. I think that really clicks with a lot of people. Feel free to share your feelings in the comments.



An Interview with the Unlikely and Defiant Ashley Prichard

 I live in the city of Huntington WV. If you're not familiar with the area you may have heard of it in connection with the Marshall plane crash. Huntington is relatively conservative area but does have elements of many different subcultures. In this area prejudice poses a major problem to many people who don't fit the typical. Many people have become accepting of the limitations imposed onto them but Ashley Prichard has challenged all of this in running a hopefully successful campaign to become the Marshall University Homecoming Queen. Ashley is a socially liberal, pansexual who has refuses
to let the world tell her who she is and what she can and can't do.                                                      

Me: Hello.                                                                                                                                                      
Ashley: Hey.                                                                                                                                                
Me: Are you ready to begin?  
Ashley: Oh sure.                                                                                                                                        
Me: Can you please tell me about why you want to be Ms. Marshall?                                                        
Ashley: Uh I have a lot of reasons for kind of going for this Ms. Marshall position one of which is just because I wanted to. Since I was a freshman I was like oh I want to do that but everybody was like "No you can't. Don't you know your place in society by now?" As if I can't step outside some role or something. And so as I went through school I wanted to challenge that more and more because it bothered me. And plus my mother in law who just passed away from cancer really wanted me to go for it because it seemed like a great way to really get involved with the community and prove a point while also donating to charity and giving back.                                                                                          
Me: How has the overall reaction to your campaign been so far?                                                              
 Ashley: So far it's been pretty good but the amount of support really outweighs the naysayers but occasionally we'll have some bible beater come out and get angry over it or you have people breaking the signs, pissing on them, ripping down flyers just people being really childish.                                   Me: You mentioned charity. Can you tell us about the charity?                                                               Ashley: I'm actually donating to the Trevor Project. It benefits LGBT teens who might be in crisis because  I'm actually a suicide attempt survivor myself and PTSD patient because of it. I really don't want any youth to go down the same road I did as a kid. Plus it's just near and dear to my heart so I just figured I'd raise money for charity win or lose.                                        

 Me: Have you always been so socially conscious?                                                                                     Ashley: Like with social activism and stuff?    
Me: Yes.                          
 Ashley:  Oh yeah. I've always been passionate. Since I was a kid I'd find out something wrong and be like "Well why are you telling me to do this? Isn't it a double standard kind of thing?"Growing up I'm just like "Well why not?" Then I'd get mad over it. I'd talk back and they'd call me bad kid, shove Ritalin down my throat, that kind of stuff.  And so as I got older and become more aware of social psychology and the way people function the more I felt the need to do something and make it my passion.                                      
Me: You're major is psychology. Correct?        
Ashley: Yeah I'm a psych major.                                                          
 Me: Can you go more into detail about why you're interested in psychology?                                       Ashley: It kind of relates back to being an early suicide attempt survivor. Growing up it was really difficult for me to be the goth quote queer kid at school in the middle of the Bible Belt, being confused, sometimes going a night without food kind of stuff. I never felt like I was worth anything and as I questioned that or questioned what had happened getting older the more I realized how important psychology is in explaining people's day to day behavior and why people do the bs that they do. It helped me figure out myself and cope in a way so I want to be a doctor and give back to people who need it the most.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                                                       Me: As you said this is a fairly conservative area. Do you plan on staying  here after you're finished    with school?                                                                                                                                                
Ashley: I've considered...I don't know. It's kind of up in the air. My therapist really  wants me to leave  because it's bad for my trauma symptoms having to go out there and deal with bigotry that reminds me of what happened. It's a part of life. I try to cope with it day to day but I'm definitely thinking about coming back and being a clinical psychologist one day if I don't go to grad school here because I think the area really needs it and unfortunately theirs a lot of people who see psychology with a huge stigma. "I can't seek help or I'm going to be like a failure." Or something like that. "I don't want to go to no crazy doctor." Kind of stuff. I've known people who thought psychologists were medical doctors and that I could stitch them up and it was cute. No I can't repair your cut.        

Me: what is your philosophy of life?                                                                                                            

Ashley: Well philosophy of life.  That can be a lot of different thing really. For me it's just kind of whatever cause I've made for myself. I've decided what gives my life meaning. If you're kind of referring to a more spiritual sense I actually identify heavily win LaVeyan Satanism or with the Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey. For me I know it's a goth cliche but growing  up one  of the things they'd say it me is "Your a devil worshiper. Go to Hell" Kind of stuff. "Kill yourself." "Why don't you go back to Hell where you came from?" That's one of the things that drove me todo what I did and being confused growing up. I'm just like well what's it mean to be a Christian? What's it mean to be a Satanist? So I pick up the Satanic Bible at the book store in the mall. And I'm just like well this is really interesting. Holy shit. It looks just like me. It's everything I feel inside but I had to hide that for a very long time. You don't come out and say that to anybody and you also don't come out and say "I'm goth but I'm also doing this." because you could be shunned from that community too because it's such a sensitive stereotype. But in a way coming to terms with that, coming out of the broom closet if you want to call it that, it's really helped me hopefully find out what means the most to me and that life is beautiful and that I should get out and find what passions I have and live life to the  fullest because I'm  really lucky to have it and I don't really need anybody but I do... I don't know I just want to be a human being and do what I feel comes naturally nothing more. I hope that makes sense.                                                                                                                                                 

Me: You seem to be a very brave person especially considering all the prejudice you have to face in putting yourself out in the open trying to attract attention to the campaign. What are you afraid of?

Ashley: What am I afraid of? I can't really say I'm afraid of much. I know it sounds crazy but I've seen it all after eleven years of going out on the street open and expressive about who I am as a person. I had a gun put in my face this summer by a bunch of rednecks. I go out. I've gotten my ass kicked. Their's people really angry over this but I'm going to go out and do it anyway because your not gonna get a point across with your signs. Theirs nothing they could do that would shock me anymore. I guess if they were to shoot me dead on the football field I feel I would be a little shocked there but that's highly unlikely.

Me: If you could say one thing to your younger self what would that be?

Ashley: If I could say one thing to my younger self I would have told them that you are beautiful. Don't listen to them.  You may not have the perspective to understand that yet but your life means a lot and it's the only one you have. Please never forget that.

Me: Besides social activism what are you passionate about?

Ashley: Other passions...I'm definitely passionate about learning and traveling. Just this summer I went to Italy on  a study abroad trip. I also collect taxidermy and skulls and oddities I've found. So I just have all this weird stuff in my apartment I collect.

Me: I personally have a dog skull in my bedroom. What sort of things have you collected?

Ashley: Well I think I have at least thirty, forty skulls at my apartment. I've got what maybe ten deer maybe fifteen raccoon, a cow, some steer, some big fox, some possums, rats, squirrels, a coyote that I bought, a dog that got hit by a car that my aunt passed down to me. That's depressing.

Me:  Can you expand more on your trip?

Ashley: This summer I went to Italy. The college of fine arts at Marshall University actually hosts a study abroad event every summer. You go there to study like political philosophy and art. It's up to you what you want to take but it's really cool because you get to live like with Italians in apartments somewhere scattered throughout the city. Your like immersed in the culture and it's up to you to figure out how to get around.

Me: Could you expand upon your personal political views?

Ashley: Political views. I'm not totally sure at the moment. Like...I definitely... I'm not a registered republican let's say that much.

Me: That's a shock.

Ashley: Yeah I'm definitely not into the socially conservative kind of evangelical theocrat movement that's taken America by storm in the recent decades because I've been personally affected by it. I'm definitely socially liberal. People can do what they want. Fiscally I'm not totally sure yet on where I stand and what the role of government is in a persons life and what kind of economic system I tend to agree with. I don't have enough info.

Me: What does it mean for something to be just?

Ashley: That's actually a really deep philosophical question. To me...I guess my opinions on justice have changed a lot throughout the years. Right now I tend to practice a little bit of lex talionis within reason. And I mean as much as absolute mercy sound good I've tried it in the past and people just keep taking advantage. What value does it place on mercy if I give it blindly. I do have to get angry sometimes. I do have to retaliate within reason and stand up for peoples right when somebody is doing something stupid but I'd also like to be held accountable for my own wrongdoings myself. If I do something wrong please do it to me too because it'll help me think about my actions. I'm a big proponent of do whatever you want but however you must be really careful about what you do because what you do does come back to you in the end.

Me: Do you consider yourself to be a particularly moral person?

Ashley: Morel, depends on the definition of morality. By some people's standards I am the devil incarnate. By other people's standards I'm just apparently a saint which I disagree with.

Me: This by far the most serious question so far. In a zombie apocalypse what would be your weapon of choice?

Ashley: That's a tough choice. As much as I'd like to say a gun that's highly impractical because you'd run out of ammo eventually. I'd also say like a  car or something but you're gonna run out of gas and that would be really bad. Honestly I'd probably pick up something that's quick but bludgeons that gets the job done. I'd either say a katana or maybe a hatchet or an axe. Probably a baseball bat with nails in it would be better. Something that's really durable and versatile.

Me: Who were your role models growing up?

Ashley: Role models. Honestly I didn't have too many but some of the people I looked up to...It's kind of the cliché goth thing but growing up I really looked up to people like Marilyn Manson. I was like look theirs someone out their just as angry and upset at the way things are as I am. I want to listen more. I knew it was a goth cliché but I'm shameless. To me...I looked up to people with similar outlooks and in a way when your confused and scared and alone its really comforting to think that somebody is out their that's just as angry, just as mad over the way society functions as you are it's just really comforting. Right now I kind of look up to...I do look up to him still but I actually identify with a lot more philosophers maybe scientists, psychologists I want to be like.

Me: Would you say that you're more with yourself now?

Ashley: Oh definitely. It's taken a long time and a lot of healing to get this far but it's been worth it. I get up in the morning, look at myself in the mirror and say I'm beautiful, I'm different, I'm a cliché and it's ok. I'm going to go out and be happy anyways. I'm done being upset with myself.

Me: You've obviously been very busy lately. What do you like to do with your free time?

Ashley: Free time. I tend to be a bit of a busybody or a workaholic. I'm always distracting myself with some new task. I have really bad anxiety so if something's not done or if I'm looking at a messy room I have to rearrange it. But what I'm doing with my real free time, I actually really like to go hiking and biking. I also like tattoos and artwork and a lot of kind of solo outdoor activities and kind of being to myself.

Me: Where do you like to go hiking?

Ashley: Oh my fiancé's family actually lives in Fayetteville WV like near the River Gorge bridge. I've hiked every single trail in that valley. I've hiked up both sides of the mountain. I like to go out there and just play in the streams like a kid. Sometimes I'll go hiking in Ritter. I've yet to really explore Rotary park but I've heard theirs some great hiking trails. I just need like a friend to give me a ride up there sometime.

Me: Out of curiosity how many tattoos and piercings do you have?

Ashley: Let me count. Oh I have seven tattoos, about fourteen piercings two of which I had to retire because they rejected.

Me: When did you get your first tattoo?

Ashley: My first tattoo was...I wanted to write love on my arms literally. I got that a couple days before I was eighteen because me and my dad had been planning on getting me a tattoo for my eighteenth birthday because I'm so interested and found a really good shop in south Charleston and he was like "You can just come on in. We obviously have your parents permission. so."

Me: What two words summarize your life most accurately?

Ashley: That's a tough question. Unlikely and defiant probably.

Me: In your eyes what makes someone a good person?

Ashley:  Someone a good person...That can depend on a lot of different factors but to me a really good person is someone whose really genuine and honest and upfront and somebody  willing to really pursue their passions and at least have some sort of decent character about them. I guess that you could say I'm attracted to people similar to me who are really blunt, upfront, ethical in their pursuits I guess.

Me: If you had the opportunity to change one thing about the world what would that be?

Ashley: That's a difficult question. Theoretically I'd definitely try to make the world just a more peaceful place but that has serious implications of itself. By what circumstances would that come about? Does a perfect world even exist and what would it look like? Would it mean sacrificing our humanity or becoming all the same? I'm not totally sure. Idealistically I'd say world peace or hunger and that people would have plenty but I question if that's a really realistic thing. I really wish people would just mind their own business and be non serious and non idealistic.

Me: You identify as pansexual correct?

Ashley: Oh yeah.

Me: How long have you been open about that?

Ashley: Well, growing up I knew something was different or not really different. I never knew that anything was really considered wrong with liking another female or a male interchangeably. I didn't think anything of it as a purely innocent child." I like her mommy." "I like him." "I like this one." " I want that one. She's my girlfriend. He's my boyfriend." And nobody really said much about it and then I told my grandma "I like her." and she's like "What do you mean?" and I'm "Well I want to marry her." kind of stuff and she's liking calling my parents yelling. And I'm like "I thought you loved me. I don't understand. Mom can you explain it to me?" She's having to explain why religious people may not like gay people and I'm like "What's gay?" So growing up I'm like "So I'm different?" and I'm like "What's that supposed to mean?" Like just I guess you could say part of me still carried a lot of childhood innocence up until about ten years old when I moved here and people started finding out. Like I grew up in Dallas Texas as a really young child, the place where Ebola is now and it's Texas but surprisingly nobody really ever said anything because it was in the middle of the city and nobody cared and they minded their own business and I was like what only six, seven when I moved I come here and it's totally different and I'm like "What's going on here?"

Me: Have you faced much prejudice from you own family?

Ashley: From my own family...immediate not as much. Theirs been times but my sexuality was never really a cause of conflict from my immediate family just with my paternal relatives who tend to be really, really religious and conservative as long as it benefits them kind of thing. I still loved them but I was never really, I never really had the maturity to understand why they did what they did until I was older. So their the only internal source of antigay prejudice. I got more flack for dressing different and identifying as goth than anything.

Me: What do you consider to be the major problems facing the youth of America today?

Ashley: As a liberal arts person that could be a lot of different things. I think one of the main things is that life has gotten so much more complicated than it was back in the day. Back in the day if you were a woman you had a role. If you were a man you had expectations. You didn't really get to choose as much growing up. So you didn't really have to think about it and now we have all these kids who can be anything they want to be and theirs technology and a huge generational gap of parents who don't...may not understand that and unfortunately a lot of parents don't let their kids grow and might be a little uneducated themselves and not know what to do or aren't really self actualizing enough to deal with their problems and not put them on their children. In a way I think we just have a lot of irresponsible parents who are unwilling to empathize with their child in things they don't understand. A lot of kids grow up feeling alienated.

Me: You've talked about a lot of prejudice facing you for being goth.

Ashley: Oh yeah.

Me: Were you at all hesitant to participate in this campaign?

Ashley: Not really. Just after seeing everything from violence to vandalism to threats to nasty texts and messages. I guess after a over a decade you just in a way you own up to it. It just becomes so normalized that you just stop thinking about it. I mean it still hurts particularly because I have trauma related to it but since I've seeked treatment and gotten a lot better it's become less noticeable. Unfortunately I do have to avoid a lot of places and watch my back and use shifty eyes when I'm out in public because you never know whose there and what they're going to do. But this campaign...I was prepared for ridicule in the beginning and if it gets any worse I'll deal with it appropriately.

Me: Have you had to cut anyone out of your personal life because of who you are?

Ashley: Oh yeah. Definitely. Believe it or not I used to have a theistic past. When I was in high school I was so confused over what had happened to me as a kid or why did religious people do that?...before I'd ever explored satanism with other questions I had had. Their was this church and this girl in my class. I knew she was a christian. I was nice to her anyways because I was a decent person and she just made me feel loved and accepted. She brought me into the church and stuff and I thought they loved me. And that's all I wanted as a kid without realizing where that desire came from. Somebody said they'd love and accept me. As I got deeper into it things got a lot uglier. Things got really theocratic and kind of disturbing and apparently democrats are communists out to take over America, that we're the only people who have truth and that everyone else is wrong and deserves to be slaughtered all that kind of stuff. Stuff that wasn't preached from the pulpit but it was implied with a lot of members. It's kind of an us vs. them mentality. Then I started reading the Bible and oh that was kind of the nail in the coffin. I had questions about "why am I not.." because I started with Genesis and started flying through it and I'm like "What did I just read?"Theirs people like raping their father in like Genesis. Theirs a loving God smiting people and raining fire down when he just could have poofed them out of existence rather than making them suffer, stuff about not wearing two mixed fabrics. I was like "Pastor I have some questions." and he's just dismissive and like I didn't get an answer. Things got weird and weirder. They told me I had to break up with my fiance, my family was wrong. "We're your family. We have the truth. We're your friends." They just kind of watch your ever move kind of thing. It just got weirder and weirder and weirder. And then one day she said in the car "You know I was just being nice to you to bring you to the Lord right?" and she's like "The reason you tried to kill yourself isn't because of Christians. We did the right thing. You're just demon possessed and people like you are." And I'm like they....I was so close to them. I thought they loved me and thing got weirder and weirder. Theirs a couple I still keep in contact with because they're decent and understanding about why I left. But theirs some people who just aren't...they just like an idea of you. They don't like the real you and they'll do anything to shut the real you down so they can fulfill their agenda. Those people you've gotta cut them out.

Me: In this American theocracy a lot of people have these ideas of evil which are very much black and white and they tend to stereotype people like yourself. What do you consider to be actual evil? What is evil?

Ashley: That's actually a really deep question with a lot of different answers that  would take me hours to really get through. To me evil is the person who is genuinely stupid, who acts without thinking, who puts their problems are on everybody else and they think the world revolves around them and even mediocrity. I don't like mean to seem like high and mighty but the person  I'm right. You're wrong no matter what. I can't think for myself. The world revolves around me. Let's rape this Earth. Let's destroy this Earth. Let's live it up now because it doesn't matter what we do. People who just destroy everything in their path, who think their right. They can't see the forest through the trees you know idiocy in a way. I guess it's just in a way to be an unenlightened backwoods nut bag who shoots anything on his porch,"The world should cater to me. I'm always right.  I'm a big crybaby." kind of thing.

Me: What are your views on anarchism?

Ashley: Anarchism. I'm not totally sure yet. I can definitely see the appeal of it considering in a way the government and state is to blame for the way the world is partially. I mean we have the ice caps melting and everything else that's been discovered by science about man made climate change, all the starvation in the world and the money. In a way I question that we should just live like animals. Defend yourself. Be self sufficient. I mean I don't advocate social Darwinism but let idiots kind of kill themselves off. In a way I entertain the idea but I don't accept it because I don't know what to think about it yet. I mean I can definitely see the naturalistic appeal of living like animals in the wild doing all this stuff. I  mean I question if the state is really necessary for civilized society and buildings and roads like we see now. I just don't know. I just don't have enough information yet. I mean I have a lot of speculations about anarchism versus government. I just can't make a decision because I'm so conflicted about a lot of the implications of no government and the way society respond to them.

Me: I'm not sure if this is true but do you want to ride a hearse into homecoming?

Ashley:  Yeah. One of my fraternity brothers in Alpha Phi Omega they know one of the funeral directors in the area and they can probably get me one on loan for a day and it'll be awesome. And I'm going to get black glitter and candy to throw at people.

Me: What would you like the general public to understand about Satanism?

Ashley: I'm not sure. In a way it's kind of a lonely philosophy. You understand that people aren't going to be accepting and people may not understand because they don't want to see a book past its cover. The whole world isn't going to be Satanists because it's a tendency that you have to be individualistic, to think for yourself. You don't become or convert to Satanism. You just...You feel it in the beginning and you  pick up a Satanic Bible. Does it click? Do you want to do it? Well do it. I do want the public to understand one thing. We're not a bunch of animal sacrificing baby killers. It's media.

Me: That's disappointing.

Ashley:(laughs) The thing is you're supposed to cherish and value life and animals and children are pure expressions of it. You're supposed to love and nurture and not harm needlessly or without good reason to do so. I swear I'm not coming for your children. I'm just a person who minds their own business, minds their own desires and keeps ritualistic ways solely for psychological benefit.

Me: In your opinion what are your best qualities?

Ashley: My best qualities. Well my best qualities are arguably my downfall according to a lot of people. Defiance and individualism are something I like. Good luck shaking me off. If theirs something I want to do good luck getting me to stop doing it. In a way that's gotten me a lot of respect from people but at the same time people will react to the things you do particularly if your out of the norm and since I can't live as a hermit one day I could get shot. That could bring me down. I could get beaten to death or I could kill myself or something. The risks are everywhere but it's kind of a double edged sword. Sometimes it works out in your favor. Sometimes it doesn't.

Me: At this time do you consider yourself to be a happy person?

Ashley: Oh definitely. I've had my ups and downs particularly since it can be tough being different in a small area but I definitely do what it takes to make me happy on a daily basis. I'm doing everything I want to. I don't feel that theirs a part of my life that needs a bunch extra. I have a job. I have a family. I have cats at home. I'm reasonably mentally healthy at the moment and feel pretty good about myself.

Me: What do you do for work?

Ashley: Oh I'm actually a part time caterer for Sodexo. Like we work upstairs in the Marshall students center and we often do like events that have been scheduled. We set out all the tables, set up some events, serve food, wait tables, break it down in the end.

Me: You seem to be a very caring person. What is it that you would lay down your own life to protect?

Ashley: Theirs a lot of things that I would. One of the biggest things that I'd think I'd actually face the prospect of laying down my life to protect is possibly a lot of my own self interests like my identity. If I'm going to be killed for being myself then so be it. As much as I like life I've decided what means most to me in life and with sound mind and complete understanding I would forfeit my life just to remain tall in my expression and to never be forcibly swayed into something I wouldn't like doing but I'd also give my life for my fiance because he saved mine and people I care about and it just depends. Sometimes you just feel the calling and you do the right thing even if it costs you your life. I don't know if that makes sense.

Me: Are you afraid of death?

Ashley: Not really. I don't want to die but it's a part of life a place where Adolf Hitler would still be here, where just...If nothing died imagine how crowded the world would be. I mean I've been there. You know that feeling when you're in the pool and you jump and you're drowning and you can't swim. After you struggle it's just kind of like your at peace. That's what death feels like as far as I've experienced. It's like you know your dying but your body just doesn't have enough energy or oxygen to do anything so you just slip into unconsciousness all being aware of what's going on. I mean it's different for a lot of people. If you get you brains or die instantly chances are its going  to be different  but based on what I've experienced....It's an unfortunate part of life because I don't want to miss out on anything but it's a part of being human. If life lasted forever what would be the point? I'd just sit on my ass all day. I'd probably just have plenty of time to do nothing.

Me: What is the point of life?

Ashley: Whatever you want it to be. For me it's being happy and learning and being as fully human as possible. If I didn't have death looking over my head I wouldn't have traveled to Italy. I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. I wouldn't be loving and just some of my most basic day to day activities like being there, being supportive to my friends. I understand that those people aren't going to last. They could be gone in a day and you could never get another chance. You could be gone in a day. I mean nothing is guaranteed so why not live as peacefully as possible? I mean part of its your own self interest. Part of it's just understanding reality.

Me: You're obviously more comfortable with yourself now than before but if you had to change one thing about yourself what would that be? 

Ashley: If I had to change one thing...Internally I don't know if I could change anything. I guess sometimes I tend to be a little bit distant from people because I'm so introverted I guess I kind of lack with any relationships. Like I know a lot of people but sometimes I don't let people get close to me out of some subconscious fear of being hurt again but I'm slowly working to get passed that. So I'd have to say if I were to change anything I'd probably change my hair a little and make it more easy to work with. I've kind of got a white person afro.

Me: Why is it that you should be Ms. Marshall rather than someone else?

Ashley: What do you mean?

Me: What qualities make you right for Ms. Marshall?

Ashley: I definitely think I should be Ms. Marshall because first off I want to do it, I've got the work ethic and drive to get all of my duties done. I love my university. I love standing up for people and plus it just means so much to me to get this message out to the community. I mean win or lose I'm never going to give up on what I believe in or stop donating to charity or stop standing up for what I really think is the best with or without a crown. But the crown is really nice and in a way it really gets people to believe in your message. I mean I guess I'm saying winning just kind of confirms what I'm saying for people. I don't know how to explain it without sounding weird. I just feel in my heart and know I have the drive and the passion to represent my community well.

 I'm really hopefully that Ashley will win the crown she deserves. She is a very intelligent and refreshing person who really cares about people and making a difference. Whether or not she wins she has sent such a positive message to all those who are different and face trouble. Ashley doesn't only survive the nasty world we live. She works to change it.



Doctor Who Series 8 So Far

   My most recent post was a review for the season 8 opener 'Deep Breath.' This special was the first full story in the era of Peter Capaldi's Doctor. I maintain a high opinion of the episode. It was initially my plan to post a review for each episode after it aired but life go in the way. In order to correct this I am compiling a short summary on  Doctor Who series 8 thus far. To keep things simple I am breaking it down by episode and beginning with episode two.

Episode 2

Into the Dalek

This story being the second in Capaldi's was really the first regular adventure for the new incarnation. Not only was this episode saddled with the duty of keeping the promise made by 'Deep Breath' it also had to do the menace of the daleks justice whilst at the same time establishing a new working relationship between the Doctor and his most hated enemies. Luckily 'Into the Dalek was successful on all these fronts. Capaldi's Doctor is shown as a cold and emotionally scarred who desperately wants to  be a good man. This Doctor has clear negative associations with the idea of being a soldier and even rejects a perfectly suitable companion based on this prejudice. This episode is a thriller which reworks ideas seen in both the first Doctor story "Planet of Giants" and the Ninth Doctor's episode 'Dalek'.


 Episode 3

Robot of Sherwood

This Gatiss penned tale is one of action adventure and romance but that is only the surface of the episode. This story questions what makes someone a hero and whether or not pretending to be a hero is heroic in itself. The Doctor's negative attitude towards Robin Hood is a reflection of his own self doubt and the belief that all fairytale heroes are fictions. Robin Hood and the Doctor have a lot in common though Robin is a  bit more annoying than our favorite Time Lord and their is a very touching conversation between the two at one point. This episode was good but not particularly extraordinary. It seems to me the pacing may have been hurt by the removal of one particular scene. 

Episode 4


'Listen' is perhaps my favorite twelfth Doctor episode so far. It's about fear and how it effects people. This story is unique in Doctor Who in that the principle villain is not only most likely not actually real but is also probably just a figment of the Doctor's imagination. While much of the danger may not be real this story is still incredibly creepy and is very important in the overall canon of the franchise. We see the first Doctor earlier in his life than ever before and Clara once again does something "impossible". This is definitely one of my favorite.

Episode 5

Time Heist

 'Time Heist' is a fun adventure in the vein of a Hollywood heist film. It sees the Doctor and Clara teaming up with an amnesiac cyborg and an emotionally troubled shape shifter in order to rob the most secure bank in the universe. It may be a wild adventure but make no mistake this episode has its dark moments. The major theme of this episode seems to be coming to terms with you own identity and it is reflected in much of the plot. While examining different manifestations of self hatred takes up a significant portion of the episode it is not one of your emotion based straightforward tales. In the last twenty minutes it becomes clear this story has some very timey wimey aspects to it. This is a very strong episode and definitely would have kept me interested if I was a first time viewer.


Episode 6

The Caretaker

 This episode is basically "School Reunion" meets "The Lodger." In this story the Doctor poses as a caretaker at Clara's school in the hope of defeating an alien threat attracted to the area by emissions from the TARDIS.  The alien looks sort of cool but is really on there to create a sense of danger. The real story is about how Clara attempts to juggle two lives and two old soldiers. This episode has been harshly criticized by some for remarks made by the Doctor especially to Clara's boyfriend Danny Pink whom he is incredibly rude to just because he had been a soldier.

 Many people fail to realize that the Doctor is not hating based on prejudice to something he does not know. All the Doctor's remarks are fueled by his own self hatred. The Doctor is a soldier and he has seen things that would scar anyone. He doesn't like to think about that part of himself and reacts defensively when something reminds him. If I'm not mistaken this theme of self hatred and identity will carry through into the rest of this series. Moffat is building to something.