Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dawkins' Deluded Detractors

I finally got around to reading the God Delusion last week. Though I am in agreement with 99% of Dawkins' views on the subject of God, I do have to say that the book was a little weak in some areas. As a person who spent most of her life around academic debate, I just couldn't help wondering why Dawkins would jump straight into the "does God exist" fray without doing a better job of defining the terms of the proposition. "Existence" and "God" are never well-defined, and as a result, he never really scores a knockout punch on ol' SkyDaddy. On the other hand, I love "The Mother Of All Burkas" at the end, where he vividly describes how very little of the world we actually see. I'm not sure this really extends his argument, but it sure is a great wakeup call nonetheless.

As much as I think Dawkins could have done better, his critics have resorted to the most shoddy counter-arguments I have seen outside of a high school novice debate round.

From Depak Chopra, at
1. Science is the only valid way to gain knowledge. Nothing about God is needed to explain the world. Eventually science will uncover all mysteries. Those that it can't explain don't exist.

This is the bedrock of Dawkins' argument, as it is of most skeptics and scientific atheists.

Only it's not. Not by a mile. Dawkins NEVER says things science can't explain don't exist. Ever. This is not the last time Chopra comes off looking like he didn't even read the book. He goes on about how the sainted Einstein believed in God (he didn't, and Dawkins went to some effort to point that out), he continually said that Dawkins said the universe was created by random chance (wrong again), and even referred to one of the analogies Dawkins debunked (the 747 put together by a hurricane) to support his arguments about the non-random nature of the universe. Sheesh. This guy calls himself a doctor? He also obviously woefully misunderstands quantum physics, and mistakes Dawkins for some sort of 19th century objective materialist who subscribes only to the narrowest interpretations of Newtonian physics. Of course, this is all crazily off-base. And his coup de grace? His way of knowing there is a God? Because consciousness transcends matter. We can think thoughts with our mind, which has to be more than just the chemicals it's made of. Well doesn't it? He even petulantly asks, "Do you think you are conscious and intelligent, or are you being fooled by random chemical reactions inside your skull?"

I think Chopra's chemicals must be pretty random for this to seem like an argument to him. Here's a crazy idea- consciousness and intelligence are byproducts of certian chemical reactions. The two things aren't mutually exclusive. Oh, did someone say neuroscience? Chopra must have been too busy listening to his "greater consciousness" to hear about that little fringe field of study.

While Dawkins makes a better argument for skeptical agnosticism and a general mistrust of organized religion than atheism, he sure does a better job than those who wish to disagree with him.

Next: the man who tortures logic in the service of God

Monday, November 12, 2007

Even Catgirls Get The Blues

Yeah, I know. It's been forever since I posted, and I've all ready written about the whole "women don't like sex" cultural stereotype thing. However, I feel like I need to say it one more time.

Women like sex. We really do. And, believe it or not, we ARE visually stimulated. When I see a hot guy, I react. I think most women do. The whole "men are just more visual" evo psych drivel is just that. As a matter of fact, I have my own modest little counter interpretation of the sexual proclivities of women.

Women, on average, have a HIGHER capacity for visual stimulation than men. The fact that women can still get off, even when they don't have blatant, in-your-face sexual imagery like mainstream porn would suggest that to be true. I go one further still, and say that many women are so sexual, they don't even need visual stimulation at all. A racy story, a smooth voice singing a song, and many women are ready to go. Why else would romance novels be such a hit with many women? Boy bands? Or fanfic? Read any of that stuff lately? If women can get off thinking about cartoon characters or characters from a novel, I'd say that is indicative of a high degree of sexuality.

Well, there I go. My theories are just as plausible as anyone else's. I get SO tired of the MSM telling me that I'm really not supposed to be that in to sex...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I Heart Olympia Snowe!

Who says liberals can't like Republicans? If I lived in Maine, I'd be proud to vote for Olympia Snowe as my Senator. Whenever I hear of some bill I really like in the senate, I almost always hear Olympia Snowe's name attached to it. Net neutrality? Yep. Olympia's on the case. Repealing the global gag rule? Snowe is there. She became a personal hero of mine when I heard she supported the historic McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. Sure, she has her missteps, like voting for the Patriot Act, but all-in-all, she is the kind of senator a progressive independent can really get behind. And as a bonus, she has a really kickass name.

Go, Olympia! Keep showing those conservo-fascist fundie turdballs that they don't own all of the Grand Old Party just yet.

Monday, September 17, 2007

LAF-ing at the Ladies

Oh, yeah. This is the good stuff. On Feministe, they posted about a site called "Visionary Daughters". Of course, it really should be called "Retrograde Daughters", as it deals with all of the Biblical Submissive woman stuff we know and love. They do a pretty good job of picking that particular site apart, so I'll spend my time commenting about an interesting site the "visionaries" would have us link to. It's called...get ready for it... "Ladies Against Feminism", or LAF for short.

The motto of the site is "promoting beautiful womanhood". The site is rife with Victorian clipart depicting such "beautiful ladies", and as I commented on Feministe, it leaves me wondering if they are laboring under the illusion that the Bible was written in 1880, or if perhaps they have it confused with a Harlequin romance novel. I actually find it pretty disheartening that the "submission" crowd has appropriated the Victorian Lady as the symbol for the movement, as it makes me look at my collection of period illustrations (I'm a history buff)in a much less favorable light. Looking at these pictures and reading that motto are really as far as one needs to go in order to understand the point of the site- women are meant to be pretty objects for men to control. I've all ready addressed how the Christian Discipline movement is really S&M dressed up in Bible-ese, and you can cross-apply everything I said there to the whole "submission" movement in general. This website is actually a great how-to manual for master/slave relationships.

They do go to great lengths to point out that they don't endorse abuse or cruelty, or see women as less than human, but of course all of this is firmly negated by the actual content of the site. Here are some of the "useful" tidbits I picked up from my reading:

1. Dating is really wasting time on relationships that go nowhere. If you don't plan on marrying him, what's the point? Oh, you say you enjoy dating? Silly girl- relationships aren't about enjoyment, that are about finding a good "head" to boss you around. Oh,and have baybees with. Happiness can only be found as a function of adhering slavishly to what the Bible may have/may have not said about the role of women. THE END.

2.A woman's role is as a "helpmeet". A helpmeet's (is that even a word?!)job is to help her husband. Period. Women with ambition need not apply. It's empowering to be this kind of woman, don't you know? You need to pray for the inspiration to be the best slave... er... helpmeet you can be. And if something happens to your husband, and he no longer wants your help, or if he dies? Well, I guess you can pray for God to take you away real soon, too, because women are obviously just not cut out to lead.

3. Modesty is FUN! Yeah! Evil "feminists" want you to shed your clothes, but the real cool kids are daring to keep it all on! It's so fun to try to meet the moving target of "modesty", which is "so much more than denim jumpers". Although, if it is your Godly husband who is telling you to put on the saucy little jumper that reveals all that ankle, is it really immodesty, or just wifely duty?

4.Women who are TOO involved with the church risk "feminizing" it! Oh Noes! Men aren't as religious as women, studies show. Obviously, this is the women's fault. If men don't take back their role as head of everything, women are going to take over, declare themselves competent to lead, and you know what that means... The gays are sure to follow!

So what have we learned today? Women are property. You don't shop around for your owner, your owner shops around for you. If you get lucky, you'll get a good Christian owner who leads with compassion. If not, well, that's God's plan, too.(Women's)Bodies are bad, because other people may look at them with "impure" thoughts,and should be covered, unless, of course, your "head" says otherwise. Femininity is a virtue, and obviously leads to increased devotion to religion, but it isn't good for the church (!?), and should be avoided there at all costs. War is peace, love is hate, lies are truth... Oh, wait. That's Nineteen Eighty-Four again. Silly me. I always get Big Brother/Patriarchal God mixed up.

That feminism stuff, you know, the idea that women are people too, really IS bad, isn't it ladies. Thanks for the heads up.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Public Face of Women's Personal Lives

Carol Hanisch's "The personal is political", an oft-quoted, and oft-misquoted concept, is as true now as it was in 1970. The fact that as a society, we still don't "get it", is extremely distressing. Here are some examples taken from recent media stories and blog posts:

1.Your body is your only real asset. Britney Spears is FAT! Hear that, folks? Her recent, less- than- triumphant television appearance has provoked a shitstorm of negative attention, most of it centered around how "gross" she looked in her outfit. Please. I'd pay to look that "gross". I'd bet most women would. I bet she's all of a size 5 or 7. That doesn't really matter, though. She dared bare her belly after her sex symbol status had been revoked, so she HAD to be mocked. All women should try to be sexy, but only certain women can BE sexy. If you aren't one of those women, you better not try too hard (but you still have to try, and no, we won't tell you where the line is), or we'll have to tear you down by saying one of the two most devastating things that can be said to a woman- "you are ugly" or "you are fat".

2. Your body is your only real asset, part 2. Women in miniskirts are HOS! Kyla Ebbert, a woman trying to board a Southwest Airlines flight to Tucson, Arizona was reprimanded by a flight attendant for immodest attire. She was wearing a tank top covered by a shrug, with a miniskirt. I've worn outfits like that to work. It's a cute outfit. Back in the late sixties/early seventies, Southwest Airlines flight attendants wore outfits with miniskirts and hot pants. But hey, double-standards are just a daily thing for women, especially women who work at Hooters, dare to have attractive bodies, and want to fly on airplanes. There is that sexy-but-only-when-we-say-so thing again.

Women and airplanes just seem not to mix in general these days. Remember the Saudi princesses who were kicked off of the British Airways plane in July for being too modest to sit next to male passengers? Can't win for loosing, can you?

3. Your name is not your own. The name change thread has been revived at Pandagon, which is partially the impetus for this post. It seems people can't get enough of shaming women for complying with the patriarchy, and women can't get past making excuses for their compliance. It's simple, folks. Women take their husbands' names because it is the socially expected thing to do. Period. Women define themselves through relationships. Because of this, women find it especially important to have a "family" name, or distance themselves from a family name that has negative connotations. Women go on about taking a husband's name to get rid of a bad father's name. They talk about wanting the same name as their kids. Sure-- I get all of that. I also get that adult people can change their names at any time, for any reason. They can also elect to give a child the mother's name, or choose a totally new name for the whole family. Overwhelmingly, they don't. Why? Because society will beat them up for it.

Women have a lot more pressure on them to have "pretty" names, too. I hear women say they thought their husband's name was "better" or "nicer" than their own. Of course, that doesn't negate the fact they could have just changed their name at any time, or the couple could have picked a new name together, but hey, when a woman gets a chance to increase her palatability socially with a better name and a more respected status (married), of course she jumps at the chance.

4. Your body, which is your only real asset, does not belong to you. Want over-the-counter emergency contraceptive? Want an abortion? Want to get your tubes tied? You'd better hope you are in the right place at the right time. Apparently pharmacists and pharmacies all over the country are just arbitrarily deciding they don't want to give out Plan B because it is against their moral judgment. And if you are a rape victim? Don't go to a Catholic hospital. Apparently, they don't have to make EC available to you. I'd also not go to a Catholic hospital if I suspected ectopic pregnancy. Apparently, they won't give you a shot to end the pregnancy (and keep you from dying)-- rather, they'll remove the whole fallopian tube. Feels a lot less like abortion to them that way, see? And If you want the "A" word, and you live in Ohio, you better fight against a ludicrous piece of legislation that would require a man's permission before you abort ( I say a man's, rather than the father's, because there is no real way to determine the father at that point). Want your tubes tied? You had better be way over 30, with at least two kids, or good luck finding a doctor who will do it.

5. Women are single-handedly destroying the world. Women who choose not to have children in countries like Japan and Russia are causing the economies of those nations to be imperiled because of negative growth. White women in America who are choosing not to have babies are letting the immigrants take over. Women who have too many babies are unfairly using up too much of the planet's resources. Women who use hormonal birth control are releasing it in their urine, which is polluting the water. Personal choices, you say? No one else's business, you say? Men have input into reproductive matters too? Water pollution from 1,000 other sources is more pressing? Please. Stop making excuses.

Sigh. If Eve was weak, I'm glad that other women are not. Surviving all of this crap takes a lot of fortitude.

Monday, September 3, 2007

THIS is What A Child Prodigy Is Supposed To Look Like

Not this.

Female, black, beautiful AND smart? That just can't be. This strange aberration MUST be newsworthy. (snort! gag!puke!)

What next? Are they going to dare tell us that she's NOT just there to "catch" a husband?

Maybe they'll post some bikini pics. THAT would be more like it!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Porn Problem

On Feministe, the perennial porn v. feminism debate is being revisited. I haven't chimed in, because I honestly don't know where I stand. Porn is one of those issues I constantly flip-flop on. I have no theoretical objection to the portrayal of sex or sexuality, but the reality of porn has some very troubling undertones I have a hard time reconciling myself to.

First, my personal story. Growing up, I had almost no experience with porn. I thought Playboy was about as graphic as it got, and had only seen tiny bits and pieces of porn here and there. It honestly wasn't something I even thought much about. I was always very comfortable with the idea of having sex, I just never really thought much about media portrayals of it. When I went off to college, I very quickly and happily became sexually active, and at the same time had my first real exposure to porn. My boyfriend/husband-to-be/now ex-husband had a little stash of magazines, and they really blew my mind. I never even knew there was "hard core" versus "soft core" porn. The novelty factor was high, and though I didn't find the porn particularly titillating, I did find it a bit humorous. The totally unrealistic portrayals of women and sex rang untrue even to a novice like me. He soon "got rid" of his porn, and I never saw it again, and took him at his word that it was gone. It had made me feel vaguely uneasy, but I had never asked him to get rid of it. Years passed, and he nor I ever really brought up porn. Then, at the end of our marriage, I stumbled across some magazines hidden in the basement. They were of the "Barely Legal" variety, and due to the fact that the problems we were having in our marriage stemmed from his inappropriate relationship with a minor, they really freaked me out. The depictions of the young women were creepy, and the whole idea of fantasizing about young girls was upsetting. Of course, the hidden nature of his porn consumption was also quite distressing.

I am now with another man who was pretty heavy into internet porn and video porn when we first met. Again, I was intrigued by the images, and the levels on which they were trying appeal to their demographic, but this time around I was carrying a lot more baggage related to porn. Older, more feminist, and less trusting of men, I began looking at porn much more critically. Frankly, I didn't like most of what I was seeing. It still wasn't titillating, and the violent, objectifying, and oppressive themes were hard to ignore.

I also didn't like what the porn seemed to be doing to my partner. It seemed like a borderline addiction, and it put strain on our relationship. I began to realize that every experience I had with porn and a significant other seemed to have strong undertones of deception woven into the consumption of the porn. I had always assumed porn was something used in lieu of actual partnered sex, but it really seemed to function on a very different level. Though I had always tried to be open and tolerant about porn, my partners who used it always seemed very reticent about openly sharing it, using it, or sharing details of its use. The enjoyment seemed to come from the covert, exclusionary nature of its viewing. I came to see porn, and internet porn especially (the ease of its use, the potential for interactivity, and the extreme nature of much of it was particularly unnerving), as a threat to the trust in our relationship, and asked my partner to significantly decrease his consumption of all porn, and eliminate his use of internet porn all together.

My experiences with porn make me believe it is more about control than sexual stimulation per se. The ability to control the women depicted, and use them for any sexual purpose desired without their consent seems to be a primary draw. I also think some of the pleasure from its use (in the cases I witnessed) came from the porn user actively excluding his real-life partner from that aspect of his sexuality. Instead of the porn use being an additional enhancement to partner sex, or something thrown in occasionally for variety, or in lieu of partner sex when it was unavailable, it seemed to function as an entirely discrete, separate form of sexuality.

So, that is my personal take on porn. I have a hard time reconciling that with my steadfast belief in freedom of speech, my disdain for legislating morality, and my sincere desire to see sex work decriminalized so that sex workers may be treated as full citizens with full protection. I also have a real appreciation for sex and sexuality, and genuinely would like to find depictions of sex that are titillating for me, without upsetting my feminist sensibilities. I also respect each person's full right to express themselves sexually in any way they choose, so long as they don't hurt others in the process.

So haw do I deal with the disconnect? I'm not sure. In some ways, I feel like I am a microcosm for what is going on in the feminist community at the moment. On one hand, it is very much my inclination to be sex positive, and embrace sexuality as a valuable part of the human experience in all of its forms, and on the other hand, I fully understand how people can be upset by the demeaning images in porn, and the very negative impact it can have on real people. I want people to be free to express themselves, I want to be free to express myself, but at the same time, I am tired of always getting the short end of the porn stick.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

What's Love Got To Do With It?

I watched a documentary mentioned on the blog Tokyomango called "The Great Happiness Space" about "hosts" from "host clubs" in Japan. These "hosts" are young men who get paid by the hour to create the illusion of a relationship for women who come to the club. They talk, and sing, and drink mass quantities of uber-expensive champagne, all the while acting like the women who are paying them are the loves of their lives.

These attractive, well-dressed young men make staggering amounts of money being good-time boys- up to the equivalent of $50,000 a month.

The movie gives a very intimate view of the goings-on at the clubs, as well as some candid questioning of the hosts and their clients. You slowly start to understand that most of the women who are the big spenders in these clubs are themselves the female equivalent to hosts or prostitutes. The business of "love" is sapping the female sex workers, who come to the host clubs looking for release, and the hosts are made miserable by the grueling demands placed on them while at the club. Both sets of people are miserable, yet they continue to engage in this dance of deceit and simulation, chasing happiness they never quite find.

Obviously, this was a powerful look at a subculture in Japanese society, with larger implications for that society as a whole. Upon further reflection, however, I feel "The Great Happiness Space" has a lot to say about relationship dynamics in this country, too.

After reading bell hooks' All About Love: New Visions earlier this summer, I have been thinking about the difference between cathecting and loving. (Cathexis is emotional investment in someone/something.) hooks would have us see love as a more active thing than cathexis, a willful lifting up, an active caring for and about the object of our love. I have struggled with the separation of the emotional from the active, as a conceptual construct, but "Happiness" gave me some unexpected clarity in this area.

The thing that was being sold in the host bars was an illusion of love that emphasized the actions that we interpret as signs of cathexis- the thing we most often call being "in love". The romance, the play, the deep and exclusive interest in a love object-- these are the material "things" of love, the signposts we look for as confirmation of the loving state. In Japan, there is apparently great interest in creating elaborate romance rituals and an almost gamesmanship ethic of love. Perfect form is held up as the ideal. In theory, this makes a great deal of cultural sense in Japan-- a blending of Eastern emphasis on form, aesthetics, and ritual with voluptuous, decadent Western ideals of romance. Form, however aesthetically pleasing, is ultimately only an empty shell if actual cathexis, and the caring work of love are absent. The profound sense of loneliness, sadness, and despair communicated in the movie seem to stem from the disconnect between societally created pictures of "perfect love" and the emptiness of the reality of the emphasis on form. Whether you are a host caught in the cycle of illusion with your client, or a woman or man caught in the cycle of illusion with your significant other, in the end, you find yourself doubting the sincerity of the other, even as you feign sincerity yourself.

Far from being an exclusively Japanese phenomenon, I believe the same sort of disconnect is functioning in the US today, with much the same result. Without the same culturally embedded emphasis on form, American expectations for love have settled on the myth of marriage instead as the sought-after ideal. In our country, while we do place value on the giddy romanticism of newly minted relationships, the ultimate expression of love is seen as the joining of two people in lifelong, monogamous partnership. The final, logical goal of all romantic love for all people is marriage. Even love that has been traditionally seen as taboo, such as same-sex pairings, seeks the cultural sanction of marriage in this society that holds marriage to be the ultimate end-game of romantic love.

The problem with that idea is that marriage is NOT the traditional standard-bearer of fully realized love. As a matter of fact, prior to the nineteenth century, love was often seen as an ancillary product of marriage, not the main goal or concern, and was by no means seen as a sure thing. It was understood, even expected that many marriages would never develop into love. Love was often posed as a stumbling block for fools rather than a cultural good, and was certainly never seen as a goal in and of itself. Marriage was a social contract, designed to enhance the productivity of individuals, and create a home economy. It required work and investment from both parties, and was never designed to be a vehicle for creating or enhancing emotional connections. Marriage was fueled by production, not cathexis. That cathexis sometimes occured was largely incidental.

The problem with us, like the Japanese, is that we believe love is the answer, instead of the question.

We want to fix love as an ideal (romance! marriage!) and strive with all of our might to get there. If we do, we feel a sense of disappointment, because the reality doesn't match the hype. If we don't meet the goal, we feel bad and defective. And either way, we feel so very alone. The Japanese do all of the hard work, with the expectation that it will create emotional payoff, and the Americans expect the emotions to make the relationship work.

Neither group, it would seem, ends up very happy. Does love make a person happy? Is there a formula for love? Does love even really exist? Watch "The Great Happiness Space" online.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

An Open Letter To The Christian Right

Greetings. I am a member of the Liberal Left in the United States, and I think the time has come for me to say a few things to you.

First, I think it is important to let you know who I am. I am young, well-educated, and female. I am a mother, a wife, and a professional. I am a member of my neighborhood association. I vote in local, state and national elections. I am well informed, and follow both the mainstream and alternative media. I attend church regularly (Unitarian Universalist) because I value the community and the values of social justice it supports. I am a home owner, a taxpayer, and an engaged citizen.

Secondly, I do not hate you, nor do I want to be your enemy. I believe you have a right to believe whatever you wish, and practice your religion free from governmental interference, so long as that practice does not cause harm to others. If I saw you stopped on the side of the road, I would stop to help change your tire, regardless of the bumper stickers you displayed on your vehicle. If I saw your child being bullied or mocked, I would rush to her defense. I would offer to share my umbrella with you if we were caught in the rain. You are my neighbor, and I am yours. Our children play together, we are coworkers, and sometimes, we are friends. I value your contributions to our community.

I am concerned, because I hear a lot of rhetoric being used by your leadership that marginalizes and demeans me. I hear disturbing talk about raising an "Army of God" to fight against "Godless liberals and secularists". I hear your leaders talking about packing the Supreme Court with justices who will impose your beliefs and morality on all Americans. I hear you calling this a "Christian Nation", even though you know many of your neighbors are not Christian. I hear your leaders urging you to oppose me at every turn, though I offer no specific threat to you or your beliefs.

I believe that all Americans deserve equal rights and equal opportunity. I support a woman's right to abortion because I support the bodily integrity of all citizens. If you do not believe in abortion, it is your right to say so, and to not have an abortion, but it is not your right to keep others from having or providing abortions. I support the right to gay marriage, because I believe all people should be free to love whom they wish, and should enjoy the same legal protections under law. If you are against homosexuality on principal, you have the right to say that, and to reject homosexuality as your lifestyle, but you do not have the right to dictate that others should, too. I believe that all people, regardless of race, sex, or orientation deserve to have an equal right to education and jobs. I believe that people have a right to health insurance that is not predicated on their employment, and I believe that everyone deserves a helping hand when times get tough. I believe that we must deal compassionately and fairly with people who seek a new life in our country, addressing the root causes of their exodus if possible. I believe the government plays a role in facilitating these things. You may disagree with me, or propose other solutions to these problems, but you do not have the right to malign the names of certain people or groups as a tactic to switch blame for or attention from problems. I support a strong division between church and state as a bulwark against tyrannical and theocratic rule. You may disagree with me on which, if any religion is "right" or "wrong", but you do not have the right to impose your religion on me.

I reject the war on terror, both because of the way it is being conducted, and the indiscriminate nature of its targets. I believe the right of this country to protect itself must be balanced against the rights of individuals. Guantanamo Bay, rendition, the Patriot Act, recent amendments to FISA, the disregarding of the Geneva Convention, and the attack and subsequent occupation of Iraq are inappropriate means to fight terror that place all of our freedoms in jeopardy. The demonization and the singling out of Muslims is an inappropriate and short-sighted solution to terror. I support strategies of engagement with other countries and the world community, because the current policies of hegemonic domination support the subjugation of other peoples, which is an ethical bad in itself, and an engine for ill will towards America.

As I said before, I don't want to be your enemy. I don't want to keep you from believing what you believe, or living how you wish to live. If you force me to, however, I will stand in unwavering defense of what I believe is right. I will point out the inconsistencies of your arguments. I will oppose your chosen politicians. I will move to counter your actions at all levels of government. If you choose to use your religion as justification for your actions, I will attack it mercilessly, too. In short, I will not let you take away my rights or co-opt the integrity of this country in the name of your God.

I believe we can live in peace and harmony. I hope that we can sit down and discuss our differences rationally. I hope we can continue to be good neighbors to one another. This is a big country, with a proud tradition of coexistence of diverse groups. There is room enough for all of us, if we stop trying to push the other out.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Are You Dateable? That's Debatable

There is a man who calls himself Justin Lookadoo. He is a Christian book author and speaker, who does youth ministry. He writes relationship advice books for teens. He is quite possibly the scariest man I have ever seen.

I have a real interest in crappy relationship advice. Call it a hobby of mine. So, after reading a post on Pandagon about a crazy fundie youth group, I followed some links to Lookadoo land, and found Dateable- the book he co-authored about teen relationship advice. It claimed to be a bestseller, so I looked it up.

I did the Amazon Look Inside thing, and I wish I hadn't. Yikes! From what I can tell, the main thrust of the advice is: 1. Teen relationships aren't real and are bound for failure; 2. girls need to pretend to think guys are funny, "keep their mouths shut" and not dominate discussion with lots of squicky personal stuff, and stay mysterious, so the guy will "want" them; 3. under NO circumstances should a girl have sex, because she will feel "dirty and used" when the guy leaves her (which is inevitable) and starts bopping someone else.

It basically tells girls they should live their lives like a montage from an 80's teen movie (Splash in the ocean with your friends! Try new food, even if you don't think you'll like it! Go on a roller coaster riding marathon! Write poetry on the front of your notebook!). Really- do fun, spontaneous, original things-- but only so guyz will think you are a real keen free spirit cool gal! I mean, screw it if you don't LIKE roller coasters, or poetry-- that's NOT the point. You are just trying to be catnip for boys.

Oh, and girls have just GOT to stop daydreaming about that perfect, romantic, caring, sweet "Mr.Right". Why? Well, to a girl, every guy becomes Mr. Right when she falls for him, but he's really a gnarly crudball, and holding him to those high expectations isn't really fair, and the relationship will just go nowhere... because of HER unrealistic expectations. You got that? So instead, a girl should just have three criteria a boy HAS to meet- 1. He MUST be Christian; 2. he MUST NOT smoke; 3. He can't EVER try to have sex. Yep, those are the big three, according to Mr. Lookyloo and Co.

The sex is really the prime point. They REALLY want to drive home the idea that sex outside of marriage is bad. Why? It uses you up. Once you've had sex, you're damaged goods. Totally. See:

Would you buy a beat up old used car at a new car price? Think about it. Would you look at this car that is all scratched up with dents and high miles on it, pay the full sticker price and think, “Wow, what a great deal!” No way. But that’s exactly what happens when you get into sex without being married. When you keep having sex and pushing further and further what you are actually doing is turning yourself into a used car. Then you are expecting someone to come along and make a full price commitment for a ragged out, used car.
Every new sexual experience, when you are not married, puts another ding, another scratch, another scar on who you are. You keep running your car into other people, and then you wonder why no one treats you special. You can’t understand why no one wants to make a major commitment.
You are in control of this. You control what kind of condition you are in. If you treat you body like an old clunker, don’t be surprised when everyone wants to take you for a spin, and then go get a new car. You are valuable. Keep yourself new. Keep yourself unused. Then you will be the one everyone wants and they will be willing to make the long-term commitment to have you. You will be desirable and Dateable.

Now, none of the above states whether it is for girls, or boys, or both. But as you'll see, I think we can guess who gets used up by sex according to the authors. Surprise! Its the girls!:

The biggest test of a man is passed when he can say he’s not ready yet. You will show strength and wisdom in saying “I’m not ready for sex. I’m not ready for all that comes with it so I’m not ready for it.” The most powerful men in the world are the men who have control of themselves and their sex drive. If it has control of you, you lose. But take control and your power and passion for life will multiply. Sex will be great when you are ready for one woman for life.
And girls your biggest test is passed when you can control your emotions and see beyond your imagination. You show amazing grace and beauty when you won’t sell out your body for love. You become a woman of mystery when you don’t allow your emotions to lie to you about something you don’t have. The power of a woman is in her ability to manage her emotions and not let her emotions control her.
Your challenge is this, man must control his physical body and a woman you must control your emotional body, do this and you will be totally Dateable.

Well, we finally DO see some boy advice. Keep it in your pants! Sex is baddd. It will control you. Until you are married. Then its all OK.

So really, this is that rarest of things- a book about how NOT to have a relationship. Because, what all of this stuff really boils down to is to strive for as little intimacy as possible. Glancing blows, that's all. A few noncommittal sort of dates to go riding roller coasters or eat new foods, but NO physical contact, and none of that blab blab lovey-dovey emotional diarrhea girls always go in for- mysterious and cool- that's the way (Not telling the boy your name is really preferable). And probably no second date. But hey, some day you'll get married, and then ALL OF YOUR WILDEST DREAMS WILL COME TRUE! WOO HOO!

Yeah. That's so real world. That's why according to the Barna study in 99, Born-Again Christians had a slightly higher than average divorce rate, and in 2001, they were in a statistical dead-heat with non-Christians. Sure. Because marriage is this God-sanctified happyland, where the livin' is easy, and the sex is good. All you have to do is believe, I mean really BELIEVE that, and you'll... end up divorced, just like everybody else.

If you take Dateable's advice, you're just as likely to get divorced as those crummy non-Christians you were WARNED to stay away from, but you'll also not have had much fun with dating, so you'll be a REALLY sad and miserable person.

But hey, you can hold your head up high, and tell the world you aren't a used car! (Well, technically, after you divorce, you WILL be, but... um... that can be one of those little "mysterious" details you never tell about yourself.)

PS- Justin? You might want to loose the bleached spikes and the "totally rad" threads. You look like a 40 year old trying to look 20. And some folks might get the impression you need to go through the Exodus program again. That's a real cred killer in your line of work.

Think Ted Haggard.

'Nuf said.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A Word On Breastfeeding Nazis and Feminism

I am really tired of all of the Breastfeeding Nazis and their propaganda. Really.

Yes, I know "breast is best". I've only heard that about 75,000 times or so. I internalized those words, and made a real go of it, when the opportunity presented itself. Breastfeeding ain't for everyone, as I soon found out.

I wish the Breastfeeding Nazis would get the memo, too.

I am also aware that mothers who wish to breastfeed often face hurdles as far as being ridiculed for doing it in public, and a lack of accommodations made for breastfeeding by employers and society at large (remember, I've been in this boat before). Yes, that's wrong. And bad. And should end.

But honestly, if you are a self-identifying feminist, do you REALLY think you are helping the plight of women anywhere by pinning them between the devil and the deep blue sea? Because honestly, that's what the militant pro-breast feeders are doing.

Here is the comment-- form a totally non-breastfeeding related post on feministe, by the way-- that started it all.

Breastfeeding not any better than formula? *GUFFAW* That was satire, right?

It’s a good thing I steadfastly refuse to call myself anything but a feminist in the context of, “believes in equal rights for women and men, requiring society to give women greater rights than we currently have in order to level the playing field of rights,” because stuff like this really makes me wonder about the movement sometimes. I mean, when we have to pretend a can full of powder cooked up in a lab is as good for a mammalian baby as the stuff it ought to be obtaining naturally from its mother just so some random woman somewhere won’t have to feel guilty because she didn’t even try, what exactly is this movement trying to accomplish again?

I’m sorry, I know this is off-topic (mostly) and I know a lot is expected of mothers that shouldn’t be and it’s pretty sick. But I see feminists denying that they want women to be like men ALL THE TIME and yet… An argument like this seems to infer that only when women, like men, don’t have to breastfeed children will we be truly equal to men. My response is, since when should women have to be like men in order to be equal, and why are you having a kid anyway if you’re just going to let chemicals and machines raise it for you?

Yes, starting breastfeeding is harder than starting a bottle. Assuming proper training and no physical defects in mom or baby, however, in the final tally breastfeeding is EASIER than bottlefeeding: cheaper, no prep needed, no washing bottles, and hardly any spitup. You don’t even have to hardly wake up to feed your baby at night if you’ve got them sleeping next to you. I’ve done both methods of feeding and it was such a contrast when I BFed my second child that it was just breathtaking. I will never touch formula again if I have another child.

I feel sorry for women who have to struggle more with BFing logistics because it’s work or be in abject poverty. But again, pretending that formula grows on the Boob Tree and is just as good as human milk does no one any favors. We should be expending that energy instead to ensure that nursing mothers can feed their children with as little inconvenience as possible. It’s THAT kind of thing that will ultimately make women equal.

Now, all due respect to RE, or
Radical Earthling- she has a good blog, and says lots of interesting stuff. She does use qualifiers, like she knows mothers have a lot expectations placed on them, and she feels sorry for those who struggle with logistics... but then she goes off and proceeds to tear women who choose formula a new orifice, because obviously, they are just deluding themselves about the appropriateness of bottle feeding.

Sheesh. I mean, this day in age, I can't imagine there are many women out there who choose formula because they think it is the ideal food. They often choose formula because of those nasty "logistics" RE talks about. My story is a fairly common one. I got all of the haranguing about "breast is best", and resolved to breastfeed. I never had problems with insufficient milk. On the contrary, I had an overabundance, which caused me to leak constantly, so that I was perpetually soaked, stinky, and uncomfortable. I pressed forward, but unable to afford an expensive breastpump, I found myself unable to keep up with all of my daily responsibilities AND feed. I was a grad student with an assistantship, so "maternity leave" was out of the question. My son actually slept through the night fairly regularly after the first three weeks, which I thought was a blessing, but I soon realized it was a curse when those night feedings shifted to day feedings that I could not accommodate with my meager pumpings from my cheap breastpump. After about two months of sopping, stinky, candle burning-at-both-ends misery, I went to the bottle. It really saved my sanity.

It's really the same thing as the mom who buys her kids frozen dinners because she doesn't have time to cook. Sure, in HappyLand, everyone would have time to do everything, and no one would have to eat less than perfect food. But this is Reality World, and it isn't so pretty. Feminists who really care about the plight of other women should not denigrate them for having to make hard choices that involve compromise.

I get what RE is saying about helping women better accommodating feeding, but I live in Reality World, so I really have to ask what those accommodations might be? If a woman has a job at a company with no on-site daycare (which is most of us), what can you really do? There is pumping, but even assuming you can afford the decent pump, feeding breastmilk out of a bottle usually means you have to go completely over to the bottle at some point because of "nipple confusion". That's a WHOLE lot of pumping. Pumping isn't something you can do in a 3-hour marathon in the evening while you work on the computer or read-- it has to be done in shorter, regular sessions to approximate feeding in order to ensure the milk supply. How, exactly, does that work for women on the job, again? What about women who have jobs that just don't accommodate pumping at all(think outdoor jobs, etc.)? And longer maternity leave is great, but since I don't see that as a centerpiece of ANYONE'S political agenda, that'll be a long time in coming, and meanwhile, there are hungry babies to feed...

No, the BEST way to help women in the short term is to support their choices--whatever they might be. Long-term reform is great, but it is no substitute for dealing compassionately with the problem on the ground right now. Know a woman who is struggling with breastfeeding v. bottle? Offer her encouragement and advice. And offer sympathy for whatever route she decides to follow.

Oh, one more thing. No woman should ever feel compelled to breastfeed. It's a very personal decision. I think logistics are probably the #1 reason women decide against it, but if a woman decides she just doesn't want to breastfeed, that's fine too. Bottle feeding, while not ideal, has empirically been proven safe through decades of use. A woman who decides not to breastfeed is not abusing or neglecting her child in any way. I can honestly say that even absent the logistical problems, I probably wouldn't have made it to the recommended one year mark with breastfeeding because the sticky, leaky, stinky stuff was driving me pretty batty. That doesn't make me an abuser. Or a bad mom. It makes me a person, a person with a right to bodily integrity.

Shame on the breastfeeding Nazis for forgetting that.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The REAL Problem With Potter

Evil? Pro Occult? Hardly. The REAL problem with Harry Potter is that it should have been called Hermione Granger. Harry, bless his heart, is a bit of a dullard, and it is really Ms. Granger who keeps things on track.

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't read Deathly Hallows, you may not wish to continue further.

If you have read my previous Potter post, you will know that I am new to the Potterverse. I just started reading the books this summer, but I have marched my way through all of them, and now that I know the whole story, I have some definite opinions about the books.

Harry Potter, though an entertaining story, is, for a lack of a better word, conventional. Too conventional, I am afraid. After hearing all of the hoopla the Religious Right was spewing, I really thought the Potter stories were going to be a bit transgressive, perhaps even downright revolutionary. They aren't.

In no way does Potter disappoint more than in its treatment of the sexes. Most obviously, there is Harry himself. Now, I am quite sure Ms. Rowling chose a male protagonist for the reason many authors of kid lit chose male protagonists- the beliefs that boys won't read about girls, but girls will read about boys. In order to reach the widest possible audience, it is seen as advisable to have male protagonists. My take on this: no duh! Because, you see, you have just made a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you reinforce stereotypes, they stay strong. I wish Ms. Rowling would have defied the stereotype, because she had a character who I think would have appealed-- does appeal, as a matter of fact-- to both sexes. Hermione, who, from day one, was the real brains of the operation.

Not only does Ms. Rowling not make Hermione the main protagonist, she makes her the victim of much sexist malfeasance in the books. Not only is Hermione smarter, and better at magic, but she is just a better friend than Ron. She gives real advice, shows real loyalty, and has the confidence to get things done. In Deathly Hallows, this is made clear when Ron leaves Harry in his hour of greatest need because he succumbs to the influence of the horcrux. Hermione, too, felt the power of the horcrux, but she resisted it because she knew Harry needed her loyalty. It was do or die time, and per usual, Hermione wasn't about to play dead. Despite all of this, it is always Ron who is portrayed as Harry's "best mate", and his preference for Ron is made clear on multiple occasions. And, perhaps even more insultingly, Ms. Rowling makes Ron Hermione's love interest throughout, and in that travesty of an epilogue in Deathly Hallows, features them as a married couple. Hermione is simply too strong, too smart, and too capable to be chained to a liability like Ron. A male character of Hermione's caliber would never be paired with such an unworthy love interest.

It is no wonder Hermione can't catch a break- the Wizarding World itself is not set up to be kind to women. Just think about that phrase, oft used throughout the books. Wizarding World, though women are constantly referred to witches, and their magic is witchcraft, not wizardry. The use of these two words- wizard and witch- are suspect to start with, as witch has by far the more negative connotation, which Ms. Rowling couldn't help but be aware. She has no problem making up a totally new name for "regular" folk- Muggles- so why does she stick to such sexist old terms for the magical folk, instead of creating new ones? And though the Wizarding World is ostensibly equal opportunity, we have men running all of the shows- Headmaster Dumbledore, Ministers of Magic Fudge and Scrimgeour, acting Minister Shacklebolt. You do, of course see women in power- they just never have as much of it as the men. The fountain Harry sees at the ministry tells the tale- a Wizard, standing tall, flanked by a shorter witch, an adoring House Elf, and a respectful Centaur. Though Rowling makes much of the subservience of the other magical beasts, she never points out the fact the witch is overshadowed, too.

Ms. Rowling also indulges in a lot of sexist prattle in the books. From the insulting bits about Ron rejecting "ugly" girls as possible dates to the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire, to Harry's clearly disdainful treatment of Cho when she showed her vulnerability about Cedric in Order of the Phoenix, to the constant "Girls are SO inscrutable" crap, we see sexist stereotypes reinforced again and again. The pickup book Ron gives to Harry in Half Blood Prince? That was real forward-thinking, wasn't it? Ron's retaliatory "snogging" of Lavender Brown, who was made out to be a first class airhead and bore? Great. I mean, what better messages to send to a young audience? String one girl along to make another jealous- after all, they are just girls.

Women, in Rowling's world, are stereotypes. We have the spinsters- prim and proper McGonagall, "toad like" Delores Umbridge, whiny fake Trelawney( a closet boozer who drinks that most feminine vice, cooking sherry), castrating bitch/wannabe gangster moll Bellatrix Lestrange. We have our resident housewives- Molly Weseley, that "fabulous" cook who knits embarrassing sweaters for her offspring, never misses a chance to nag, and gets all bent out of shape the moment one of her "brood" might be in trouble, Petunia Dursley, that mean-spirited Muggle with a mania for cleanliness and a blind eye for the faults of her only offspring, Dear Dudders, and Narcissa Malfoy, cold-blooded society matron who only melts at the thought of her son, Draco. Then we have the Madonna herself, Sainted Lily Potter, who's one act worth remembering was saving her baby from the dastardly Voldemort. We also have the pining Nymphadora Tonks, morose self-pitying "Moaning Myrtle", giggly Slytherin sycophant Pansy Parkinson... Rowling paints a lot of unflattering pictures of men, too, but only her women hew so closely to expected gender stereotypes. She even has "hags" as a class of magical beings unto themselves...

The last, and greatest insult, is the epilogue in Deathly Hallows. It's nineteen years later, the kids are all grown up, and guess what? They are all married... with children. Children, who, of course, act in stereotypically gendered ways. And by the amount of time devoted to the kids respectively, you just know who the movers and shakers are going to be (Surprise! The boys!)If the sexism of that tableau isn't enough to nauseate, the heteronormativity is.

I guess it was naive to expect too much from a child's story, but darn it! Children's literature is exactly where we need to be tearing down these stereotypes! Sure, the story maybe sweet going down, but that's because its just so much treacle.

Full Frontal Feminism- A Review

Full Frontal Feminism, the book by Jessica Valenti, created quite a stir in the feminist blogosphere this spring when it was released. I finally had a chance to read it tonight, and here are my thoughts:

1. Yes, the cover art is squicky. Apparently, this was the focus of a lot of the early criticism of the book by the feminist community. I agree, a picture of a thin, white, nude, disembodied female torso is a strange choice for a pro-feminist book.

2. When I said I read it in one night, that's no exaggeration. Though I am a quick reader, the book is pretty spare. I do have to give Ms. Valenti props for readability, though. She keeps the tone light and breezy (one of the causes for earlier criticism, but I'll get to that in a moment).

3. Ms. Valenti calls the book a "love letter to feminism", and it reads as exactly that. It is full of effusive, "Golly, feminism sure is great!" language, and doesn't concern itself with a lot of the details of what feminism is, or was, or is fighting against. The book explicitly says, on page three, that, "Full Frontal Feminism is not an exhaustive review of all things feminist". So, the reader is forewarned that this is not going to be the next addition to the Feminist Theory Cannon.

4. The book is explicitly aimed at the 15-25 year-old crowd, especially those who have had little contact with organized feminism. Ms. Valenti makes this clear throughout. She uses a lot of swearing and slang, no doubt in an effort to build rapport with that age group, and also because she admits that's just how she writes/talks.

Bearing all of this in mind, I think this book is exactly what it claims to be- a starting point for very young women who know very little about feminism. In that respect, I believe it succeeds in its mission. I work with people in this age group on a daily basis, and I can honestly say that keeping the book light on details as well as in tone is actually the right thing to do. I don't mean to assail the intelligence of youth, but honestly, they get preached at on such a regular basis that "heavy" intellectual works are usually a turn off for many of the "casual" readers Ms. Valenti is targeting. Less is more when trying to capture the attention of a group of people all ready over saturated with media and heavily invested in the problematic culture this book is trying to address.

I do have to say, however, that some of the arguments she advances are not the strongest, nor in my opinion, the most convincing, she could muster. I especially have problems with her "anti-abortionists hate sex" argument, because; 1. that is a gross simplification, and; 2. it is likely to be overly confrontational to a lot of the supposed audience of this book. Conservative Christian morality, which is at the base of a lot , if not most of the anti-abortion movement in this country, may very well take a dim view of sex, but that is not the exclusive drive behind the anti-abortion campaign. Though I applaud Ms. Valenti's blunt and truthful statement of her beliefs about abortion: "All I can say is that I think there is nothing wrong with abortion, that the right to control our bodies is one of the most important there is, and that those who are seeking to end that right are concerned not about "life", but control.", I believe she would have done better to give the opposing viewpoint a more nuanced treatment than "anti-abortionists hate sex". Yes, I agree that control, not "life" is the center of the abortion debate, but I think Ms. Valenti should have spent a little bit of time deconstructing the conservative need for control. As many of her readers will likely have grown up in a system that takes for granted the idea that moral control is "good", the automatic response many readers will have upon reading that anti-abortionists just hate sex will be, "No they don't! My (aunt, father, preacher, friends) just want to keep people from making hurtful mistakes, and ending innocent lives." I'm all for skipping over the "heavy" stuff when spending time on it will not do a lot of good, but this is one place, at least, where delving a little deeper and being a little less pat might have done some good.

People criticize the book because of Ms. Valenti's use of cursing and jargon. I'm actually fine with both of these things, though I do think they limit the appeal of the book to a wider audience. I also think the "right now-ness" of the book will limit its relevance in the future. However, its hard to have your cake and eat it too, and I understand the choices that were made here. As a regular reader of Feministing, I also recognize this to be a part of Ms. Valenti's signature style. I, for one, enjoy the slightly deeper and more nuanced writing on Pandagon, Feministe, I Blame The Patriarchy, etc., but I think Feministing is a great entry-level feminist blog, and I still like to go there for quick bites when I don't have time to digest the heavier fare somewhere else.

So, then, I think Full Frontal Feminism can, and should be read in the the same way Feministing is. In a way, the book is just a compilation of the kinds of posts you would find on that site. And in its own way, that's good, because that is what will, in my opinion, best pique the interest of the intended audience. Seen in that light, even the squicky cover art can be viewed in much the same way Feministing's mudflap woman flipping the bird logo is-- a catchy, iconic image that at once buys into and at the same time subtly subverts popular objectification. That is, if you skip over all of the "heavy" details, and keep your eyes on the larger prize of turning new people on to feminism.

I recommend this book to people in the teen age group who are not self-identified feminists, or even particularly interested in feminism but feel something is not quite "right" about the dominant paradigm, or older individuals who want a very clear, simple introduction to feminism. Ms. Valenti has done an excellent job of writing a book that does exactly what she intended it to do. She has done it so well, as a matter of fact, that I believe the book is, in some ways, a victim of its own success.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dating Advice Part II: Too Bad I Can't Sue This "Doctor" For Malpractice

Another example of "Relationship Advice" gone terrible wrong. From the same Yahoo link as Mr. Katz's little missive on why we are all just stereotypes, Dr. Trina Read tells us to "Give Your Partner A Flirting Pass". She tells us couples should lighten up, and allow flirting to go on with outside people, because of the "good couple energy" it can produce. Then, Dr. Read tells us:

The fine art of innocent flirting has created many an after-party fight.

Sound like "good couple energy" creation to you? 'Cause it sure doesn't to me. But wait, she goes on:
The idea is, the more positive feelings you share with other people, the more you will get back.

Yeah... So, I "share" good feelings with my coworker by flirting with him, and he flirts back, and so I feel good...about my coworker. How does that help my relationship with my SO? Dr. Read illustrates by telling us how it works for her:
Ever since my partner emerged out of his I-can't-look-at-any-other-woman box with the freedom to flirt, he feels better about himself. He feels and acts sexy. He is more fun to be around. The end result is our relationship is stronger and healthier because he brings that positive energy home to me.

Ahh. NOW I get it. It's the same argument that women used to use about "letting" men have affairs. He feels sexier, (because OUR boring sex life just wasn't cutting it, poor thing)he comes home all revved up,(thinking about the other woman)and I can then pretend it's me he is all stiff over! Yay!

I just bet that does LOADS of good stuff for a relationship. I feel even more "sold" on the advice when Dr. Read gives her next line:
The irony is that he does not really even flirt. It's simply that he has been given a pass-card to flirt that has made all the difference.

Dr. Read sure does feel the need to qualify her "Flirting is Fab!" position with the qualifier "he does not really even flirt". I sense a little subtext, here. As long as he just feels like he can flirt, but doesn't, that's "good couple energy". If he started to actually, you know, flirt... Kinda reminds me of those "invisible fence" systems for dogs. Gives 'em the feeling of freedom, without actually being free. I also notice a distinct lack of narrative about her flirting. Is that because she leaves flirting to the "menz", or because she doesn't want to talk about what she really feels when she's chatting up some other guy?

Dr. Read downplays a "friend's" negative reaction to sanctioned flirting in a "conversation" she had on the subject (pretty convenient, eh?), and brushes aside the notion of being "insecure" as a barrier to such action. As a matter of fact, she waxes rhapsodic about the positive effects of jealousy in a relationship, provided it doesn't get "twisted into a full blown fight"- though she never tells us how to avoid that outcome. And that's an important deficiency, if you remember her pithy comment from earlier:
The fine art of innocent flirting has created many an after-party fight.

She tells the reader about setting mutual definitions of flirting, and boundaries, but that doesn't really solve the jealousy problem, does it? Because jealousy almost inevitably erupts over people stepping over the boundaries of "good clean fun". So the whole "jealousy is good" thing becomes a non sequitir, and the only "benefit" we are left with is the whole "trickle-down passion" thing.

"Trickle-Down" Economics was a bust, and I think "trickle-down" passion is, too.

Maybe Dr. Read and her partner are happy with their flirting agreement, though by her own description, I'd wonder if the whole thing wouldn't turn sour tomorrow if she felt he was "really" flirting. I, for one, think the whole premise of bringing "happy couple energy" in from someone who isn't a part of the "happy couple" a bit dodgy. I particularly think telling people who probably feel "insecure", as Dr. Read's "friend" does about opening the door, to toss inhibitions aside and go for it pretty suspect. But what does Dr. Read care if people read her hack piece on Yahoo, "give a free pass on flirting", and screw up their relationships?

It's not like a Doctor of Sexuality can get sued for malpractice, or anything.

The Dating Advice Industry, Or Why Should I Have To Deal With YOUR Lack Of Personhood?

I have Yahoo set as my homepage, mostly because the stuff on there is an unending source of fodder for blogging. A couple of days ago, the big "Y" came through for me again, in the form of some ultra-treacly "Luv Advice" from the rather large-eared gnome in the picture, a Mr. Evan Marc Katz. Mr. Katz's timely advice consisted of "11 Things Women Don't Know About Men, Plus One Thing They Do Know, But Probably Won't Admit".

This isn't "advice", it's the same old gender stereotypes, repackaged in nauseating list form. Any 10 year-old could probably regurgitate these old saws about "menz 'n wimminz" without much prodding:

1. Getting angry at us for not reading your mind is like getting angry at yourself for not being able to fly. It's not just futile, it's physically impossible.

2. Yes, we do think Jessica Alba is hot. Sometimes we're even dumb enough to admit it.

3. Don't ask us to understand your shoe fetish. Asking us to respect it is even sort of pushing it.

4. You do look good without makeup, just not as good as you look with it.

5. Ever notice how we don't fight with our male friends? That's why we get so frustrated when we fight with you.

6. You care what you're wearing infinitely more than we do. In fact, if you're naked when you open the front door, you won't hear an argument from us.

7. You don't like to get hit on in public, you don't want to date online and you don't want to be set up on blind dates. Tell us if sending messenger pigeons is an appropriate way of courting. Because if it is, we're all over it.

8. There should a statute of limitations on stupid things that we said that can come back to haunt us
There should a statute of limitations on stupid things that we said that can come back to haunt us. I propose 24 hours.

9. Cooking dinner for a man is like buying flowers for a woman, except it takes a lot more time, effort and thought for you to do it. Thanks. We appreciate it.

10. We actually like your girly pet-names for us, but please, not in front of the guys!

11. Just because we like looking at the women in Maxim doesn't mean we want to actually converse with the women in Maxim. Not for long, anyway.

12. Your nice guy friends are the most reliable source for telling you if your new boyfriend's a jerk. And he probably is. (By the way, you might want to consider marrying that nice guy who's giving you advice about the jerk.)

I'm not going to waste my time deconstructing this sexist wank-wank. If you are interested in that, Amanda did a good job on Pandagon a couple of days ago. Rather, I'd like to contemplate the kind of damage this stuff does to real people in real relationships. Even people who get that this is thinly-veiled bullshite end up paying an alarming price in their daily lives. When dating and relationships become "Us against Them", even if it is only OTHER people's relationships, we all loose. So, here is my list of "5 Ways Bogus Relationship Advice Torpedoes Actual Relationships" See how much more parsimonious I am than Mr. Katz? I don't even need to add in the patronizing "one you probably all ready know" for good measure.

1. When people start using gender-based shorthand to describe how other people think, it becomes a lot easier to dehumanize a partner.

2. People will live down to low expectations.

3. Pitting "Men" against "Women" introduces a win/loose mentality to relationships that justifies any behavior, so long as it allows you to "win".

4. Sexist stereotypes give convenient excuses for why things go wrong in relationships, allowing people to stop looking for the real sources of conflict.

5. Looking at relationships as "things" to "fix" misses the point entirely.

So, your saying, "No duh! Like any smarmy little list of relationship how-to prattle, everything you just said is obvious." And it is obvious, sitting here, reading it. But when you are in the throes of a dying love affair, or the heat of a fight, or having a dating loosing streak, social conditioning often kicks in, and the obvious flies out the window. When people are constantly bombarded with the same old tripe, day in, day out, a little can't help but seep in, around the corners. And that's bad. Nasty things get said to loved ones, feelings get hurt, and barriers get reinforced, which usually ends up escalating things even more.

What is even worse is how the people who buy into the stereotypes all of the time negatively impact the whole society. Here are a few examples of how this works. Example 1: Man buys into the idea expressed in Mr. Katz's #1. Women Expect Men To Be Mind Readers. He becomes bitter about situations where he has received messages from women he couldn't interpret. When he goes on dates with women, he decides that anything less than a, "No, I do NOT want to have sex" is either a "yes" OR just a bitch who wants him to read her mind, and he date rapes women on a serial basis. Example #2: Woman buys into #3. Women Are Supposed To Have Frivolous Spending Habits. All ready insecure about her own "femininity", the woman sees going on massive buying sprees as a way of "proving" she is a woman. She spends and spends, until she has spent her way into bankruptcy. Think stuff like this doesn't happen? Start looking around. And of course, both of the above scenarios have an impact on the wider community. And both, unwittingly, feed into the whole stereotype mess that started it all.

Oh, and Mr. Katz? That "nice guy"- the one who's supposed to be a woman's perfect love match? He's the real jerk. He plays women like instruments, too intent on "wining" the "game" to be honest about his feelings from the start, waiting to get an "in", pretending to be concerned about the woman's welfare, right up to the point he becomes her lover, when he starts comparing her unfavorably to Jessica Alba and whining about her shoes.

But you'r a Nice Guy (TM). You know that all ready, don't you?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter: The Half-Baked Prince of Darkness?

OK. I'll admit it. I was never a big Harry Potter fan. I was in my early 20's when the series started, so I was too old to really get in on the phenomenon, and my son, born in '99, was really too young. Add to that the fact that I have always had an instinctive disdain for things deemed "popular", and it is no wonder that I had only the barest knowledge of what was going on in the Potter universe.

Until now, that is. My son will be entering third grade next year, and he struggles with reading. I have been looking for a series of books to read with him, and Potter seemed like the perfect fit. So, I started to read the books this summer, and I have now finished the third installment. That is why a particularly odd screed on the internet caught my attention- a little treatise on the Evil of Harry Potter.

Now, I was vaguely familiar with the fact that some people were against the Potter series, but as I had no basis to form an opinion one way or the other, I never paid much attention. Now that Potter is on my radar screen, I have started to pay more attention to such opinions. And to those who would call Potter a gateway to the practice of evil, I have only one thing to say: "Thppppth"!

Really, it's all quite absurd. Perhaps in the latter installments of the series, I'll see the gates to Hell flung wide, but the books I have read contain no such objectionable material. They are children's books, and that means they follow a pretty predictable formula. We meet the Hero, who is a misunderstood child (as most of the readers will fancy themselves to be) living in woeful circumstances. It is revealed to the Hero that he is, in fact, Special, and not of the sad and pedantic folk he has been surrounded by. He is whisked off to a Magical Place where he is able to develop and refine his Special Powers, in the company of sympathetic and like-minded individuals. However, Specialness comes with a price, and our Hero must face a variety of Villains intent upon his destruction. Through the uses of his Special Powers, and because of his Good and Brave nature, our Hero overcomes the villains in a spectacular show of wits and perseverance, and saves the day. There are sub themes of friendship, and coming to terms with the past, and the superiority of childish daring and initiative v. following adult rules (this is meant to appeal to kids, after all). However, at NO point is there any lifting up of "evil", and the "magic" used in the book is pure fantasy, and not in any way related to "real" witchcraft theory or practice. This is Star Wars without the spaceships, the Wizard of Oz without Oz.
So, when people say things like this, I've got to laugh:

"The premiere of Harry Potter the movie will lead to a whole new generation of youngsters discovering witchcraft and wizardry....Increasing numbers of children are spending hours alone browsing the internet in search of Satanic websites and we are concerned that nobody is monitoring this growing fascination." Peter Smith, general secretary of the British Association of Teachers and Lecturers [1

Oh, come on. "Satanic" sites? True "witchcraft", the religion Wicca, is no more Satanic than tying your shoes is "Satanic". "Satan" is from Abrahimic faiths, so THEY and THEY alone could be claimed to have "Satanic" content (It isn't a coincidence that the true "Satanist" movement has a "black Mass" and borrows liberally from Christian iconography.). Besides, if parents are concerned kids may be stumbling across evil websites, I'd think the answer to that would be better parental supervision on the internet, not a banning of Potter books or movies. The anti- Potter brigades talk a lot about what God "hates", and indoctrination in "Godly" ways, but oddly enough, hate and indoctrination seem to be largely absent from the Potter books themselves. At no point in MY reading have I seen anything that suggests anyone should "hate" God, or anything else (Hate is the root of the Villain's evil, and his downfall. The love of Harry's mother saved him as a baby from the wrath of hate). The books never try to indoctrinate anyone into a belief system, because there is NO belief system articulated in these stories, other than Good should triumph over Evil, which is pretty standard stuff.

So, other than the massive commercialization and cross-branding that always takes a good thing and reduces it to its tacky, commercial worst, I see no evil in Harry Potter. I do think the folks railing against it are a pretty scary lot, though. A day in a "godly" house that emphasized the proper "fear and reverence for God" would probably make Harry's summers with the Dursleys look like a day at the park.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Family Values Crowd Should Stop Lion

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: The Family Values crowd hates marriage.

Oh, they do. They really do. The above three pictures were featured on the blog of a woman named Jennifer Roback Morse, entitled "The Three Stages of A Man's Life". The first picture is "single", the second is "married", and the third is "divorced". Taken together, they say a lot about the real agenda of the FV brigade.

Ms. Morse is a part-time Research Fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. The Acton Institutes's mission is "to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles." In other words, Family Values-ville, USA.

Again, it is my contention that Morse, along with her FV buddies, really hate marriage, contrary to their positioning as a pro-marriage, pro-family front. The FV folks are actually anti-woman, but they can't come out and say it. Yes, even though Jennifer Roback Morse purports to be a woman herself, her anti-woman agenda is clear.

Let's go back to the enchanting little lion pictures for a moment. Now they, in themselves, are nothing extraordinary. They are just a variation on the old "ball and chain" jokes that have circulated endlessly since time immemorial. You know; men, left to their own devices live a fancy-free existence, until a woman "ensnares" them, and makes their lives miserable. The new twist, courtesy of the liberalization of divorce laws in the last century, is the notion of the woman leaving the man "flat broke" and used up after divorcing him. Not a real glowing portrait of marriage, is it? Yet, this is a picture replicated with startling regularity by the FV crowd. If marriage is so "bad" for men, why do the FVers beat the drum about the importance of marriage all of the time?

Two reasons. First, they know the Lion scenario is false. Second, and most importantly, they support marriage as a means to an end, not an end to itself. Men don't suffer from marriage. They prosper as a result of it. According to the Heritage Foundation, A FV stronghold if ever their was one, married adults are happier and less likely to commit suicide. Other studies have shown that men in particular reap health benefits from marriage, and the economic benefits of marriage have been documented as well. The real agenda of the FV camp is social control. They want to keep a certain group- affluent white males- at the top of the the pecking order.

Marriage, as it currently exists, is but a shadow if its former self. In the not too distant past, it served dual-duty in the service of the patriarchy. It kept women in their place, by defining a very narrow "acceptable"role, and by putting them under the direct control of a man at all times. It also excluded the "unwashed masses" from full participation in society, because it was often difficult for people at the lowest economic rungs to enter into marriage, the maintenance of family was an all-consuming activity for the middle rungs, and the advantages of political alliance through marriage and inheritance were kept safe for the top rungs of society. In effect, marriage kept people at the bottom chasing their own tails, freeing up the top of the heap to do what they wanted. While today's "egalitarian" marriage does not exert the same kind of control, it is the best thing the FV crowd has at the moment, and that's why they are sticking to it. Make no mistake, though. Today's "egalitarian" model of marriage is NOT what the FV folks have in mind when they think about the "ideal" form of the institution.

Need more convincing? Look to the opposition the FV camp throws up to same-sex marriage. Remember my statistics from the Heritage Foundation earlier? The statistics that show people are better off when they are married? Well, this is the recommendation from the folks at Heritage in regard to same-sex marriage: " Adopt an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect the traditional definition of marriage." Yep. They don't care AT ALL about the well-being of the people in the relationships. Allowing for same-sex marriage would run counter to the REAL goal of the FV crowd, so of course, they aren't going to support it. Their disdain for the egalitarian ideal is made manifest with quotes like this, again from the Heritage Foundation, from a piece called Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers And Men:

The primary cause of this national crisis, that is the decline of the family, is
the feminization of the American male. The first thing you need to do is sit
down with your wife and say something like this: “Honey, I’ve made a terrible
mistake. I’ve given you my role. I gave up leading this family, and I forced you
to take my place. Now I must reclaim that role.

Of course, the piece concludes that the ONLY way to"reconnect" men with their family responsibilities and make them "sensitive" to their wife's needs is for the wife to submit to the "leadership" of her husband. Because the problem they see is NOT men doing less than they should, but women having more power than they should.

FVers hate women. And gays, and brown people, and basically anyone they see as standing in the way of the white male privilege juggernaut. They do not "love" marriage, despite what they say. They tolerate it, in its current form, only because they see it as a tool for reestablishing white male superiority. The minute they succeed in reestablishing the social order they want, all thoughts of "loving family relationships" will fall to the wayside. Because FVers don't really value families. They value what families can DO for white men.

Let's call shenanigans, and tell the Family Values crowd to stop lion.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Don't They Ever Get Tired of Saying "Pregnant Woman" In the Jessie Davis Case?

In case you haven't heard, a 26 year old woman named Jessie Davis was murdered in Ohio. Apparently, she was abducted from her home, and the only witness was her terrified two-year-old son. Predictably, her boyfriend is the main suspect, and has been arrested.

Oh, yeah. Ms. Davis was pregnant at the time of her slaying.

Now, the very fact that this woman was abducted from her home in the middle of the night, after a struggle, in front of a terrified child, makes this a fairly shocking story for me. Apparently, to the people who write news headlines, the only relevant fact was her pregnancy. "Autopsy Reveals Body Is Missing Mom", "New Arrest In Death Of Pregnant Woman", "Pregnant Woman Missing"- you get the picture. All of the headlines seem to point to the only relevant fact in the case being the fact that Ms. Davis was 8 months pregnant. Yes, that she was pregnant is a relevant fact, worthy of note in the article(s) about her dissapearance and murder. But, wouldn't this be newsworthy without that fact, too? The headlines seem to suggest otherwise.

Women are walking uteri, and only the contents of that organ are of any consequence. I see this being Laci Petersen, Part II. Who cares about the vibrant young woman who was murdered, or the sad things these cases say about domestic abuse and assault? Its all about the right of the fetus! Let's protect those fetuses! Women ARE important- as fetus carriers! Let's throw the book at the murderer(s), not because of the slaying of a woman, but to send a message to would-be murderers to find non-pregnant victims, 'cause we mean BUSINESS when it comes to fetuses! Long live the fetus!

If only Ms. Davis' (female) fetus had been saved, it could have grown up to be a fetus carrier some day, too! What a waste of a life.


Friday, June 22, 2007

I Like Sex

I do. I really like sex. I know that isn't the most socially acceptable thing to say, especially as a woman, but it is true. And I am betting I am not the only one. So why, WHY do we still see the endless repetition of the same tired old chestnuts about men having higher sex drives than women, wanting and "needing" sex more? I get so sick of it: 1.) because it makes me seem disordered for liking and wanting sex; 2.) because the suppposed disparity gets used to excuse all sorts of bad behavior by men; 3.) because it trivializes women by excluding them from the "boys only" realm of sexual gratification we supposedly don't care for; 4.) it places an undeservedly high premium on female virginity, as if it is something hard-won by men ; and 5.) it reinforces the madonna/whore dichotomy. There are probably other things this does that I don't really like. Insert those here.
I have a higher sex drive than my husband, and my ex-husband, too. I have never spent a single day of my life worrying about how to fend off unwanted sexual advances. I am sure this doesn't hold true for all women, but I would like to see more cultural acknowledgement of people like me.

Yes, I like kitties and poodles and all manner of pink, girly things. I like to cuddle and snuggle. I like to talk to my partner and do silly, romantic things.

I also like to fuck like a bonobo chimp as often as I can.

Is that so wrong?

Poodle- 1, Ten Commandments-0

Yeah. This just goes to prove- cute beats... um, I don't know WHAT to call it... Creepy? Preachy? Every time.

Recently, both the Japanese and the Vatican have been worried about issues of public safety and motoring. The Japanese response to unsafe street crossing? A cute little poodle who crosses on command on his hind legs.

The Vatican response? A strange riff on the Ten Commandments- this time, aimed at motorists. It would be blasphemous, if it wasn't so lame.

Here- judge for yourself.

I know which I would want on a t-shirt...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sorry, Folks: CDD=S+M

Thanks to Jesus' General for introducing this to me.

CDD, or "Christian Domestic Discipline" is a new one on me. I know the Bible blathers on about women being obedient to their husbands, and sanctions domestic abuse, but hey, it also sanctions slavery and plucking out people's eyes if they offend you, so ... Let's just say, I didn't think many people probably took it too seriously any more when the Bible perscribed proper whipping rod sizes and such.


Apparently, there is a whole subculture dedicated to reviving "Biblical" relationships in marriage (translated: domestic abuse). At first. I wondered how anybody in their right mind would want to go back to that, especially women. Then I read some of the stuff at: And now, I finally understand. CDD= S+M. Fundies wat to put some fun back in "fundamental", but they can't exactly go parading in to the local leather scene without seriously damaging their cred, because everyone KNOWS Christians dont do "that" stuff.

And lest you think I'm some libralislamofacist Christ-hater, I'll let YOU be the judge:

sa·do·mas·o·chism /ˌseɪdoʊˈmæsəˌkɪzəm,
interaction, esp. sexual activity, in which one person enjoys
inflicting physical or mental suffering on another person, who derives pleasure
from experiencing pain.
gratification, esp. sexual, gained through
inflicting or receiving pain; sadism and masochism combined. Abbreviation: S-M,
S and M

From "Wisdom Worker" at

“No, no, no,” she whimpered. “Please, no

“Have you learned your lesson?” he
asked softly.

“Yeesss,” she cried, “I
promise. . .please. . .”

Lucas put the
belt down next to her on the bed and removed his jeans. Alyssa’s heart
picked up in rhythm when he lifted her further up into the bed and moved her
legs apart to lie between them. She could barely breathe as he entered
her, so afraid he’d hurt her. He was such a big man. If he was still
angry with her. . .

Lucas made love to her
with exquisite gentleness, tenderly cradling her sore bottom in one hand while
he held her body close to his with the other. Though she didn’t feel like
reaching her own climax, his lovemaking comforted Alyssa, and by the time he was
through she had stopped crying and her heart felt much better. They lay in
each other’s arms for a long time

“Now that is what I came home
for,” Lucas said with a kiss to her forehead.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Scare Tactics

Oh, yeah. I'm mad. Really mad. I just saw the most incredibly misogynist public service announcement, courtesy of Pandagon. Check it out. It really, really has to be seen to be believed.

Done watching? Good. Now I'll start ranting.
Please, please, patriarchal killjoys, get the message: the Genie is out of the bottle. Young women are on the internet, and they WILL, in fact, post things, including pictures of themselves, to websites. These women are not all naive bubbleheads. As a matter of fact, a good number of these young women know a lot more than you patriarchal overlords do about the internet. They know exactly what they are doing, and exactly how to do it. And that is what really whips your polyester-blend boxers into an uproar.

The young women aren't playing your game by your rules any more, are they?

They are operating in cyberspace- free of physical threat to their physical bodies, which has been the dominator's stock-in-trade since times unrecorded. As long as men could actively threaten women with physical force, it was easy to keep them under control. Of course, the second-best thing to use was community-wide condemnation, keeping women in check through fear of harassment and ostracization.

But that doesn't work as well on the Net either, does it?

So, you're stuck. You want to control, commodity, and keep for your own private use the bodies of women, but the internet makes that so much harder to do.

Little morality tales like the ad above are all you have left to fall back on. Scare women into believing they are at imminent risk of harassment, stalking, or worse, in an effort to bring them back in line. Tell them to "think before you post", inferring they are not very bright, and aren't really qualified to make choices like what to put on Facebook or Myspace without "oversight". Shame them with stories of "bad girls" with all sorts of shorthand for promiscuity- tattoos, people knowing what color of underwear they have- so that they don't ever doubt that "good girls" wouldn't DO this internet posting thing. And finally, emphasize the fact that society will not interfere in any way with those who would harm imprudent posters- it is the posters who must protect themselves if they want to be in society's good graces.

Yes, pat yourselves on the back for your little masterstroke. Score one for the patriarchy while ostensibly looking out for the public's well being. But your victory is a hollow one. Because, like it or not, the invigorating freedom of the internet will not be so easily thwarted. Young women want to be able to walk in the open air, with the sun on their faces, unapologetically, for all to see.

Until that time comes, Myspace, Facebook, and the internet at large will have to do.

Sorry, fellas. Maybe you should move on to the "Think Before You Listen To Your I-Pod" ad.