Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year

Happy New Year's eve, everyone.

As promised in previous New Year posts, no big resolutions or pronouncements of change coming from here. What will 2015 be like? I suspect we'll all acquire a few new good habits and maybe some that aren't so good as well. But I know we'll muddle through somehow. Which is totally enough. More than enough.  If you think about it, flourishing and blossoming and soaring are all great, but how much of your life is made up of these soaring-through-the-clouds moments? Not very many. The majority of the time, we're muddling through. And we should give ourselves credit for being such damn good muddlers in a busy, complicated world. So I guess there's my New Year's message. Go forth and muddle through. Muddle through like a motherfucker.

I feel like maybe that should be on a t-shirt.

In other news, there were some great feminist moments in 2014. Plenty of other feminist sources have compiled lists, so I'll leave it to them. And I'll leave it to you to go find these fabulous lists.

Today in baby animals, there's this:

baby orca with mom
Baby orca born to endangered whale population 

and this, although this story is not actually about baby manatees, but it is an excellent excuse to post a picture of one:
manatee calf with mother
Manatees died in lower numbers in 2014

and this, although he is most definitely not a baby, he is the coolest dwarf elephant ever of all times, and he kinda look like a baby, so...

dwarf elephant
A Dwarf Elephant With Outsized Attitude

And finally, today in things that are true:
Giving someone your full attention is every bit as valuable as giving them some material thing.

Exhale into cat, inhale into cow.

Happy New Year

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I want to join this club

An excerpt:
Once a week, members of a Wellington, New Zealand, book club arrive at a cafe, grab a drink and shut off their cellphones. Then they sink into cozy chairs and read in silence for an hour.

The point of the club isn't to talk about literature, but to get away from pinging electronic devices and read, uninterrupted. The group calls itself the Slow Reading Club, and it is at the forefront of a movement populated by frazzled book lovers who miss old-school reading.

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn't make it through a book anymore.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

This is not a coincidence

Dozens protest Mars Hill Church after leader resignations and Mark Driscoll apology
In a reversal of what normally happens inside a church, about 65 people stood outside Mars Hill Church in Bellevue on Sunday and called on the pastor of the mega-church to acknowledge his sins and repent.
The quiet, peaceful demonstration — “It’s very unusual to have evangelicals protesting,” said participant Jim Henderson — was directed at the church’s controversial, authoritarian and domineering co-founder and senior pastor, Mark Driscoll.
The pastor’s attitudes toward women, and belief in male dominance of marriage, has caused some Mars Hill members to leave and a few to show up Sunday outside the church.
“I am an ex-member who left a couple years ago, because my views on life and women evolved,” said Elizabeth Smith. “I come from a Jewish family, a family with strong women. It appeared, at the church, most development attention was given to me. Women were seen as accessories in marriage.”
Rob Smith (no kin), a former program director at Mars Hill, cited Driscoll’s “disregard for women’s voices,” adding: ”In the church’s view, women are just objectives. They are there to please their husbands. In my theology, Jesus freed women. Jesus was surrounded by strong women.”
Driscoll has also apologized for hiring a firm to spike sales of his co-authored book “Real Marriage” to get it on the New York Times bestseller list. Notes of attribution have been added in another book where he was accused of lifting thoughts from other authors.
I know how most of the people within evangelical circles will spin this. This is an isolated individual acting on his own. He has made some mistakes, and don't we all need the grace of God?

The fact is, you see this happening again and again at one church after another. It's not a coincidence. There is a consistent culture within evangelical churches where male leaders are elevated to a status that is beyond question or challenge (and if you want to challenge them, you'll be shown the door in short order). It leads to serious misbehavior, in one form or another every time. Every. Single. Time. If it hasn't happened yet, it will.

His Royal Highness
In the vast majority of the cases, nothing will happen to His Royal Highness. He will admit to his "sin" in some half-assed way and ask for forgiveness. Then he's immediately in the clear, and the onus is shifted to those who are having trouble coping with the fallout. As they try to heal from the harm done, they will be labeled "unforgiving," and will be shamed and punished for not letting it go and moving on already. This is thought to be Christian Behavior. Why? Because this is not a church - it's a cult of personality.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In the News

From Women Who Run Tech Startups Are Catching Up:
Women-led private technology companies are more capital-efficient, achieve 35 percent higher return on investment, and, when venture-backed, bring in 12 percent higher revenue than male-owned tech companies. That’s according to new research presented at a recent conference in San Francisco organized by Women 2.0, a media company devoted to women founders in the tech industry. It indicates female entrepreneurs, who have traditionally lagged behind their male counterparts, are catching up, at least by some measures.
 Interesting, no?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Mirror Test II

So there's this guy I know. We'll call him Frank. Frank has a heart condition, and has had to undergo numerous medical treatments and takes several medications every day. Everyone says it's a blessing that he has such good health insurance. In fact, years ago Frank switched jobs to work for his current employer precisely because the medical and dental insurance were so good. All of his working life he has faithfully paid his portion of the premium, and now it's paying off. He's getting the care he needs.

In another office down the hall from Frank there's a young woman. We'll call her Megan. Megan also had a couple different employers to choose from and like Frank, one of the reasons she chose her current employer is because of the health coverage. All of her working life she has faithfully paid her portion of the health insurance premium. In conjunction with her employer, she is paying for health insurance.

Nobody ever says that Frank is wanting something for free. Nobody refers to his employer as Uncle Sugar. Nobody suggests that he ought not get the medical care he needs because his "lifestyle" brought on this particular need. Nobody says "if you want to dance you have to pay the piper." This in spite of the fact that Frank spent years eating lots of red meat and very few fruits and veggies, and living an extremely sedentary lifestyle. He made personal choices that directly contributed to his current condition. Yet everyone is happy that Frank was able to purchase health care coverage at an affordable price.

But Megan? If she wants her health insurance to cover her prescriptions (such as contraception) then she is wanting something for free. She is whoring herself out to Uncle Sugar. She's asking us to pay for something that results from her personal choices - from her "lifestyle." If she wants to dance, then she ought to pay the piper. Nobody remembers that she is doing the exact same thing that Frank is doing - working a job where she earns affordable insurance coverage as a part of her compensation package.

Funny, don't you think?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy National Princess Week

Did you know that's a thing? Well it is. Apparently it's always the last full week of April. In honor of Princess Week:

These fantastic images from Dina Goldstein:

On pink princesses, and missing the point

The princess and the dragon

The other princess problem

Princesses and cowboys and knights

Princess pros and cons

And finally:

Keep them little

Certain people who spend too much time on Amazon may have come across this book:

The counterpart for boys is this:

Interesting, no?

Monday, April 7, 2014

On pink princesses, and missing the point

Over at Slate, Allison Benedikt is piling on to the latest trend of admonishing parents of little girls who take issue with the non-stop pinkifying and princessifying of everything having anything to do with little girls. We all need to stop expressing our contempt for the pink and the princessy and just chill out already.

Advising parents to just chill out already is a popular meme these days, but if you take the central claims of this particular chill out argument, what you find is a complete failure to deal with the actual underlying issues. It's a fabulous exercise in missing the point. So let's take a look:

1. Benedikt writes that disgust for the pink and princessy "has always struck me as some weird sort of female self-loathing." The writers she quotes also assume that underneath the rejection of the pink glitter there's a profound dislike for and devaluation of femininity.

Little blond girl in pink princess costume
The thing is, nobody here stops to ask where this version of femininity came from, why it's so astonishingly dominant in every item that will ever be marketed to or for girls (from diapers to prom dresses to school supplies to power tools to assault rifles for the love of god), or what other, more serious, gender messages might accompany it. The sheer ubiquity of the pink princess crap in itself should give one pause. The monolithic vision of what femininity amounts to (and how it's valued, and how flexible it is, and how it fosters - or not - a sense of autonomy and an open range of viable choices for girls...) in this view should give one pause. The very act of equating the massive princess marketing machine with "female culture" is absurd. And damaging.

2.  Benedikt et al scoff at the idea that girls who play at being princesses will grow up to be princesses. As if this is what we're worried about. As if it's just as simple and straight forward as that.

Adult blond woman in sexy pink princess costume
But you can grow up to be a princess.
Here's a little more subtle look at the dynamic here. Girls (and boys) who are taught to mindlessly embody the prefab identities and scripts that are provided for them by the princess marketing machine are internalizing a whole range of gendered attitudes about themselves that will become much more damaging as they grow up. As parents, modeling a mindless engagement with and internalization of these identities and scripts sets the stage. As the pink princesses grow up and begin to navigate their developing sexuality, explore their career and life options, etc. this habit of mindless engagement will not serve them well. Which leads us to the third (implied) claim here.

3. Parents of little girls can either roll their eyes in disgust, or embrace the pink princess phenomenon. Make your choice.

This right here is the biggest issue. The pink princess dynamic in our culture needs to be addressed. Girls need to understand that they will be presented with problematic versions of femininity their whole lives, and the best thing they can do is learn to habitually engage with these hypotheses on what it means to be a girl/woman in a rational way. By the same token, boys will be presented with problematic versions of masculinity their whole lives, and the best thing they can do is learn to habitually engage with these hypotheses on what it means to be a boy/man in a rational way. Seeing yourself as having options, trying out different activities and roles, embracing the things that work for you and letting the rest fall by the way... these are all a part of growing up to be a functional, thriving adult. For a girl or a boy.

Mother and daughter, talking
Talking with kids - a parent's superpower
As we all know, there are more options for parents than mindlessly rejecting or embracing the prefab roles. Parents can actually (are you ready for it?) talk to their kids about these things. They can talk about how fun it is to play dress up, but how hard it is to really be a princess (or a superhero, or a ninja, or whatever) full time. After all, princesses and superheroes and ninjas don't get to play soccer, go camping or biking, do messy crafts like finger painting, engage in rough-housing with their siblings and friends, have sleepovers, bake cookies, etc.  They might get their dress/cape/ninja costume dirty. And lord knows a princess would never get her dress dirty, or break a nail, or try to run in her absurd little plastic high-heeled shoes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Women of the Bible: Jephthah's daughter

Judges 11
In which Jephthah agrees to lead the Israelites against the Ammonites. He promises God that in exchange for victory against the Ammonites he will offer as a sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his door when he returns home. He defeats the Ammonites, returns home, is greeted by his daughter, and therefore has to offer her as a burnt offering. A promise (no matter how boneheaded) is a promise, after all.*

1Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. 2And Gilead's wife bare him sons; and his wife's sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father's house; for thou art the son of a strange woman. 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him. 4 And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. 5 And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: 6 And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. 7 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress? 8 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead. 9 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the Lord deliver them before me, shall I be your head? 10 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The Lord be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.

...  **

30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, 31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. 32 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands. 33 And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. 34 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back. 36 And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. 37 And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. 38 And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. 39 And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, 40 That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

*Although perhaps Jephthah could be excused for believing that maybe if it was his own kid who came out the door, an angel of the lord would stop him mere seconds before he did the deed and offer a ram instead, as he did when Abraham undertook a similar project. There was a precedent, after all.
**The portion of the chapter that I left out here isn't relevant to the story of Jephthah's daughter, but it is interesting in that it contains a long exchange between Jephthah and the Ammonites on the question of whether or not the Israelites stole the Ammonites' homeland.

ETA: I got an email pointing me to these fantastical illustrations of the story, so I had to share them with you. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Things that are awesome

Homemade lotion bars:
lotion bars

I can't use most commercial lotions because of the alcohol and perfumes in them. Hence the homemade lotion bars. They're super easy to make, feel fantastic on your skin, last way longer than lotion, and are actually good for you. You can pronounce all the ingredients and explain where they came from (not a laboratory). As an added bonus, when you're melting the ingredients together on the stove it makes your house smell delicious.

I use a very basic recipe like the one found here:

I'm sort of approximate with the measurements; I do include the vitamin E (just poke a hole in a couple vitamin E capsules and squeeze the contents in at the end); and I use a large glass measuring cup over a saucepan as a double boiler because that makes it easy to pour the melted ingredients into silicone molds. A double batch makes enough to last us about 6 months, except for how I always end up giving them away to friends. I don't add any essential oils because I like the subtle coconut scent you get as the bar melts onto your skin and soaks in, but you can add whatever other scents you prefer. As an added bonus, you can make them in whatever fun shapes you want by using different molds. I usually use a basic rectangular one, but we made some snow-person shaped bars to give as gifts at Christmas.


Friday, March 21, 2014

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Birth control is irresponsible.

According to a republican white guy in Alaska, anyway. You see, his current thing is to try to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome by putting free pregnancy tests in bars. Apparently the logic is that if women know they're pregnant they won't drink. (And then there's also something about plexiglass bowls in bar restrooms that have something to do with the pregnancy tests and I didn't get that part at all and felt a little skeeved out by it.) Anyway, when asked if he would also put free birth control in bar restrooms, this republican white guy replied:
No. Because the thinking is a little opposite. This assumes that if you know (you are pregnant) you’ll act responsibly. Birth control is for people who don’t necessarily want to act responsibly.
I’m not going to tell them what to do. Or help them do it. That’s their business. But if we have a pregnancy because someone just doesn’t know, that’s probably a way we can help.

Read more here:
Did you get that? Birth control is for people who don’t want to act responsibly. And here I've been thinking that using birth control is a mature, responsible choice. But it's not. It's irresponsible.

Slutty, I expect. But irresponsible - it's hard to make sense of that. What exactly is irresponsible here? Is it the having sex part or the not getting pregnant part? Because if it's the latter, then all the sturm und drang in our culture surrounding teen pregnancy doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense. We wring our hands about teen pregnancy because teens aren't financially and emotionally prepared to raise kids, right? So then isn't avoiding pregnancy when you're not in a good position to parent a child a responsible course of action? I suspect this republican white guy is wanting to say that the having sex part is the irresponsible part. Leaving aside the fact that he doesn't know whether these possibly pregnant bar patrons are married or single...

No, it seems to me lately that every time a republican white guy opens his mouth about women and reproduction, what's really behind it is a firm but implicit belief that women ought not be having sex unless they're married and wanting to get pregnant.* Which makes me think maybe these republican white guys have failed to think the thought whole, as Kierkegaard would say. Because if straight women aren't having fun sexy times then it would seem that straight men won't be having fun sexy times either. If straight gals all resort to clutching an aspirin between their knees (as Foster Friess, who appears to have been named after an ice cream dessert, suggests we should do), then who will the straight men be fucking? It's something to think about, republican white guys. This might not just be a "women's issue." Maybe it's a men's issue too.

*Which still doesn't make much sense of the "irresponsible" label. I'm hip to the fact that conservative white guys think the ladies should stop with all the fucking already, but I always thought this was an issue of morality. It's a matter of female virtue. Purity. Chastity. Pure milky white skin on the back of her neck over which a single Victorian curl dangles as she tends to her needlework in front of the fire and all that. But irresponsibility - that doesn't quite fit here.

A bargain at any price

Monday, February 24, 2014

Uncle Sugar

I'm way-the-hell out of touch these days, being too busy, tired, and apathetic to keep tabs on any kind of news besides the 20 minutes of whatever's on NPR every morning. So apparently I totally missed out on some strange comment Mike Huckabee made about how I (since I'm an American lady) want these dudes to pay for my birth control since I can't be expected to control my libido. Curiouser and curiouser...

I'm baffled about what they have to do with my birth control or my libido, but I kinda like their music.

Friday, February 21, 2014

I'm militantly agnostic, but thanks for asking

Recently a student in one of my classes asked me if I was an atheist. I usually try to avoid answering questions like this, but he was pretty persistent, so I said I don't really feel like I own any of those titles (Christian, atheist, etc.). After all, what does it mean to claim one of these titles for yourself? Is being a Christian or a Buddhist or an atheist the same for me as it is for you? Is it something you can put on and take off like an item of clothing, or does it have to be deeply embedded in your psyche and your worldview to be true of you?

But I have a tendency to make everything overly complicated, I'm told, so in this case I picked one: I guess I'm agnostic, if I have to be something. My student replied with this "to be agnostic is just to lack the balls to admit that there is no god. Agnostics are atheists without balls." I didn't laugh at this, although I wanted to. This kid is very sincere and invested and has fire in his belly, and you shouldn't laugh when someone says something, however misguided, from that place. Also, I'm sure he was quoting someone that he admires. So I said "whatever your views are on having balls and on being  atheist versus agnostic, I think if you're viewing this from the perspective of proof and rational bases for our beliefs, there's a problem with that statement, but I'd be willing to discuss it more with you outside of class" because we had other material to cover, and because these kinds of conversations just make me tired on most days, and because I wasn't really in the mood to have the discussion about the appropriateness of the "having balls" analogy.

The thing is, it seems like a strange thing to me to make a claim in either direction ("I affirm that there is a god," "I affirm that there is no god," "I affirm that there are many gods") when you have no basis for this kind of statement. Don't get me wrong; I think it's fine to say "I feel like there is no god," or "I feel like there is a loving God who watches over us, etc."  But to make assertions about the existence of something for which you cannot possibly have proof seems irrational and foolhardy to me. And what possible difference could it make in my day-to-day life? The existence of a being (which I admit seems highly highly improbable to me) with whom I have no interaction just seems sort of ... irrelevant to me. Tangential to my daily experience, maybe. I mean, I'm also open to the possibility that some day we might discover that unicorns do exist in some remote corner of the universe. Which will impact my life how, exactly?

Baby unicorn is adding rainbows to my coffee

But... I have atheist friends who argue that it's neither irrelevant nor tangential to your daily life, because whether or not you believe in the existence of a deity determines your view of yourself and others, and dictates how you live your life (isn't it interesting that my fundamentalist evangelical family would argue the exact same thing?). Further, one of these friends (a habitual mansplainer, coincidentally) tells me that to refuse to take a stance one way or another is immature. I usually just laugh this off, but this student's question got me thinking about it.

It seems to me that needing to have a set belief about some supernatural beings in order to know who we are and how we ought to treat each other is maybe less mature than thinking that the existence of supernatural beings is probably irrelevant to these questions. And doesn't it seem a tad bit narcissistic to assume that if there is/are/were supernatural beings, that they would be interested in how we live our lives and in whether or not we believe in their existence? If you're omnipotent, or just even really really big and powerful and remote, why exactly would you give a flying fuck about what a bunch of tiny, flawed, finite being were running around doing on some little speck of a dying planet? This I do not understand, and I know the Bible intimately, as well as the ins and outs of various theological positions and histories, having grown up in a church that firmly believes in textual submersion and endless discussion of contrasting interpretations and theological stances.* But what does any of it have to do with me? This is the question that remains to be answered.

And when it comes to whether or not agnostics have balls, well, #1 I'm totally OK with not having balls (whatever that might have to do with this discussion) and #2 I think in many situations it takes more courage to admit you don't or can't know something than to get all blustery about some assertion that you can't possibly have enough evidence to reliably defend. I think we generally tend to believe that Socrates had balls, and he was endlessly on about admitting to the things we don't know, right?

So... the question is, which is more mature? Are my religious and atheist acquaintances equally right in their insistence that one must take a stance, and that this is what maturity demands? Or am I right that it's equally (or maybe more) mature to reach a point in your life where you believe you should be the person who your values and convictions lead you to be regardless of your beliefs about the existence of supernatural beings?

Also, have a good weekend everyone. I hope baby unicorn adds rainbows to your coffee too.

*My friends find it endlessly amusing how I can effortlessly quote long chunks of scripture and launch into detailed but ironic hermeneutic discussions of various theological positions and claims while drunk at the bar or out on some road trip or backpacking in the woods.