Sunday, May 30, 2010
That I ended up married to someone who loves, trusts, and respects me is probably the luckiest thing that has ever, or will ever, happen to me. Remaining married to him, with our love, trust, and respect intact, is what I will look back upon as my life’s greatest accomplishment. That’s how fucking awesome Matt Black is! Yeah!
But when I met him in 1997, I was certain he was gay.
For one thing, he was a great fan of opera, especially the stylings of a petite Italian-American soprano whose “Traviata” made him weep. Listening to opera was dangerous by itself, but enjoying it to the degree that you are able to discern favorite operas, performances, and singers was quite another. At the age of 26, with four years at a very liberal arts college under my belt, I believed in my gaydar. Besides, Matt fit a couple other casual criteria: he was cute, clean, and seemed free of any psychological disturbance. At the age of 26, I knew this type to be gay, unavailable, or both.
My dating history to that point was pretty horrific. I spent my high school years too shy to talk to boys, insisting that it was because I could find none who matched my love for the Replacements: I was just that picky. At college, I crushed on my fellow English majors, the brooding, sensitive types who were mad for Pynchon and Kafka, but I ended up dating science majors, the clumsy, near-sighted types who seemed like they needed me. Ugh.
....[Matt and I] it off immediately, which was yet another ding to my gaydar. But I didn’t know at the time that Matt was compiling a profile of his own. He sought the advice of a friend, the expert on our store’s jazz collection, who advised him that I was, without a doubt, absolutely positively, definitely a lesbian. After all, I wore no makeup, dressed like a twelve-year-old skate punk, and listened to Sleater-Kinney. Baby butch alert! Riot boi gaydar PING!
How on earth would these two crazy breeders ever get together?!
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
From the Minnesota Women's Press:
MWP columnist wants to remove the word CHOICE from the feminist vocabulary
by Shannon Drury
CHOICE. A cursory understanding of the modern women's movement might boil down to one word. The choice to wear pants. The choice to cast a vote. The choice to enroll at Princeton or enlist in the Army. The choice to enter the workforce. The choice to use contraception. The choice to terminate a pregnancy.
This is the What Women Want issue, so I'll share what I want: the removal of the word CHOICE from the feminist vocabulary. It's no longer useful in advancing women's rights, for its message has been cleverly diluted, if not co-opted, by those who oppose feminism's goals.
Pam Tebow, the woman from the much-discussed Super Bowl ad last January, had a CHOICE to carry her baby to term (except she didn't really have a choice, as abortion is against the law in the Philippines where baby Tim was conceived). Bristol Palin had a CHOICE, at age 17, to have a baby (though many kids feel so desperate, being in similar circumstances, that they would hire someone to kick them in the stomach for $150, as a Utah girl, Bristol's age, did last year).
I suggest that women quit claiming that exercising our civil rights under the law is a matter of personal choice. When the 19th Amendment was adopted, suffragists didn't say they won the CHOICE to vote, though casting a ballot each November is not required by law and 50 percent of eligible voters choose not to do it.
Rights belong to all-choices belong to a few. This was made clear during the debate surrounding the Super Bowl ad featuring Tebow's story. Like Tebow, I gave birth to a son, but that doesn't mean I think my son, Elliott, will someday win a Heisman. Why, then, should I also expect that every woman who has a pregnancy test will be as thrilled as I was to see the positive result? The experiences of Tebow, Bristol Palin and yours truly are ours alone, and cannot be expected to set the standard for every other woman across the globe.
Rights assume differences. Choice implies similarity. Note that the current debate over health-care policy also uses the language of choice, as in "Rush Limbaugh had the choice to pay out of pocket for high-quality cardiac care." That statement implies that you have that choice, too. Do you?
I don't. A health-care provider I trust recently recommended I visit a highly regarded specialist, but I would have to pay $375 per hour out of my own pocket. According to Rush-logic, I could choose to visit this specialist, though that might make it impossible to pay my car insurance bill. I wonder how Allstate might react? It might insist on its right to get paid. A state trooper might also insist upon her right to issue me a citation for breaking Minnesota law.
Choices assume personal responsibility for every aspect of our lives. Rights assume that not everything will turn out as planned. Rush didn't intend to have a heart attack, did he?
The current health-care compromise asks women to plan ahead for abortions they may never need. Why? Because every enrollee in a health plan that offers abortion coverage must write one check to pay the bulk of her premium, and another check to pay the portion of the premium that would cover abortion services, even if it's as little as 25 cents. Insurers have to keep two separate sets of books.
Wrote the New York Times editorial staff on March 14, 2010: "It would be so cumbersome that it would likely discourage insurers from offering plans that cover abortion."
Because the rhetoric since Roe v. Wade has centered on a woman's choice to seek abortion, it makes it easy for foes to layer subjectivity and moral judgment upon the procedure. Imagine the riots if barriers were enacted to make it all but impossible for overweight male smokers like Limbaugh to access cardiac care!
You have a myriad of choices. Exercise your right to use them or not. But don't take them for granted.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
As I entered the world of grassroots politics, I was already painfully aware of my privilege. Why didn’t I beat the crap out of my baby when the going got tough? Some would say that I’m just better than that, but my gut told me different. I knew that I stood on a pinnacle of privilege that made making the right decisions easier, including white skin, heterosexuality, decent health, relative youth. I was born middle class, which offers a constellation of other benefits and expectations not limited to my college education. My husband holds a bachelor’s degree too, and together we own a comfortable house in a safe part of town that his salary makes possible. Our legal, heterosexual marriage entitles me to his company’s health coverage. In my baby’s name (and Ms. Friedan’s), I would Change The World. I wasn’t prepared for the clawing I would get on the way.
....honestly, though, I set myself up for my own savaging when I bragged about how my baby facilitated my feminist awakening. A woman’s compassion is considered genetic, not virtuous, for it’s expected of us well before we receive our first baby doll. Nurturing women are the rule, so they are not exceptional. Still, my compassionate drive was special: it would be put into the service of the Greater Good, in my vision of a unifying feminism that has no smaller goal than the complete dismantling of oppressive, patriarchal systems. Judgment would yield to acceptance, alienation would dissolve into inclusion. Equality and happiness would soon follow, etc. etc.
The Nurturing Woman is a female stereotype as vicious as any other. I learned this when self-described feminists sank their teeth in my bones when I suggested my toddler daughter might have a better role model in Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama when I wrote this column: "Imagine a pro-vagina world," May 1, 2008.
Monday, May 17, 2010
As a lifelong Minnesotan, I am outraged by the governor’s veto of a bill that would extend “death rights” to the surviving partner of a same-sex couple. It’s obvious that this governor cares more about making a statement to voters in New Hampshire and Florida than he does about the needs of grieving families here at home.
In defending the veto, Pawlenty claims that “marriage—as defined by a man and a woman—should remain elevated in our society at a special level,” yet I fail to see how allowing a gay man the power to execute his life partner’s final wishes threatens my own civil marriage. A lesbian partner’s wrongful death lawsuit wouldn’t rock my Minnesota marriage contract one bit, Pawlenty’s claims to the contrary. If he fears this law’s effect on his own marriage, he ought to spend less time on the road campaigning and more time at the governor’s mansion.
Whether or not heterosexual marriage is “special” has no bearing on the facts behind this bill. Minnesotans, as Pawlenty should know, have compassion for all families that are under stress. If Pawlenty spent more time in St. Paul, he might understand that. By vetoing this common sense legislation, he’s proved that he is either out of touch with Minnesotans, willfully ignorant of their wishes, or both.
The Radical Housewife.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Hayes's subtitle is "reclaiming domesticity from a consumer culture." As a committed pinko, I like anything that questions the status quo. Capitalism exists to make us all desperately unhappy sheep. The short term consequences are increased L'Oreal and Bud Lite sales--long term consequences are entrenched classism, racism, and sexism.
Hayes's book site states that "it is the story of pioneering men and women who are redefining feminism and the good life by adhering to simple principles of ecological sustainability, social justice, community engagement and family well-being." Elsewhere, she writes "in essence, the great work we face requires rekindling the home fires."
And that's where we part ways.
It starts with the word "homemaker," one that I have always found problematic. How does one MAKE a home? I haven't a clue. Is it by washing the floors? Baking from scratch? Quilting? Gardening? Reading bedtime stories? Nurturing relationships? I clean my home. In the interest of sustainability, I recycle and compost like a maniac, carry my cloth bags with me, bike it up, etc. etc. But I don't think that keeping a coop of chickens or canning the beans from my garden is the way towards a more just world.
For one thing, "rekindling the home fires" implies turning inward, reaffirming the family as the basic unit of society, just like the folks at the Christian Coalition. Now, I don't know if Shannon Hayes is religiously motivated. But once you start turning inwards, towards a unit that looks like you, talks like you and thinks like you, you start getting out of touch with the complex systems that conspire against the people who DON'T look like you!
Feminism is about fighting oppression in all its forms. That means we must work outward, not inward. This is why I must place Radical Homemaking on the Mommy Wars spectrum, despite its fine intentions. Examples of Radical Homemakers, the author included, have only been well-off, highly educated white women. Remember "The Opt-Out Revolution," anyone?
A discussion on the subject at Bitch led me to the blogger Vegan Burnout, who wrote: "to frame the choice between working a soulless 9-to-5 or building a backyard chicken coop and learning to can tomatoes as the only feminist options is reductive and insulting." It's easy to choose your choice when you have so many choices to choose from, so that when you do choose, your choice is automatically the best one! It's the Opt-Out argument from 2003 all over again.
So why did I pick the Radical Housewife moniker, then? Because I find the word "housewife" really funny. That's why. When I'm asked to fill in the box marked "occupation," I say I'm a writer and an at-home parent. The damn home can make itself for all I care.
Sorry, Radical Shannon. I just don't buy it (anti-capitalist pun intended).
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Announcing that everyone needs to be in a heterosexual marriage with a mother at home is easy—especially if you are a affluent white male of the political class. But even if this scenario were attainable for most people (and it isn’t), it wouldn’t always be the right thing to do. I didn’t become a stay-at-home mom because I thought I’d be great at it. I did it because it made financial sense. My tiny salary wouldn’t pay for quality child care, so what was the point? I didn’t opt-out of work as much as work opted out of me. No person on this planet is able to decide their fate in a vacuum; we are of culture born and society raised. My cultural home, Minnesota, happens to feel comfortable with white women earning just 77 cents to every white man’s dollar. That figure, however small, is still better than my state provides for African-American women (59 cents) and Hispanic women (47 cents). Gosh, I guess I should feel lucky!
Robin Morgan coined the phrase “the personal is political” during the second wave of American feminism, that tumultuous era that brought us unprecedented changes to the daily lives of American women. Morgan and her sisters got women out of the home and into the office, but made the mistake of denigrating unpaid home work in the process. It may be shit work, but don't forget that it is real work. If you’re unsure, just ask your own mother.
Today, long after the second wave peaked, we’re still having children. The need for caregiving remains constant no matter the era.Today liberal pundits wring their hands and grumble “traitor!” at educated women who forgo paid work to care for young children. Conservatives crow that more moms at home marks a return to their “family values,” and that society’s experiment with feminism has failed.
“The Mommy Wars,” the so-called struggle between paid moms and unpaid moms, do a great job at stifling honest discourse about pervasive economic and social inequality. When conservatives are allowed to control the meaning of family, women and their children will continue to lose.
Conservatives also coined the derisive and insulting phrase “nanny state,” intoned more than ever now that anti-government Teabaggers are on the rise. It’s no accident that this fearsome “nanny,” a controlling and dominant woman who works for pay, has become synonymous with government programs (paid parental leave, child care, even welfare programs) that do the work of a paid outsider. Conservative economic policy dictates that home-based mothers do this work for free.
If you really thought of the children and engaged yourself actively with the embedded systems that conspire against their health and safety, you wouldn’t be a conservative. You’d be liberal.
Hell, you might even be RADICAL.