Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
I’m number two!
I mean that figuratively, for the weeks of the Circle of Moms Top 25 Political Mom Blogs contest coincided with what is always the crappiest (ha) time of year: the dead zone between the last days of school and the first days of afternoon camp.
My children, who thrive on predictability almost as much as I do, go batshit crazy for ten days every June. For an avowed pessimist, it’s odd that I’m never prepared for this. As school winds down early in the month, I find myself irrationally anticipating sleeping in late, heading out to Lake Harriet for a swim, and doing all the “fun” things that we’re not able to do because we have a school schedule keeping us on the straight and narrow. On May 31, I should be calling the pharmacy to bump up all of our meds, but I don’t until it’s past Father’s Day and the damage has been done, to our psyches and bedroom walls alike.
Indeed, the whole mess has taken a large toll on my (admittedly lame) career as a Political Mom, as I found myself utterly unable to juggle personal and professional responsibilities. Not only do I feel like a steaming pile of number two, I have the stamina of an actual two-year-old. Several months ago, I reflected on how my shy temperament complicates my life, in a piece called “The Trials of an Introverted Activist” that is finally seeing print in the current issue of the Minnesota Women’s Press. Sadly, the piece did little to exorcise the anxious, Piglet-like aspects of my personality; I remain a Very Small Animal, unconvinced of my ability to remain steadfast against the two Heffalumps screaming “I HATE YOU!” to me and to each other all day long. I just hope they care enough to publish The Radical Housewife after I’m dead, for that looks to be my smartest publishing strategy right now.
But things are looking up. I fell in love with Jersey Shore. Camp started rough (it’s never good to be phoned on the first day), but it did start. And did I mention that for a moment, I was a real number two?
Let’s back up a bit, to Monday, June 13, when the Circle of Moms contest officially closed, with the conservative Political Mommentator in first, followed by Veronica Arreola’s Viva La Feminista, Gina Crosley-Corcoran’s The Feminist Breeder, and yours truly, The Radical Housewife. It was suggested that it was really too bad that the Mommentator’s legions voted out of their concern, expressed by the Tator’s husband, that the “feminazi” Crosley-Corcoran might win instead.
Yeah, he went there.
Women on the right, I beg you: please do not tolerate the use of this slur. Ever. Do not allow the men in your lives to defend you by calling other women “bitches.” DON’T DO IT. Disagree with us about politics all you want. Call us loony, call us dumb, call us late for dinner if you want, but don’t put up with sexist stereotypes. They’re bad karma in addition to bad form. Circle of Moms agreed and disqualified Mommentator from the contest.
Then, inexplicably, Crosley-Corcoran posted on the TFB Facebook page that she was dropped from the contest herself, for somehow not being “political” enough. I don’t think they read her older posts, about raising her kids gender-neutral or her take on feminism and pornography, instead focusing on her recent posts about attachment parenting her VBAC newborn Jolene. What’s not political about that? In my confusion, I realized that with TFB out I was literally NUMBER TWO. Whoa.
But I don't want to be, either literally or figuratively. All cliches aside, I am honored just being in the company of some of my favorite online writers, including the two mentioned above, as well as Joanne Bamberger, Katie Allison Granju, Gloria Feldt, the collectives behind MOMocrats and Moms Rising, and many others whose writing I would not have discovered without this peculiar competition. Feminist mom writers are one hell of a group. I'm very happy to be in their company, and I'm grateful to all of my readers who buzzed over to the CoM site for the votes. Feminists are one hell of a group.
A group that includes Crosley-Corcoran, of course! In good news, it turned out that she wasn't dropped from the contest after all. In bad news, it's because she has a psycho stalker. * Isn't that just the way with moms? A little good, a lot of bad, all in the service of the toughest job you'll ever love and sometimes really hate.
*though I would like concrete proof that the stalker isn't a RWNJ. I'm conspiracy-minded like that.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Like it or loathe it, a woman’s appearance means something. Whether you wear heels or Doc Martens, no “choice” can be made independently in a consumer culture. Free will does not exist. Such was the revelation I found in my college media studies curriculum after Professor John Schott handed us syllabi that would challenge our deeply held beliefs about soap operas, Madonna videos and Cover Girl commercials. Symbolic language? The object and the objectified? Semiotics? Jacques Derrida?!! What the fuck??
Let us cool our Prada boots while we return to the thoughts that began our chapter, a consideration of the second wave’s flaws. Betty Friedan opposed lesbian leadership in NOW for many reasons, one of which is how they looked. Many lesbians of the time didn’t sex up their drag the way Marlene Dietrich did—they took off their bras, let down their hair, and rubbed off their makeup. I see no problem with this, but remember: I was born in 1971. My cultural touchstones were the rough and tumble kiddos on Sesame Street, not prim maidens like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet. Once upon a time the sight of a woman in pants was so transgressive as to inspire revulsion: not because the pants were ugly by themselves, but because the act itself was so outrageous as to be unfathomable. Susan B. Anthony stopped wearing bloomers when she sensed they were distracting people from her suffragist message.
Her words didn’t matter as much as her clothing. Sound familiar?
Over time, the pants really did get ugly, and someone heard something from someone about the burning of a bra. The fact that no bras were harmed during the 1968 Miss America protest is a truth so persistently rejected that the story remains a long entry in the debunking website Snopes.com, right up there with alligators in the Manhattan sewers and death by Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola. The message was clear: FEMINISTS BURN BRAS. According to Newtonian physics, without the support of sturdy underwire, perky tits will eventually droop. According to the marketing department at Maidenform and the pages of Playboy, girls with droopy tits are gross. Therefore, feminists are gross. QED.
When I ask around for nominations for Best Feminist in America, no one names Friedan, who inspired the Second Wave, or Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who kick-started the first. Almost every single person will name Gloria Steinem. A fine feminist, to be sure: a powerful activist, writer, speaker, and thinker. But you remember her before all others because she is very, very pretty.
Much of the Third Wave has consisted of studiously breaking down this feminists-are-ugly stereotype, and not just because heterosexual feminist women were getting desperate for a lay. Women of the Second Wave who rejected consumer culture were brave in numbers. The times were a-changin’, and plenty of men were breaking down long-cherished beliefs themselves—resisting the draft and militarism, embracing androgynous hair and clothing, recognizing their part in perpetuating discrimination.
Reagan’s election in 1980 and the defeat of the ERA in 1982 brought all the marching to a grinding halt. The communal spirit of the Second Wave fragmented. Reaganites declared a new era of rugged individualism, of freedom. Not the freedom that comes from constitutionally-enshrined gender equality, though; this freedom was that of the lone cowboy riding into town with nothing but a knapsack and a gun, free to blast his way to prosperity in pursuit of the American Dream. There were no cowgirls in Reagan’s America. His pal Schlafly made sure they were all at home, boiling diapers over an open fire.
Second Wavers in Reaganland soon realized that opposing the forces of capitalism required a lot of difficult emotional work. To delve inward for clarity is much more challenging than, say, purchasing a finely woven shirt that telegraphs that confidence for you. If self-acceptance is available at Macy’s, in a Chanel bottle of beveled glass, then to the mall we shall go! Sitting in the lotus position is for suckers.
Oh my god……I can’t believe I use DEODORANT. I want to smell pretty. So much for being radical.
*Come on, could that REALLY have been said by anyone other than Courtney "Pretty on the Inside" Love? She may not understand sobriety, child-rearing, or anything else about human relationships, but she sure as hell knows about power, baby!
Monday, June 13, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
An excerpt from The Radical Housewife, chapter four, shared in honor of the 12th anniversary today of my civil marriage with a fella who is not, fortunately, named Mattias Schwarz:
....neither youth nor hormones last forever. Somewhere around our ten year college reunion, everyone’s attention shifted from desire to domesticity, so it seemed natural that marriage would dominate our discussion of gay rights in the 21st century.
Unlike the college come-outs and come-ons, Kelly and Gretchen came out by moving in next door. No one could misunderstand two women, a toddler boy, and a hyperactive mixed-breed terrier moving a truck full of furniture into a tidy Minneapolis bungalow—they were a family. For once, identifying as gay had nothing at all to do with sex. Hell, they were new parents, so we knew from experience that they weren’t doin' it! Instead, the story of their lives together was a lesson for Matt and me on a topic far less arousing: good old-fashioned civil rights.
The battle for same-sex marriage first made Minnesota headlines in July 2002, when our friendly, toque-wearing northern neighbors on the Ontario Superior Court ruled that Canada’s current marriage laws were discriminatory. Gay marriage was legal right in our backyard. “We could get to Thunder Bay in eight hours!” I exulted.
Kelly and Gretchen glanced at each other warily. “I don’t think so,” Gretchen said.
“But I want to buy you a melon baller,” I said. “Or a Jell-O mold in the shape of a giant strawberry.”
Kelly crinkled her nose with distaste. “Is that the kind of stuff you two got?” I told her that Matt and I opposed the idea of a wedding registry on principle. I went further and explained that so much of the modern American wedding constituted re-enacting traditions put in place when women were considered property to be handed from man to man in a ritual financial exchange. When Kelly regained consciousness, I returned to the subject of her Canadian marriage.
“Go ahead and buy us a melon baller if you want to,” Gretchen said. “Just don’t make us drive to Thunder Bay for it.” Her stern face told us that the discussion was over.
I cursed myself for weeks for being such a fucking idiot. The Happy Hetero just told two sensible adults that all of their problems would be fixed after ten minutes in an Ontario courtroom! I thought they’d be freed from discrimination once they signed a provincial paper, produced in a country not their own, that would mean less than nothing to the border guards they would encounter on their return trip, guards who would still log them as two single persons: one an American citizen, one a Permanent Resident. Nothing would change.
Gretchen, unlike Kelly, was not born in the United States. When we first got to know one another, she was studying madly for her citizenship exams, a series of quizzes on Constitutional trivia that I might have passed if I were still a 17-year-old student in AP American Government, but would definitely flunk today. “A test she wouldn’t have to take if I’d been a man,” Kelly grumbled.
Kelly and Gretchen didn't intend to offer me more than friendship, but they inadvertently gave me something nearly as valuable: an education in discrimination that this naïve straight woman sorely needed. For years, I thought that being an ally was about getting vogueing invites, ending the use of “gay” as a catch-all slur, and dropping my heterosexual assumptions. Through Gretchen and Kelly, I learned of the pervasive inequality that exists in state and federal law, the very legal system that Gretchen understood better than the average straight guy who was too busy scratching his balls to vote.
Kelly and I were both good American girls, born in the land of the free, rewarded with Social Security Cards and easily obtained passports. Had I fallen for a lederhosen-wearing Bavarian named Matthias Schwarz, instead of a professor’s brat born within a mile of UC-Berkeley, his road to citizenship would be assured. Kelly, on the other hand, had no such opportunity. She could not legally sponsor the citizenship of the foreign-born person she loved. “If we’re not legally married, as Kelly put it, "our relationship doesn’t exist.”