Archives for August 2018

My Favorite Fantasy Is A Straightforward Conversation

Bubbles

Come on! Get the ball!

Hubs was up through the wee hours writing a paper. He finally went to bed a while before noon, saying as he passed, “Read it if you want to. And if you want to change the ending, by all means. I was rushed.”

I understood him to mean that he wanted me to look at it, perhaps edit it, despite his phrasing making it sound voluntary. I do this so much it’s usually automatic. This mode of speech is common and I figure it’s a politeness thing. Nobody wants to look like they’re demanding things of people.

I do it myself. I might say to the 12-year-old, “Why don’t you go ahead and pick up your room?”

This is a mistake.

She has learned not to answer my question, because it’s not a question. I didn’t even think about the phrasing until one day she replied, “Because I don’t feel like it right now.” Tweens somehow revert to toddler-level literalism and only half of it is a joke.

It’s frustrating because, when not trying to be gentle, I am the kind of person who does just ask people for things sometimes. I find myself agonizing over phrasing and tone, trying to zero in on the key to the conversation that I want.

When I ask if someone would mind doing something, I really want to know if it’s a problem. I hate asking “How are you?” when I don’t care. It’s not so difficult to actually speak to people and only about 20 percent of the ones I meet have any concept of this. The others are living a script and get annoyed when you don’t say your lines. Or they just don’t respond at all.

I explained to both of the girls yesterday that if you expect someone to argue with you, you will approach them more aggressively than you mean to. They will feel attacked and probably argue with you to defend themselves. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sometimes they do this to each other all day.

It reminds me of uptalk, which can be terribly annoying but I read somewhere that it has a social subtext of requesting agreement. Like

Spilled Ink

Sometimes all my efforts are for naught!

people who say “Ya know?” at the end of every sentence. Isn’t my agreement assumed unless I say otherwise? Things like this say a lot about the worldview of the speaker.

Writing is simpler. We all know what a badly worded text can do without the tone to convey the intended meaning. But tight phrasing fixes most of that and no one can accuse you of saying anything else.

My favorite thing lately is when people respond to what they expect you to say instead of what you said. I often choose my words carefully when I talk, too, and I know what I just said. “I don’t really want to watch that” meaning ‘I have no desire to’ becomes I will be upset with you if we watch that.

“I don’t really like Chinese food” becomes I don’t ever want to eat or even see Chinese food.

“I’m used to not getting what I want,” meaning ‘I am accustomed to deferring to others’ becomes I never get what I want!, a petulant play for sympathy.

“Don’t do that” becomes You are bad for doing that.

I don’t know if we’re all just overly insecure but the girls are definitely the worst for it. It can make you feel crazy because you tossed a ball and they caught a grenade. It contributes a lot to my needing time off from people. How many moves ahead do I need to be? And how much is too much before you’re second-guessing yourself to death?

And they say women are difficult to read.

Clarity is very important to me. As you can see, I spend a lot of time trying for it. But when the point of view of your audience is both integral and unknowable, there are days it seems like a fantasy.

Who needs unicorns or vampires? I just want a conversation that doesn’t need expert analysis.

Response To A Young Feminist: Motherhood Can Be Radical

Chess

Ooh! Game on!

Recently in my wanderings, I read an article titled The Degradation of Feminists. Written by a young nursing student who approached Feminism from a beginner’s standpoint, she doesn’t come with the conventional Lib/Rad paradigm.

Layna Guillory argues that modern Feminism focuses on emulating the advantages of men and neglects the advantages women naturally possess. Others have observed this, and it’s not without merit. Layna begins by suggesting that Feminism has certain “drawbacks” but that she thinks the best of everyone involved. I wish I shared her optimism.

She describes how in the past Feminism was about attaining rights and equal treatment, but that it has lost its way since women “aren’t mistreated like that anymore.”

Which, of course, gives me pause. I’m honestly happy for her if she hasn’t been mistreated because of her sex. Assault statistics say different, and that’s just here in our oh-so-civilized Western country. Anita Raj of the University of California recently found that upwards of 80% of women experience some kind of sexual harassment. 90% of rape victims are women.

It extends to well-paid celebrities like Michelle Williams, who discovered she was being paid significantly less than her male co-stars. The entire #MeToo thing is dedicated to exposing and eradicating the remaining undertow of objectification and devaluing women experience in our daily lives.

Layna also suggests that the credibility of real experiences of everyday sexism is damaged by what she calls “outrageous claims” of systemic

Easel

You have to look at the big picture!

bias. Her example is the tendency for workplaces to be uncomfortably cold for women but not men. The linked article from the Washington Post is a lighthearted commentary on the subject, “the gender divide, thermostat edition.” A tongue-in-cheek nibble that assumes the truth of its subject. Because it is true.

It’s not a grand conspiracy. Most men just have certain details and motivations in common, so they behave similarly. They set the temperature for their own comfort and it doesn’t occur to them that anyone else might feel differently. Because they pride themselves on their rationality, you know.

To say nothing of how the phases and rhythms of women’s lives just aren’t built into the fabric of those workplaces. On-site childcare is essentially unknown, and the United States is the only Western country that lacks a national provision for maternity leave. Or how the entire system of Education – College – Career and finally maybe a family is completely upside down for women’s reproductive lives. I seriously cannot believe we would have set things up this way.

But according to a Huffington Post article Layna quotes, the ranks of Feminists have dwindled 20% in the past 25 years. She believes this is because the public has “conflicting feelings” about a movement which she says has become about lockstep advancement of ideology instead of freedom of thought.

To support this she brings up Kerstjen Nielson, the Senator who was run out of a restaurant by angry patrons because she supported President Trump’s immigration policy. Which is a terrible policy. Layna argues that other women should have come to her defense and their silence demonstrates how Feminism only applies to those who toe the party line.

Ms. Nielson is in Congress because of Feminism, she got to espouse her arguably despicable opinion thanks to Feminism. To borrow from Voltaire, we will defend your right to your opinion, but we completely disagree.

Water Cooler1

There has to be a better way to do this!

And besides, we don’t want extra credit just for being women, do we? Ms. Nielson is a person with an awful opinion.

All of this is to say that Feminism has a political agenda and those who don’t fit are excluded. She approaches it from a funny angle but I think I understand why she feels that way. I have noticed the same thing, there has been a lot of redefinition in Leftist politics recently and I am not on board with all of it. Personally I think Feminism has been pushed to be so inclusive – Of trans people, of men, and we better watch we are intersectional every second! – that it has been robbed of any potency to serve the people it was originally supposed to inspire. Many young women don’t seem to connect with what they are seeing.

And who can blame them? The movement supposedly about women’s humanity is spending time affirming just about everybody but us? Layna falls short of bringing home why it is that Feminism has fallen prey to groupthink — Power, of course. As with anything, it eventually found a niche in the status quo. Feminism is enjoying patting herself on the back for divorce and bank accounts. She has gotten pretty good at playing the boys’ game with them.

Layna touches on this by saying that she feels the basic differences between men and women have lost meaning “in the last couple decades.” Rather than the Great Leftist Redefining, I think she is referring to the irony of Feminism’s tendency to downplay aspects that make a person uniquely female. We may have gotten good at playing with the boys, but it’s still their game. Imitating them has long been an effective method for getting things done.

She says Feminism disappoints her because it doesn’t pay attention to “one of women’s biggest advantages over men,” childbirth. This hit me hard after my recent adventure with Freud. If Womb Envy is the common motivator that makes most men silently complicit in (or blissfully blind to) female oppression, it makes sense to combat it by going to the source.

She who controls the children controls the future!No Man Exists

Layna argues, “Should women ignore many of their strengths just to play on a man’s court?” And of course I want to shout NO! This is exactly what I have been trying to get at – If we succeed in *Smashing The Patriarchy*  then what do we replace it with? How do we move the game to a more even playing field?

And I’m gonna say it again, slaying the men and keeping a few as breedstock is not a practical solution. I understand we’re angry but I can’t believe this has been the only solution raised. Seriously, anyone who can find me another I will send you a personal thank-you letter.

Obviously parenthood isn’t for everyone. But if you find yourself in the position of being a straight girl with RadFem leanings, please don’t let the lack of coverage in this area deter you. It’s not quite the windswept plain it appears. For one thing, RadFemMothering exists on Reddit. Admittedly it’s pretty quiet there, I truly wonder if this is a new angle on the question before us.

I also recently read that until a child is born, the labor share of most couples is about even. But once the first child comes along, suddenly the woman finds herself doing over 70% of the home labor and it never evens back out. I think we are doing ourselves a multi-dimensional disservice in not focusing on childbearing as a key component in our strategy.

Liberal Feminists want to keep changing the rules on the men’s court to help even out the game. Radical Feminists want to move to a more equal arena. We want to help build it. One tier of this has to be the foundational social structure that is the maternal relationship.

For so long De Beauvoir has set the tone, with her screeds of disgust at lust and orgasm and childbirth. Intellectual asceticism is all well and good but it’s limited by its very nature. Many women are mothers, and if anybody is having a baby it’s going to be a woman. Maybe it’s time to take back the womb. Raise children with a strong foundation in Feminism and equality. Make the world that much better by ensuring at least a few decent people live in it.

Fun Fact: Masculinities Studies Is A Thing

Clock

It’s about time!

“We have a mass shooter in the U.S. every few weeks. And every time it happens, we talk about guns. We talk about mental health. But we don’t talk about how all of these mass shooters are male.”

I know what you’re thinking – Isn’t all of History basically a study in masculinity? But this is an interesting little tidbit I stumbled across the other day. Stony Brook University professor Michael Kimmel is taking a long, hard look at masculinity. A reassessment is overdue and men could do with some introspection.

Kimmel’s work is a response to the discipline of Women’s Studies which has existed on college campuses since the 1970s. You might expect a man who has written several books on machismo to be motivated by some kind of grudge, but he was inspired by how women have taken control of our narrative.

A man in control of himself? Yes, please!

He doesn’t focus on the history of men’s achievements – we’re all well aware of those – Professor Kimmel digs into what it means to be a man. He has his students consider the conflicting information boys receive and how it shapes the adults they become. Professor Kimmel asks them to think critically about their ideas of manliness, which is exciting because of how absurdly revolutionary it is. 

This guy is really working to get the word out, too. He is the founder and director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities. He is launching his first Masters-level program and hosting the first International Conference on Masculinities. As an indication of the inclination of this organization, Gloria Steinem was a speaker at the opening gala. At 67, Dr. Kimmel has studied his subject across the world but lives with his wife and son in Brooklyn.

Specifically, the Stony Brook classes introduce students to things like men’s penchant for risk and the influence of pop culture. Kimmel is building on a cross-disciplinary platform, hoping to open up discussion and broaden the definitions of manhood.

Speaking for myself, I think it’s downright cool. It’s encouraging to know that some men are interested in evaluating what they are doing. Women’s Studies has succeeded in raising the profile of women’s history and perspective. I hope ideas like this percolate right through the layers into the groundwater.