On Being a Mama

April 9, 2009

I promise this is not going to become a Motherhood Blog where I reflect all the time on my ever-so-unique situation of motherhood and the wonder of my Amazing Child. Heaven knows there are plenty of those blogs out there and don’t we all just love to read them? Actually there are some great and interesting ones out there, including some UU blogs that deal with motherhood/parenthood which I love. But I do get a kick out of some of the blogs I see that are not just for friends or family, but apparently for the world to see the Wonder of Child X and deal, in great detail, with the daily minutiae of parenthood. Fitting for children of babyboomers who often forget that the world does not revolve around them and their WonderBabies.

But. Still I wanted to briefly point out two cool blogs on motherhood:

Raising My Boy Chick – written by a feminist, queer-identified, male-partnered mama raising a boy. Sounds familiar to me.

And Mothers for Women’s Lib which is a blog out of the UK that I just saw this morning with this post On Raising Male Children. Exciting, I think. And then I read, “I’ve read a lot in the radical feminist blogosphere about how radical feminist women ought to refuse to care for male children.” Are. You. Kidding. Me? What a great way to give feminism a good and reasonable name. I mean, where are these bloggers that refuse to raise male children and what, might I ask, do they DO with them? As a feminist mama four weeks into raising a precious little boy, and as a feminist scholar (in-progress), this seems like both a bad idea in practical and moral terms (that is, giving away your child), but also pretty unhelpful in terms of feminism. How are we to reshape our world if we only raise feminist daughters? The blog Mothers for Women’s Lib makes a very similar point, btw.

This raises an important question as to how we might raise feminist sons. Or, if you are not happy with the f-word, I mean sons that are responsible, loving, kind, into equality, justice, race/gender/class awareness and analysis, and that sort of thing. It is hard to undo how our world makes far too many men. I hope we can do better in raising our little one. I, of course, welcome comments about how you do this. So much learning to do. Such high stakes.

But for now, he is asleep on my chest in his little carrier, precious, lovely, perfect, and innocent. A pretty special time. Even if I am delirious with sleep depravation and my poor cats are traumatized by having their position as my babies usurped.

Time to nurse.



Intimate Partner Violence Doesn’t Just “Happen”

February 11, 2009

Unfortunately for famous people, what happens in their lives becomes the topic of public attention and scrutiny. I have mixed feelings about this. Feministing touches on it. I won’t try to deal with it here. But, I thought it important to point out this terrible quote from the friend of the (apparently) famous man (Chris Brown) who recently assaulted his girlfriend, a famous singer.

“Chris is all right. He’s a good kid. He feels very bad that something like this has happened.”

I’m sorry, but “something like this” doesn’t “happen”. When you say “something like this has happened” typically you would be referring to an accident, or something that just sort of “happens.” Like in a passive or unintentional sense. For instance, a tree falls on your neighbor’s fence. Or you accidentally trip someone or you meant to throw the ball across the yard and you instead throw it through a window. When you send your girlfriend to the hospital after beating her, it does not fall into the category of being able to say “he feels very bad that something like this has happened.”

I wish, but will not hold my breath, that everyone involved with this would be able to make this a teachable moment for all the people watching and looking up to famous people. The above quote, of course, does not bode well for how this is likely to play out in the media.


The Rick Warren Bru-ha-ha

December 20, 2008

I am of two minds on the Rick Warren matter.

My first reaction is to say, “Look, I don’t like the guy either. I don’t agree with his theology. I don’t agree with his politics. But it isn’t like he was chosen to be the minister-in-chief or something. He is giving an invocation. I know it has a lot of symbolic meaning, but it doesn’t have any practical consequences in and of itself. It is a gesture of the president elect to say, ‘I am not a president only to progressives or to liberals, but a president to the whole country.’ And, there are big parts of the country that can identify with Rev. Rick Warren. And, as conservative evangelical pastors go, he is one of the less offensive ones who has at least made some overtures toward changing the tone of the rhetoric. My hope is that it is a gesture that will soften the hearts of those who would tend to be more opposed to Obama and his policies. It will not solve many problems, but it is a gesture of unity, which people are always talking about. You know, one country, working out our differences and that sort of thing. By saying all of this, I don’t mean to say that I don’t understand why people don’t like it. Heck, I don’t like it either. But I see it as a strategic move that may help in the long run with things that matter more than who gives the invocation at the inauguration.” (It is of course another matter whether there should be invocations and benedictions at inaugurations anyway.)

That said, it occurred to me how often discrimination against women or the GLBTQ community can often be chalked up to theology, while few people will stand for discrimination against ethnic minorities chalked up to theology. I try to imagine if someone gave the invocation that said that they still supported slavery based on theology. Or that women should obey thier husbands based on theology (heck, Warren may agree with the second of those statements). What would it mean to have someone give the invocation as a gesture of unity and goodwill who was known to support legalized discrimination against women – that they should get paid less, that rape should be less of a crime, that they should not have inheritance rights? Hmm. No matter how symbolic or strategic that would be, I would be feeling really unhappy about this. So then I started rethinking what I said above.

And now I just don’t know. The thing is, so many of these difficult issues are totally intrackable. “We” dig in our heals. “They” dig in their heels. We write on our blogs about why we are right. We affirm each other at our churches about why we are right. We are smug. We know whose side God is on. And where does this get us? What is the way forward toward better understanding each other, finding common ground to work on together, even, dare I say it, finding areas where compromise makes sense. I am not talking about any particular issue, but rather all of these very intense social and political issues that are so close to our hearts – all of our hearts – and where it seems so difficult to move forward.

I’m guessing having Rick Warren give the invocation at the inauguration isn’t the answer. But I wish we could come up with a better one that just insisting on how right and just we are and getting offended and indignant. Not that I am somehow immune to this. I do it to. But there must be a better way…

On the question: Can you be a person of faith and a feminist?

December 16, 2008

Wow. There is a post over at www.feministing.com, a third-wave feminist blog which I tend to really like (although the style is not always exactly my style), titled Can you love God and feminism? I was a little shocked by the title, but thought that perhaps it was simply meant to be provocative.

Um, I think it was actually serious. And even if it wasn’t meant to be serious, many readers are taking it that way. The post is about a very conservative brand of Christianity that is very sexist, and then somehow asks, from that, if feminism and loving God are somehow incommensurable. I think the author of the post does not really think this, but also has not thought out (well-enough) the implications of her framing. It leaves open the door for the worst framings of Christians and feminists… Christians who must somehow be incapable of valuing equality and the full humanity of all people, or feminists who are somehow incapable of connecting with or unwilling or uninterested in the divine. I feel like to ask, “Can you love God and love feminism?” is like asking, “Can you love men and be a feminist?” Or “Are all feminists feminazis?” It is just a bad way to frame the question that doesn’t do justice to the complexity of the issues or people involved.

As someone whose job and studies as a doctoral student and, you know, like my entire life calling, is, in many ways, at the intersection of feminism and faith, reading many of the comments was like a huge punch in the stomach. I suppose it is good. A good reality check. A good time to reach out to people. A good encouragement to post more about this on my own blog.

I encourage those of you who are are feminists of faith to include your voices in the comments over at the post on feministing. You have to register once in order to comment, but it only takes a second. There are so many posters on there who have clearly been convinced by more conservative parts of religion, particularly Christianity, that the patriarchal versions of Christianity are somehow all there is of it. There are likewise rather naive framings of Paul and Jesus and the bible as all totally feminist friendly. Oh, is there outreach work to be done. What surprises me so much is so many self-identified feminist posters who are so dismissive of the experiences of people who are feminists and people of faith. Like just totally excluding them as valid, dismissing them as “duped” or tricked or just wrong. How very unfeminist.

One question that someone posted that perhaps readers here could help with is: Does anyone have suggestions on where to get your feminist Christian fix? I’ve been trying to find some sort of blog or magazine or anything, and I know there’s a lot of academic work out there, but is there anything a bit more…I don’t know, enjoyable to consume?

Sadly (I need to remedy this) I am much more familiar with the academic work, and not more popular stuff. Anyone have any ideas?

Some Big Questions

November 20, 2008

Greetings blog readers. I have blog posts floating around in my head, but neither the time nor energy to articulate them. Blogging for me seems to have ups and downs. Such is life.

Plus, I get the distinct feeling that I write about the same themes and questions over and over again. Like they say, preachers all have one or two great sermons and they just give them in a bunch of different ways. Such is the case with many of my blog posts. I guess this post is no exception…

Courtney over at feministing.com posted this today:

1. What is the accurate, once-and-for-all differences between men’s and women’s brains?
2. How can a woman who’s super invested in mothering also protect her own creative/intellectual/professional life?
3. What truly works when it comes to rape and violence prevention?
4. When do I focus on being right and when do I focus on being effective?
5. When do I address sexism directly and when it is best to handle it indirectly?
6. How can society still be so invested in the categories hetero, homo, and bi when sexuality so obviously exists on a spectrum?
7. Why do so many feminists resist being critical about the institution of marriage?
8. How can we have no holds bar honest conversations about race and class disparities within feminist circles?
9. How important is it that women embrace the feminist label?
10. How ethical is it that feminist writers like Judith Butler and even bell hooks are hard for my women’s studies 101 students to understand?

I thought it was good. I feel like I have some similar questions that I come back to over and over.

1. How do I balance between living an enjoyable life that involves some unnecessary but enjoyable comforts (vacation, new clothes, eating cheese) with living a simple, ethical life that I often feel called to that better takes into account sustainability, justice, equality, and fairness?

2. I like Courtney’s question about, “When do I focus on being right and when do I focus on being effective?” When do I temper my rhetoric/position in order to work toward incremental change, and when do I speak completely honestly, speaking what I believe to be right, even if it is so radical that people will dismiss me? This also plays into her question about handling sexism (or other injustice) directly or indirectly. I guess it often comes down to discerning a strategy to move toward what we want to see in the world. What are the most effective strategies for change? I know this obviously varies.

3. Is it wrong to look at celebrity gossip websites that I find in many ways deplorable, but also intriguing and interesting? I don’t click on the ads, but I know my browsing of the site must impact the overall click count which makes the site be able to charge more for advertising….

4. How nice and kind should I be to people? When am I just enabling weird, needy people?

5. Why can I never water an aloe plant the right amount? They either drown or thirst to death.

6. How do I balance between success and hard work, and just enjoying life even if it slows down my professional progress? How can I tell I am being successful toward some end and when I am just achieving things because I want to be special/approved/unique?

7. How does one communicate the direness of a situation without making people feel hopeless?

8. How do we balance between being hopeful and positive and being realistic and practical? Or rather, when does hopefulness become naive and just to make us feel better, not anything actually helpful?

I have more, but those are some. I don’t expect you to actually answer these. These are life-long struggles for me. I found it hilarious that some people took Courtney’s questions and then went through them one by one and answered in the comments like “There you go.” As if they could be answered easily and clearly.

What are your enduring questions?

I think maybe you just weren’t paying good enough attention

August 31, 2008

Ms. Hannah Seligson recently wrote an article in the Times titled Girl Power at School, but Not at the Office where she notes that she grew up in “what many have called a post-feminist culture” and that she didn’t really experience institutional gender bias.

I’m sorry, but you must be fucking kidding me. Is she serious? Or does she just mean that she didn’t really pay enough attention? Or didn’t care? Or did she live on a “men and women and girls and boys are treated equally” Utopian city in the U.S. that we have not yet heard of where boys and girls are treated equally, women and girls are not raped and abused and there is no threat of such abuse, where girls don’t fret about their bodies and are not anorexic, where there are not sexist ads or commercials and people who treat women like objects instead of people, where women can be Catholic priests and are treated equally as ministers of all faiths, where the women are paid penny for penny the same as the men, where little girls are encouraged the same way in school as little boys (there must have been a pee-wee football league for girls as well as boys) and where there are not regular sexist jokes made? I would love to visit this town.

But OMG, once she graduated college (her college was apparently as equally as non-sexist as where she grew up) and got a job, this is what she found when she interviewed other “girls” like herself who had a hard time adjusting to work:

Every workplace is different, but certain patterns began to emerge. I experienced and heard of instances when some women, instead of helping a new female colleague, tried to undermine her. Rather than giving “the new girl” the tools to succeed, they might try to sabotage her advancement.

I saw some men, raised in a different era [my note: of course not men her age, right? Because they are, like, all into equality] , who refused to take young women seriously, focused on their appearance and gave them the least desirable assignments. Even in this day and age, I saw women becoming “assistant-ized”— saddled with all the coffee runs and photocopying. [Gasp!!!]

Can you believe it? She managed to grow up in a non-sexist town, and then go to a non-sexist school, and then found this where she worked?

Deep breath. I am sorry. Okay, clearly this was written by a well-meaning young woman, and I don’t mean to take this out on her. But this is one of the huge problems with so-called post-feminism (which I think is absolute BS) – apparently, in at least some forms, it blinds you to inequality and sexism when you see it and/or then hits you over the head with it when you think everything is just equal and just and fair and great and then – whoa! all of a sudden you aren’t being treated equally and then you go and write naive articles and books like this one.

Throughout the WHOLE article she refers to graduated-from-college working women, including herself, as girls. With apparently no sense of how that might shape perceptions of herself, other women her age, or, you know, the perceptions her collegues have of her.

How depressing. And how shady of the New York Times to publish such a fluffy, uninformed, naive article. I feel bad for Ms. Seligson and other young women like her who are so shocked by sexism. Yet, without some sort of analysis of the structures that produce sexism – and an acknowledgment that it has been there all along and it is not just men “from a different era” that are part of and produce the sexism edifice – I am afraid that all the books in the world about how to deal with workplace sexism are not going to solve the problem – for them, or for future generations of girls and women.

I hope I can be a small part of a feminist movement for the 21st century that doesn’t let girls and young women be duped into thinking that they live in a time of post-feminism and where there is no institutional gender bias. Because it is there (a great place to find heartbreaking example after example is www.feministing.com) and it is shaping lives – of men and women, girls and boys. We must name it. And work against it. I wish we would have done a better job of reaching young women like the author of this article. I hope we can do a better job of reaching others.

The Sexual Politics of Meat and PETA

June 8, 2008

Carol Adams wrote a good book in 1990 called The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. While not without its faults (what book is perfect?), I appreciated the way she made connections between oppressions and subjugations, highlighting what is one my key mantras – oppressions and subjugations are related and you can’t just address one without attention to the others (and certainly not at the active exclusion of others). If you could see the small picture on the cover, you would see that it is a woman divided up into “cuts” – and the question written is “What’s your cut?”

A quick summary – women’s bodies are objectified. The bodies of animals who are eaten are objectified – their pain, suffering, life becomes irrelevent to us because they are objects for our consumption, not beings.

But the whole point of this post is an ABHORRENT image that I stumbled-upon this morning from PETA (see below). I know, I know. PETA doing something that angers someone? Upsets them? Being provocative? Even questionable? Not a surprise. But I found it so upsetting that I will be canceling our $10 a month donation to PETA and finding an organization that does work to lessen the suffering of non-humans animals that doesn’t also promote sexism and objectification of women. It isn’t like I didn’t know that they ran sexist ads before, but somehow this was so upsetting to me that it was the last straw.

Because women and cows are alike, right? And you wouldn’t eat a woman so you shouldn’t eat a cow?

Polyamory on Susie Bright’s Blog

January 2, 2008

Susie Bright is known as a sex-positive feminist. I like a lot of the stuff she says and does. Not all of it, mind you, but a lot.

I know polyamory/non-monogamy/having more than one partner (there are varying opinions as to if these are different things and to what extent) is a point of contention in some Unitarian Universalist circles, and I don’t want to reignite some sort of dramatic blogosphere discussion (as happened in July). But I did want to point out a recent posting on Susie Bright’s (possibly not work safe*) blog, “Peppermint, On The Strange Credibility of Polyamory,”* which LINKS TO THIS BLOG. Susie Bright is sort of famous. And her blog links to a posting on polyamory right here on this very blog. This is almost as exciting as being mentioned in UU World!

So, if this is a topic that interests you, I suggest you read the post. And just look around her blog. Remember, I don’t agree with everything she says (please don’t post comments pointing out what you believe to be the problematic things she says and does) and you don’t have to either. But she does say a lot of important, good stuff that we need to hear in a world where sex-negative, embarrassed, sad, and shameful feelings are way too common when it comes to sexuality and our bodies.

Afterthought: While Rev. Debra Haffner (sexologist, minister, and the Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing) and Susie Bright have quite different approaches to promoting healthy attitudes about sexuality, and likely many points of disagreement, I thought that I would point out Rev. Debra Haffner’s blog Sexuality and Religion: What’s the Connection? because Rev. Haffner also strikes me as a very sex-positive person that we are lucky to have as part of Unitarian Universalism. Take a look. Her blog is excellent.

*It really depends on how sensitive your work is about what is “work safe”. Breasts are on the page. But as Susie Bright herself points out in the comments, it isn’t anything more than you would see in Vanity Fair or Vogue.

*Correction: In my excitement about being linked to on Susie Bright’s blog, I failed to read carefully and originally thought Susie Bright wrote the post On the Strange Credibility of Polyamory, but it is in fact a reposting from another blog by another author, PepperMint. Still, it is on her blog and still worth the read.

What’s up with down there? Tyra Banks talks about vaginas.

November 2, 2007

So Tyra Banks has her own talk show, which I didn’t really know, and apparently there is going to be a whole show on vaginas (or, as they say in the advertisement “down there”). As some of you may remember, Harvard Divinity School put on The Vagina Monologues a few years ago, which is where my passion for talking about and feeling comfortable with the idea and the word and the actual vagina was nurtured. (Side note: I am shocked that I didn’t post about it on my blog, but apparently, I didn’t. Luckily Philocrites did and you can read about it here (and on the HDS website). Our slogan was “God Loves Vaginas” which I still think is brilliant. We even had t-shirts made. Very fun. But I digress.) Anyway, my point is that I was excited to hear that a mainstream TV show was going to talk about vaginas. I first read about it here at People magazine where they use the word vagina in the article.

But, in preparing this posting, I went to the Tyra Banks show website here and watched a clip that made me wonder if this was something to be excited about. The clip from the show seems so dramatic and exactly the opposite of what I would want. Based on this little clip, it seems more like “Ohmygod we’re totally going to talk about down there. Dum da dum dum dum,” rather than “Let’s talk about sexuality and sexual health and our bodies” in a way that acknowledges that this is a difficult issue, has baggage, but also celebrates and tries to demystify our vagina and our sexuality. Clearly you can see why I am not a talk show host. Not exciting. Not dramatic.

Is it better to talk about “it” some even in a weird talk-show sort of way, or not at all? I guess I would fall on the side of better to talk about it some, even in a talk-show sort of way. Although I would have to see the whole show to really say. If any one watches it, let us know. Maybe it is a step in the right direction. I wonder if you can actually say vagina on network TV? They certainly made sure not to say it in the clip on the website.

The Queen of the Scottish Fairies; NYTimes story about a little boy that loved his skirt

September 5, 2007

http://modan.blogs.nytimes.com/** This so reminds me of something that we would read in Women’s Studies 101. In a way, I love it. I wish that things ended so lovely. Maybe in Cambridge, MA they do. I’m with the mom on this, mostly, except stories like this do leave out important things. We read this story X: Fabulous Child’s Story and I always thought it was a little too idealistic. Great if your kid is all about just being his or herself and ignores gender norms. But these sorts of stories leave out the part where a child in his/her preschool class calls him a fag, and then the next door neighbors call your husband a pansy, and then the kid eventually gets beat up in second grade, the principal calls you, the teacher calls child protective services, and then the child is in therapy and hates you because you let him wear a tutu when he was 4. Not that all this should happen and maybe it won’t if you live in a super-progressive town, but in Ohio or Kentucky, mostly, I’m pretty sure my version of what could happen is a best-case-scenario.

Anyway, I still loved the story and long for a world where there are happy endings to boys that want to wear skirts.

**I realized that this is a New York Times select article. Darn it! Okay, so I’ll explain. It is a little cartoon/book/story on Ruth Modan’s blog about a little boy that loves to wear his tutu. The dad doesn’t think this is a great idea. The mom is like, “Hey, just let him be.” So the boy wears the tutu and is happy. Finally, they are going to a costume party and the dad can’t take it anymore, and then the daughter says “Let him wear my plaid skirt” and so then it is more like a Scottish tartan and the dad thinks it is more acceptable, and then at the end the little boy announces that he is the queen of the scottish fairies, which of course, was not quite what the dad was looking for. Its cuter when you read it than when I describe it.