Saturday, April 12, 2008

This is what a feminist boyfriend looks like...

I'm doing a little dinner party tonight so between trying to hide the filth under cushions and making yucatan style picked onions, I haven't got much time to write.

But this post at Pandagon was just too good not to comment on.

I like boys who will argue legitimate (stress the legitimate part) points with me. I like them a lot actually. But this can present problems. I had one ex boyfriend (okay- cause I know you're going to wonder- the bastard Russian) who could have long intricate discussions about tons of shit.I loved it. We could talk books or music or politics or art or history without my having to play down my brain. But, when ever it became obvious that I had just made mincemeat out of his long held ideas he liked to throw out complicated math questions at me. See, I'm not a math major. I'm not bad at math, but I've never needed to learn much more than the basics and math is an integral part of his career. It made him feel better to make me feel stupid. When I figured out that was what he was doing, I stopped taking the bait.

But he also had the most annoying habit when in the middle of a passionate argument. Have you ever seen those old movies where when a woman becomes to emotional or hysterical, the strong rational guy gives the girl a smack across the face to bring her to her senses? Well he didn't smack me (cause I would have hit him right back) but he would grab me and kiss me to get me to shut up.

After spending a few weeks together on a trip (in small, confined hotel rooms) I called him on his behavior. I told him it was incredibly sexist to try and shut a girl up in the middle of an argument cause you think she is too passionate in her views. He stuttered, and stammered and finally asked what he should do instead. I told him he needed to grow a pair , suck it up, and deal with it. Expressing oneself passionately is not cause for alarm.

So I guess that my ideal feminist boyfriend isn't afraid of a passionate girl, and likes housecleaning as much as I like cooking.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Oh and I have such a giant blog crush

on Anglachel.

Seriously brilliant thinking, especially the way she compares the current election to domestic violence.

But this particular post made me all squirmy in my seat (in a good way). She says the same thing that I said and that Black Agenda Report said, but so fucking eloquently (okay BAR is pretty eloquent too and all these people use way less cuss words than I do)

It may not be PC to say this, but there is a very rational basis for working class white racism that has nothing to do with believing minorities are lesser beings and everything to do with keeping that structural advantage in place. That's why the cynical claims of the Obama campaign about Archie Bunkers - when the target is actually the guilty upper middle class - doesn't ring true. Obama himself is no threat. He codes "white". The threat he offers is not raising up minorities but turning his back on all the working class and failing to enact policies and programs that will help those who are struggling.
Go read her blog and learn something.

Philosophy Friday

So I am in a mood. One of those moods where I need something big and chewy for my brain to work over for a bit. And when I'm in the big chewy brain moods, I tend to lose the snarky.

So instead I thought I would write about one of my favorite political theories- Gramsci's theory of cultural hegemony or Gramscian Hegemony.

Gramsci was an Italian socialist (I have a thing for Italian socialists, I also love Pasolini films). He had some awesome ideas about how everyone is an intellectual in that we all use intellect and reason to survive, but not all of us work as intellectuals. For a brilliant man, he was way more of the people than your average high minded intellectual revolutionary.

But back to cultural hegemony, which is the idea that the working class will adopt beliefs that benefit the upper class as "common sense". We see this all the time here in the way that poor white southerners will vote against their own best interest by voting for the Republican party. We see it in the way that people bitch over paying taxes and refuse to acknowledge the good that taxes actually provide. We see it in the way people who wait months for a check up with their primary care doc in an HMO freak out that universal health care will mean long waits for doctors appointments. We see it in the way that people complain about funding schools in their neighborhoods when they don't have school aged children (even though better schools directly effect their property value whether they have children or not).

And with this new election, we will see it in the supporters of McCain. We all ready know what a McCain economy will look like. We will see hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homeowners blamed for their misfortunes (when failures that large are ones of the system and not the individual) and the homeowners will believe that it was their own fault they they lost their homes. We will see medical costs skyrocket to the point where health care is 20 percent of GDP, while the number of people who actually have insurance continues to decline. Layoffs will be standard while unemployment will run out (but we don't count people who have been unemployed so long that they've used all their benefits up as unemployed. Officially they are no longer looking for work). The rich will become much richer and the poor will join the military because the only job they can get is as fodder for the 100 year Iraq war. Gas and food and heating costs will continue to skyrocket and oil companies will drill in Alaska and North Dakota and anywhere else they want because we will be so desperate for some kind of relief form high prices. And we will think all these things make sense. And the things that create cognitive dissonance we will dismiss because it doesn't fit with the "common sense" narrative.

So when you hear things that are supposed to be common sense you need to ask yourself who benefits from this bit of common sense. And it doesn't just apply to economics. Common sense says that women shouldn't walk alone at night or they will get raped (less than 30 percent of all rapes are committed by strangers, btw). The only people that benefit by this logic are rapists, because they have an excuse for raping women who don't use common sense. How about- it's common sense that women are more nurturing than men. Who benefits from that? Men mostly, it means they don't have to do as much care work as women because common sense says that women are better at it.

Common sense is rarely common or sensible.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Okay brainiacs!

A friend mentioned a radical French philosopher who wrote between the first and second world wars that without the nuclear family ideal of stay at home wives, the military industrial complex could not survive. You need to keep the women out of the work force as a kind of back-up force for when you send all the men off to die.

Which makes sense. Think of Rosie the Riveter. Think of who it is that most wants the nuclear ideal to be an iron clad law of how families should be constructed. These are the same people who think we should be in Iraq for 100 years.

But I have no freakin idea what the name of the philosopher was and googling is not helping. Anyone wanna help a girl out?

UPDATE: So it's actually a novel called La Garconne by Victor Margueritte, and so far I have not been able to find an English translation. BAHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Massive Migraine

took advil, took migraine meds, took valium. Still can't see straight. The light is too bright and movement makes me want to puke.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Riddle me this peeps

How come it's okay to ask Chelsea Clinton about Monica Lewinsky, but no one asks Meghan McCain about her home wrecker mother or philandering father?

Anyone? Anyone?

(Not that I actually care, but if questions about parents sexual misdeeds can be fairly asked of children then why does everyone get a pass but Hillary's daughter?)

In the history of this country

there has never been a presidential candidate so willing to walk through fire for us. Everyday she does it, I don't know how. Everyday she takes the full serving of the hate and misogyny that we get doled out to us in teaspoon portions (just enough to let us know we well never be good enough without a penis). Neither Obama or McCain has the same kind of toughness or courage that she has (and i type that in full knowledge of McCain being a former POW).

Dayumn! I knew I always liked her

Paulina Porizkova is awesome, and not just because she had the good sense to be all smoochy over Rick Ocasek, lead singer of the cars and not exactly Brad Pitt.

I think it's so sad when women say, 'Oh, I've been spending my last few years being a mom.' It's like, you were someone before you had children, and you aer sure as hell going to need to be someone afterward. Being a mother is something I do daily, like showering or eating. It's not my career.
Besides, her face- it moves! She's not all botoxed up and unable to emote.

Once again pissing off the mommies

cause even though I'm one of them, I don't think it's the be all end all of human sacrifice and I really think that once we stop sentimentalizing women's work and start looking at it from a rational place- there can be no support for the idea of the traditional stay at home wife.

So how to look at it without getting all misty eyed over our own precious little nose pickers.

1) That children grow up to be productive contributors to society is a vital function without which society would literally cease to exist.

2) When looked at without sentimentality, there is no benefit to parents in having children except for the continuance of their genetic line. Children to parents are a massive financial and time strain with NO material benefit to the parents. Especially in this society where grown children do not stay in their parents house to combine resources for the most part. And especially to mothers who are biologically take all the physical risk of having children and traditionally take most of the time burden of raising children. And in our modern society, mothers take not just the physical risk and the time burden, but most of the financial burden as well, either because they are single mothers who are the sole source of income, or because they will take a hit financially either by staying home with their kids to raise them or by missed work opportunities during post-partum periods.

3) When women choose to stay home with their children for no pay, it devalues the work of women (and men) who do caring work for pay. By having an ideal of the self sacrificing woman who gives up financial independence to care for children or family we continue the idea that anyone with a uterus can take care of children. No education or skills are required. It is not skilled labor, nor is it valuable because there is a HUGE group of people so willing to do it for free. So the people that do caring jobs for pay are seen as unskilled labor and are paid as such. I see no difference between wiping bottoms and being a garbage collector (actually I do- wiping bottoms is much more vital to society's future) but garbage collectors are paid considerably better. All that is required of them is a driver's license and enough physical strength to throw a bag around.

4) Women who choose to stay home and justify it as "for the good of the children" might want to check their own skills. Do you have a degree in early childhood education? Have you at least passed an infant CPR class? If you do have the early childhood education degree, you will probably supplement your income by caring for children other than your own. Which makes you no longer an unpaid or unskilled laborer. But most mothers do not have a background in skilled childcare. We learn what we can in stolen moments either from our own mothers or from books and the internet, television, etc. But much like my sitting here and using this computer may make me a skilled user but never a computer programmer, for the most part raising children without an additional education will never make you a childcare expert. It would be infinitely better to have society pick up a larger share of the cost of childrearing in order to have better skilled and educated people doing the daily work of creating productive children. Hell, even parenting classes and paid parental leave would at least look like we actually care about the quality of people raising children, and it would make childcare no longer an unpaid sacrifice for unskilled workers. And make no mistake, as mothers we are a massive unpaid labor force.

We mothers like to maintain this mystique about our child rearing abilities. It is a backwards sort of power, like the idea that beautiful women have power over men in our society. The truth is that most of us are capable of producing children and in our society with minimal effort those children will grow up to be adults. We- for the most part (there are exceptions for the poor) do not have to worry about famine or daily violence or most diseases taking our children before they can become adults. But still we refuse to release the false power ideal, the one thing we can do that men can't, because it we have been programmed for centuries to believe that it is our job to sacrifice ourselves to do a job that only we can do.

Except that there are skilled people who can and should be paid better to do it, if only we'd give up our monopoly. I am not saying that children should be carted off to be raised in community creches with no parental involvement, because there is one thing that parents- both mothers and fathers- can provide without cost that children absolutely need- love. But if all children need to thrive was love, then poor children would be much more successful than they are. Children need love from parents and skilled carers to teach them. They need to live in homes with enough resources of food and clothing and shelter (and dual incomes form two working parents can provide that better than one), but also with access to teachers who understand how little brains develop. We need to stop thinking of our children as "ours" alone. They are way more important than that. And we, as women are more than just unskilled brood mares, yet we keep clinging to that status in order to hold onto a sentimental ideal. It is not good for children or mothers or even fathers. But so far it has been an extremely cheap way for society to get half the population to do a mountain of much needed work with no pay or benefits.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Imagine this

It's 15 years in the future and my darling son is 28. After much debt and financial struggle, I have managed to get him through both college and grad school so he can be a forensic anthropologist (which is what he wants to be). He's just started out in the work world when he comes to me and says:

"Mom, I have decided I am going to give up my career to do a job that most people get paid minimum wage for, but I am going to do it for free. I will have no money of my own, no unemployment insurance. I will be earning nothing towards a pension or social security. I will have no days off, paid or unpaid. I will be completely dependent on the good will and job skills of another person. During this time I will be gaining no experience relevant to my education and my skills regarding that education will become quickly out of date through lack of use and on the job learning. But I hope that you will support my decision"

Of course I would say "You've got to be fucking kidding me."

Yet, when women do this, we are supposed to give them support and understanding for making the choice to sacrifice their own improvement and independence.

Nope. Not buying it. No one gets a freaking pat on the head for deciding that a life of dependence is right for them. And no one gets a pat on the head for doing something for free and thereby devaluing the the efforts of those who need to get paid for it.

Not every choice a woman makes is a feminist choice. Not every choice a woman makes should be blindly supported.