Friday, April 23, 2004

I was listening to a discourse about feminism yesterday on NPR. A question that was asked of all the female panelists was "What is your definition of feminism?"

My definition of feminism is this:
There is no such thing as girl stuff or boy stuff. Different people like different things.

I am going to respond to yesterday's comments and add to yesterday's thoughts all together here, so fasten your seatbelt.

Libby--thanks! I hate the comparison of raising kids to the corporate world. One woman on yesterday's panel said she was opposed to mandating "women's" issues in the workplace, such as maternity leave and on-site childcare, explaining that those perks cost small businesses more money, so they would be less likely to hire women in the long run.

Wait...childcare is a "women's" issue? Let me just go ask my sperm donor about that one.

Amber--I think that way of thinking is more common among the "second wave" of feminism, where the idea that to be equal, a woman has to be as much like a man as she can. We can shoot Henry Higgins for that old chestnut. The flaw here is, if you've been reading Stitch 'n Bitch like good little knitters, is that being a woman, doing "woman's work," being womanly--these are not less valuable than masculinity, and women who believe this are the ones really betraying the sisterhood, not us. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" has always sounded fishy to me. Of course, I'm perhaps overburdened with conviction.
I think I may save "The Beauty Myth" for another day.

Younger feminists (the so-called third wave) appear to be much more open, as a group, to all different choices a woman can make. We've grown up with Roe vs. Wade and Title IX, and we know that equality isn't always being allowed to play with the boys. These hard-line politicas want us to not have children, essentially. Anne Roiphe's Fruitful remains the seminal book on this topic, in my opinion. She writes eloquently and heartbreakingly about the conflict between feminism and femininity, what it was like to be a part of this movement through the fifties and sixties and feel a strong pull towards mothering while recognizing the traps therein, to have other women look down at you because you chose to be a mother, to want to be independent and self-supporting but to still desire a partner, to appreciate both the feminine and masculine. One of the most poignant aspects of the book, to me, is that her own version of feminism, which allows all these things to co-exist, isn't enough to keep all of her girls safe and happy. We all think we are changing the world so drastically, and all our children see is how far is left to go.

Amy--precisely. Brava.

Thanks, Amanda! I would much rather be a mom than a child-care worker. I would prefer no pay (or getting paid in I-owe-my-life-to-you) than pay that is merely insulting. I see no benefits in being a surrogate parent to children for whom I have no technical responsibility. Plus, I get a lot more leverage out of being The Boss. (Oooh! I am soo telling Santa on you!)
I speculate that it's really children that get so little respect-after all, they don't contribute to the GNP at all-and that's why people who choose to care for them are denigrated. Non-market endeavors are simply not appreciated by a certain powerful segment of society.

You're welcome, Kristin! It's amazing the differences in our countries. America is supposed to be a "superpower" (don't get me started today) but childcare here is truly pathetic. We honestly pay more to the people who cut our lawns. One thing I love about our preschool is that the moms who are ostensibly "stay-at-home" are actually this very vibrant, well-educated group of small-business owners, professors, bartenders, grant writers, lawyers, massage therapists, students, artists, and musicians. Most of them have rearranged their professional lives to care for their kids, but there is absolutely no sense of sacrifice, no "Oh, I used to be so smart." I'm probably the least educated mom in my "class." I think the focus in America is so strongly on money, on moving ahead and getting rich, that motherhood makes a lot of women refocus their priorities. The ultimate worth of a job (worth doing) is not how much money you make--it's how worthwhile the job is to you. And I firmly believe there is no such thing as "just a housewife." Plus, telling tales of the godawful things my kids have done is much less boring conversation than hearing people talk about their computer jobs.(Yawn! Hit enter and be done with it.)

Em & La--I think the true test of a feminist is your approach to men. I admit most men drive me crazy, because my standards are high. I think 25 is old enough for boys to start behaving like men, and lots of them don't cut the mustard. But the whole program is screwy. We've broken down all these barriers for girls, but boys are still in their teeny little box. It's no wonder men have a hard time dealing with women when they've been taught since babyhood that being like a girl is bad, bad, bad. (Of course, Teddy will hate women all his life because I won't give him Isabel's Easter candy today.) Boys have to be taught that true masculinity is not just being the opposite of a girl. I know studies show that baby boys get less cuddle time from their parents than girls, but we are just as nurturing with Teddy as we are with the girls. We're probably more cuddly, since he's the baby. He'll grow up washing dishes and doing laundry, I'm sure he'll be a knitter, and I bet he'll get his share of makeovers. With a dad like Pman, he's sure to grow up not at all macho but eminently masculine. Until men are encouraged to be nurses, daycare workers, stay-at-home parents, teachers and other traditionally "female" occupations, things won't be truly equal.

Here are your discussion questions for tomorrow:

Why do feminist women still date (and marry) troglodyte men?
Why are people so uncomfortable around little boys who like "girl" stuff?

So, knitting. I am nearly DONE with the No-Sweat Pants. I think I'll love wearing them since they're so cushy, but I made the mistake of wearing them to SnB last night and I may have to wear them there when I'm done. I'm having a hard time getting myself to work on Deb because it's so cold! It's snowing as I type this, and cottony sweaters are just feeling a little premature right now. I'm nearly done with my deadline projects-I sent one off to Kerrie and she seemed to like it so look for me in a newsletter!

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I Ain't Takin' Shit Off No One, Baby, That Was Yesterday 

So I got my first issue of Bust in the mail a few days ago and I was all agitated yesterday after this boneheaded letter to the editor. And I quote:

"...You mention 'stay-at-home moms' in the same breath as 'strong and independent women,' but I cannot accept that a SAHM is 'independent.' When you are dependent on your husband to provide everything for you--your food, your shelter, the clothes on your back--you are not independent. I practiced divorce law for six years and most of the women I spoke to were SAHMs. They would come to me with no money and no job skills. They were completely dependent on that man and when he decided to trade them in for younger models, they were left without homes (or homes they couldn't afford) and with no money. That is the very description of dependence. I used to try to help these women, but inevitably, it came down to one thing--these women did not want to work."

This lovely feminist view was written by one Patricia L. Smith, Esq. of Ann Arbor, MI, in case you want to invite her to your tea party or send her hate mail.

I am having a really hard time picking a place to start on this one. I guess one of my biggest character flaws is that I am easily angered by morons.

1. On what planet is what I do on a daily basis not considered work? My husband admits I work much harder than he does. Plus, my job includes bodily fluids and really gross stuff, like the soup left on the stove that was making that reeeally funky smell in my house. Screw that--on what planet is being a divorce lawyer considered work but being a mom isn't? Honey, I'll put my job skills up against yours any day of the week. I can pull things out of the toilet without even blinking.

2. Obviously, this chickie is child-free. At least, I hope she is. Hmmm, why might a stay-at-home mom not want to go back to work just as she's divorcing her husband? Because her kiddos might completely spin out at a total upheaval of their entire universe? Naaah.

3. It really bothers me, in an unsurprising way, that this "professional" woman's definition of independence is purely financial. Ah, the old version of feminism where only women doing "male" jobs are liberated. Like being a mom means I've turned my back on the sisterhood. Please. I embody feminism and I'm raising three baby feminists. Just 'cause I'm not a divorce lawyer doesn't mean I'm stupid. Just because you are a divorce lawyer doesn't mean you're not stupid.

4. (Speaking of stupidity and marital law...I know I'm going to upset someone I didn't mean to. So a disclaimer: I have nothing against lawyers, not even divorce lawyers, in general. I've met attorneys not mentally competent enough to clip my toenails and I've met attorneys on the side of the angels. You choose which one to be.) In my own experience, divorce lawyers are not on the side of the American Family. Why would they be? Not only do they see the worst-case scenarios daily, but they don't cash in on suggesting counseling and preventing the divorce in the first place. No, the big bucks are in litigating and being ugly, drawing out the fight as long as there are assets on your side. If I had to do it again, I would find a female lawyer, with kids of her own, who would fight like a bulldog for my kids' right to continue their lives in as normal a way as possible. The first divorce lawyer I consulted advised me to grab Isabel and not let her dad see her until we had gone to court. I thought this was a bit extreme, seeing as how he really didn't do anything but fail to make me happy, and here we are, four years later, celebrating holidays together. How could this woman consider herself a competent attorney when she is so contemptuous of her clientele? I can just see that court transcript.

Mother: Your Honor, Jim always told me he believed I should stay home to care for our children. I need alimony to keep providing that arrangement for our eight kids. Besides, why should our children suffer because he ran off with his project manager?

Her Lawyer: Shut up. You don't deserve alimony. You're just lazy, and lazy women who depend on their husbands deserve poverty.

His Lawyer: Your Honor, we have no objections.

5. I personally believe that child-rearing is too important to be farmed out to $6.00-an-hour wage slaves. If I were a physician or had some great career with the power to help lots of people, or made enough money to hire Mary Poppins, or just plain old had to work so we could eat, I could adapt. But, I never made very much money and I have time to go back to college when Teddy's in school full-time. I think it would be selfish to put my kids in daycare so I could go back to work for the right to lunch breaks, closed bathroom doors and the medium level of self-esteem I would get from having someone pay me for my work. I'm so liberated I don't need a paying job to give me self-respect. I respect myself because I'm busting my ass doing the most important job I can be doing. When President Kerry drops by and asks me to be the Presidential Bossy Person in Charge of All Things Familial...well, I'll have them install a nursery next to my office. Hell, Jackie did it.

6. I dare you--I dare you--to call me dependent to my face.

7. What about husbands who promise to care for their families and then throw them over for pretty young things? That in itself would irritate me enough to take him for everything he's got. The world will never be balanced until feminist women only marry feminist men. I can't promise my Pman won't have his head turned by some dolly in twenty years, but I can promise he's scared enough of my mom not to leave me and marry a bimbo. He's even scared enough of me. And his mother would never speak to him again. Basically, no man is strong enough to combat all the women Pman would have to resist to break up my family. Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall for that marriage? She's so concerned about her financial independence, I would love to see them haggling over splitting the check every time they eat out. She's probably a blast at parties.

8. Being broke is not the worst thing in the world, babe. Plenty of interesting women lived through poverty. Some people call it "character-building," some people call it "prioritizing," some people call it having "surfaces." (If you don't get that, you need more champagne.) Tons of interesting, altruistic, educational, worthwhile jobs in the world pay beans, and there are lots of dull, talentless, awful people raking in the dough. "Standard of living" is not what life is about, kiddo, even though you apparently think it is. I'll take passion over money any time, and although it sucks to worry about money when the solution is so obvious, (just get more money!) it's a hell of a lot better than worrying about cancer or ricin gas. Neither great art nor great love is made by folks who are in it for the money. You obviously don't get it, Patricia. I pity you.

9. Who the hell do you think you are, Patricia? When the revolution comes, honey, you're going to be one of the first ones over the side. We don't need people like you--people who bring home the bacon but then won't share it with anyone. America is for people who contribute.

Friday, April 16, 2004

May barbarians invade your personal space!
Utinam barbari spatium proprium tuum invadant!
"May barbarians invade your personal
You are highly confrontational and possibly in a
bad mood. You would have sworn in this quiz,
if I had made it an option.

Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Words are insufficient to express how very, very much this pleases me. Did I mention I took Latin in high school? And that my two most faithful readers, Brea and Pman, were there with me?

Thursday, April 15, 2004

So, Isabel does not have chicken pox. Normally, I don't go around telling everyone about the illnesses we don't have, ("Yay! I don't have syphilis!") but we were convinced for a day or two that she did. Turned out to be a weird allergic reaction--we think. But it's gone now, and I'll take that to mean she isn't contagious, either. So it's back to the carpool and the daily grind for me. Imagine how much knitting time I could carve out between calamine applications, nursing three through the chicken pox. I could have knit them little cotton mitts to keep them from scratching...well, I have a few years to go before I'm a woman of leisure. I am nearly done with my two super-secret-spring projects, so soon I can go back to knitting for my public. Is this a good time to bring up the male counterpart to our last topic, the gushy kid-lovers? I am more fearful than loathing of men who romanticize motherhood. Sure, it sounds good, but I basically don't like being defined by my reproductive actions. Yes, I'm a mother, but that doesn't tell you anything about what kind of person or mother I am. I happen to be pretty good at both, I think, but just the state of being a mother is nothing to get all weepy about. I heard recently of a guy with a fairly new baby who was reluctant to be intimate with his wife after he saw the birth. Whoa--did Ward Cleaver just run past, or was it a fifties flashback? I appreciate a little respect (okay, a lot) but all this pedestal-hopping really wears a girl out. I worry that these men are going to be shattered by the realities of parenthood, spurting nipples, erupting babies, umbilical cords and all. It's not exactly the fuzzily-lit portrait of a mom in a lacy nightie rocking her rosy-cheeked, sweet-smelling babe. And where does that leave Mama? With one more kiddo than she bargained for, a baby boy unable to see straight without his rose-colored glasses. Give me a guy who can take it on the chin any day.

Next episode: parents who expect preschool teachers to teach an entire class of toddlers the alphabet by the end of the school year!

Monday, April 12, 2004

Well, I'm just full of things to say today, aren't I?

Wanna know what else I hate? People who say they love kids. This may be my prize pet peeve. I feel about these people the way some people feel about spiders, or onions, or Hitler.

First, these people never, ever have children.

Second, that is so condescending. So condescending, in fact, that these people don't even know they are being condescending, and therefore lacking the possible saving grace of sarcasm. If I walked around chattering, "I just luuuuv black people. They are soooo cute!" I would be staple-gunned to the nearest telephone pole, and rightly so. So, let's see...the common denominator all childen have is that they are...short? You love kids because they're short?

Third, have you met my children?

Four, I repeat, these people never have children. My friend Amy, a veteran parent and teacher, admits that she loves kids, but she is careful to qualify that with an age cap, freely admitting that large doses of upper elementary-schoolers would turn her into Rush Limbaugh.

Five, the assumption these people make (and are trying to sell to you) is that children love them. If my kids really didn't like you, they'd probably set fire to you. I'm exaggerating, but not much. But mostly they're just being polite. (They are rotten to me, 'cause I keep them from doing lots of fun stuff, like driving my car, painting their bedrooms with nail polish, and playing with the hedge trimmer. I'm no fun.) I'm serious. A child who tells you she hates you and is going to live with her daddy on a daily basis turns into Princess Di around other adults, ministering to the weak and helpless and displaying a knowledge of protocol that would make C3PO look like Granny Clampett. Or Paris Hilton.

Let's recap. If you go around telling parents you love kids, you need a muzzle and a reality check.

Doctor Unheimlich has diagnosed me with
Gwyn's Disease
Cause:the wrong type of snow
Symptoms:extreme sarcasm, hairy legs, blinking
Enter your name, for your own diagnosis:

I always do these when I find them, but rarely post them (frankly, my DJ name was just embarrassing.) But this is strangely, unquantifiably, right on. Thanks, Kristin.

So, where was I? A week of Pman being home and on call, followed by a week of Spring Break,and you'd better count your blessings that I'm not glassy-eyed and repeating "Buh-buh-buh" like Goldie Hawn in Overboard.

Usually our breaks are an excuse for unmitigated couch-slugging, but this week we actually did something! My kids, their best friends S. and V. and Isabel's Gram and I went to the Sand Dunes, and despite 8 hours in the car, 3 experiences with kids ralphing, and torrential rain from Pueblo to Denver, we had an absolute blast. Although the previous week was sunny and hot, it hovered around the fifties all they way there, and I feared we were headed for the Wally World experience. It turned out that a chilly,overcast spring break was the perfect day to visit, being much like a cool spring day at the beach, for you coastal folk. A hot, sunny day would have prevented us (and our 5 small ones) from doing much at all. As murky as it was, you really work up a sweat hiking the dunes, and we got to hurl ourselves bodily down 40-50 foot dunes, like rolling down a grassy hill but much much faster. If it had been sunny we would have burned off any exposed skin trying that little trick. It was amazing to hear shy, retiring S. scramble to the top of a dune and shout "I can do anything!" into the wind. I wish I had pictures to show, but I forgot and it was too sandy anyway.

So what did we learn, kids? Never underestimate the power of a really, really enormous sandbox.

I've been knitting, and knitting, and knitting some more, but curiously seem to get nowhere. I did finish a Bucket O'Chic for Pman but it needs to block before been presented. So if you want juicy knitting pics, just keep movin'.

Have you heard Laurie Berkner yet? Her videos are running on Noggin, the best kids' channel hands-down, for my money. It has the best of NickJr., with no commercials and interesting educational spots sprinkled throughout the day, and in the evening--well, the programming is aimed at preteens but they show Daria AND My So-Called Life. (Although, curiously I can't find any information about Laurie Berkner on the Noggin site.) Her music is so catchy and infectious, without being cloying, that I have reached heights of kids'-music ecstasy that was previously only induced by Woody Guthrie. I heart Woody Guthrie.