Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Just reading the coverage of the RNC is exhausting. I had a stress headache yesterday and I think a lot of it was looking at the stream of self-congratulating wankers that are the Republican leadership. Talking to my sister tonight and realizing that people are actually managing to believe both that Bush's draft dodging is no big deal but that Kerry is a wimp for going to war and then coming back and facing down the whole goddamn government to their faces to explain his belief that the war was wrong.

I don't know what to think about it. I had a lot of thoughts swimming around my head about men and masculinity and feminism, for obvious reasons, as well.

There's only one thing to conclude--Americans are enamored of the idea of masculine courage, but only if it's an empty pose. Show some real guts, some real intergrity, and regardless of your sex, people run screaming. That's the only way I can make sense out of the fact that people are impressed with these morons.

I should have known better. When I was in high school, I was continually pissed off that a bunch of braindead, female-harassing jocks were considered the height of everything good and wonderful. Everyone seemed to actually believe that teenage boys who were so insecure in their own sexual identity that they had to grope girls like me in the hall just to put us in our place were the height of manly self-assuredness. I thought we would grow up and get over it. Some of us did.

But many, many people think that Bush is a Bigger Man than Kerry. And the reason is quite simple. Bush plays one on TV. He wears a uniform and dazzles with his self-assured stubborness. He would pinch you on the ass and laugh at you when you got mad. All the other boys who are also a little unsure of themselves would take comfort in that. Kerry on the other hand, like many veterans, has left the games behind him. Life isn't simple--you can tell by looking at Kerry that he knows that all people carry evil and bravery inside them at all times, and he knows because he's seen both. He's probably been both.

On TV, someone with a complex view of life can come off as dissembling and unsure of himself, in the same way that the nerdy debaters in high school came off as tedious and undersexed to their immature peers who were more impressed by bombast than intelligence. Growing up was a big delight to me, since I found out that nerds in high school often grow up to be the most impressive and intelligent and assured adults. Discovering that nerds have better sex because of their willingness to think thing through was a particular joy. It was so great that I forgot completely that a number of people never made that jump and still turn to bombastic fools for guidance.

I'm exhausted by the RNC and their empty displays. It truly is a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing. It reminds me of a time that my boyfriend and I walked into a club and this truly awful band was playing and the lead singer was strutting around like a rooster thinking that he was a fucking great rock star, probably because some groupie sucked his dick once. I turned to my boyfriend and said, "Why doesn't he just whip it out and start jerking himself off? Same effect, but without the wretched music." Well, that's how I feel watching the parade of men on stage in their suits and ties with their big words about courage and various other things they know nothing about.

Wack the Iraq?

More evidence that a good number of people who support the war didn't think about much beyond the thrill of beating on some brown people. Poor Shrub--how can he speak about the war while addressing the concerns of those who want to liberate Iraqis and those who just want to kill them?

Cohabitation vs. marriage

Ampersand has a post where he examines one of the points that right-wingers love to make about the wages of sin--the fact that live-in boyfriends are more likely to abuse than husbands. I had actually never heard this before, though I wasn't particularly surprised. Amp has a number of good reasons that this statistic is being used wrongly, the major one being that marriage is no preventive to abuse. By making this a "wages of sin" issue, the right is implying that a woman just needs to redeem the relationship by getting a ring involved and the hitting will stop.

He also points out that measurable differences in age, length of relationship, etc. probably skew the numbers pretty badly, too. I would add that the conservative view of cohabitation and marriage as an either/or thing is probably messing with the numbers as well. Many couples nowadays both cohabitate and live as married at different points in their relationships. My guess is that a number of abusers reveal their tendencies after the couple moves in together but before the scheduled wedding date, causing the woman to break off the relationship before the marriage. Which would skew the numbers in cohabitative relationships even higher.

But all this got me to thinking about the underlying assumptions that drive the desire to compare cohabitation with marriage. The thing about the whole cohabitation/marriage thing is a false dichotomy that needs to be exposed. Even people who don't see cohabitation as a negative thing still tend to view it as a lesser version of marriage, and therefore lump all cohabitating couples into one group. But the reality of the situation is that there are many different "flavors" of cohabitation, and these differences get obscured a good deal of the time in these polls.

For one thing, I'll bet pinning down a good definition of "living together" is tough to do. My definition is almost surely markedly different than say, Pat Robertson's. If nothing else, I'd bet his definition would be all about the premarital sex whereas I would be looking at stuff like whether or not they maintain separate residences. But is a couple living together only if they share a primary residence? Nowadays it's very common for a couple to basically live in one's house but hang onto the other's as a safety valve of sorts, especially early on in the relationship. I have known couples who move in together before a marriage who don't consider themselves to be cohabitating, because they still view it as lesser than marriage, and they are going to be married. Also, I knew a couple that lived together in the same apartment before marriage but for religious reasons actually refrained from sleeping in the same bedroom or having sex before they married.

Even if you can settle on a definition of what kind of residence they must share in order to be considered cohabitating, there are still huge differences between different couples' relationships. If nothing else, how do you account for different kinds of commitments? With marriage, it's safe to assume that most married couples intend to commit for life--if nothing else, that's what they say when they stand up and take their vows. But cohabitating couples have less public arrangements and it's hard to know what those arrangements are. Some are cohabitating with the intention to marry one day, some view themselves as commited for life but are not marrying for whatever reason, and some live together but don't expect to stay together in any permanent sort of way. And some couples are even more in the gray than that--it's not altogether uncommon to meet couples where one thinks they are in one sort of relationship but the other perceives it differently.

I think a lot of disapproval of cohabitation has as much as, if not more, to do with people's dislike of ambiguity as it does with any real disapproval of extra-marital sex. That's why engaged couples can believe that they aren't "cohabitating" when they are--they are engaged, a date is set, the ambiguity is gone. There isn't the anxiety and the questions about when you're going to make it "official". That's why the continued disapproval of couples who live together without being married is so distressing. After all this time, why can't people just relax and accept that other people's relationships?

In the South, we like men

Via MsMusings, a fantastic quote from a Republican delegate from Florida:

Salon asked Gilley if she connected this desire to the supposition that women also liked to mate with strong men. "Absolutely," she said. "A woman’s Wimp-Meter goes off just as strong as a woman’s Strong-Man Meter." So John Kerry sets off a Wimp-Meter? "For me personally, yeah," said Gilley. "But then you have to think about where I’m from. In the South, we like men. So I’m being sexist."

Good to know that the word "sexist" denotes something positive now--it means, "liking men". Men apparently don't feel liked enough unless they are kow-towed to in every way.

But I do feel for this woman. Her Wimp-Meter is broken.

Or maybe it's not. Maybe it was cowardly for Kerry to try to avoid having his service called into question when he ran for President in 30+ years by actually going to war and getting injured three times. If he were a real man, he would have joined the National Guard to stay out of Vietnam, and said damn the consequences.

Times like these will give you hope

I know I blogged about this yesterday, but goshdurnit, it's the sort of thing you like to relish.

Schrock, elected in 2001 to serve as president of his Republican freshman class, said he will "no longer be the Republican nominee" from his district, which encompasses the world's largest naval base in Norfolk and all of Virginia Beach.

Shrock made his decision yesterday, his chief of staff said, in large part fol- lowing allegations made on a Web site. That site alleged Aug. 19 that Schrock made a habit of "rendezvousing with gay men" through an interactive telephone service but supported "homophobic" legislation. Schrock has co-sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Maybe he thought if it were in the Constitution, it would act as a magical charm to scrub the homo out.

Schrock is "absolutely not" gay, nor is he bisexual, Gordy said in reply to a reporter's questions. The lawmaker is married and the father of a grown son.

Of course he's not. Don't all straight men occasionally suck some cock to relax once in awhile? We know that he's straight because he's, um, straightforward in his tastes in men.

Uh, hi, I weigh 200 pounds, uh, six-foot-four, hazel eyes, blond hair, very muscular, very buffed-up, uh, very tanned, um, I'd just like to get together with a guy from time to time just to -- just to play. I'd like him to be, uh, in very good shape, flat stomach, good chest, good arms, well-hung, cut, uh, just get naked, play, and see what happens, nothing real heavy duty, but just a fun time, go down on him, he can go down on me, and just, uh, take it from there. Hope to hear from you. Bye.

And then a round of golf, which is how he knows he's straight. Because he can hit the ball straight.

The military doesn't have to vote Republican

Apparently, Bush thinks there's a law saying that soliders are required to vote for him. He must think that, or they wouldn't be openly insulting every solider who puts himself in the path of danger.

What next? Will they tell war widows to quit whining? Tell the grieving mother from F9/11 to shut up? I bet Bill O'Reilly would volunteer.

Or perhaps next they will imitate the loathed hippies and spit on Kerry and ask him if he killed any babies.

The rules never changed, but not for lack of hoping

Katha Pollitt's new editorial is pretty interesting--it's about all the whining that the right is doing about "Bush bashing".

The wingnuts who whine that liberals aren't supposed to go on the offensive or even laugh at people we don't like amuse me. They have been lying about liberals, calling us humorless wimps, for so long they began to believe their own bullshit. Not a good strategy. It's best to keep track of your own lies so that you can adapt more easily--something Bill O'Reilly should have learned a long time ago. Luckily, this conservative tendency to believe your own bullshit is biting them in the ass, particularly as their supposed leader has a big problem with it.

Monday, August 30, 2004

After thinking about it, I've decided not to drop it

I decided not to lay off the whole women blogging thing that has come out of the post at Matt Stoller's blog. I might have blown it off, but he was condescending to a blogger I think is one of the few who is truly innovative and interesting, Trish Wilson, who is out there fighting it out over women's rights in a place that many feminists don't address properly--the area of divorce and child custody. But more than that, I have a serious problem with what he said.

You know, I do a lot of work on this issue because it's something I care about. I dislike the accusation that I'm 'just noticing' because I'm a guy. More to the point, feminism doesn't belong to women, and until you realize that we're in this together, the more marginalized you will continue to be.

It's startling to see a man who considers himself a feminist miss the mark so completely. I read that shortly after I defended Ampersand over at his blog, where I innocently believed that feminist men understand the issues at hand. Stoller pulls rank on Trish here and worse he does it while thinking he's an egalitarian sort. She should be grateful that a man is here to deal with feminism. What does she think, that feminism belongs to women? One would almost think that women's rights is an issue women worry about; we need to be quiet and let men figure out what they intend to let us have.

This is a brutally obvious example of a man whose mouth is writing checks his ass won't cash. Feminism isn't just an intellectual exercise, it's a reality that men need to confront and now. It's one thing to say that women are as smart as men; it's another entirely to act like you believe it. If you are a blogger and you believe it, you act on that belief. You link to women, you promote feminism, you *gasp* concede that a woman occasionally thinks of something first. You quit thinking that "women's issues" are secondary things. Nothing that affects more than half the population is a minor issue.

Seriously, any honest progressive knows that the two most major issues are racism and sexism. I'm not saying that the world would be perfect if we could magically leave racism and sexism behind. But I will say this--it would be a great deal harder to justify things like war without racism and sexism to bolster arguments. I'm not good on racism for sure, but I try to be humble on that particular subject and let people who know more tell me what they know. Men who wish to embrace feminism should be open themselves.

Carl Sagan made one of the most eloquent pro-feminist arguments I've ever heard coming from a man. As a scientist, he was inclined to look at the facts. And the facts were that societies that made female empowerment a priority did better than those that didn't. The correlation is so startling that it should give anyone pause--it seems like the surefire way to improve the overall standard of living is to focus specifically on improving the lives of women. It makes sense--empower those who have quietly sat on the sidelines of history, paying the price for mistakes they have no control over and you might see some of those mistakes disappear.

Men who blog and want to be feminist have one major obligation--read female bloggers and link to them. My blogroll is 50% female, so why can't they do that? The sad thing is that conservatives get this--the Republicans put forward women whenever they can to grab some diversity guilt. Why can't those of us who actually believe that women have something to contribute actually work to make that belief a reality for others?

Edited to add: Astarte kicks ass and takes names on the subject.

The urge to psychoanalyze can be so hard to resist

It's difficult to refrain from attributing homophobia to supressed homoerotic feelings. But then I see shit like this and it's so hard to refrain from those sort of generalizations....

Would men take a birth control pill?

That's the 2nd most important question in the development/marketing of hormonal contraception for men. The first most important question is would women trust them to? This week in The Stranger, these two questions are examined in a rather light-hearted manner by Cienna Hahn.

I think the whole question of whether or not men would take a birth control pill is laughable. Some wouldn't, but plenty would. Sure, there are men that think that contraception is women's business. But that has as much to do with the fact that all boring and dirty work gets pushed onto women as the fact that women are the ones who have to deal with the actual pregnancy. That men have grown more interested in contraception reflects a number of shifts in thinking that have occured recently. One is the spread of HIV has caused men to learn to carry condoms if they want to get laid at all; by practicing contraception, they have learned to think about it. Another is that contraception has been repeatedly linked to the concept of personal control and men are beginning to think that it would be wise to wield some control over what happens to their sperm, a common sense position if you think about it.

But most importantly, the sexual double standard is beginning to buckle. Sexual roles have been so rigid for so long that sex has almost an air of role-playing about it. Men's role is to push for the unbridled lust--women are the gatekeepers. Under that model of sexual relations, taking any responsibility at all for the results of sex was downright emasculating. Women took control of contraception for the same reason that they "put the brakes on", because their role was to treat sex like a responsibility and their sexuality as a gift doled out for a man's good behavior. Now we are growing accustomed to the idea that women may want to have sex for the same reasons that men do--it feels good, it's fun, etc. With the widening of women's roles in the bedroom, men have gained the ability to consider contraception.

Will women trust men to follow a pill regimen if one is invented? I'm sure that some will, particularly those in long-term relationships who have a history of trust to lean on. According to this article, that's where the drug companies will be focusing their marketing. (I can't wait until they have a combo birth control/impotence pill.) But I think that this is actually something that single men would be really interested in, because it's the perfect way for them to exert some control over their own fertility without committing to a vasectomy. This is a big deal; most doctors won't sterilize a man under 30 who has no children. While most guys I know are happy enough to trade off a little sexual pleasure for the security of condoms, they would be a lot happier if condoms worked a little better and would love to have a back-up method they could trust.

Both sexes agree that they'd like more options when it comes to contraceptives; the trouble is that men and women don't trust each other, according to Laurie Dils, a counselor and educator for Planned Parenthood. Women (like myself) currently manage the birth control in their relationships, and many wouldn't relinquish that responsibility to their significant others. Meanwhile, men in Dils' classes are eager to learn about contraception--because they don't entirely trust their partners.

This is a touchy issue here. There is little doubt that there a pervasive cultural myth that there are blood-sucking females lurking in every corner trying to trap men by getting pregnant, but I don't think that's the primary motive for men who are looking into contraceptive methods that they can control. For one thing, I have yet to meet a man who is researching his own options that actually thinks that women are being sneaky about their contraceptive use, no more than women are gripped with the paranoia that their sexual partners are poking holes in condoms. It's more that control is an end in and of itself. The idea that men are distrustful of women seems hollow to me--I've never had a boyfriend who was worried that I wouldn't take my pill.

While it's paranoid to be distrustful of women's intentions, it's entirely reasonable for men to be reluctant to put their complete trust into women's memories. Not many women on the pill can say they have taken it every day at the same time without fail, and while this isn't a big deal as long as they are generally good about it, I don't blame any man who wants a little back-up for peace of mind. It's the same thing with condoms. Even though they are generally okay, I wouldn't blame a man who wanted a little back-up, especially if he is single and unwilling to have children with a woman he doesn't have a committed relationship with. And while it's a little paranoid at times to think that someone is trying to trick you into conception, it's not unreasonable to be a little worried that if there was a conception that she wouldn't be sanguine with the idea of an abortion. In fact, a few men I know who openly think about their responsibility towards contraception do so because they believe firmly in a woman's right to choose; knowing that they wouldn't feel right to try to push a woman to or from an abortion, they would rather take the time and effort not to get to the point that it's an even an issue.

So, I think there are two rather large markets for a male contraceptive pill. Men in long-term relationships with women who cannot take the pill because of the side effects would probably be really interested in it. And single men who want more protection than condoms provide would be interested in it. More importantly, marketing fears shouldn't be such a problem in the research and introduction of new contraceptive options. Until such a drug is released and the public is made aware of it can we know how many men would be interested in such a thing.

Family values in action

From Catch, we have a couple of links about the family values on parade at the Republican convention this week. Vincent Gallo will be gracing the convention after posting a huge billboard demonstrating that he is in full agreement with the family value that a woman's place is on her knees. Sadly, not all GOP delegates value their wives as much as Jack Ryan did. Sure, they can work up the enthusiasm to strengthen the home by taking their wives on a jaunt to the strip club but they can't work up the enthusiasm to get lap dances while there.

But don't get me wrong: Certainly not all of the out-of-towners were lewd. In other corners of the club, family values were on full display. When I approached a man sitting with the Massachusetts delegation to ask him if I could get him anything to drink, he--mistaking me for a stripper--pointed to the lone woman in the group and cried, "That's my wife!"

Apparently, he didn't get the memo. As Steve Gilliard points out, from the line-up of speakers at the convention tonight, adultery is a family value.

Translating the GOP

Echidne explains what certain words and phrases mean so you don't have to be confused. And Lauren reminds us why Bush's use of the word "'Merkins" should alarm us all. Maybe it's part of the larger plot to equate "Bush" with "American". But it does make one wonder if that means that you really do have to get a bikini wax to be a Democrat now.

The stink of desperation

This is what I get for looking at some of the wingnut blogs that Pandagon links to. GOP babe of the week? As usual, the protestations that there are too some women in the GOP smack of protesting a little too much.

Real sex in a real movie?

Here's an interesting story about a director who is trying to make a "real" movie with real sex in it. He's screwed if he thinks it won't get classified as porn anyway. Even though porn is legally classified by the intent to arouse than by the explicitness of the sex, at least in theory, most of us are too dumb to get the difference.

After all, I saw Pink Flamingos in the porn section at a video store once. I guess the thinking on that decision was that since there's a lot of nudity and actual sexual contact in the film, that makes it a porn. I hope that no unfortunate soul ever accidentally rented it with the hope of getting off to it. Or if anyone ever has, that he managed to enjoy the movie anyway.

Still, I don't think it's just prudishness that has kept explicit sex out of the movies. The ugly fact of the matter is that real sex doesn't look as good as fake sex, what with the funny faces and awkward movement and all.

Time again for the "why don't women blog" debates

This time we have Matt Stoller weighing in.

The thing that I never get is the reluctance to address sexism directly when talking about how women are under-represented in whatever field. Even well-meaning people tend to be eager to blame femaleness over sexism.

There's also the fact that the male political blogosphere doesn't help at all. It's obviously a boys club (with select girls who act like in specifically stylized ways allowed). For instance, my style of blogging is very male - I feel like I have to conclude everything, which leaves less room for the more deliberative communication patterns I find among women. That's common, but usually in a more extreme version. Guys don't really feel comfortable saying 'I don't know' or just going through inconclusive cognitive exercises. Jay Rosen does it very well, but he gets flamed quite frequently just for asking questions. The flame war pissing contest that motivates so many communities is another example of boys raising their hands in class and just generally being more aggressive. So Respectful of Otters gets ignored by the 'big boys', even though it's great. There's also the fact that it deals with uteruses and other stuff that boys don't have and don't think of, like career/family conflicts.

He gets awfully close to getting it and then misses the mark. Women aren't "deliberative communicators" compared to men. What they are is hesistant. And they are hesistant because when a woman opens her mouth and states an opinion, people are likely to get upset with her, especially if she says something others disagree with. And so most women have been socialized to make sure to eradicate potentially offensive language from their own speech--a broad category which includes pretty much all straightforward sentences. It's pretty hard to write a political blog when you've been brought up to strenously avoid expressing opinions outside of puppies are cute-type generalizations. I'm pretty opinionated, but even I catch myself couching my opinions with phrases like, "Well, it's just how I feel, but...."

Of course, the other problem is that there are a lot of female bloggers, but they go under the radar because prominent male bloggers won't promote them. (Unless they pull a Wonkette and put a sexy drawing of themselves in the banner, of course.) Stoller whips out the usual excuse that women write about "women's concerns", which is to say stuff that has traditionally been shoved on women so that men don't have to deal with it, like career/family balance issues.

Via des femmes.

Movie review

I rented Outfoxed this weekend and watched it with a couple other party victims on Sunday. We thought it was incredibly entertaining considering the rather dry topic of media consolidation and how it affects the standards of journalism. Of course, one of the reasons it is so entertaining is they use a bunch of clips from Fox News, and Fox News is designed to be a lot more entertaining than your average news show/network. In fact, the primary pleasure in watching the film is the MST3K./Beavis and Butthead factor--an opportunity to watch others tear apart and mock the manipulative techniques in a program.

Would the movie convince someone who likes Fox News to reconsider their opinion? Probably not, but that doesn't mean that this movie is only preaching to the choir. Many people are so used to thinking about the country as "polarized" that we tend to forget that the large masses of people aren't even aware of how bad the right wing tilt in the media has become. Even if most people understand that Fox News is ideaologically conservative, they are probably still under the false impression that Fox is a news-gathering organization, when of course it is more properly understood as a Republican propaganda machine. This movie is a great tool for showing people exactly how bad it's gotten, that so-called "journalists" will cheerfully lie and brainlessly repeat RNC talking points all day long if it furthers their political cause.

The one weakness is that while the movie tried to make a point about the "Fox effect" on the other cable networks, that point is sort of lost in all the noise coming from Fox itself. It would have made for a tighter, better movie to simply address the issue of Fox News by itself. But on the other hand, it would have been irresponsible not to point out that the viewer isn't escaping conservative propaganda by simply switching over to MSNBC or CNN. I'm not sure what could have been done to avoid this catch-22, though. Maybe another documentary chronicling the loss of journalistic standards overall to right-wing propaganda?

Anyway, it's a good movie and it's perfect to show to those people in your life who consider Fox News to be just another news channel. Also, it exposes various manipulative techniques that viewers will be sure to start noticing more often, not only on Fox but on other news shows as well.

Defending "The Vagina Monologues"

New blogroll member Thisgirl has a post defending "The Vagina Monologues" against perpetual whiner Christina Hoff Sommers. Once again, Sommers has decided that any type of female empowerment comes at too great a cost to men and therefore should be discarded. Thisgirl takes her on very well--go read it.

I liked "The Vagina Monologues", and I'm usually one to avoid anything that smacks of New Age-y celebrations of femininity, blah blah. It wasn't that at all; it was funny and sad and amazing. It actually did give voice to different women and their experiences, which can be a very difficult thing to do, as there are always a passel of Sommers-types lurking who can't wait to freak out if a woman's honest recounting of her life might not completely revolve around men and making them feel important.

I have yet to read a negative review of "The Vagina Monologues" that wasn't based around disgust with the idea that there is a need to reconsider how the vagina is viewed in our culture--as a repository is pretty much the beginning and end of it for most people. Sommers clearly thinks there's something dirty about vaginas, and that it's creepy for women to be proud of theirs or anyone, male or female, to actually think they are pretty or neat or whatever. Sommers actually has the gall to say that men are not similiarly obsessed with their penises--apparently she's never been to D.C. and checked out the Washington Memorial. It's true that most men don't use a hand-held mirror to look at their own private parts. That's because they have the sort of private parts that can be examined just by looking down or by standing in front of a larger mirror.

Sommers seems to think that being proud of one's vagina somehow precludes having a good career or accomplishing other goals.

Empowerment is not staring at your vagina in the mirror and weeping or exulting. It’s writing a great essay, running a marathon, starting a successful business, or being a great mother.

Again, I'm not sure if Sommers knows much about the men she's constantly defending, since she doesn't seem to be aware that even very successful men are prone to spending time considering their penises. If it doesn't hurt them, why would it hurt women? Unless of course there's something good and right about thinking about penises, but something dirty and wrong about vaginas, that is.

A disclaimer

Since my father only got to see me and my sister on once or twice monthly visits, he was inclined to try to shove as much parenting as he could into that brief amount of time. The result was that he was inclined to pontificating endlessly about his beliefs, particularly those regarding marriage, love, sex, etc. If he had sons rather than daughters, I imagine that those lectures might have had a bit more variety in subject matter, but who knows? Anyway, I have no doubt that my desire to poke fun at and tear into these pithy one-size-fits-all advice columns, especially the ones on MSN, comes from having to sit through this as a teenager.

One particular thing my dad was always fond of saying was to be careful in who you pick to marry, as that person will be the source of 90% of the happiness or sadness in your life. It was always 90%, every time he said it. One day, just to fuck with him, I asked if it had to be 90%--would it be okay if it were just 50%? Or even 30%? (I was a teenager, thus the snottiness. Which I guess means I'm still a teenager, 'cause I'm still pretty snotty.) That threw him for a loop. And he reluctantly said then that he guessed that it probably was different for some people, that they may have something else that made them happy, but that still didn't change the fact that it was important to choose who you marry with care.

His intentions were good--he meant to impress upon us that marriage is a commitment and therefore shouldn't be entered into lightly. And that compatibility is the number one most important factor, which if you think about it, is a surprisingly progressive idea compared to the usual advice aimed especially at women about making a marriage work. But despite his good intention, the message that really got across was that "normal" people not only get married but that they make marriages that they are heavily invested in, to the tune of 90%. What about single people--how do they find 90% of their happiness or sadness without a spouse to provide? Well, in our culture we tend to believe that single people live empty lives. And what about people whose commitments to work, their families, their communities, art, whatever, just can't be crammed into that 10% Other category? When I goofed on my dad I opened a whole can of worms--suddenly we both had to consider the possibility that his daughter was not to grow up to be a "normal" woman, that my life might not be built around a heterosexual marriage, that I might be single, lesbian, or that any marriage I had might not be so insular.

All of this is a long way of saying that I don't intend to insult the happily married when I attack advice columns on how to find someone to marry, get that person to marry you and then keep the marriage happy once you find it. But I did manage to do it. It's just that I see those articles as a larger part of the cultural myth that making a happy marriage is the only path to a happy adulthood, especially for women. The mountains of material like this work mostly to make single people desperate, divorced people feel guilty, and people in unconventional relationships (which are not all that unconventional anymore) feel like weirdos. I've watched people I love get depressed over "failing" at marriage, some of whom "failed" at making a spouse understand that cheating is hurtful.

All this emphasis on long-term strategies to make a marriage "work" function to let us, the collective society that is, off the hook for our 50% divorce rate. We can say that people are just lazy, just not working hard enough at marriage, instead of looking at the larger issues that are causing so many people so much pain. The advice column I make fun of below might have good advice for some people, but mostly it's useless. There's nothing there about what to do when your finances are constrained and you have different ideas about what should be financial priorities, for instance. Or how to negotiate differing opinions on what married sex life should be. Last time I checked, those are problems #1 and #2 that make marriages unhappy.

Instead, we're given a bunch of impractical advice that's just going to cause frustration for those who are looking for help. The little "tune it up" thing did annoy me particularly--that would probably be the end of my relationship with my boyfriend if I tried to have summit meetings on the state of the relationship. Is it okay that we value each other for being low maintenance? Is it wrong that instead of having a long talk about any issue that arises we just fight it out or blow it off? If I wasn't so pig-headed, I could definitely see myself reading something like this and worrying that we were heading towards certain destruction because we weren't doing things the "right" way.

Of course, none of this seems to have come across in my weak attempts at trying to be funny about this advice column. Rest assured, I don't want people to be unhappy with their marriages. I just resort to a little mean-spirited humor now and then as a release valve for some of my frustrations with the modern cult of the insular marriage.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

You know you want one of those annoying, cute, happy marriages

And MSN is here to help.

We all know a couple like this: after years together they still hold hands, make each other laugh and blush, get along famously, and seem to enjoy a dynamite groove the rest of us only dream of.

Yes, I do believe Bridget Jones called them the Smug Marrieds.

But what really goes on behind the scenes? Have these two soulmates actually found their perfect match in this big wide world, or are there secrets and strategies to making sure that romantic spirit continues to flourish over time?

Or are they putting on a big show to hide that they are living lives of quiet desperation?

If you too are looking for a way to better condescend to your single friends, MSN has a multi-point plan for you.

Start solid. Remember that best friend you had when you were a kid? Whether blissfully playing side-by-side in the sandbox, or building an awesome fort together, you two just grooved on being in each other’s presence. Happy couples share that same serendipitous groove, if in the all-grown-up world. Romantic chemistry aside, they genuinely like each other as people, and truly enjoy walking down the path of life hand-in-hand.

It helps to be boring, as that minimizes points of conflict.

Keep it fresh. Routines and traditions can give a couple a comforting sense of predictability that’s both grounding and reassuring. But surprises and adventures are also essential to really keeping that spark alive. Happy couples make a habit of shaking things up a bit by planning weekend getaways to undiscovered destinations, saving their pennies for a dream vacation, or launching fun and ambitious projects together. Having exciting things on the calendar to look forward to and sharing new adventures together reaffirms their connectedness and refuels the romance.

Make sure to wear matching traveling clothes on these romantic outings. There's nothing fresher and more erotic than being a couple of Twinkies.

Clear the air. It’s perfectly natural for any couple to encounter frustrations, disappointments, and miscommunications from time to time. But if grievances go unaired, they can pile up to a mountain of resentment and put the relationship at risk. Happy couples make sure they keep the communication open, and navigate those inevitable rough spots with honesty and mutual respect.

But a few days ago, we were told that nagging is bad. I'm so confused.

Have a life. A healthy relationship consists of two individuals who each maintain a strong sense of themselves, and who each take a genuine interest in the other. One may decide to go back to school to pursue a higher degree, while the other may get involved in a volunteer project or a photography workshop. Maintaining individual identities and pursuing individual interests insures that there’ll always be new things to share and to learn about one another.

The main thing is to learn to fake interest when your spouse is talking about his/her boring hobbies. Smiling and nodding will get you through most of the time, but it helps to have a few stock questions to ask occasionally.

Tune it up. Whether it be once a month or once a year, a regularly scheduled sit-down can allow for some essential upkeep and maintenance of a healthy relationship. Happy couples may agree to a periodic summit meeting to check in with one another about the overall well-being of their partnership. They may discuss what they’ve been appreciating about one another, what dynamics could use some tweaking, and what is on the horizon for their future as a couple. A little preventative TLC from time to time helps keep those relationship engines running smoothly.

A little State of the Union address? I'm sorry, but no one does this. If they do, they are truly pod people. Normal human beings, don't feel bad that you get out your differences through the occasional fight.

The lack of weekend posting

Sorry about that. We spent yesterday cleaning the House of Mouse up and down and then we had a bunch of people over to drink all our booze and eat all our food and trash the place. That is, we had a party.

Subsequently, we at Mouse Words are a little....tired. But we expect to be back on the horse come Monday!

Friday, August 27, 2004

What do you want next?

Thinking more on Dick Cheney's speech mentioning gay rights evoked a memory for me. Not the part about "state's rights", which of course is just code for, "If the federal government won't discriminate, then they best let the states." No, I thought about his comment that freedom means freedom for everyone.

Last time I was in San Antonio we were sitting in a cheap cash bar downtown. I was there with a good friend and one of his hometown friends somehow zeroed in on my politics across the table. Deciding to bug me, he moved closer to me and asked what I thought about gay marriage. I told him straight up that I support it. And he said something to the effect of, "People keep pushing and pushing for more and more rights. When will it stop?"

Though he would deny it, I could hear a historical litany of conservatism in that comment. It's like first they wanted freedom, and then equality for black people, then equality for women, then equality for immigrants, and now they want equality for gays and lesbians. When will it stop? When there's equality for everyone? When everyone is free? Is that what you people want?

And I have to say, yes, that's what we want. And I said it then, but I wish I'd said it more eloquently.

Friday night cat blog

Late night cat blog--as you can see, they just want to go to bed. Posted by Hello

Why would someone want to be a Republican delegate?

Apparently, some are masochists:

It always surprises me how many of my clients are not just Republicans but Bush supporters. I think, You wanted me to force you down to your knees when you’re in a pink tutu, but you support Bush? Maybe that should be part of my punishment: ‘You’re going to vote for Bush? Now you’re really going to get it!’ ”

And some are having impure thoughts about those cute little protesting girls:

He’d asked her to show up at his apartment wearing a black hoodie with patches and no perfume or deodorant. “I said, ‘Do you want me to dress like a protester?,’ and he said, ‘Yeah.’ He tied me down, spanked me, and wanted to yell at me a lot. He said, ‘You bad girl! You smashed the Starbucks!’ He was a very conservative Wall Street banker, and he basically wanted to fuck the movement.”

I'm going to resist the urge to play the armchair psychoanalyst here. It's not right to discriminate against Republicans when you work in any service industry, I guess.

One Republican speculated recently on an escort review site: “I’ll bet the providers [escorts] do a lot better at the RNC than the DNC event. Look at the difference in the average delegate, R (rich or comfortable male away from home looking to have fun) versus D (elderly or female looking to hold hands, bitch about Bush, applaud reverend Al, maybe a few verses of Kumbaya). We’re a fun bunch, Republicans, and we like women a lot. I bet we prove it.”

Clearly, they'll prove it by taking away as many of their rights as they can.

High heels and bikini lines

Yet another article about another cutesy organization that plays up stereotypes of single women to get out the vote. I can't get enthusiastic about these organizations because even though I like clothes and shoes even make-up sometimes, and yes, I like men and sex, I am insulted by the idea that I need to be lured into voting by playing up what single women are supposed to be interested in. But I can't hate them, either, because the heart is in the right place:

"Feminism isn't about 'do you wear Birkenstocks or high heels?' do you burn your bras?' or do you wear hundred-dollar bras?'" Schenewerk said. Instead, Running in Heels "encourages women to work for their interests by exercising their right to vote, getting them involved in politics."

It's a little tedious to have to refute the idea that all feminists are ugly man-haters by playing up that some of us like the color pink and aren't opposed to lipstick, but I guess it's necessary. More clever refutations of the stereotype aren't likely to get as much play as a tedious cliche.

But mine is not to add to the analyzing of this whole thing to death. My purpose today in linking to this story is this:

When UT Law School graduate Caryn Schenewerk envisions the empowered voter of 2004, she sees high heels, cocktails and an impeccable bikini line....At one event, attendees collected certificates for free wax jobs - not for their cars, but for their bikini lines.

I hate the term "bikini line". You can't cutie-pie it away, people--it's pubic hair.

Anyway, who the hell sits around envisioning someone in high heels with a cocktail and an impeccable bikini line anyway? I mean, besides Hugh Hefner? Most women in high heels holding cocktails are wearing clothes. For all you know, they have a wild, untamed bush going on under that adorable cocktail dress.

I love The Clash, I do

But sometimes some of their fans just take it way too far.

Anytime anyone says they were the only band that mattered, I find myself falling asleep.

Greenspan wants your parents to move back in with you

Returning to a politically explosive issue that he has addressed a number of times this year, Greenspan said that it was wrong for the government to hold out the promise of more retirement benefits than it is capable of providing.

He said this issue was particularly critical given the impending retirement of 77 million baby boomers born in the two decades after World War II.

"If we have promised more than our economy has the ability to deliver, as I fear we may have, we must recalibrate our public programs so that pending retirees have time to adjust through other channels," Greenspan said. "If we delay, the adjustments could be abrupt and painful."

To this I say, "Screw you, Alan!"

I love my parents, I do. But there's barely enough room in my house for the two adults and two cats in it now. Plus, my folks are divorced now and married to other people. This could cause some tension.

This is just one more way to rob the poor to pay the rich. My parents paid into Social Security their whole lives--I'll be damned if I have to take care of them because they don't have enough pension money after they turn 65 because some head-up-their-ass politicians think that the Boomer generation's retirement would be better spent on corporate giveaways.

The Republicans especially have been in the habit of floating the idea of getting rid of Social Security every few months for a long time now, but always in these marginal ways. Ideally, the Shrub would get on TV and in a folksy way just say outright that Social Security is going to build oil rigs in Iraq, and we all need to sacrifice by having our parents move in with us. They'd never win another election.

Beginning of the school year

This week was the first week of classes, which means that not only the campus, but my grocery store and the surrounding neighborhood just got a whole lot blonder and tanner. The native population of Austin is not immune to the allure of the tanning bed and the peroxide bottle, but suffice it to say, we are less enthralled than our neighbors to the north (Dallas/Ft. Worth), east (Houston), and the west (Odessa/Midland). No, the locals are far more likely to be frightfully pale with hair dyed black or purple or something like that. Or, if they are tan it's the hard-won tan of the outdoorsy types that proliferate and it won't be accompanied by peroxided hair. But the beginning of the school year means that once again we get a flood of coiffed and tanned teenagers from The Rest of Texas, girls who think that college means getting up early, doing your hair and make-up and wearing something fashionable all day long.

This year it's particularly bad, and I blame the person of one Paris Hilton. For some reason, her style, which is based around frightfully skinny and soon to be leathery legs poking out of her teeny tiny miniskirts, has captured the imagination of adolescent population of Texas. My friends and I thought it was bad over the summer when it seemed like 6th Street suddenly turned into a sea of deeply tanned legs. But now there are so many puffy micro-minis around that campus is beginning to resemble the famous Bee Caves pink flamingo farm.

I have nothing against the mini-skirt. I have a number of them myself, though I know better than to graduate to the micro-mini. If nothing else, the age cut-off for the micro-mini should be 19 years old. Had I known this when I was younger, I might have experimented more with wearing a micro-mini, but the brief window of its acceptability has long passed. The alarming thing is that so many girls seem to feel that they have to be "on" all the time. I realize these things tend to go in cycles, and we are probably at a peak in the cycle of super-fashion. This too will pass and teenagers will go back to dressing to alienate adults.

Still, I have to admit it's alarming to see so many young women who think it's absolutely necessary, even though they have just passed 18, to spend hundreds of dollars a month on tanning beds and hairstyling and manicures, not to mention the time commitment that goes into those things plus the elaborate make-up job that seems required. And I know that they think it's mandatory--they have to think this as no sentient human being could want to wear anything resembling a full face of make-up in Austin weather. (Today's forecast: 98 degrees and 84% humidity.) Make-up begins to melt off your face within moments of stepping outside, never mind the 15 minute walks to class on the huge campus. The amount of touch-up required is astonishing.

Luckily, these things have a pretty short shelf life. The blonde mini-skirt brigade will break up; some will join sororities and spend more time sticking to frat row, some will drop out, and most will assimilate. By the end of the first semester, if historical trends play out, seeing students in pajamas on campus will become more common than seeing runway fashion at 8:00 AM.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Levity lists

Those questionaires you fill out that float around the blogosphere to add some meaningless personal detail and levity. Today's comes from Norbizness, my neighbor and hero, who got it from My So-Called Blog.

1. Your name spelled backwards. esuoM
2. Where were your parents born? Dad: Silver City, NM; Mom: Fresno, CA
3. What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer? You and the RIAA would love to know, wouldn't you?
4. What’s your favorite restaurant? Right now Amaya's as it's greasy and near by.
5. Last time you swam in a pool? We went to Schlitterbahn in June. I can't believe I bought a new bathing suit for just that occasion. I should sleep in it.
6. Have you ever been in a school play? I did alot of community and school theater. Mostly, I worked sound and music (big fucking surprise, huh?). Occasionally, I acted. My biggest role was Diane in Anne of Green Gables.
7. How many kids do you want? I have 2 cats. What more do you people want from me?
8. Type of music you dislike most? This is the sort of question that non-music fans ask. But I have a strong dislike of insistent polka/Tejano beats keeping me up all night long.
9. Are you registered to vote? I love registering to vote and I love voting. I recommend it all the time. Anyone who doesn't think voting is fun isn't doing it right. As I've said a hundred times, you should wear something to shock the upstanding ladies that run the polls when you vote. Then you should reward yourself with a margarita afterward. Voting is fun! Take the day off to do it.
10. Do you have cable? I have one million cable channels. Okay, I'm exaggerating. But we have the huge digital cable package. And mostly it's on the Speed Channel.
11. Have you ever ridden on a moped? Yes. On principle, I occasionally pretend I live in a French New Wave film. I also have striped clothing and used to have an adorable blunt cut.
12. Ever prank call anybody? I lived in a small town. There was nothing else to do. Forgive me.
13. Ever get a parking ticket? I just paid $75 worth of fucking parking tickets. Don't ask.
14. Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving? Anyone who knows me well knows that there's no way I wouldn't if offered.
15. Farthest place you ever traveled. London.
16. Do you have a garden? Used to. We moved and haven't had a chance to replant it. I've had to go a whole summer without my herb garden or my tomatoes. Flower gardens strike me as too much work for too little food.
17. What’s your favorite comic strip? Right now I love The Boondocks. However, Get Fuzzy is growing on me.
18. Do you really know all the words to your national anthem? Uh, my national anthem is "Beat on the Brat". The words are pretty simple. We are the nation of people who get headaches when children cry.
19. Bath or Shower, morning or night? Baths. Every morning, and often at night.
20. Best movie you’ve seen in the past month? Scratch was the best movie I hadn't seen before.
21. Favorite pizza topping? As all pizza fans know, pizza toppings work together in harmony. I favor what locals call "The Stoner Special"--a veggie pizza with jalepenos and pineapple. There is no need to be stoned to enjoy this.
22. Chips or popcorn? Tortilla chips with salsa are the perfect food.
23. What color lipstick do you usually wear? Um, I favor dark colors. If you gotta wear it, you gotta see it. Regular red is best.
24. Have you ever smoked peanut shells? If this actually meant something, I would be the person to know.
25. Have you ever been in a beauty pageant? No. I refuse to admit trying to out-hot anyone, ever. I don't go to parties or clubs, either.
26. Orange Juice or apple? Beer.
27. Who was the last person you went out to dinner with and where did you dine? This questionaire was written by someone who doesn't live in Austin. Eating out here is a lifestyle, not an occasion.
28. Favorite type chocolate bar? The kind with chocolate in it. If I must, those Cadbury egg things.
29. When was the last time you voted at the polls? I voted in the last school board election. I am a huge dork. I had no idea who to vote for, but I went anyway. As I've stated before, voting is fun.
30. Last time you ate a homegrown tomato? This questionaire is trying to hurt me. I DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO PLANT MY GARDEN THIS YEAR! If I did, homegrown tomatoes everyday.
31. Have you ever won a trophy? I got a trophy for being on a middling bowling team. In high school, I lettered in 5 different events. Being a letterman is so much more fun than getting a trophy. For one thing, you can use your jacket for Halloween costumes.
32. Are you a good cook? I like to think so, but I'm a little lazy so pasta is a common dish around here.
33. Do you know how to pump your own gas? This is Texas. I pump my own gas and I shoot my own goddamn beer cans.
34. Ever order an article from an infomercial? An article? I get most of mine from magazines. Anyway, didn't Ebay wipe infomercials out of existence?
35. Sprite or 7-up? Beer. Okay, okay, okay. If I must, Sprite.
36. Have you ever had to wear a uniform to work? Yes. Grrr.
37. Last thing you bought at a pharmacy? Toilet paper. As for actual prescription drugs, I bought my last birth control pill pack about a year ago.
38. Ever throw up in public? Jesus. Anyone who says they haven't is lying. Throwing up in public isn't a story. Throwing up inside your own pants is a story.
39. Would you prefer being a millionaire or find true love? Tough call. Your true love can piss you off, but money stays forever true. How many millions?
40. Do you believe in love at first sight? Of course there is love at first sight. People claim it, and since the only measure of love is what people claim it to be, love at first sight is real.
41. Ever call a 1-900 number? No, why would I?
42. Can ex’s be friends? Again, I know plenty of people who are friends with ex's. Therefore, ex's can be friends. Saying otherwise is denying their experiences.
43. Who was the last person you visited in a hospital? Visited? Don't remember. I had to take my boyfriend to the hospital for a broken arm a few months ago.
44. Did you have a lot of hair when you were a baby? Yes. More interestingly, I had white-blonde hair until I was 6 when it suddenly grew in brown.
45. What message is on your answering machine? Don't remember. I'm sure it's my name and a request to leave a message.
46. What’s your all time favorite Saturday Night Live Character? Wayne and Garth for the nostaglia pick.
47. What was the name of your first pet? Crackers was my extremely fat dachsund born 4 months after me. She was the best dog ever, so sweet she would actually push herself under your head when you were laying on the floor so you had a pillow. She died when I was 15. My mom and I brought her body home from the vet and were trying to bury her in the backyard when a cowboy leaned across our fence and said, "If you don't dig that hole deeper, animals'll get to it." We began to cry and he got alarmed. We explained that our dog had died and he began to tear up. "Nothing like a good dog," he said and jumped over the fence. He dug the hole about 5 feet deep for us and we buried her with a little tombstone. There really is nothing like a good dog.
48. What is in your purse? Keys, phone, checkbook, a few lipsticks, bills, credit cards, caffeine pills.
49. Favorite thing to do before bedtime? Blog, read, TV or sex. Sex, if I can get it.
50. What is one thing you are grateful for today? Good friend came down to stay the weekend for our house-warming party. He's here so the party will automatically be fun. Also, I have Elvis Costello on my player right now and I remembered I will be seeing him play in a few weeks.

Should marriage be abolished (or just reformed)?

I've been reading a lot of books about family and marriage law and custom lately, as the gay marriage debates have whetted my appetite to think about such things. And always lurking in the back of feminist/queer critiques of marriage is the ultimate question: Should marriage be abolished?

Not that there is any chance of marriage being abolished soon or anything like that, but when crafting a critique of an institution, it doesn't do well to assume that the institution is necessary. One should always be open to arguments that the mere existence of the institution is the problem. I have thought long and hard about the validity of the very existence of some institutions and if I think they should exist. Church? It should just go away, but I certainly wouldn't make laws against it and I'm open to understanding that it has its benefits. Government? Well, we need it, but top-down hierarchies are an abomination. Democracy is the ideal that we should strive for. Schools? We absolutely need them, but their methods should be scrutinized. You get the picture. But Marriage? I've not spent a whole lot of time considering all the various arguments against its very existence. But here's some I've cobbled together and I'm open to more.

Reasons to Abolish Marriage

*Marriage has historically been defined as a way to transfer ownership of a woman from one man to another. Therefore, the main purpose of marriage is to perpetuate male dominance over women. This is one of the major arguments you will hear from feminists. Believe it or not, this one doesn't really wash with me, for two reasons. One is that even if an institution's entire existence was to perpetuate one social value that has been firmly rejected, it can actually be reformed and have an entirely different reason to exist. Government is a good example; it orginally existed to consolidate the power of the aristocracy. Presumably now it's to enact the will of the people. It's possible that marriage can be reformed, and no longer exist to reinforce male dominance but exist to give people the means to create egalitarian relationships with legal rights and privileges. In fact, the entire reasoning behind legalizing same-sex marriage is that the latter definition is now the standard one.

Nonetheless, we still have an informal system to maintain marriage's place as a tool of male dominance. Weddings still are conducted on the model of bride being passed from father to groom; wives still honor the tradition state of non-existence by taking husbands' names, albeit on on a halfway basis now by retaining their first names. Outside of custom, marriage still makes women subservient to men, if for no other reason than the average man's larger salary makes his wife economically dependent on him on some level. Achieving wage equity would go a long way towards actually making marriages equitable in our society.

*Marriage gives people privileges on an unfair basis. This one is pretty devastating. Married people are the recipients of all sorts of government and business benefits that are unavailable to same-sex partners, straight partners who are unmarried, and single people. While there are some efforts to change this, the laws and standards can be surprisingly backwards. Believe me, I adjust my marital status according to what it's going to get me. I shouldn't have to do that.

The attempts to fix this problem are incredibly inadequate. Same-sex marriage would be a huge leap forward. But even if same-sex marriage were legalized, there would be many people unfairly discriminated against. Unmarried couples (like myself and my boyfriend, in fact) would still suffer from having our families deemed inadequate. Inheritence rights, decision-making rights, things like that can be acquired through some lengthy processes, but it's never complete. For instance, an unmarried couple has some amount of inheritence right, but it's nothing like that what married couples have. I recently watched a friend suffer through having the relatives of her live-in boyfriend swarm like vultures, trying every trick in the book to squeeze any penny she might have they could even slightly attach to him after he died suddenly. This shouldn't happen.

On top of all that, single people are routinely discriminated against for not having primary conjugal relationships. There are all sorts of financial benefits tied to marriage on the weak theory that marriage itself is good for the state. I have yet to see convincing evidence that married people are in and of themselves better citizens than unmarried people.

*Marriage is an arbitrary marker of adulthood. One of the Brothers I had as a professor in college told us that his whole family gathered every Easter at his aunt's house and that she had an Easter egg hunt. The cut-off for joining the hunt was not a certain age, but marital state. And every year she pushed him into it, until finally he threw a fit and told her that she needed to respect that he wasn't married and that he was still an adult. We were all amused at the story. The Catholic Church has solved the problem of how to regard the celibate clergy by equating their vows to God and to the order as the equivalent to the marital vows; it was clear that she should have recognized his adulthood when he took his equivalent vows.

Our society still treats the unmarried (and the childless) as somehow still childish, regardless of the number of years they may have under their belts. It's subtle how it works, but if you make it into your 20's without marrying, then you will start accumulating horror stories about being treated as childish compared to someone younger than you because of your marital status. I went to a bridal shower once where the older, unmarried sister of the bride was treated as a child even though she had her own job and bought her own house, two things her sister had not done. She make a joke about how she had a huge new kitchen and no stuff to put in it after her sister opened a duplicate gift of some kitchen stuff. The old ladies clucked and said that she would get all that stuff when she needed it, when she married.

You can marry before you can drink, enlist, attend college, vote, or get a real job. That marriage is some sort of marker of adulthood is nonsense.

*Marriage is still considered women's primary job in life. Gack, there's not much to say about this. Suffice it to say, the major reasoning behind the huge amounts of money spent on the big fluffy wedding is that it is the primary purpose of a woman's life. If something gives your entire life meaning, what's mere money?

Disagree? If you're a woman, try telling someone that your wedding wasn't the most important day in your life. If marriage were abolished, it would force people out of thinking of women as only wives or potential wives.

*Marriage creates an false moral system. This is a biggie, since this myth has a lot to do with our current political mess. There are still a number of people who think that George W. Bush is a Good Man because he doesn't cheat on his wife, unlike that Evil Man, Bill Clinton. Point out the good old slogan, "When Clinton lied, nobody died," and you will get incomprehension. There is a great deal of investment in the belief that marital fidelity is the highest of moral goods.

Actually, valuing marital fidelity as a moral good isn't all that it's cracked up to be. A little secret: Many of us unmarried but monogamous people out there pity the monogamous married. See, a good number of monogamous married people are faithful to the institution; you don't cheat because it's wrong. Or they may say that they don't want to lose the marriage itself. But us unmarried people, we have to come up with reasons. Like say not cheating because our partners are enough. Or not cheating because we value our partners' feelings and wouldn't want to hurt them. Or fear of losing our partners. Now that cohabitation is becoming more acceptable, it and marriage are beginning to resemble each other and you hear different couples borrow each others' reasons. But the fact of the matter remains--one major reason that couples reject marriage is because they are afraid that you stop being in a relationship with a person and start being in a relationship with an institution.

Still, despite all this I still think marriage should be approached with reform in mind instead of abolishment. Even if you can minimize or erase all these issues, people are likely to still keep coupling off, and most couples are likely to form around a conjugal relationship and/or to raise children. Instead of the weak arguments about how marriage is good for the state, it should be examined in context of civil rights, something that is happening now with the same-sex marriage issues. Since the state serves us, it's fair to demand marriage rights for ourselves. If we can reimagine marriage rights as a right to choose our own home life, I think that we can reform it into something useful.

First of all, marriage should be open to anyone over a certain age. There should be no racial, religious, sexual, or economic discrimination. Second of all, divorce should be easy to obtain. Marriage is not useful to citizens or to the state if getting out of one is taxing on individuals and the court system. Certain economic privileges need to be taken away from marriage completely, but others exist only because of marriage and should stay. For instance, tax filing as one entity, a "married couple" is nonsense. All incentives to get people to marry should be abolished; it's not the state's business one way or another.

The state should reconsider what it determines a "family" to be in terms of inheritence rights. Couples who have blended finances should have the same rights as married couples. In fact, any informal family arrangement should be respected as such. There is nothing uglier than watching a bereaved person fight with the dead loved one's estranged family over a few meager possessions, as I can attest from personal experience. Plus, it's ridiculous that two near-strangers can gain all sorts of legal rights and benefits via $25 and a night in Las Vegas that couples who have lived together and are each other's primary relationships don't have. We will have to rethink our entire family law system, but so what? I think we have enough brainpower to undertake such a project.

Socially, the stigma must be removed from people who are single or divorced or remarried or homosexual. This is already underfoot; domestic partnerships are quickly being elevated in most social circles to the same standing as marriages. Certainly in my liberal community, no one would treat an unmarried straight couple or a same-sex couple as lesser. In fact, I know of many instances where some couple's marital status was revealed and it surprised everyone. I still can think of a few couples I know off the top of my head who's marital status I don't know. My boyfriend and I had a guest we'd known for a year stay with us for two days before he realized that we had never made it "official". He only mentioned it in passing; these things aren't important. The benefit of this is obvious--every person, coupled or not, married or not, is still an individual first.

Marriage then must be devalued. This will actually help married couples, as it will take the pressure of the Institution off them and allow them to enjoy the plain ol' relationship. The first step is to take the wedding ceremony down a few notches. Hey, we all like weddings. But the fact is that we all like parties. There are plenty of great occasions that are losing their luster compared to big fluffy weddings--house-warmings, graduations, whatever. Why have only one HUGE party when your whole life can be a series of celebrations?

The Shrubian Medal catalog

Did you know that Bush has medals, too? And did you know they are also being challenged? Well, for slightly different reasons....

I, like most people, figured that George W. Bush's American Star Medal was won for valor in the face of tremendous challenges. I had never heard of one before, so I just figured they were very rare.

When I took a closer look, I realized that the "medal" is actually an American fifty-cent coin pressed into a crinkled-up wad of gold foil. The foil appears to be from Rolo chocolate-covered caramels. The yellow star backing appears to have been made from the plastic top of a Planter's Mixed Nuts Can.

Read the whole thing. There's pictures!

Misogynists and music

Roni at We Have Brains tackles a subject I've thought on writing about for awhile now. Sexism and misogyny are mainstays of modern music, and some of it is really, really good. So how to reconcile your taste in music with your politics?

Well, I've always thought about it in the same way that one reconciles her taste in literature with her politics. Most writers throughout history have been men; most of those men had a low opinion of women. But that doesn't mean there aren't other things worth rescuing in those books. (With the exception of Fitzgerald, who is known to have stolen his wife's work and passed it off as his own. There's no historical excuse like, "They didn't know better" to excuse that. But would I feel that way if I liked his books better? No telling.)

Anyway, it's the same with music. Humanity is a work-in-progress. Hopefully one day we will have left behind the male imperative to insult and degrade women in order to bolster men. Until then, sexist art has to be dealt with and censorship isn't the key. The key is to talk back to them. More speech, not less. Instead of kicking around ideas on how to punish male artists for sexism, kick around ideas for getting more attention and money to female musicians. Attack the sexism of the industry itself. One really positive thing that the everyday music fan can do is to promote female bands and musicians to friends. Take your friends to shows; give your friends albums by female artists. The number one problem in music isn't that some male musicians are sexist. It's that female artists are sidelined. Positive action is the key.

Women's Equality Day

84 years ago women got the right to vote. Not much to say, except it took 'em long enough. Ampersand has a great link round-up.

Now don't disappoint the women who marched in the streets so you could pull the lever!

Some of the pictures from this link are great. Check them out.

Luckily, they didn't turn a shameful visage to the camera.

Now this was street theater. Republican convention protesters, take note.

Can't say the suffragists didn't have a sense of drama.

This is the sort of thing we need to be seeing this Election Day, ladies!

Yep, this is exactly how it turned out. *evil laugh*

This is how most people live now. *evil laugh*

Looks like the catfight was how they portrayed the feminist debate even then. At least it was a sexy catfight.

Damn straight. This is how the Shrub should feel. Get to work, ladies!

Man-hating meant wanting to vote at the time.

Eighty something years and courting female votes is still portrayed as dating.

Edited to add: I fixed the "86" and turned it to "84". It's not been 86 years and only a few people anymore want to 86 our right to vote.

'Victories' in the culture wars

August Pollak draws attention to the lies and bullshit being used to justify rejection of protest permits in New York. It's all interesting, but I do have a quarrel with one thing he says.

But more significant is the often-dispached fallacy that (typically right-wing) commentators make about protest groups. It's not a "victory" when they get their permits turned down, and it's especially not a "victory" for public order and property protection.

Why? Because even the most brief Google search will come up with the fact that people coming to protest the GOP are as spontaneous about it as the writer's fantasy world. They've been planning this for months. They have plane tickets. They're booking hotels, and when that fails they're sleeping on the streets if necessary.

Thousands of angry, agitated people are coming to New York, and whether or not they're ordered to keep off the grass is probably around 3 or 4 on the Top Ten Most Irrelevant Issues Ever list.

I agree with him that this is going to be a huge mistake. But you're not going to convince conservatives that it isn't a "victory" for two main reasons. 1) Many conservatives, especially young ones, think pissing off liberals is the entire reason to be conservative. This is pissing off liberals and is therefore a victory. 2) They want to provoke protesters to act out, especially violently, so that they can claim that liberals are actually the violent ones. Of course, that's in irrational stance, since anti-war violence is not comparable to war violence, but it could work nonetheless because people want so badly to have a reason to hate anti-war protesters.

Still, they are playing with fire here. There are enough people committed to civility and/or non-violent civil disobedience that the protests could very well generate even more sympathy for the anti-war cause. Plus, the protesters aren't there soley to protest the war. There will be protesting for civil liberties, the right to vote, and economic justice. Again, conservatives hope they can spin it out of control because the protesters aren't "organized" or "focused". Whatever--they are focused laser-like on the person of the Shrub and regardless of why each individual protester is protesting, all that anger will be aimed in his direction.

High-maintenance women

Or, she should be absolutely perfect but never let you know how much work it is. They women who don't hide this successfully fit into the stereotype of the High Maintenance Woman. And MSN is here to help men avoid those women who might have demands and stuff. Now, the four signs that a woman is high maintenance:

High H.B.A. factor. Rookie observers, remember the H.B.A. acronym (which stands for “Health, Beauty & Accessories”).

It's best to date homely women with health problems who don't wear jewelry, I guess. No, just kidding! Again, beauty and health are critical, but it's all shot to shit if she doesn't make it seem effortless.

As in, obsessed with H.B.A. Scan the latest trendy store, restaurant or bar and you’ll spot high-maintenance women easily in their natural habitat. Ground zero for the high-maintenance species are beauty salons, malls and occasionally, the health club. (Yes, female gym rats can be high maintenance, although scientists say it’s a rare occurrence.)

This seems like advice for finding these high maintenance women. Do men generally cruise the beauty salons and trendy stores in the mall looking for dates? And what is this mall crap anyway? Any super-materialistic worth his or her salt would stick to the boutiques, I would think.

Is she dressed to the nines at the grocery store? Is she sporting full-tilt makeup and big hair at the health club when other women are in sweats and no makeup? Look closer and you’ll find what constitutes high-maintenance is as varied as her patchwork quilt or designer bag, her intricately painted toenails or her voracious appetite for beauty treatments.

That is, despite the fact that we told you we'd explain what to look for, we're actually going to leave it up to you, the reader, to figure out what the hell to look for. Suffice it to say, you need to inspect her every move to make sure that she never does anything that distracts from her main job, which is being there for her man. Sure, those manicured hands may look nice, but do you know how hard it is to get any cleaning done with fake fingernails?

Emotional insecurity. High maintenance women can be as insecure as a lost toddler. They can freak out if you even so much as give an extended glance at another woman, among other indicators of emotional neediness. Her neediness often requires her to control and direct your behavior.

Don't forget that any woman can immediately turn into a stalker at any point in time. Sure, the crime statistics may indicate that controlling, jealous men are more common than controlling, jealous women, but Hollywood says otherwise. And we all know Hollywood never lies.

Controlling. Is she always instructing you to call her or sets rules around things? (Example: “Call me at work tomorrow at 2 p.m.”) Worse yet, she might express anger or manipulate you to get you to do what she wants. A range of ploys such as her demands to call frequently, fix-it items, and transportation needs (“Can you pick me up?”) are all ways to keep you on a short leash or otherwise attempt to control your behavior.

If she needs a ride somewhere and it's cutting into your sitting around time, she is trying to castrate you. Better put a kibosh on that.

Communications. Guys, if she talks like this, run: “Like, oh my God, I was on the way to the mall and…” (At your own risk, remind her that “Valleyspeak” went out in the 1990s with Frank Zappa.)

Don't date women who say, "like" or "ohmigod!" ever. This means avoiding all women under 45, since they all say these things once in awhile. That men do as well is irrelevant.

Pay attention to what she talks about for it’s the critical indicator of what might – or might not be – going on in her brain.

Hmmm....all of a sudden MSN thinks inquiring what a woman is thinking is a good thing. What's going on here?

Is it all about her, shopping and her friends? Chances are you have a high-maintenance girl on your hands. I say “girl” because rarely are mature women really that high maintenance. If they are, they may be limited to the divorcée set, who brandish fake dark tans, fake body parts, overprocessed hair and enough bling-bling to make you squint.

A mature woman doesn't think about friends, shopping or themselves. She knows that these things are distractions from thinking about how to make her many happy. And that's why she can keep a man, unlike those divorcées.

If you follow MSN's dating advice, then then horrible things won't happen to you.

Look in the mirror. Make absolutely certain that you’re not the one crying foul. Could you be high maintenance yourself? Consider the case of Michelle, now 42, who a decade ago broke up with a serious boyfriend, Jeremy. They had dated a year and a half and Michelle graciously declined his proposal for marriage and broke it off. “He accused me of being a materialistic you-know-what. Guess he was pretty raw, even after I told him not to buy an engagement ring.” Michelle was never high maintenance. She drives an older car that’s paid off, makes her own coffee every morning and has owned the same home for many years.

Wait a minute. I don't get this example. It seems to be a warning about men being high maintenance themselves, but there's no indication here that he is anything but a whiner and an asshole. And not very good at insults. The lesson here seems to be, when calling a woman a materialistic bitch, try to avoid doing so after she's done something gallant and anti-materialistic.

The picnic test. If you have doubts about her high-maintenance level, put it to the test. See how she handles an impromptu picnic. Suggest casual food from the deli, a cookout, or wine, bread and cheese. Then, gauge her reactions carefully.

As usual, the best way to form a good relationship is to play games. Ask a woman if she wants a turkey sub or wine and cheese. Base your entire judgement of her character on what she feels like eating at the moment. What are men supposed to do when dating a woman who sometimes feels like wine and cheese in the park and sometimes enjoys a good cookout? Well, such women, like John Kerry, are clearly flip-floppers and should be dumped immediately. Believing that variety is the spice of life is the sort of thing that foreigners do. Be especially careful if she likes wines with French-sounding names like chardonnay or merlot.

How is one of these things not like the other?

I meant to write about this yesterday, but I got swamped at work.

I know that this knocked the wind out of a lot of people, myself included. I mean, we all knew that Dick Cheney is no Bible-thumper and that he and his wife have quietly supported gay rights for a long time, no doubt for the same reason that the Cheneys do anything--self-interest. Cheney's daughter is a lesbian and therefore opposing gay rights is opposing his daughter. Cheney is an old-school conservative, which is to say that he doesn't see why he needs phony religious props to justify his power grabs. Therefore he's free to reject the obviously delusional use of "love the sinner, not the sin" to justify doing hateful things to gays and lesbians.

But the timing of his speech, which got a lot of play in the news, is suspicious to say the least. His speech drew the attention of pro-gay rights voters and voters that are iffy about gay marriage but definitely against amending the Constitution to enshrine bigotry, and it drew their attention right off the fact that the Republican party quietly (meaning publicized it only to their fundie base) added the anti-gay amendment to the Constitution.

Don't admire Dick Cheney for breaking ranks, since that's not what he was doing. A lot of potential Republican voters are socially liberal to one degree or another. In fact, the vast majority of Republican voters are uncomfortable with the Bible-thumping stuff. Just because one is on the side of the rich in the class wars doesn't make one on the side of false piety in the culture wars. In fact, libertarians like to play up their stance against vice laws to attract new recruits. And an amendment against gay marriage is a vice law, whether some of them like to admit it or not. And the anti-federalists are uncomfortable with all this amendment talk. And the ordinary, everyday, Fox-watching, war-supporting voter may like the God talk but doesn't go to church and watches girl-on-girl porn probably doesn't support gay marriage (except for those with gay or lesbian family members) but really doesn't want to open the door to having the fundies examining every corner of everyone's sex life. And they aren't stupid and they know that if the fundies get the bone thrown of the gay marriage amendment then they will continue to push for federal control of everyone's sex lives. Goodbye girl-on-girl porn!

Dick Cheney was seen as a strength on the ticket from the beginning because he comforted the voters who didn't want to be in a party built around fundie Christianity. Cheney's position as second in command made it clear that Bible-thumping wasn't a requirement to be a Republican.

So, as much as we'd like to think that this was a signal of Cheney's human side, that he loves his daughter more than power, the truth is much more pathetic. This was the Republicans telling people what they want to hear. Mainstream voters got the message that the gay marriage thing is not going to go far because men like Cheney will block it. The fundie Christians also got to hear what they wanted to hear, that the party was going to push for the amendment. If there was more support from "moderate" Republicans for this gay marriage amendment, I have no doubt Cheney would have sold his daughter down the river to pander to them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Sexual harassment--a big misunderstanding?

I know this is about 12 years out of date, but it's something I've been wondering about all morning. I'm reading a book called The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz. The book was originally published 1992, so it was written in the shadows of Clarence Thomas hearings. In it, she discusses how women are socialized to be attuned to men and pick up on their every need, whereas men are socialized to expect women to modify their behavior and therefore have little need to pick up on small things in women's behavior that might signal how they really feel.

Fair enough. God knows I've suffered because I both wanted a boyfriend to know how I feel but I also can't just say it because of my socialization. And of course, since reading someone's mind so that you know how to behave is difficult to say the least, plenty of arguments result from a woman misreading a man's signals and adapting her behavior wrongy, i.e. not doing what he wants. Talking is so much easier, no?

Anyway, while I think the basic principle is a correct one, she mistakenly attaches it to the issue of sexual harassment. I realize that was in the air at the time, and there was a good deal of disingenous hand-wringing over how men were possibly to know what was appropriate and what was not. Apparently, paying attention was completely out of the question. Actually treating women like human beings seemed way out of line as well. It made me sad to remember how feminists had to meet the Misogyny Brigade halfway on this and pretend that men harass women because they don't know any better just to get some freaking work codes written.

Do people still believe this, I wonder? Do they still believe that men harass women because their dating skills are slightly off and women are over-sensitive? Can anyone actually believe that things like leaving pubic hairs on a woman's things are even in the same arena as normal flirting?

There's no doubt that plenty of people confuse hostile behavior and flirting sometimes. I've joked about being approached by men who think I will be charmed by some sort of insult or challenge. One of my favorite all-time doofus stories has been a guy telling me that I drink crappy beer and he'll buy me a better one. This has happened to me twice. But these sort of low-level dumbshit things to say are completely different than sexual harassment.

Harassment is sadistic behavior. When a man grabs a woman's body or says something nasty and aggressive to her, especially in a professional setting, he's not doing it because he's not reading her very well. In fact, he's reading her just fine. The whole purpose is to get the reaction, the mortification and humiliation. Same with the hollering on the sidewalk. Getting a woman to react is the whole point of the exercise. Same with following someone--the fear is the payoff. (In that situation, I've found that a cell phone is the greatest invention in the world. No time like when getting tailed by a strange man to start phoning your friends.)

It seems to me not only letting men who behave this way off the hook, but is also really damaging to women's self-esteem. If we are to believe that men harass because they don't know better, we are holding women responsible for the harassment. Women are led to think that they are getting harassed because they aren't managing their communications to men appropriately and need, once again, to modify their behavior to accomodate male pig-headedness.

But if you acknowledge the truth behind the motivation to harass, then you are empowered. Don't blame yourself, get mad! How dare they work out their mental problems/sadistic tendencies on you! It may not mean that you can do anything to stop it, but hey, at least you don't have to feel guilty about not taking care of someone's feelings who is mean to you.

Anyway, is it still the common belief that sexual harassment results from men not reading women correctly?

More D-listers turn out for the Prez

From Roger Ailes, a list of RNC performers. Sadly, they couldn't even get the quality country musicians that are endorsing Kerry. Lee Ann Womack and Darryl Worley just don't quite reach the same audiences that you'll see turning out for the Dixie Chicks and Willie Nelson, contrary to what non-country fans might think.

There's evidence that the Republicans are losing the pop culture battle again like they did in 1992 when Bill Clinton wowed the MTV crowd. Call it the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame advantage--musicians are or one day will be in the RRHF are more likely to turn out for Kerry. And this may very well get just enough people interested in what the Democrats have to say to swing the election for Kerry.

I realize that focusing on the music isn't really focusing on the issues the way Kerry wants to do. But if BushCo wants to talk about Vietnam, then our side has a great advantage in the music department. Think about how effective it would be to use "Fortunate Son" in a counter-ad that just went down a list of various things that Bush was or wasn't doing while Kerry was in Vietnam.