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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Random memory

A friend of mine was asking me about the West today, specifically New Mexico. I recommended a couple of things to him, but a sudden memory from high school overcame me.

Sitting there reading in homeroom and a classmate walks up and accuses me of being one of those "New Wavers".

Since I hadn't heard that term since I was a little kid, I laugh. "What do you mean?"

"Oh, I know you New Wavers. You dress funny and listen to weird music. I'll bet you have a bunch of friends who are into skateboarding and stuff, don't you?"

I'm sitting here remembering that dumb kid and listening to my MP3s on random. The Happy Mondays comes on and I start to groove along. Stupid little shit had a point.

Damn him.

One standard to rule them all

Thinking about beauty standards will always get the mind a-churning. In my earlier post on the subject, Kyria pointed out that men have a wealth standard that they both trade on and are oppressed by like women have a beauty standard. There's a lot of truth to that, but there was a missing piece that I kept mulling over and over in my mind but couldn't quite articulate to myself. Then I read this article in Alternet about a new history of beauty treatments. The article brought up two things that kicked my thinking into gear--Thorstein Veblen's theories of conspicious consumption and the constant changing of the beauty standard.

We always like to talk about The Beauty Standard as if it is one thing that is simple to pinpoint and articulate. Certainly anti-feminist evolutionary "psychologists" love the idea of a constant beauty standard, because it makes it easier for them to argue that their aesthetic and sexual preferences are a hardwired part of men's genetics and not worth examining for political and social reasons that might make them uncomfortable. But Veblen's theory that women function in our society as a way for a man to display his wealth is a useful one, and one that is supported by ever-changing beauty standards that tend to reflect social priorities as much as they do in any ingrained male idea of what Female should look like.

I think that Veblen's theory about conspicious consumption was good, but in relation to men and women, it didn't go far enough. Women display themselves to assert more than their men's wealth--they display themselves to assert all sorts of traits that their men and their culture at large takes pride in.

Different subcultures in America have different beauty standards. Kyria's comment really jogged my brain on this--the first thing I thought was that I know a number of women who are stunningly beautiful but they couldn't trade in their looks for a man with wealth if they wanted to because they don't subscribe to the grooming practices that are favored in your average gold-digger. (And god knows I know this standard all too well, having worked at banks in very wealthy neighborhoods.) The gold-digger standard is probably closest to the one that makes us flinch when watching "Extreme Makeover"--bleached hair, plastic surgery, breast implants, tan, lots of make-up and expensive jewelry.

In my little subculture of America, women adhere to a different beauty standard, but it's still a standard. Women either aspire to the natural look or play with these ideas of beauty, exaggerating them for dramatic effect. It's generally accepted as rejection of the "standard" of beauty, but there are standards in this subculture, too. All the various hairstyles I've gone through might serve as an example.

I've dyed my hair bright red, messed with colors like purple and pink, went for years with a severe bob of red hair with a streak of blonde in it, dyed my hair white-blonde and got it cut is a sloppy short cut, and then let it grow out in its natural color. Now I have my homegrown color and it's really long. Whatever I did with my hair, I never tried to do something artificial that I tried to pass off as natural. That is for women who try to use artifice for nature; I was more interested in drawing attention to my dramatic hair or just letting it be if I felt lazy. At all times I was fitting into my subculture's standard, which is that deception is unattractive. (Dyeing your hair funny colors is being dramatic, but isn't deceptive. No one thinks your hair naturally grows that way.)

This is the standard across the board. No push-up bras, heavy make-up, or dressing up allowed. (Unless of course you go overboard to mock it.) In one sense, it's freeing. But you also hear people laugh at women on the outside who do resort to artifice, pointing out that they can't pull off looking good without help. In that sense, it's a trap, because women are still judged by their looks and they don't even get to use outside help to get a leg up.

And while women I know don't trade on their looks for plain money, there is still a lot of trading on looks for social status. Men who have achieved some amount of fame as musicians in my social circles tend to have the girls who adhere to our subculture's beauty standard closely. There are things to trade in other than just money.

It occured to me that just as you could in the past, you can tell more about a man's station in life by the woman he has on his arm than by the way he himself dresses. Typical middle-aged man in okay shape by himself doesn't catch attention; slap a tan, plastic blonde on his arm and you know that he has money. Take average looking somewhat hip guy in his early 20's, late 30's who doesn't catch attention; slap a woman on his arm that has groovy clothes and hair and a curvy but thin figure and people will guess he's a musician. So on and so forth.

It troubles me. I don't dress or look the way I do to make my boyfriend look one way or another, and I don't think he would even notice if I did. I just want to look cool for my own sake. But you can't change the way people react to these things.

God's priorities

From Feministe, this poem that a school principal read over the intercom tells me quite a bit about how some people view God.

Now I sit me down in school - Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God - Finds mention of Him very odd.
If Scripture now the class recites, - It violates the Bill of Rights.
And anytime my head I bow - Becomes a Federal matter now.
Our hair can be purple, orange or green, - That's no offense; it's a freedom scene.
The law is specific, the law is precise. - Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.
For praying in a public hall - Might offend someone with no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate, - God's name is prohibited by the state.

We're allowed to cuss and dress like freaks, - And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They've outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible. - To quote the Good Book makes me liable.
We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen, - And the 'unwed daddy', our Senior King.
It's "inappropriate" to teach right from wrong, - We're taught that such "judgments" do not belong.
We can get our condoms and birth controls, - Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed, - No word of God must reach this crowd.
It's scary here I must confess, - When chaos reigns the school's a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make: - Should I be shot; My soul please take!

It's interesting what the school principle seems to think that the presence of God would get out of the schools--dress code violations, guns actually being fired in school (God likes gun ownership in this poem), teenage sexuality, and assorted teenage obsessions like horror novels and iconic art. Turns out that the things that God considers a majority priority are the very things your typical uptight school principal considers major discipline problems!

Fancy how the God of so many Bible-thumpers happens to have their exact same priorities. Bible-thumping family men think God wants Dad to make all the decisions for wife and children. How convienent. Bible-thumping homophobes think God hates gays and lesbians. And now Bible-thumping school principals thinks God is more offended by annoying teenage behaviors than any other thing.

I'm becoming a Bible-thumper and declaring that God abhores emo and jam bands. It's his major priority, I promise.

Princesses, girly-girl stuff, wearing pink and being weak

The problem with the color pink is not what it is, but what it represents--girlness, femininity. And therefore weakness. But I reject the notion that the feminine is weak, as I think everyone who tries to embrace feminism does. So how does one reject the notion that feminine is weak while still believing that there's something wrong with the girly-girl stuff?

These are the basic questions that are everyone's minds that wrote to Salon this week regarding the article about little girls fantasizing about princesses. It's a question that's on my mind a lot as well, because, as I've mentioned before, I've got a girly-girl streak in me a mile wide. (I am happy that it's cold because I have a cute new sweater to wear, for instance. This really did get me all excited.) On a certain level, there's nothing wrong inherently wrong with all the separate pieces of girliness--even the vanity that is part and parcel of the clothes, make-up, shoes package is not a particularly harmful trait as long as it's kept within reason. And, as this letter from Sheila Underwood points out and as those of us who harbor girly tendencies can testify, it's not that easy to let go of the fun and fantasy of glamour.

It's a horrible trap for those women who naturally gravitate toward the girly. It leaves you with two choices: acknowledge your love of the feminine and decide that you are unsuited for competition, struggle or independent thought; or, hide your girlieness, and let it fester deep in your heart until it forms a core of self-doubt, a suppressed need that will rise up to shame you every time you crave something pretty or yearn to have your physical beauty acknowledged.

By telling girls and women to reject things that are coded feminine and embrace things coded masculine, we are arguing, albeit unintentionally, that masculine is inherently better than feminine. If it's possible to drain value judgements from things masculine and feminine, then it's likely that you'll find people selecting from a hodge-podge of masculine and feminine traits and modes of dress to suit different occasions. A perfect example is that when pants were no longer coded as strictly masculine, most women incorporated pants into their wardrobes, but they didn't abandon their skirts. If only skirts could be coded neutral as well, and it were easier for men to adopt feminine things as it is for women to adopt masculine things, it might be easier for us to get a grip on what's bad-feminine and what's value neutral-feminine.

And that's the problem. A lot of feminine things are not inherently bad but are just coded that way out of loathing for women. But a lot of feminine things are essentially tools of oppression. And a lot are in the gray area. This letter from Helen Young can make those of us who like the girly-girl stuff flinch.

I believe a large part of what now allows me to be happy in reality is that I wound up, solely by chance rather than merit, securing a number of those fairy-tale elements in my actual life. I happen to be skinny and reasonably cute; I happen to have married an attractive guy I love who makes a lot of money. If I had instead grown up to be an ugly duckling who had no man, I would probably feel like crap, even if I were a rocket scientist. And everywhere you look in our society there is overwhelming evidence that millions and millions of women do indeed feel like crap -- just take the eating disorders, the obsession with looks and weight, or the fact that women are still earning less then men in every state and doing lots more than their fair share of domestic drudgery.

Ouch. The beauty standard still is the overriding standard of how women are judged by men and by each other, and there is no doubt that this oppresses women. Women who don't live up to it are excluded and mocked and have trouble defining their identity through other outlets and preserving their self-esteem in a society that disdains them. Women who do measure up to the beauty standard are derided as being hateful to other women and stuck on themselves. You're either a dog or a bitch in this culture, and it's hard to get around that.

Plenty of us have found an uneasy balance in our lives where we allow that women have a right to look how they like (men too) while being treated as well-rounded human beings with plenty of interests and ideas beyond their hair and make-up. But even for those who manage, it's a treacherous path. As for raising children who have a decent understanding of how to balance one's relationship to their gender with one's basic desires to be a full human being regardless of gender, I have no clue. But a lot of suggestions in these letters seem reasonable to me.

The motivation can be explained

This article about that JFK video game is interesting and well-worth reading, but it points to two things I think are misconceptions you'll find a lot with people who don't think that Oswald could have acted alone. He addresses the "single bullet" theory, but doesn't acknowledge that most people think that the "single bullet" theory is just that--the theory that Oswald got off one shot that made all those holes. Once you explain that the "single bullet" theory is the theory that Oswald got off three shots, two that hit, most people see things very differently. The debate is about whether three shots were fired or four, and the belief is that if it were four then Oswald couldn't have acted alone.

This writer doesn't acknowledge the other major argument that sways a lot of people to the side of the conspiracy theorists--that Oswald himself just couldn't have done it. A lot of conspiracy theorists dance around this one, because arguing motivation is just hard as hell to do. But it does sway a lot of people. We want to believe that a lone madman couldn't just do this for no real good reason. It has to be a politically motivated conspiracy, or we have to face the fact that random violence is possible.

Considering that a few years after that, a madman went into the UT Tower and managed to pull off 50 sniper hits, some of which are much harder to picture than the one than the Kennedy assassination, I am surprised to this day that people have trouble understanding that this sort of shit happens. Charles Whitman and Lee Harvey Oswald had nearly identical motivations--military trained losers who finally flipped shit one day and decided to punish others for doing better than they could do. I cannot for the life of me think why people think that Presidents, even young and charming Presidents, are somehow exempt from the attentions of lone nuts with guns who prey on everyone else.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Someone please think of the adulterers and abusers!

Bill Berowitz has an interesting article at Working for Change about the push to get more people to sign up for the Covenant Marriage in Arkansas. For those who don't know, covenant marriages are super-special marriages that are extra-hard to get out of. You undertake them to show that you are more special than other married couples and your reward is that if you want out, even if your spouse is beating you or cheating on you, you have to go through a counseling period and a cooling off period.

Basically, the covenant marriages are the Wife Beater Protection Act. The Christian right loves covenant marriages. I'm guessing the reason is that wives are supposed to submit graciously to their husbands, and one can't really be angry if the husbands occasionally have to resort to physical methods to remind their wives of this fact.

Apparently, not that many couples were that enthused about getting into marriages they can't get out of, even if there's abuse. (Well, get out of via divorce. The proliferation of guns in this part of the country makes another method of finding yourself suddenly single rather tempting, I'm sure.) According to this article, a mere 400 couples have gotten the Super Special Covenant Marriage since 2001, compared to 40,000 a year since then. One does wonder how many of these hard-to-leave marriages had the enthusiasm of both spouses going in. If I were a wife-beater, I myself would put some effort into persuading my bride that it's her Christian duty to enter the marriage titled No Exit. Especially if I wanted her to just flee the state, leaving my children behind with me out of desperation if it ever got to that point. Same story if I had a roving eye--I wouldn't want my spouse to just stomp out the second I was caught in bed with someone else.

Gov. Huckabee of Arkansas wants to have a mass wedding of 1,000 couples where at least one spouse wants to make it very, very difficult for the other to leave the marriage for whatever reason on Valentine's Day. I'm guessing it's a big fat Fuck You to the thousands of gay and lesbian couples who married on Valentine's Day this past year. I'm afraid that Gov. Huckabee is going to be sorely disappointed in the different qualities to the event. A weak offering of a couple hundred couples with cowed wives a dominant faction just won't compete well with the stream of joyous same sex couples that poured our of City Hall in San Francisco recently. A display of servitude to an oppressive institution just doesn't have that same Valentine's Day feel that a display of joyous love does.

More medical marijuana information

Lest anyone think my opinions on medical marijuana are radical, here's an article from the Texas Medical Association, the largest state medical association in the country, that indicates support for doctors who wish to use this treatment with their patients. TMA is a fairly conservative organization, but they stand by the rights of doctors to treat patients as they see fit without government interfering for phony-baloney moral reasons. For this reason, they tend to support reproductive rights as well.

People's private health choices are not the place for political grandstanding.

The Cosmo girl for the love-phobic man

Ah, the perfect match for a boy suffering from "boy disease" is clearly the Cosmo girl. I should have figured. Who else has time to sit around trying to suss out what some guy means by calling you sporadically, refusing to commit to anything, including dinner, and laughing at you behind your back? How to convince yourself that he really loves you when he won't say so because saying things like "I love you" is just too gross and girly? Well, Cosmo has a list of silent ways a guy is saying "I love you." Luckily, all these are properly ambigious, so don't be surprised if what you thought was a proclamation of love was just gas. Keep buying Cosmo to find out more!

You catch him staring at your eyes.
The eyes are more than just windows to a man's soul, they can also be a tattletale to what's wellling in his heart. Men always ogle the objects they desire -- it's the reason you're always busting us cleavage-peeping.

So if he stares at cleavage, he loves you? Or just your eyes? I'm confused.

There are two types of I-love-you looks. There's the secret stare (you'll have to catch him in the act). "Watching my girlfriend at a party allows me a private moment when I can pinch myself and wonder how I deserve this amazing person in my life -- a perspective I can't get when she's right there in front of me," says Patrick, 30.

So if you look at him and he looks away, assume that he is dying of love but just can't tell you. After all, it's hard for a man to love you when he's dealing with the actual you. Like Patrick here, men find women much more lovable when they are far, far away.

Then there's the steady gaze. Guys are guarded when it comes to showing emotion. If they lock eyes for a full-tilt, unabashed stare, they're lowering their shield to let you in. "I'd never hold that sort of eye contact with anyone else, but an intense gaze with my girlfriend reflects how comforted and captivated I am by her," says Chip, 29.

Got it. If he looks away, he loves you. If he stares at you, he loves you. That or you have red-eye and you need more sleep. Or a booger.

He stocks his kitchen with stuff you like.
Discovering that his kitchen is loaded with biscotti, lemon-lime seltzer, and other feminine edibles (that would only pass his lips at gunpoint) shows you're lingering on his mind in the most unexpected, unromantic places -- like the produce aisle on a solo shopping trip.

That or the Queer Eye guys got a hold of him. Or his doctor told him eat something other than steak or face the consequences. But then I guess you can convince yourself he only wants to live now that he has you in his life.

Furthermore, stocking up means he's gone public with your place in his pad. You see, men like to maintain at least the image of being detached for as long as possible. So leaving unmistakable evidence in our home that there's a woman present in our life is a bright red flag that you're The One.

Still, even if there's wine spritzers and Diet Coke in the fridge, if he tells his friends in front of your face, "No, she's not my girlfriend," be a little hesistant before you start picking out rings.

He talks about where he wants to live in three years.
Telling you he plans to relocate out West one day may seem like a neon warning not to get any long-term ideas because your man's getting set to leave you in the dust. However, it might also be his wily way of letting you know that he wants you in his future.

Got it. If he idly talks about his plans three years down the road, he is either telling you that he'll be gone by morning or he's proposing marriage. One thing is for certain--he's not making small talk. You see, men never do. Even when he asks, "Cold enough for you?" on a cold day, he is sending silent signals about his marital intentions.

He wears the sweater you gave him all the time.

It couldn't possibly be because he likes it, could it?

Trusting you behind the wheel of his wardrobe is something no man does readily. Not that guys are really all that picky about their appearance, it's just that we pride ourselves on being, well, ourselves.

Ah, your boyfriend can be counted on to deliberately avoid wearing a sweater that he likes to show you who's boss. Hang onto someone like that as if your life depended on it.

Consequentially, every time a guy does don some item he obviously didn't pick out for himself, he's showing that he's letting you take control and do a little remodeling.

I buy my boyfriend sweaters all the time. At no point did I realize that my innocent gifts of sweaters are in fact insidious attempts to turn him into Pussy Whipped Sweater Man.

It's a bold statement, one that guarantees he'll encounter a certain amount of abuse from his peers.

Shit, nothing like the ridicule I'd give him for having friends who say, "That sweater has girl cooties. Nanny nanny boo boo."

He stands right next to you in public.

Most men in America demonstrate their non-whipped status by making their girlfriends and wives walk 10 paces behind, after all.

That's why when a man's still uncertain about his feelings, he'll either trail several feet behind you or get out in front and lead the path -- two safety positions that keep his wandering eyes hidden.

Huh. Is that why men walk to the altar first during wedding ceremonies, too? In case they see someone they like better and need to bolt?

He doesn't flinch if you pick up his phone.

Caller ID has made this particular tip utterly and completely irrelevant. Does anyone pick up the phone and not read out loud who's calling anymore?

And now for the super-fast ways you know a man wuvs you.

He arrives at the restaurant for your dinner dates before you do.

Picking a woman up for a date is grounds for common-law marriage in 12 states, did you know?

He remembers the names of your friends (and not just the pretty ones).

Though he still ranks your friends in terms of attractiveness in front of you. Rethink the love thing if he actually keeps a bulletin board with the rankings and the probability he can talk the top five into bed.

He does things with you during prime sports time (Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 1 to 7).

This counts even if he doesn't like sports, so don't freak out, Cosmo girls!

He asks about your family.

This counts even if he sees family pictures in your hallway and says, "Is this your family?"

He picks you up from the airport ... during rush hour.

This doesn't count if you promised him a blow job for the ride.

Medical marijuana case being heard today

This is a huge deal. This is about so much more than pot-smoking hippies or even the wildly expensive and useless drug war. This is about the government's function in our democracy--are they here to protect and serve the citizens? Or are they fully committed to standing with the powerful against the weak?

The arguments against the use of marijuana for medical purposes are losing ground daily, as more and more people educate themselves about the myriad of uses for the drug for diseases like AIDS and cancer, and many of us come in contact with people who have used it effectively to combat these diseases. (A close friend of mine, for instance, watched a close friend of hers gain back a good amount of weight he had lost due to AIDS after taking up a daily regimen of pot-smoking. He's passed now, but for awhile there he was feeling better.)

We all know where BushCo stands--fuck sick people. There's money to be made for both Big Pharma (beats me what drug they have that combats weight loss from chemo and AIDS but whatever) and a hugely expensive drug war that laid the groundwork of power to take away your constitutional rights that the war on terrorism has only increased. The stink of stupidity in this whole situation is nauseating.

Some Republican members of Congress, meanwhile, urged the court to consider that more than 20,000 people die each year because of drug abuse.

"Drug abuse" is a catch-all term to hide the fact that of those 20,000 people, most of them are heroin and cocaine users. As far as I can tell, it's nearly impossible to overdose on marijuana. But you know what does kill people? AIDS and cancer--people die everyday from wasting away from chemotherapy and AIDS wasting diseases. If their doctors feel that marijuana can help reduce their pain and even help keep them alive, then I trust those doctors a lot more than a bunch of congressmen who were elected by constituencies who don't even quite understand that yes, Grandma was a monkey.

If SCOTUS decides that doctors don't have a right to treat their patients with medical marijuana because of some arbitrary federal laws, then that definitely puts abortion and birth control rights under threat. After all, the whole basis of reproductive rights is the assumption that the government doesn't have a right to meddle with the private health choices made between a person and her doctor. If a doctor doesn't have the right to help keep you alive with marijuana, it will be hard to argue that he does have the right to help keep you from getting pregnant.

Boy disease?

I grabbed a copy of the Bust magazine book to read while soaking in the tub this morning and inside on an article on men, Marcelle Karp singled out "boy disease" as an example of the kind of non-headline-snatching sexism that is nonetheless part of many women's lives. I had to laugh--I remember the term from Sassy magazine as well, being straight from the generation of young women that magazine was aimed at. Basically, "boy disease" is that irritating behavior where a young man comes on really strong, and once he's got you to fall for him he acts like you have the plague or that your company is barely tolerable, though he keeps coming around for sex and causing you confusion. The only cure of course is to cut him off, refusing to take his phone calls.

I realized that I had always lumped that behavior in with the common not-committing behavior, which is where you string someone along with promises and soulful gazes but never quite agreeing to a monogamous relationship because you want to keep your options open. Men and women both do this, and probably at closer rates than women's magazines would have you believe. But boy disease is a bit different, since it's motivated by an immature fear and loathing of the feminine, thus the "boy" part. I was a victim when I was young, as were a lot of girls I know. Basically, boys would woo you but once they had you the fear that some girl would rub off on them and pollute them would kick in (usually abetted by jealous and fearful male friends) and they would start the shunning process. Some guys (Bill Maher?) never get over boy disease. And plenty of guys never suffer from it at all, though I didn't realize that when I was younger or it would have saved me some pain.

It occurred to me while mulling this over in the tub that even though most guys get over boy disease, it still casts a shadow over relations between men and women. Even as adults, many women still are led to believe that men would shun us in a moment and we are instructed to put up with quite a bit to overcome our disability of being, well, female. A number of incidents lately made me realize that even we enlightened liberal types still fear that this contempt is a factor in our relationships, even when it's not. It seems a real shame to me that even women who should feel confident in their relationships with men still have to live with the message that he will bolt, or at least cheat, at the first chance he gets. And of course it's a shame that men who don't have these feelings can fall under suspicion easily.

Solutions? Beats me. People just need to be more assertive all around about their feelings that women are not especially obliged to put up with crap to compensate for their appalling female-ness. Outside of that, I don't really know what else can be done.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The word "witch" means women are scary

I am as amused as everyone else at Jerry Falwell calling NOW the National Organization of Witches. It is sad that he thinks that's thigh-slappingly hee-la-ree-us, but I honestly don't think that the sheer humor value of it is why he chose the word "witch". Flea thinks that he was invoking a thinly veiled threat of death to feminists, and she has a point. But mostly I think that it's just Falwell's paranoia showing its face again. By saying that, he was making it clear that he thinks women are a force of evil and that's why they need to be contained.

Paranoid accusations that an oppressed group is really quite powerful and out to get their oppressors are as old as humanity. The favorite version of this in our society is the paranoid fear of black people that is common to white surburbanites.

Is this mental trick just excuse-making? Get them before they get you? Or is it projection?

I favor the latter theory, after examining all the instances of this you see in the modern day right wing movement. The more committed that a wingnut is to a certain kind of oppression, the more likely he/she is to attribute a similiar kind of villany to the oppressed group. Falwell is dedicated to restoring the patriarchy and he draws on supernatural authority (God) for his arguments. Of course he's likely to see women, and especially feminists, as a scheming mass of sorceresses drawing on supernatural powers in order to hurt men.

Arguing from projection is one of the favored methods of the social conservatives. Is your wingnut committed to banning gays and lesbians from obtaining legal protection for their families through marriage? Then that wingnut will accuse gays and lesbians of wanting to destroy marriage. Does your wingnut want the law to assist him/her in telling you what you can watch on TV or buy at Best Buy? Then that wingnut will accuse you of trying to sneak these materials into their home. Is your wingnut a member of a church that emphasizes witnessing and recruiting? You're likely to find a wingnut then who insists that gays recruit. It's even gotten to the point where a favored argument of those who wish to take away a woman's right to abortion claim that legalized abortion somehow prevents women from carrying a pregnancy to term if they'd like. (I'm serious. Scroll down and read from where Still Hurting jumps in.)

Children and marriage aren't one and the same

Ever since this article made the rounds on the lefty-net (Echidne has a great take on it), I've been thinking about it. Yesterday I didn't post because I went to Houston to go to an engagement party, which was a lot of fun. The marry-to-conform crowd would have likely been pleased with the surface appearances. Multiple generations, beaming parents, babies crying, older children running around. The groom is a country music singer, so we even had live country music and since this is Houston you even got some old school Southern accents going on. Pure red state bliss on the surface (ignore the Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers). But scratch the surface and you'll see that marriage just ain't what it used to be. First of all, the couple is in their late 30s/early 40s, first marriage for both. Second of all, the bride has her own business and has no intentions of scaling back that massive workload to be the wifey. No one used this occassion to pressure the single people to marry. And when the couple was asked if children were in the future, they gave a tepid response. Maybe, maybe not. But they aren't going to sweat it, because they are marrying each other, not marrying to have children.

Of course, the bullshit argument that marriage is for children wouldn't be so central to the right-wing social agenda if it weren't for same sex marriage. The best argument for privileging heterosexuals over homosexuals is that heterosexuals can Make Babies (wow, what a talent) and that marriage is for making babies. More interesting debate on this at Alas, as usual. I expect those who have suddenly realized that babies must be raised by their biological mother and father, no exceptions, will shortly be working to ban adoption.

So now deliberate childlessness in straight married couples is suspect, since it is giving lie to the argument that people marry to make babies. Conform, dammit!

Well, attacking deliberate childlessness is also a great covert argument for attacking women's rights as well, and of course it gives the self-righteous one more thing to feel self-righteous about, that they have sacrificed by having children. (I'm sure that it's a warm feeling to be told by your parents that they sacrificed by having you to please God, implying that they would rather be doing something fun.)

Of course, having children is central to a lot of people's choice to marry, and that's great of course. But even those people who want to marry and have children are hurt by the belief that marriage exists to make children alone. It hurts single parents who may like to be married but can't for various reasons. And it hurts couples who marry and want to have children, but can't, because it makes them feel that their marriage is somehow phony. Mohler seems to be aware of the danger of this, because he cautions against it.

Morally speaking, the epidemic in this regard has nothing to do with those married couples who desire children but are for any reason unable to have them, but in those who are fully capable of having children but reject this intrusion in their lifestyle.

Of course, he doesn't give this the attention it deserves. Infertility causes many marriages to fall apart, because the couple can't quite dedicate themselves to marriage without children, or because the resentment at not having children starts getting aimed at your spouse.

Because of this, I am going to venture to say that the hyper-attention that marital fertility gets does more to discourage straight people from being married than same sex marriage ever could. Not only does it tear at marriages that are plagued with infertility because those couples have trouble finding ways to redefine their marriage in a way that they can be happy without children or by adoption, bbut it discourages people who don't want children--or any more children--from marrying. Ask your average single mother about her dating prospects, especially one who makes it clear that she wants no more children.

The truth of the matter is that child-bearing and marriage have unbuckled in people's actual behavior if not in their notions. Second marriages, childless marriages, couples who raise children without the benefit of marriage, and single parenthood are all part of everyday existence, and they are becoming normalized in many people's conceptions of what "family" is. A lot of couples that want children have even begun to quietly discard the fertility rituals from their own wedding ceremonies, because while they want children they don't want to imply that their marriage is "about" children. A friend of mine got a little bit angry at her minister when he blessed her home and "all who will live in it" during her wedding ceremony for this exact reason.

Those of us who are deliberately childless still feel defensive about it. But that's fading, too. Last night I laughed at the antics of a toddler who just had to dance around to the music, and I did so without fear that someone would flip around and start asking me when I was coughing up an adorable brat of my own. It wasn't so long ago that I felt like I had to be defensive around children to prevent people from sizing me up for signs of baby lust, so I consider this a big step forward.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Manipulate that man into your boyfriend

Since we already know that men don't want to have committed relationships and women always want them, the problem that confronts us poor women is how to get a man to give in and commit. Cosmo is here to save the day. Their suggestion? To talk to him? Threaten to leave if you don't get a commitment? Get drunk, sleep with someone else and then laugh at him if he complains, pointing out that he doesn't have the right?

No, apparently not. These things can backfire and run a guy off. And since we know that half a man is better than no man at all, even if he's an asshole, you have to manipulate a guy into thinking commitment is his idea. Here are the tricks.

Take up extreme sports. Do that, and he may think he's losing you. The point here isn't so much that you risk your life but that you actually create more of a life outside his orbit. Canceling a date because you want to make him jealous is lame, but canceling a date because, hey, you've got your karate classes tonight and your flying lessons tomorrow, is sort of cool.

Translation: Don't sit around waiting for him. Do something fun while waiting for him.

Take a vacation. Jetting off with nothing but a bikini and the promise of a postcard gives him a small taste of life minus you. Plus, the freedom to flirt when you're ostensibly single cuts both ways, and if he's into you, that'll stick in his craw. "When my girlfriend told me she was going on a cruise with three of her friends, I figured, cool -- three weeks of bachelor days ahead," says Todd James* (names have been changed), a 29-year-old New York City public-relations executive. But then he saw how excited she was about the trip. "She kept talking about how they were going to get crazy -- and two of her friends didn't have boyfriends. I doubted Amy was going to sit on the boat drinking pina coladas alone while they hit the town." Long story short: The night before she left, he initiated The Talk.

Sounds like a lot of money and effort to get the equivalent of getting drunk and sleeping with one of his friends.

Act as if you've already had The Talk. In other words, take liberties. Adopt the role of the one and only girlfriend, fiancee, or whatever relationship status you aspire to. With our notorious lack of short-term memory, your guy may assume you two have already had The Talk, but he may not remember exactly when.

You can take this a step further and start acting this way before you even go out on a date. Just show up at the house of the guy you like in your pajamas and he may not even notice that he has never looked at you twice before.

Go out with your pal "Rocco." Men have a problem with so-called guy friends, men with whom women claim to have platonic relationships. In fact, I use the term so-called because guys don't believe there is such a thing as a guy friend, especially when it comes to a girlfriend they care about.

Translation: You don't have to actually sleep with someone else to make him think you're sleeping with someone else.

Mouse Words alternative advice: If your boyfriend is the sort who thinks that you sleep with all your male friends, dump him immediately.

Make a major independent financial decision. Talk about buying a car, a plot of land, a house, or maybe a Cessna. The reason: You're making him aware that you don't need him to move your life forward.

Is it me or does this article imply that men automatically don't want something if they think a woman wants it?

Anyway, buying a house might make a man commit if the guy you're seeing is a gigolo who is looking for a permanent sugar mama and was only holding back until he saw how much money you make.

Ask him if he's ever been to Guam. Or New Mexico. Or Phoenix. "I hear they have giant lizards there," you might say, toying with your pasta. "I'd like to live where there are giant lizards." By contemplating a big move -- to another city, country, or hell, another apartment (and out of your shared bedroom) -- you show him you're antsy with the current setup.

Translation: Tell him that you are fixing to leave and take your pussy with you. It might be easier to follow this advice if you are just straightforward about it.

Lastly, buy him a compass. Literally pick up a compass at a camping store, and attach a note that reads, "When you figure out where you're going, let me know. I may be here, but I may not. Love, (insert your name here)."

Screw that. If you're going to be cute about it, then you definitely should say, "If you don't commit I'm leaving and taking my pussy with me." Not only does it get the message across, no matter what his answer is your friends will treat you like a hero.

Cute little poem

I found this poem, "How the Grinch Stole Marriage" at Ex-Gay Watch. Here's an excerpt.

For, tomorrow, he knew... All the Gay girls and boys
would wake bright and early. They'd rush for their vows!
And then! Oh, the Joys! Oh, the Joys!

And THEN they'd do something he liked least of all!
Every Gay down in Gayville the tall and the small,
would stand close together, all happy and blissing.
They'd stand hand-in-hand. And the Gays would start kissing!

"I MUST stop Gay Marriage from coming! ...But HOW?"

Read the whole thing.

Friday random ten

Rox Populi shops and listens to random tunes. I simply listen to random tunes.

1) "Shake a Tail Feather"--Ike and Tina
2) "Servant of Love"--Van Brothers
3) "Monster Trucks"--Clutch
4) "Hong Kong Garden"--Siouxsie and the Banshees
5) "Portofino"--Raymond Scott
6) "Safari"--Hardy's Jet Band
7) "Gimme Gimme Gimmie"--Black Flag
8) "The Light That Will Cease to Fail"--Stereolab
9) "Orginal Voice of America"--Cabaret Voltaire
10) "(I Don't Want to Go to)Chelsea"--Elvis Costello

Sometimes it's the little things that bug

Bravo is doing the 100 greatest TV characters of all time. Watching it is a sad reminder of all the little ways that sexism persists in our culture. That list is of 21-100, since they haven't posted the last 20 yet. Of those 80 great TV characters, only 22 slots go to female characters, and of the 22, 8 are paired off with male characters.

So--80 slots, 22 slots have female characters and 66 slots have male characters. Little things like that are why it's such a joke when people say we don't need feminism anymore.

Friday cat blogging

I think Max is just in a turkey coma. Posted by Hello

Give me even the Kinsey scale

The entire dispute that's come up over Alexander the Great and his sexuality due to this new movie frustrates me to no end. We have fallen so lockstep into the notion that you are either gay or straight that we have so lost the forest for the trees.

The truth is that once they manage to uncover the sexuality genes, it will answer very little. Conservatives will continue to act like homosexuality is a deviation, progressives will continue to act like there are straights and gays and that difference must be embraced. Progressives are closer to the truth, but still I worry.

I want the Kinsey scale back in a lot of ways. In politics, it's pointless to talk about where you fall on some scale, because the issues are rights and that is black or white in many ways. Either you have the right to marry someone of the same sex who is your lifelong partner or you don't. If you are slightly bisexual on the Kinsey scale is irrelevant, because you have your life that you have now and that deserves respect. Period.

I worry because of categories. Straight and gay have become hard and fast categories and while there are short term advantages to that, in the end the reason the equality makes sense is because categories are lies. Alexander was a gay man who had sexual relationships with women to consolidate power. Or he was a bisexual who liked men more. We will never know. The question to my mind is, why is this a question?

Categories are useful. I am with someone--that's a category that men use when trying to decide to talk to me. Gay and straight are useful categories, if for no other reason than they make it easier to decide who to hit on and who to avoid.

But we have to remember that categories are something we impose on chaos to make sense of things. I am a straight woman. As a rule, I fall for men. More than that, I fall for manly men who smell strongly and dress a certain way and, as my friend Kiki pointed out, I even have a thing for guys who can fix cars. (Not a bad fixation--boyfriends may fade away but a good car mechanic is forever.) But for my hyper-butch fixation, I still fell for a woman once and had a love affair with her.

I usually identify as straight, which seems fair. I have a boyfriend I am dedicated to. Beside my relationship, I mostly am oriented to men. But women can and do flummox me. Am I straight? Yes, because most of my sexual feelings are aimed at men. Am I gay? No, of course not. Am I bisexual? No, not by most definitions. Not really. I love women and am fascinated by them. But I generally only want to fuck men. My one affair with a woman doesn't change that.

I am not a bisexual. I am straight. I live straight, identify straight and always will. I will never insult true bisexuals by taking a weak attraction to women and turning that into a genuine sexual identity. But this is where my ugly questions raise their head.

I know my history and know it well. There is no doubt that Alexander the Great was gay. He had a constant companion that he was clearly in love with that was a man. But he married women and by some accounts made love to these women in a genuine way. Does that make him straight? No, and you can't turn him straight no matter how many women you fling around. I'm not a lesbian for loving one woman out of many men, and Alexander wasn't straight due to obligatory heterosexual encounters.

My boyfriend made a funny joke, though I forget the occasion, but the joke was something like, "Fuck all sorts of pussy, eat women out, no matter the number, suck one cock and you're gay." The joke is mocking straight male homophobia, implying that one crack in the straight male armor is the end of straight maleness. Interesting, but just more evidence for my point.

I see the other side of this, a desperate, grasping side to the religious right where they interpret even mild hetrosexual behavior as "evidence" of lurking heterosexuality. The religious right lives for "reformed homosexuals", who are generally bisexuals who hide themselves well. Kiss one girl, and you are straight.

I see both sides slipping into an either/or mentality and I think it's not going to achieve progressives any battles. We have got to approach gay rights from the angle or fairness or nothing will get done.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Time to thank those who sing my life

Taking on female musician blogging defeated me not because I couldn't think of a gazillion female musicians I love (I can), but more because my back was broken trying to think of cool stuff to say other than I like _____ because she is cool. Also, as my friend Chris pointed out, most real music fans obsess over one instrument and it fucks with their ability to think objectively of those who play other instruments.

He's right. I'm a sucker for singers. And it ruined my ability to be objective. But it sharpened my ability to see talent where others miss it. Weirdly, my obsession with singing has turned my boyfriend and a couple friends onto jazz and Motown--I liked the singing, I showed them the instrumentation.

Anyway, I like a lot more female singers than male singers. But here's a list of some of my favorite performances, male and female, of all time, on the microphone. Just cause. Since this list runs into the thousands of performances I adore, I imagine I will revisit it.

*Billie Holiday "Strange Fruit".--Not much to say. Tricky's remix of it blew. The rest of that album is awesome.

*Freddie Mercury "Under Pressure"--I fall to pieces every time he starts to plead for one more chance.

*Nina Simone "See-Line Woman"--She makes me feel like a natural woman.

*Aretha Franklin "Think"--This song makes me spaz and think that better things are possible.

*Debbie Harry "One Way or Another"--Blondie is one of my favorite punk bands because they truly don't give a fuck. They play what they like. Call them sell-outs. Watch them not care. Feel like you're way too invested in the corporate hegemony for caring at all. It's okay. You'll be okay.

*Kathleen Hanna "Rebel Girl"--Kathleen Hanna has poured on beautifully since her days with Bikini Kill, and this is pitch perfect punk anger.

*Cindy Wilson "Dance This Mess Around"--Cindy was probably the least musically inclined of the B-52s, but she turned in one of the most moving singing performances I've ever heard.

*Rosie Gaines "Nothing Compares 2 U"--It's a live performance you get from the greatest hits of Prince. It is the definitive version of the song. Sinead has a good voice, but she is a mere pretender to the throne.

*David Bowie "Heroes"--Great singer, great song. Nothing to say here.

*Morrissey "This Charming Man"--To this day, anyone who tells me that Morrissey is just a whining Brit, I refer them to this song and ask them to remind me again why they don't pay attention. Of course, his stuff with The Smiths was better, but so?

*Ian Curtis "Transmission"--I love New Order. But Ian Curtis was a hell of a singer. That will always be true.

*Ari Up "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"--Inspired, bad ass, totally fun cover. Find The Slits doing this song if you can.

Hating women vs. just thinking women aren't good as men

Living in Texas, I am most acquainted with sexists and misogynists and I can tell the difference. Most sexists and haters are varying degrees of rednecks. Rednecks, in all their simplicity, make it easy to illustrate the difference. Redneckis sexistimas (I'm really bad at Latin jokes so correct me or bite me, whatever) is the most common breed and they are they are the easiest to deal with. Your average sexist redneck likes women, but they don't get women because their sexism blocks their thinking. Think Hank Hill. He likes his wife and respects her, but at a certain level he just wants her to capitulate to him. The best episode of "King of the Hill" that illustrated this is when Peggy and Hank got a Harley to ride cross-country. Hank wouldn't give the driver's seat to Peggy and it pissed her off eventually. And then he broke his glasses and she had to drive back and he had a great time.

My dad is the Hank Hill kind of sexist. His identity as a male is sewn up in symbolic gestures of inequality in women, but his love and admiration of women overwhelms such weak gestures at times. My father has undertaken feminist causes without knowing it, since he supposedly dislikes feminists. (Except his beloved daughter, of course.) But he will come out batting for a woman he likes or loves if he thinks she's being mistreated in a moment.

The story I like to tell is this: My father played basketball in high school. Many of his teammates played on UTEP's team in the 60's. (First intergrated basketball team. Kicked ass. They are making a movie.) He takes basketball very seriously. So when women's ball became big in college and professionally, he was all for it. (A small part of me remembers what he and his black fellows went through in the 60's and I wonder if he sees ball as a great way to enter into larger society.) And it got personal. Even more personal.

A couple he and his wife were close to have a daughter who towered at six foot and was a hell of a ball player. My father doted on her, since his own daughters didn't give two shits about basketball. He went to every game and rooted for the not-daughter daughter and got increasingly frustrated with the ref who would call foul on the girl when she was fouled by girls smaller than herself, choosing to punish the larger girl for being larger. One night, my dad blew it and rushed down onto the court and chewed the ref out, saying that the girl only had a chance and college and the pros if she got fair calls on her high school court.

My dad is sexist. He thinks men should excel and women should stay home, in theory. But a woman he loves will be supported as if she were a man.

A misogynist is a different thing. After my mom divorced my dad she married Redneckis Misogyniam. And that's a different breed entirely and uttery unshakable.

I learned a lot about misogyny from my stepdad. He loved my mother, my sister, and me. But he screwed himself with is misogyny. I still pity him for that.

To the proper misogynist, all thing female are suspect. And all things that women do are done for men. Every behavior that he didn't like, he would ask me if I wanted future boyfriends to see that and if they did, they woulnd't want me. My mother says I threatened him. He wanted to know a lot about music, a topic I could hold forth on for hours. He would swear I was making shit up. I would get confused....

He loved me, and he told me that I wasn't thin enough. (By today's standards I wore a size 4.) He meant well. He wanted a man who was worth something to want me so I could lounge around reading and writing. He liked that I read and I wrote. He wanted to send me to college but it seemed clear to him that my love of reading and writing would work out best if I married a man who wanted those things in a wife. He was afraid that if I wasn't a waif, no man worth having would have me.

I was smart-mouthed and pissed him off. After my mom left him, she said that I threatened him, that he couldn't take a woman smarter than him, much less a much younger woman smarter than him. I learned a lesson then and there--some men don't like smart women and you shouldn't make excuses for those men.

But he loved me. When I graduated college, he sent presents. My mother was bent out of shape, worried that he was still out for her. He might have been, in part. But there they were, presents. And a note saying he was proud. He is a misogynist, angry at me for having a mouth on me and angry at my mother for putting her foot down on the cheating. But he loves us, too.

I saw misogyny ruin a man's life. I see sexism playing with men's abilities to be happy. I tell men in my life not to be sexist and I sound like a scold. But I want them to be happy...

Christian paranoia watch

Seeing the Forest has the best take I can find on this story that's going around about how a teacher was banned from teaching the Declaration of Independence because it has the word "God" in it. Basically, the story is bullshit. The teacher was banned from giving out "supplemental materials" on the use of the word "God" these documents. Dave Johnson is right--twenty bucks says that on Monday someone gets their hands on the supplemental materials and finds that they are lies and propaganda stating that this country was founded by Christians as a Christian nation, i.e. a theocracy.

He's also right that they timed this story to infiltrate Thanksgiving and all the tensions that arise in families that have differing political views. I would also point out that it's bound to come up because Thanksgiving is a secular holiday with religious connotations for a lot of families, who may not be all that comfortable with the fact that in its essence Thanksgiving is secular and belongs to all Americans, Christian or not.

These stories are not designed so much to rile up the fundamentalist Christians, the true believers who go to church twice a week. Those people are already riled up and their family members who don't believe as they do already have coping mechanisms in place. These stories work their magic on the compulsory Christians, because their relatives won't be expecting an ambush. Not many members of my family go to church on a regular basis, but I will bet you one million dollars that if this comes up over their dinner today (I'm not with them) then half of the family will be crawling over each other to denounce the liberals who are trying to take God out of kids' lives. Compulsory Christians are the worst in a way, because they feel guilty that they don't go to church so they welcome a little God-talk in the schools because it takes some of the burden off them to teach their kids respect for God and religion and all that jazz.

Via The Sideshow.

Age gaps and gender gaps

This article in Salon about how the social conservative/liberal gap is mostly a generational one is heartening. Basically, Leonard Steinhorn's point is that it's a pre and post Boomer gap and while he doesn't quite say it, he basically means to remind everyone that majority of social conservatives are staring down the grave soon. The numbers he whips out are pretty good, breakdowns by religion especially show cause for optimism.

But I find it odd that he doesn't have a breakdown by gender. Because I'm guessing, just off the top of my head, that the social conservative/liberal gap between men and women, where women are more socially liberal than men, is more dominant in the Boomer generation. There's been a real trend in this country of Boomer men embracing social conservatism in their old age as they realize that much of social conservatism's purpose is to keep men in charge of women and well, they like that. Not all, but a significant portion of Boomer men are embracing The Greatest Generation's values in no small part because that was when men were Men and women knew their place.

Most Boomer men I know from back home are more conservative than their wives. Hell, I know of racist men married to non-racist women. I also see the pro-choice/pro-life split in a lot of Boomer marriages. Boomer women I know tend to be more tolerant of gays and lesbians than Boomer men. And while I know lots of Boomer men to hold forth on how the best family arrangement is one where Dad works while Mom tends the babies, their wives to the last one have jobs and will tell you if asked that they work because they like it. My boyfriend has a lot of male coworkers of the Boomer generation and he says he sees the same male/female political split in their marriages, even though the wives do tend to vote Republican with their husbands.

In my generation, and this might just be what I see around me, men's values are much more in line with women's values. Most men I know are proud of their wives' or girlfriends' professional accomplishments and are adamantly pro-choice, even those men who want or have children. I think it's been discussed here before how men's views on abortion so often fall convienently in line with what they'd like their partners to do if they got pregnant, but I seen that tendency alot more in Boomer men than, for lack of a better term, Gen X men. And I don't see a gender gap in racist thought like I do with the Boomer generation. And while I know a lot of straight guys my age who are still a little homophobic, they don't think that's something to be proud of or anything. And no men my age would imply, as men my parents' age have done in my presence, that gay=pedophile.

But that's just my hunch. I'd like to see a breakdown of the gender gap by generations.

The promised goofy picture

My friends and me after we first went to see Grady. Chosen because this is a pretty typical weekend night in Austin.

There is no one that we are pointing out. We are just that stupid. Posted by Hello

More corny stuff to be thankful for

Couldn't have come at a better time, really, since my nerves are a little shot today and for what turned out to be extremely stupid reasons. Anyway, I like to focus on Thanksgiving then.

I am grateful for having the makeshift family that we urbanites create for ourselves out of lovers, friends, and pets. My boyfriend is both adorable and adoring and the longer I get to know him the more I see that my first impressions of him as a real mensch were absolutely correct. He bitches about it, but he works hard, he's humble about it, but he's talented. I am grateful for my friends--I have more friends than I would have ever hoped to have as a small town teenager and they are varied and always interesting. They may not all know each other, and they may not all like each other, but dammit when I throw a party and they all come it's the best time ever. And I'm grateful for those that I'm so close to that we're stuck with each other now, like family. And of course I'm grateful for Max and Katy and am even stuck wondering at times how we managed to pull two long straws to get such sweet cats.

I am grateful for all the standard stuff--my health, my job, my fabulous sense of style.

I love living in Austin and am grateful to my teenage self who began to plot to move here the second she knew how much it ruled. Human beings have a weird sense of place, as if some places have energy that makes them special, a feeling that has its unfortunate side when you look at all the fighting in the Holy Land. But it is also a positive quirk of human nature, because by believing it we also make it so. So many people throughout the history of this state have fallen in love with the beauty of the Hill Country and some feeling of goodness to Austin that they moved here and made it so. (The goodness of Austin, not the beauty of the Hill Country which made itself.) The longer I live here the more I appreciate not only that Austin is groovy and kind, but also that there is a streak of tenacity to us that makes us dig in our heels and fight, something the country got to see over the debacle of the fleeing Democrats and will get to see as Tom DeLay and Ronnie Earle's battle gets more press coverage. It would be wise of outsiders to respect the stubbornness of Texans, because while it was what got us into our national mess it's going to be a necessary part of getting us out.

Before this gets too maudlin, I guess I better throw up a goofy picture or something.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Compulsory Christianity

Listening to the best of the Majority Report tonight, I heard them kicking around poll stats that at first blush sounded really alarming. The exit poll takers in some states asked people if they thought that the U.S. law should be based on the Bible, and something like 40% of Bush voters said yes and 16% of Kerry voters said yes. Of course, the question was meant to suss out how many people in this country would support a theocracy, and the numbers that they got were pretty alarming.

But I caution calm. I guarantee that more than half of the people asked just heard a jumble of words involving values and beliefs and the word "Bible" and they answered yes. Not because they want theocracy. Not even because they base their own life choices strictly on the Bible. Mostly because they have absorbed the notion that if it's Jesus or the Bible or something, then they should support it because it's The Right Thing to Do.

Just as many voters don't know that much about the candidates or politics, most Christians aren't particularly up on their belief systems. They identify as Christian, but don't go to church much or study the Bible. But they don't disrespect the faith and are proud to be included. They are set-up perfectly therefore to spew bullshit. They don't want to get tagged as uneducated in the faith or worse, unbelievers, so they just sort of go with the flow and automatically honor anything someone tells them is "Christian" so that they don't ruffle feathers.

I grew up around a lot of this stuff. People would say whatever was asked of them as long as it was deemed Christian. It was compulsory Christianity and it would create some pretty silly situations. Suffice it to say, if you walk up to some random person in my hometown who you know for a fact sleeps off hangovers on Sunday instead of attending church and said, "Do you believe Jesus Christ is our Lord the Savior?", that person would automatically say, "Yes," even if he had never even given it a moment's thought in his life. I think a lot of that is driving the supposed religious turnout at the polls.

It's fun to talk to people who are half-assed Christians, and it's easy. Most people who call themselves "Christian" are half-assed about it. Growing up around Catholics, you get to see this tendency out in full force. The Church rails and rails against birth control, and a good number of Catholics treat this about as seriously as hearing their mother tell them to always wear a hat in cold weather. People appreciate and respect the Church, but they don't see it as the dominant force in their life. But put a question to them that seems to be asking if they believe in God or not, and they will assent.

Men are simple and easy to manipulate

This is what I've learned from esteemed asshole, John Gray, who has made it his mission in life to make sure that everyone thinks that communication breakdown in relationships is solely due to irreconcible gender differences that make you come back for more books and workbooks on how to manipulate your man's primal manhood until he does as he's told. He also has a column in Redbook, which is even stupider than Ladies Home Journal.

"I want more affection!"

My husband never touches me in public and rarely says, "I love you." At first I thought I could train him to whisper sweet intimacies, but after four years I've given up, and now it's affecting my desire for him. How can I get beyond this?

Maybe tell him that it hurts your feelings and is affecting your desire? Nah, you got to manipulate your man. After all, if simply talking through your problems were a solution, John Gray wouldn't sell any damn books.

Try driving home the point that these subtle gestures score big points with you in the desire department. Say to him, "When you touch my hand like that or say, 'I love you' in public, I think it's the sexiest thing in the world, and it totally turns me on." This kind of talk may hit his hot button and be just the nudge he needs.

Translation: Men can't show affection because they don't feel it. You have to bribe them with sex. Or possibly cookies.

"How can I change my husband's one-sided ways about oral sex?"

My husband enjoys receiving oral sex frequently, and I enjoy doing this for him. But he rarely performs oral sex on me -- and it's usually rushed. How can I change his one-sided ways?

In my experience, threats work best. "None for me, none for you." But I've covered this ground before. As usual, I don't understand men. See, they can't be expected to be fair-minded, according to Dr. (?) Gray.

Unfortunately, not all guys think about their partners as much as they think about themselves.

Yeah, but those guys are jerks.

They're not jerks;

Oh really?

it's just that if they're satisfied, they get so caught up in what's going on that it doesn't occur to them that there's anything else to worry about.

Sounds like a jerk to me.

So if you want your husband to take care of your needs more, hinting won't work; you have to tell him.

Telling is a nicer word than threatening. Fair enough.

Then say something like, "I get the feeling you don't want to perform oral sex as often as I'd like you to. Is there something about it you don't like?" Don't be upset or defensive; just open up the subject and give him room to be honest.

I'm guessing that tapping your foot and scowling is out, then.

If he admits that he doesn't like performing oral sex, see if you can experiment together to find ways to make it more enjoyable for him, such as bathing together before sex and trying out different flavored lubes.

Too much trouble. I'd say, in a pleasant and Venusian voice, "Oh wonderful darling! I don't like doing it either, well at least as long as I know that I'm not getting it in return. I'm so glad that we've settled this so nicely." I'm sure he will be thrilled.

"Can our marriage recover from his affair?"

At first, after my husband ended the affair, we were intimate a great deal, even though he said he still loved the other woman. Then, suddenly, the intimacy ended. Now we don't have sex more than once a month, and then only if I get really upset about it. He promises things will change, but they never do.

While we were in counseling, one therapist suggested that I leave him. She said he was apparently not interested in me in that way and that I should move on. I love my husband with all my heart and truly do not want to leave him. Please help!

Sucks, but she's right. Time to let him go and find someone who shows some respect to you.

Your counselor's suggestion that you separate may not be what you want to hear, but it may be the only thing that allows both of you the time and space to determine if you are indeed right for each other. The more tightly you hold on to him, the harder he will fight for the right to find out if your relationship is the right path for him.

I get it. Men are hunters and as long as you are committed, they won't care to love you. Always run, and they'll always chase. How exhausting.

Let him go. If it is meant to be, he'll be back -- if you still want him to be a part of your future at that point.

Make sure to tell him that you may or may not be available if he comes back as you're kicking him out. That sort of bait will trick him and he will want to come back. Remember gals, it's not you he wants. It's the chase.

"He's threatened by my vibrator."

I hadn't used a vibrator since I got married three years ago, but the other day I found my "old pal" and decided to give it a go again. This made my husband very uncomfortable. He says that if I "resort to machinery," it makes him feel he doesn't satisfy me. I do enjoy the pleasure the vibrator gives me, and I don't want to sneak around to use it.

Translation: I use a vibrator to masturbate and three years into marriage my husband walked in on me doing so. He was so threatened I lied and told him it was the first time since our wedding day, which has only made him more threatened because now he thinks his performance is slipping. I still want to masturbate with it, but I need a better story if he catches me again.

You can put his qualms to rest by showing him that the vibrator, like any sex toy, is there to make sex more fun for both of you. Men love to handle machinery.

Yeah, that'll work. The guy thinks it's a substitute dick. You're not gonna trick him out of that by going, "Oooh, shiny new tool like that power drill you just got from Sears."

Not that the general advice of getting the guy to familiarize himself with it and use it, etc. is wrong. But condescending to someone who is feeling threatened generally makes the situation worse.

If your husband remains deeply uncomfortable with the vibrator despite your efforts, it may well be best to consider his feelings and not force the issue.

Translation: Masturbate when he's not home.

But if the problem is simply that he needs reassurance, show him through your words and deeds that sex toys are far less important to you than the physical and emotional connection you can have only with him.

Probably best to quit professing your love to the vibrator, then.

Controversy at a women's college

Through Alt Weeklies, I found this interesting article from East Bay Express about a fight between Oakland Mills College and Hustler Magazine. It's a kind of confusing article--the writer is more interesting in heaping disdain on feminists than explaining the situation--but from what I gather, a male grad student at Mills crashed something called the Fetish Ball and wrote about the experience for Hustler, whose editors then tweaked it to resemble the "all the lesbians and feminists need is some good dick" viewpoint, which the original writer claims was not his intention. Indeed, the writer should be offended if it was the editors and not himself who introduced the phrase "hairy dykes" into the article.

This is one of those articles that makes feel hopelessly out of it. I went to a nice little Catholic university, and while shenaningans were part of college life, anything remotely resembling a Fetish Ball is way out of my experience. Not that I have a problem with it, of course, but I just can't imagine using school avenues to create a party like this. What I found interesting was that this whole uproar has caused the organizers to consider banning men from the ball in the future.

In a letter to the Mills College Weekly, the school newspaper, Fetish Ball organizers Lauren White and Tiffany Bennett considered the possibility of banning men from future balls. "We firmly believe that women, not men, own our sexuality, and that it is our right to identify and express ourselves as we choose," they wrote.

I find that to be a puzzling way of dealing with the situation. Men in general are not the problem, it seems to me. And banning them sends the wrong message, I would think. The mere presence of a man doesn't mean that he automatically "owns" the situation. This is not a small thing to a straight woman like me who has to navigate a world where it's assumed in many circumstances that heterosexual sex is performed by women for men.

I have sat here and tried to figure out exactly how a straight woman "expresses" her sexuality without including members of the sex she is oriented towards. A straight woman expressing her sexuality with other women seems to me to be the sort of thing that would be insulting to lesbians, because it's borderline Lesbian Until Graduation behavior. I guarantee that if they ban men from this event, the straight women will end up treating it, whether they mean to or not, as a playtime event before returning to their "real" relationships with men.

This article is trying to belittle feminists, but I sure wish they wouldn't play into the writer's hands. By banning men from a sexualized event because men don't "own" women's sexuality, you're implying that men as a rule can't tell the difference between enjoying women's company and possessing women. That's not true and insults straight women and men who have sexual relationships that aren't about possession and dominance.

Of course, Hustler is making things worse all around with this stupid knee-jerk anti-feminism that led the editors to go in and make changes to make the students of the university seem both man-hungry and man-hating, a peculiar stereotype of feminists that just won't die. In doing so, they only bolster the stereotype that porn is automatically sexist and homophobic. I guess flare-ups like this are upsetting to me because it not only aggravates stereotyping within the communities involved but it also gives each side a chance to build up the stereotypes of the other to uninvolved people.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Damn we miss you, Bill

My friend bought the new Bill Hicks DVD and we were watching it at her house tonight. Bill did a bit where he accused all the world of having our priorities out of whack, as we allowed John Lennon to die, but not Milli Vanilli. Where Bobby Kennedy, John Kennedy, MLK were all murdered and Reagan was only wounded. Great joke and all too true considering how short his life was.

As of late, it's hard not to miss Bill Hicks, and many people in Austin are prone to missing him out loud. It's turned into quite the cliche to shake your head and say, "I can only imagine what Bill Hicks would make of this." He railed against the war machine, against the fundamentalist Christians, against the deliberately ignorant and he made it seem so much like common sense and funny to boot. I forgot some of his great bits, like how he imagines the Jesus of the fundies coming back with an Uzi, just mowing down people Rambo-style. Or how he almost pleads with people to understand that sex and drugs are not the enemy, but just a made up enemy to distract us from the enemy within of loneliness and despair.

He loathed George Bush and always portrayed him in his act as a soul-less monster who mouthed Christian platitudes while brainlessly ordering the deaths of thousands. One can only imagine what he would make of the Son of Bush.

Since Hicks has died, a whole crop of edgy young politically minded performers have filled the gulf--Janeane Garofalo, David Cross, Chris Rock, you know the score. All are very funny, but none of them is as willing to hang the idealistic heart out on a sleeve to show exactly where the anger and frustration comes from like Hicks was. He does a joke making fun of the anti-drug hysteria and the commercial with the egg in the frying pan. And he begins to rant about all the things he's seen on drugs that are not an egg turning into a brain, which is sort of a silly joke but it works in this case. And he starts to talk about hallucinating that he sees a spaceship and the aliens take him aboard and tell him that we are all one and death is just an illusion. And pause....and then he says, but no, never that an egg was a brain.

He could start off with a crude but funny joke about porn or oral sex and then turn it into a plea for people to embrace life for all its worth and especially the human connection you get in sex and end with an angry but hysterical slap at how marketers exploit sex to sell things. It's a revelation--how many people ever consider that using a sexy model to sell a stupid product is more exploitative than to have the same model sell her image more honestly as pornography? Porn is upfront about what it is--it's selling a fantasy, no more no less. Most ads sell you on a fantasy and simply give you a product you didn't really want to begin with. It will cause you to stop and consider--are we really just afraid of having our desires reflected back to us without the veneer of lies and excuses?

Now more than ever these questions need to be asked and sadly, we may not be up to the task like he was. But we have to strive. How the fuck is it, really, that we are in a such a sad sack state of the country that people are more up in arms about their kids seeing housewives having sex on "Desperate Housewives" rather than getting sent over to Iraq to die for reasons we still don't understand? What's wrong with people that they are more worried about women having sex without "consequences" than they are about children getting blown to bits for lies? I know these questions get asked all the time, but it becomes this mindless drill of the same questions over and over and over. But watching Hicks unleash the anger and humor over these very same questions on stage over ten years ago brings them fresh to mind.

And it brings up another, even more disturbing question. How is it that in all this time things have just gotten worse?


I did an interview more than a year ago with Dickie Moist for a local zine. They told me they didn't want to publish it, mostly because they didn't think the Moistboyz were local, blah blah blah. Well, turns out they did. My boyfriend just found it. But they didn't attribute it to me. Oh well, it's not like it's paid writing or anything. I just did it as a favor anyway. Still, it burns me a little not to get credit, superficial as that is.

Blogging well is the best revenge, I guess. I'm taking credit now. It's a silly interview--I have no skills, and we just sat around drinking and bullshitting. But it might be interesting anyway because Guy (his real name) is, well, a character. It's about halfway down the page.

Fathers' rights idiots strike again

Since Trish is on vacation, I'll pick up this slack here.

Another fathers' rights moron has decided to be Santa Claus and piss everyone off again by scaring the shit out of security at Buckingham Palace. Luckily, the quality of their protests is exceeded only by the importance of their demands. The man's name is David Pyke. He does not pay child support to his ex-wife because he cannot work due to a bad back that does not stop him from climbing the wall at Buckingham Palace in a weak effort to demonstrate that while mothers are all hairy bitches, fathers are best compared to Saint Nicholas. So far, his group, Fathers 4 Justice, has not produced a spokesman who is not a complete asshole and I wait patiently for the day they can.

I imagine that I will be waiting for a long damn time. Luckily, I brought a book.

Reading your way to booty

There's no doubt in my mind that reading is sexy. Sure, there are all sorts of new-fangled geeky things to do that give one the patina of geek girl sexiness, but the old-fashioned nose in book look will never go out of style. Well, at least I hope not. But that is not what today's advice at MSN is about. Today's advice is how to emulate the heroines in novels to best attract men. And it's by a woman whose real name just can't be Rosalind Cummings-Yeates, even though that psuedonymn is probably the most clever part of this article.

Being a reader will not help you follow this advice, because all of it works much, much better if you don't actually read Victorian novels.

For centuries, heroines of classic literature have served as inspiration and refuge for women readers everywhere. Skipping through the moors, leaving home to find work, challenging social expectations — these character knew how to live fully.

Dying in childbirth, being raped and abandoned, submitting to humiliating work rather than starve and marrying men they hate rather than having to work. Yes, those characters had it good.

Despite corsets, oppressive social conditions and frowning fathers, women in classic literature always managed to find their soul mates. Taking a few cues from Jane Eyre, Little Women and Pride & Prejudice, modern single women can also learn how to capture the man of their desires.

I wouldn't say corsets existed to keep women from attracting men, but what do I know?

Blegh, the next paragraph is about Jane Eyre, and it's so stupid that it's not even worth copying to make fun of. But this sentence really is swoony:

In the end, she marries a widowed, blinded and armless Rochester, knowing that despite his flaws, it’s their love that matters.

I think I'm going to take my dating advice from another Bronte sister--Emily. Clearly the best way to win a man's love forever and ever is to marry someone else and die in childbirth. Works like a charm, even though your children that live on after you may not be so happy with the circumstances you leave behind.

Romantic notions aside, the lesson that Jane teaches women is: stay true to yourself. Never settle or make excuses for a relationship that you know is not right for you. Ignore societal pressures to snag a certain type of man. So what if he doesn’t drive a BMW or hold a high-powered position? How does he make you feel? In the long run, that’s what is important.

This is important advice--don't be materialistic. This will come in handy when we examine the dating advice from one Jane Austen.

Jo March, the gangly tomboy character in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, also teaches a lesson about self-acceptance. Disregarding 18th-century dictates, Jo uses slang, whistles, races and lies on rugs. Much to the dismay of her family, she can’t seem to learn how to act like a lady. Realizing that she is happy as she is, Jo never changes and unwittingly inspires the love of Laurie and Professor Bhaer. What single women can learn from this is to always be yourself and someone will appreciate you for you. Never mind current trends, or fashion; be comfortable with who you are and a potential mate is bound to notice.

What women can actually learn from Jo is be yourself and the boy that everyone thinks is meant for you forever will actually marry your prettier sister and you'll end up marrying a craggy old fart and disappointing your readership forever.

In Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet learns about the value of discernment. Convinced that Darcy is arrogant and proud, she refuses his advances. Later, she realizes that she has allowed hearsay and gossip to influence her opinion of Darcy, who turns out not to be proud at all, only shy. The moral of this story is to never let first impressions or gossip cloud your opinions.

Again, if you actually read the book, this clear-cut message can get a little lost. Elizabeth changes her mind about Mr. Darcy after seeing his giant mansion (see above: be materialistic or don't?) and hearing from his servants what a nice man he is, which is in fact letting the opinions of others cloud your judgement. A better lesson might be to scope a man out and find out everything you can about his before you go ahead and marry him. Which isn't bad advice at all.

Also, dammit, she doesn't refuse his advances. He sneers just as much at her in the beginning.

She leaves it at three! There's so much more you can learn from Victorian literature. From Pride and Prejudice alone you can copy Charlotte and decide it's better to marry an idiot than be an old maid. How learning from Maggie in The Mill in the Floss that even if you try to behave, people will still drag your name through the mud? And of course, there's the example of Tess Durbeyfield, who teaches us that by being honest with the man you love, he'll leave you, but you'll always be able to find an abusive rapist to take you in. Yes, the lessons of love you can get from Victorian novels are unparalleled by anything in our less romantic times.

Faking it?

From this girl, an article about whether or not it's good for women to fake orgasms. If I were writing it, it would go like this:

Q: Is it okay for women to fake orgasms?

A: No.

But I didn't write it. The nice thing about the British magazines is that they don't seem to take the pains to hide sexist assumptions like American magazines do, if badly. I don't need to parse out all the really offensive stuff, like the assumption that it's just as difficult for a man to praise your cooking as it is to give up on getting pleasure out of sex and opting instead to play porn star for him. this girl does a better job. I'm just saying that it's funny that they don't even try to hide it even a little.

Personally, if a guy expected me to lose sleep to play porn star and not get anything out of it, I would be nice about it. I would slap the lube in his hand and nicely tell him that I am not a masturbation device, though I know that's difficult to understand in a culture that tells women that they have to bust their ass to get a man, bust their ass to keep a man and never expect anything from him. But intelligent people, I assume, might occasionally take a moment to question why a woman would put so much work into a relationship when she can't even get a little love-making out of it.

What I don't get about the whole attitude, "Men don't care so why not fake it?", besides the whole part about not acknowledging that there's two people in the bed, is that it's illogical. If he really doesn't care if you come or not, then why the show? What's the point? Obviously, if you're faking it's because he cares on one level or another.

To get all deep about it, I think that a man who cares enough to buy into a fake orgasm might actually care enough to learn to coax the real thing out of a woman. If not, then he doesn't really have any business having sex with another person when there is porn everywhere for consumption. The fake orgasm might actually be about more than just another example of where women are expected to praise men lavishly for doing squat. It might be a release valve in itself, but instead of releasing sexual tension it's releasing the tension caused by the good old Madonna/whore complex.

Orgasming is embarrassing, there's no doubt about it. You got to have a sense of humor about the funny faces and goofy noises. It's rowdy; it's not what good girls do. But good girls do boost male egos, so if you are committed to being a good girl you have a conundrum. How to stay asexual and in control while also doing the horizontal equivalent of laughing at his jokes and praising him lavishly for the smallest task? Insert fake orgasm, the perfect way to be both a virgin and a whore.

Thanks, this girl, for giving me a laugh. This entire subject is just a perfect example of the lunacy that results when people are neck deep in gender role bullshit.