Monday, April 16, 2007

That's what I'm talking about!

THIS, dude! Oh my GOD! Why isn't there more of this? More to the point: Why isn't everything like this? Every day, I am horrifed that whether a person has enough food to eat, or has a safe place to lay her head, or has medicine when she is ill depends on how much money she makes. It is a horror and a shame that a person can work and work and yet be poor. Why?! I'm not gonna get into my I'm-a-big-fat-socialist rant (it's still in the drafting stage), so all I can say is, dude! Don't be so fucking greedy all the time! Don't be such a fucking classist! (Not you, personally. Maybe.) Okay, I have nothing cogent to say on this, so I'll stop now. But dude! WHY?!

The Box

So of course the Duke lacrosse thing has been all over the place. I don't have anything to say about the charges or their merit, but I do have something to say about the fact that every damned time I hear about it, the first gleeful word to jump out of the reporter's mouth is "stripper."

I mentioned this to Sweetie, who responded that it's a vital element of the story that she's a stripper. I agree that it is important in that it explains the logistics of how she came to be at the party, and in that her status as a sex worker certainly affected how those upstanding college men viewed her. So fine. The news media might have a reason to mention that she's a stripper. But why, my friends, why does it have to be part of the headline? Why does this story have to use the word "stripper" five times? Why does it have to say things like this:
"At the height of the uproar over the charges, even [Durham District Attorney Mike] Nifong conceded that there was no scientific or eyewitness testimony implicating the students. There was only the word of a woman who removed her clothes for money and entertained strangers in hotel rooms."
Of course, I know the answer: Clearly, if the only way you can make enough money to support yourself and your children is in the sex trade, then you are at best unreliable, and you're probably a lying slut who was asking for it.

I guess she could have gotten a job at Wal-Mart.

I avoid the nastier quarters of the blogosphere like the plague they are, but I can only imagine what kinds of horrifyingly violent fantasies have been perpetrated against this poor woman. I picture it like a Mad-Lib: "That [___adj.___] [___noun___] needs to have the [___noun___] [___verb___]ed out of her! A little taste of my [___adj.___] [___noun___] will teach her a lesson. She'll be [___verb___]ing for [___noun___]." I certainly don't mean to suggest that only sex workers would have this kind of violent hatred directed at them. Any person of any sex, gender, or color who accuses someone higher up the totem pole of sexualized violence is opening him- or herself up to all manner of abuse, usually in the form of threats of more sexualized violence. "You like to accuse your betters of rape? Well, maybe a little rape will shut you up." What I mean to suggest is that every time they say "stripper" where they could say "woman" or "person" or even "mother," they're ripping away one more shred of her shredded humanity. Sex workers are disposable, and they're disposing of her piece by piece.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about today. This morning I was listening to Kevin and Bean (I know, I know), and they had a segment where they invited calls from people who had had neighbors who had committed hideous crimes. One person talked about a woman who had chopped her husband into bits and then burned her house down around herself; another regaled the greater Los Angeles area with the story of a crippled foreigner who'd hacked up a twelve-year-old boy with a machete. Good mornin'! One man, though, called to say that he had lived next door to the Simi Valley rapist. Something the caller said kinda got to me, and almost made me cry. He said that this guy had "raped like forty people." After being pelted with the word "stripper" all week, after Anna Nicole Smith was carved up like joints for a feast, after all the slings and arrows hurled day in and day out by the Man tryin' to keep us down, I was touched--really and actually touched--when this caller referred to these rape victims as people. "He raped like forty people." I checked, and it turns about that he actually raped about a dozen people (but who's counting), and that all his victims were women, but just for a moment, this anonymous KROQ listener made them not just women but actual people. That's all we want. We don't want to be "equal." That doesn't even make sense. It suggests that you superior men should deign to raise us silly lil' wimmins to your exalted level. I don't want to be equal; I am equal. What I want is to stop being defined by the fact that I happen to have a fucking uterus, and to be defined instead by the fact that I am a human person.

The fact that I have a uterus is one of the least interesting things about me. Half the mammals on the planet have uterii; why should I be pigeonholed by this animal thing? If I have to be put in a box, why can't it be the box of the super-smart, or the moderately lazy, or the easily riled? Why the uterus box? Why not the slovenly box, or the generous box, or the cranky-in-the-morning box? Now, there are plenty of sub-divisions in the uterus box; I guess I'm in the uppity-unfuckable corner of the uterus box. I guess I'm sending you a postcard.

Just the other day, I heard someone use the expression "lady doctor." The fact that the doctor was a "lady" had nothing to do with the story; only the fact that she was a doctor was relevant. But there she was, in that box. That box has a lot of stuff written on the side. It's a list that starts with the word "Female," and goes on say things like "baby source" and "feminine intuition" and "penis receptacle." Doctor, yes, but mostly lady. And if you're a sex worker, don't expect ever to be anything else.

But for one bright, shining moment on a ridiculous frat-boy friendly morning show, one guy, wittingly or not, took those women out of the box. Just for that moment, the fact that they were women wasn't relevant. It was the fact that they were people that mattered.

'Course, I don't think it mattered to their rapist.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Smile Pretty for the Patriarch

"Women do smile more than men, but when occupying similar work and social roles, the gender differences in the rate of smiling disappear, a Yale researcher has found." --Science Daily

"I try to avoid smiling; smiling is a sign of submission in chimpanzees. When you smile, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for its life." --Dwight Schrute

I'm sitting here in the campus library's computer lab working on my midterms. A little while ago, a couple of dudes down the aisle from me were having a conversation. They weren't being particularly loud or anything, but as the lab is nearly deserted (it's Spring Break), and as I'm very easily distracted, this was, well, distracting me.

After it became clear that they weren't going to shut the hell up on their own, I got up, walked over, and asked them to be quiet. I wasn't rude or anything. Actually, I think what I said was, "Sorry you guys, but could you please keep your voices down?" One of them said, "Sorry," and I went back to work. They continued to chat, albeit more quietly, for a minute, and then they left.

During the whole thing, I refrained from smiling. (I'm still at the point where not smiling takes a conscious effort.) I wasn't rude, and I certainly didn't scowl or anything, but I didn't smile at all. One of the dudes didn't even look at me; when I approached unsmiling, he kind of gazed off into the middle distance with that look you get on your face when you're a little surprised and a little upset, but you don't know what to do. Like your brain is a little shocked and hasn't yet figured out how to respond. The other guy, the one who said "sorry," actually gave me a little smile as he said it. I gave him a little nod in response, but as I turned away, the smile tightened and his eyes narrowed, and it ended as a rather unpleasant expression. I know all this because I was looking them in the eye the whole time. Again I wasn't rude. I was just clear. I think that if I had smiled and simpered that the dudes might have rolled their eyes indulgently after I left, but I don't think they did that. I think they probably called me a bitch.

Regarding our relative social positions, I am a grad student in my early thirties, while these young men appeared to be in their early twenties, which would probably make them undergrads. This puts me higher in the pecking order, but that might not be obvious, especially as people frequently mistake me for being much younger than I am.

The article linked to above finds that women and men who are social equals smile about the same amount, at least in situations where relative social status is very clear. But in situations where status is not immediately clear, women are expected to visibly acquiesce to their assumed lower position until they can show that they are actually in the superior position. I have to imagine that the encounter would have gone differently if the dudes had somehow known that I am a grad student--it would have gone as differently as if I had smiled. In the work situations in the article, the subjects obviously know each other, but with strangers, it is the woman's place to submit; failure to submit is greeted with resentment or worse.

[ETA: I'm not saying that these kids hated me because I'm a woman, or even that the interaction I had was the same interaction they had. I don't know these people. Maybe the one who didn't look at me had just had one of those little vomit-burps, and he was trying to get the sour juices back into his stomach. That takes a little concentration. It could be that the other guy was not resentful of the deadness of my pan as much as the interruption itself. I imagine he might have been trying to seduce his little playmate, and I had disrupted his manoeuvres. Whatever. The danger in using a specific anecdote to make a general point is that that one's interlocutor will focus on the nitpicky details of the anecdote and avoid the larger point. I trust all y'all to keep your eyes on the prize.]

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Meet Tinkerbell! (Her name isn't really Tinkerbell.)

This is our lil' doggie, and her name isn't really Tinkerbell, but it is a fairy name, and we chose it because of her big bat-wing ears which, in a kinder world, would be fairy-wing ears.
Here, you can see her hyena-neck, and if you look closely, you can see the spike on the back of her head. She also has a dirt face. In this one, she's sitting on Sweetie's lap, and as you can see, he's wearing his awesome Madonna Inn t-shirt and his monkey pants.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

You've got a dirty cooter!

Of course you do. Every cooter is a dirty cooter.

A few months ago, Twisty posted The Lysol Thing (which festered in my imagination until I woke up one morning absolutely furious that every damned Lysol ad I've ever seen has been directed at women). Anyway, I figured this would be a good project topic for my Genre Theory class, so I did a little research and discovered that there are a ton of these ads out there. Go ahead, get an eyeful. (Cooterful? Blech.) I also found one of the booklets, "Lysol vs Germs," copyright 1938, on eBay. Because I only have two midterms to write, I have transcribed for you the section on "Feminine Hygiene."

As we all know, there is a vast and unquiet sea between fe-mi-nine hy-giene and female hygiene. I don't have time to comment in the lengthy, withering way I'd like, so I've just colored my favorite bits pink. Besides that, I have altered it not at all.


Feminine hygiene is the regular practice of vaginal douching with a cleansing and antiseptic solution. It is an important means of guarding immaculate personal daintiness. It is a habit of grooming among modern fastidious women.

A familiar case of a feminine nervous ailment which the doctor treats is the married woman who is losing her husband's devotion because of neglect of that intimate cleanliness . . . so important to feminine attractiveness and to poise. What a pity, then, that so may married women never receive reliable instruction in the proper technique of sensible feminine hygiene; and so lose that aura of personal daintiness that is so important to poise and charm.

The LYSOL method of feminine hygiene is used by millions of women as a means to intimate antiseptic cleanliness. LYSOL disinfectant is probably the most widely used preparation for this purpose. It is recommended by many leading gynecologists. (A gynecologist is a medical specialist in the functions and diseases of women.) For nearly 50 years LYSOL has been their prescription.


A generation ago, the douche was used only as a medication in cases of so-called "female trouble." Today, fastidious women use an antiseptic douche regularly as an immaculate personal habit.

The vagina is the passage leading from the outside to the uterus or womb. It is lined with a mucous membrane which produces a secretion as its own means of normally keeping the vaginal passage clean. But as an added means of cleansing, the antiseptic douche may be employed several times a week. If ever there should be anything more than a normal discharge present, a doctor, preferably a specialist, should be consulted.


Your ritual of hygiene must cleanse thoroughly. Obviously, the effectiveness of your practice of feminine hygiene depends on the preparation you employ in your douche. A LYSOL solution is correct for this purpose.

You will not find the LYSOL method difficult to follow. The technique is simple. And it is economical. LYSOL costs less than 1½¢ for one quart of the correct solution for feminine hygiene.


LYSOL disinfectant comes to you highly concentrated, for economy. The only possible harm n the use of LYSOL is through your own carelessness.

If the solution is too strong there may be an unpleasant burning sensation. One the other hand, if it is not strong enough, it will not be thoroughly antiseptic. Therefore, LYSOL should be used in a solution mixed strictly according to directions. Whenever you take a douche, do not trust to memory, but look up these directions and carry them out exactly.

The LYSOL douche, properly prepared, is not only cleansing and antiseptic, but it also soothes if there is a slight irritation. If there is any sensation of discomfort afterwards, something is probably wrong and a physician should be consulted.

For the douche, use two or more quarts of water, which should be comfortable warm to the hand. Never use either hot or very cold water. After measuring the water into a convenient container, add one teaspoon of LYSOL disinfectant for each quart of water taken. Stir thoroughly, and then pour the solution into the douche bag. Never prepare the douche by pouring the LYSOL directly into the bag, because by doing so you cannot obtain a uniform solution.

If you use a hand-douche, pour thirty drops of LYSOL disinfectant into a full glass of water and stir thoroughly. Measure the drops accurately with a medicine dropper.


The nozzle used in the vaginal douche should be one especially made for this particular use. The end should be perforated so that the water is expelled uniformly in all directions.

When not in use, keep the nozzle clean by immersing it completely in a solution of one teaspoonful of LYSOL to a pint of water in a suitable container, e.g. a fruit jar, keeping the container covered.

Before taking the douche, hang the douche bag in a convenient place, slightly higher than the body. Assume a partially recumbent position. Now introduce the nozzle gently, without force, into the vaginal passage and permit the solution to flow in a steady stream.

Following every douche gently bathe the adjoining surfaces with a LYSOL disinfectant solution of the same strength.

Okay, I have to say that, of the whole rich treasure-trove, just waiting to be analyzed and deconstructed, this has to be my favorite line: "The vagina is the passage leading from the outside to the uterus or womb." Wow! I think that's just about the best summary of the patriarchal conception of the female vagina I've ever heard. It is a passage that leads to the womb from the outside. "I've found it, men: the way in!"

[ETA: If you're a dude and you're having trouble processing why this makes me so uncomfortable ("Well, isn't it the way in?"), I don't blame you. That is how we're all taught to look at women's naughty bits. To understand a little better, try this: Imagine that someone has just characterized your mouth as the passage leading from the outside to your stomach. Creepy, isn't it? I mean, yes, the mouth is how food is generally delivered to the stomach, but don't you prefer to think of your mouth as something that's under your control--as a place where you put stuff that you want to have inside your body? Thinking of it as a "passage that leads to the stomach from the outside" makes it sound like stuff goes in of its own accord, whether you will or no. It's the way in. That's a shudder-making thought. I think most people prefer not to have any of their various holes so characterized.]

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


In response to Twisty's lovely photo "The Vestal Virgins of North Dallas," I present the majesty that is Michelangelo's David! This is a real house in glorious and notoriously pervy Hollywood, California. What's that? You need a closer look? Here you go: Don't you just want to run past them, just like, slapslapslapslapslapslapslapslapslapslapslapslap!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Cinderella with a Dash of Kipling

Once upon a time, in a far away kingdom called 1920s-Era New Orleans, lived a pornalicious young Black chambermaid named Maddy. Maddy worked in the plantation manor of honky Big Daddy La Bouff where, though she suffered racism and economic oppression, she maintained a cheerful, can-do attitude. Much of this racism and oppression was hurled at her by the equally pornalicious Charlotte La Bouff, daughter of Big Daddy. Big Daddy sublimated his sexual desire for his daughter by lavishing expensive gifts upon her. She, in unconscious recognition of her precarious material state, maintained a thinly-veiled flirtation with her father while aggressively seeking a husband to support her. Her hostility toward Maddy was merely a projection of her insecurity, but it was frightening and stressful to Maddy.

One day, a handsome honky named Prince Harry came to the kingdom of 1920s-Era New Orleans from a distant country called Europe. Being callow, Prince Harry was drawn to the wealth attached to the land-owner's daughter, but soon an even more degraded and sexually available creature caught his eye. Prince Harry's economic security allowed him the luxury of "falling in love" with someone far below his station. He was charmed by Maddy's intelligence and her sassy, can-do attitude. This attitude amused him, but because of Maddy's celebrated pornaliciousness and the fact that she was thoroughly indoctrinated with prevailing gender stereotypes, her sassiness was just that, and posed no actual threat. On the contrary, his unaccountable attraction to Maddy let the Prince see himself as open-minded and forward-thinking, reinforcing his comfortable smugness for taking up his bundle in The White Man's Burden.

Charlotte, desperate for economic security, was furious that Harry's eye had strayed. She went for help to Dr. Duvalier, a grasping, Uncle Tom-ing voodoo magician. Dr. Duvalier cast an evil spell on Prince Harry, but Maddy was not going to let her honky opportunity go that easily. She appealed to Mama Odie, also a Voodoo magician, for help. Mama Odie broke the evil spell, allowing Prince Harry to marry the resourceless and therefore assuredly docile Maddy.

Prove me wrong, Mouse.

[ETA: I can't get over the fact that the story is set in New Orleans. "Maybe George Bush doesn't care about black people, but Disney does!" Bah.]

[EATA: Copyrighted material will be quickly and cheerfully removed upon request.]

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Woebegone Indeed

I grew up with Garrison Keillor, and I still listen to "A Prairie Home Companion" every weekend as I putter about the house. Keillor apparently writes the occasional feature for Salon. I just read his latest piece, but I gotta tell ya, it didn't make a lick of sense. Fortunately for me, however, here at Bitey Time Corp., we have a device called the Kleer-Cee Deluxe, which translates coded text into Standard English. (The upgrade that translates Standard English into value-neutral text isn't available yet. Something about how value-neutral language is still in development. Whatever.) I pumped Keillor's drivel into the KCDx, and this is what came out:

March 14, 2007 | I see in the paper that the U.S. Department of Education laid out $750,000 for a study that shows that going to art museums and looking at art is good for schoolchildren, which I would have been happy to tell them for, say, $500 and a nice lunch. I also have some thoughts about the defecatory habits of bears, if the Forestry Service is interested. If the government is paying large sums of money to have the obvious pointed out, then I am your man. Ask me about this war and I'll tell you for free.

I grew up the child of a heteronormative marriage that lasted until death freed one of them, and I could tell you about how brainwashing that is for children, and you could pay me whatever you think it's worth.

Back in the day, that was the only permitted arrangement. Everyone white and decent had a yard, a garage, a female house-slave, a male wage-slave and a refrigerator with leftover boiled potatoes in plastic dishes with snap-on lids. This was before Betty Friedan, before civil rights protections, before non-whites got uppity, for crying out loud. You could put me in a glass case at the history center and schoolchildren could press a button and ask me questions.

A facade of monogamy kept the parents' misery and infidelity in the background where they belong and we children were able to hold center stage in our own minds, where some of us managed to stay. We didn't have to contend with obviously troubled, angry parents trying to make life richer and more rewarding for them. We blossomed and agonized and fussed over our outfits and learned how to perform heteronormative activities and establish economic dominance and do the twist and rape in the front seat of a car back before bucket seats when you could really get someone pinned down, and we started down the path toward begetting children while Mom and Dad stood like smiling, helpless, desperately unhappy mannequins in the background.

Society is about continuation of oppressive gender norms -- in other words, socialization of children. Society does not care about the emotional or physical well-being of any people other than economically powerful adult white males.

Under the old facade-of-monogamy system, we didn't have the problem of apportioning socially mandated quasi-religious imperio-capitalistic rituals among your mother and stepdad, your dad and his third wife, your mother-in-law and her boyfriend Hal, and your father-in-law and his boyfriend Chuck. Today, serial monogamy has stretched the extended family to the point where a child might be able to cobble together a viable support system. A child can now grow up with eight or nine or 10 grandparents -- Gampa, Gammy, Goopa, Gumby, Papa, Poopsy, Goofy, Gaga and Chuck -- and be able to turn to one of them for protection against sexual or physical abuse.

And now gay marriage will produce a whole new string of hyphenated relatives. In addition to the ex-stepson and ex-in-laws and your wife's first husband's second wife, there now will be Bruce and Kevin's in-laws and Bruce's ex, Mark, and Mark's current partner, and I suppose we heteronormative adult white males will have to find some other way of establishing our dominance.

The country has continued to accept comically gay, albeit asexual men -- sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as human, however, all forms of personal expression except those in strict compliance with the hetnorm paradigm must be completely eliminated. Adults are supposed to repress their personal desires and ambitions and not deviate from accepted behavior. That's for the kids. Until we stomp it out.

Last week I visited a grade school not far from where I grew up, and I strolled into a second-grade classroom and, good Lord, those ethnic faces -- black, black, Chinese, Mexican. Only about six kids were decently white, and of those, three were foreigners.

It was I Love Reading Week, and I was there as a colonialist blowhard. So I told them a story about how, back in the day, we were murderous imperialists and rode horses across those flat spaces that are now occupied by horribly polluting government-subsidized agri-businesses, rounding up the Native Americans, even in blizzards. For proof, I displayed my collection of real Indian ears and I got them all to do the tomahawk chop.

They seemed to understand it all, at least the chop-chop part, and they better know their place for having met me. Continue to pay me millions of dollars and I'll continue to indoctrinate you and your young with my out-of-tune singing and faux-nostalgic oppressive ideology.

Huh. That's a handy device.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Happy Pi Day!

It's Pi Day! Of course, I always think of it as Pie Day. Happy pie day, everyone!

Friday, March 9, 2007

I'm a Rules Girl

No, really.

My friend Quelle gave me her copy of The Rules when I was getting divorced, and it changed my life. I'll give you a minute to get your gag reflex under control, because, yeah, it's awful. If you've never had the pleasure, here's an excerpt. My favorite part is when they say, "Men who respond to The Rules are not sick or stupid, but quite normal and healthy. Your average guy." Somehow, I don't see the connection between "not sick or stupid, but . . . healthy" and "average guy." Anyway, I certainly don't have a copy of that crap in my house, so I'll have to give you everything from memory. Shockingly, once removed from the feminist acid bath, The Rules offers one--one--very valuable lesson: Men aren't all that. Really. That's the covert thesis of The Rules. It's so covert that almost no one picks it up, but I'm telling you, it's there.

I can see you're skeptical, but hear me out. The stated purpose of the Rules is to get a ring onto your dainty finger. It assumes that any marriage that flows from rigorous application of the Rules will necessarily be a happy one. It is my contrary belief that such a marriage will be a '50s-style tragedy, and that the only man you'll snag with the Rules is an Oedipal case. But to make my pro-Rules argument, I must take you back to my eighteenth year. I had just started college. It was a bright, sunny day, and I was walking across campus when I suddenly became aware of my posture. My shoulders were hunched, head down, elbows drawn in, with my arms crossed low in front to hide my belly fat. Now, I liked at the time to think of myself as a person projecting confidence, but I had to realize that I was wrong about that. I thought about it for a moment, and decided that, even if I'm not confident, I can pretend I'm confident. With difficulty, I straightened my spine, lowered my arms, and lifted my head. I think my new, commanding presence lasted about as long as it took to get across the quad. That time. After that, whenever I noticed myself cowering, I did my best to lift my head and walk purposefully. One day, I realized that I was standing up straight, arms relaxed, weight balanced, and I hadn't even been thinking about it. The upshot is that, by pretending to be confident, I became confident.

The central commandment of the Rules is this: Thou shalt not show undue attention to men. What the Rules "girls" mean by this is that you should act like you don't care whether a given man notices you or not. You should never be overly friendly or encouraging, and you must never take the romantic lead because, as they constantly remind us, man pursues woman. This is most decidedly not the same thing as Thou shalt not be obsessed with men, or Thou shalt not make the quest for a bacon-bringer the center of thy life. But. When you yourself are an Electra case, when you yourself think of male attention as the nectar of the gods, when you yourself have been taught that you and your body exist for the pleasure and comfort of men, this is quite a revelation. Thou shalt not show undue attention to men. Wow. So I started acting like men were no big deal. I started acting like I didn't expect to be taken advantage of. Like I was a real, human person who deserved to be treated like the fucking gift from God that I am. Pretty soon, it wasn't pretending anymore. It was all true.

Now, I don't even like men. That might sound harsh, but really, most men are entitled jerks. A man has to prove himself worthy of my regard before I'll, you know, regard him. This is not solely because of The Rules, but I have to admit, they were a spark. Take those sparks where you can get them, friends.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Leaves, it's all leaves!

Here's a delicious recipe I ripped off from Grub Report. I don't like Brussels sprouts, but I liked this. It's also great with cauliflower and asparagus.

Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 lb Brussels sprouts
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 shakes of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 435 degrees. Cut out leaves off the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half. Finely chop the garlic and then mix the rest of the ingredients together. Toss Brussels sprouts with the marinade. Let sit for about 5 minutes and then spoon Brussels sprouts onto a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes or until Brussels sprouts are tender and slightly caramelized.


So. Yesterday, I discovered that my dear, darling husband, hereafter referred to as "Sweetie," had been looking at pornography online.


He and I had never really discussed porn, and after a long, tearful, and exhausting talk last night, he sees where I'm coming from. He really is very sweet, though he's one of those who doesn't see his entitlement and its attending innocence. I gave him this article to read, which is a pretty good porn primer for the radfem-curious. Anyway, I thought I might share some of my talking points for any of y'all who have to school their friends and neighbors on the evils of porn:

* This is a picture of a real person, who exists for her own purposes. Her decision to pose nude had nothing to do with you. She did not do it to please you, or because she likes you, or to turn you on. She did it for her own reasons, which probably include paying the rent, feeding her children, and/or not having the crap beaten out of her.

* Even if she thinks she wants to pose nude, why does she think that this is an appropriate way for her to display herself? Why does she see herself as a sex object?

* When this woman poses as a sex object, she is reinforcing the conception of women as members of the sex class. When you look at pictures of her posed as a sex object, you are reinforcing the conception of women as members of the sex class.

* Most women who work in the sex trade do so because it's the only way they can make enough money to support themselves. This raises the question: Why should this be the only way she can make enough money to support herself?

* What makes you think you have the right to look at these women when they don't have any clothes on? Before you say, "They volunteered," imagine this scenario: You and I are walking down the street. You say you are tired, so I get down on my hands and knees and offer to carry you on my back. I tell you I am pleased to do it. Is it right for you to sit on my back and let me carry you? Just because someone invites you to degrade them doesn't make it alright to do it.

There was more, but that's the gist. All this was before my big discussion of the socially constructed nature of gender, around which he's still trying to wrap his mind. He's coming along, though.

Monday, February 12, 2007

No Wonder We Hate Ourselves

My sister was talking about diets with my mom once, and my mom warned her about the dangers of cravings. Cravings, she said, are your body's way of sabotaging you.


Friday, February 9, 2007

Fat Daddy

I should be studying, but instead, I just read this very good article about food and the many ways we misunderstand it in our culture. I recommend it.

Speaking of which, just a couple of weeks ago, I was speaking with my students about American cuisine. There were four students in the class, representing Taiwan, Mexico, France, and Korea. I think the Korean had been here longest, about six months. When I assigned the topic, their eyes lit up, especially the French woman's. She had some opinions, let me tell you what. What they mostly wanted to talk about was how big American portions are, about which they are incredulous. I did my best to explain it, mostly discussing the Protestant work ethic that the Pilgrims treated us to, and how one of their central beliefs was that worldly success is a sign that one is among God's elect. I pointed out that this belief has persisted, and has saturated even the most secular corners of our society. Our obsession with conspicuous consumerism allows the consumer to prove personal merit: "If I weren't a good, hardworking person, I couldn't afford this ________." This attitude extends to consumption of all kinds. Sitting down to a big, fat steak surrounded by delicacies of all kinds? That's power, baby, and might makes right.

I am, however, through careful thought and effort, a resistant consumer. I don't brand myself through purchases, I try not to waste my money on superfluia. Even so, I definitely consume more calories than I need every day. I eat too much. Way too much.

My dad was a big guy. After he died, I read his medical file, which characterized him as "morbidly obese." (Rhetorical Note: Did you see how I distanced myself from that? Nice, huh?) He attended Overeaters Anonymous meetings, which I think did him some good, and it seemed like he was always trying to diet, but never getting much of anywhere with it. I remember that whole cartons of ice cream would disappear between dessert and breakfast, and we couldn't keep cheese or peanut butter in the house, either. When my sister and I were little, we would go on occasional road trips and day outings with our parents. Dad would always pack a big cooler full of food, and it would sit on the front seat with him so that he could get into it at any moment. He would fill it with cold cuts and cheese and diet sodas, and probably some apples and crackers and things like that. Maybe sandwiches. He said that he packed it because he didn't want to spend money on road food, but I don't think I even believed that when I was a kid. He was always happy to share it, but it was really for him. I talked to mom about this once, and she said that maybe the idea of being without food scared him. If I'm to be honest, I'll have to admit that it scares me, too.

I should note here that I'm something of a paranoid. I got that from Dad, too. He was always on the alert for safety hazards. He always had an escape path should disaster strike. I myself am always aware of my surroundings, and I frequently wake up in the night afraid that there's a predator in the house. Specifically to the question of food, there has never been a day when there's been nothing in the house to eat. (There have been many days when there's been nothing I cared to eat, but that's different.) If I'm going out of the house for any length of time, I always consider where, when, and what I'm going to eat. Moreover, I frequently eat when I'm not hungry so that I do not become hungry. Right now, for example, I'm not hungry. (I had a nice lunch of whole grain cranberry-hazlenut bread with mascarpone cheese, pears, and honey. It was pretty good, though the pear could have been more flavorful.) And yet, what am I thinking about? Food. Part of this is because I'm procrastinating. I frequently think about and crave food when I'm bored or restless. But the moments when I'm not thinking about food are vanishingly few, and I think that one of the reasons for this is that I'm afraid all the time. I seem normal, I think, but I'm always afraid of these things:

1. serial killers
2. earthquakes
3. terrorist attacks
4. sarcasm
5. rapists
6. robbers
7. accident
8. illness
9. loss of loved ones
10. confrontation

One thing I'm not afraid of is hunger, and that's because I eat too much. My husband has a good union job, I have a chunk of financial aid in the bank, my mom and my sister live nearby and have stable, gainful employment. Absent citywide disaster, I'm not in danger of hunger. This, I can control. I feel like it's one of the few dangers in my life that I can vanquish.

More on this soon.

La Premire

Okay, first post. Actually, first post for me, but not for anyone reading it, I wouldn't imagine. I think I'm gonna keep this a secret for a while, to see if it takes. I'd like to take this moment to outline some goals:

* When I was getting divorced, I kept a journal. I wrote in it for hours every day, and I think it really helped me get my head straight. Writing is thinking, as I like to tell my students, and I should be thinking more, even though thinking is sometimes diffiuclt and painful. Goal: Write.

* God, I'm such a liar. Goal: Don't tell too many lies.

* One thing that's kept me from starting to blog is all the crappy, narcissistic nonsense that pollutes so many of these things. Goal: Say things only if they're worth saying.

Good for now. Let's see how it goes.