sexism hurts men too (oh, and women)

Today on the internetz (readers who want my fluffy-family posts just skip this one; I’ll be in full bucolic-family-life effect in a few hours):

On Free Range Kids a discussion emerges about “stranger danger” being unfairly leveled at all men (which it is). I posted to the effect that yeah, it sucks, but in a blog that is primarily about actively rejecting the harmful effects of mainstream fear culture, perhaps we should support more men committing to proactive action, not just complaining about paranoid women – otherwise they continue in the larger cultural abdication of responsibility for children and child-rearing (deemed: women-only).

Predictably a commentor named Stuart decides to engage primarily with my use of the phrase “nut up or shut up” (which was in poor taste altho’ I note it is used with impunity by men). Stuart asks what would happen if he used sexist langauge toward women (Gee, I wonder what would happen – perhaps we can look in this thread itself and see sexist language levelled at laydeez going entirely unchecked) and then tells me I don’t understand gender-based harassment (ha! hahahahaha!) and implies I ignore sexism in women (nope). But of course Stuart does not put one toe in the water of my charge that it is seriously problematic when men soley blame women for their lack of involvement in the child-village, and perform no other action besides the blameinz (note I am not charging a single individual man of doing so – it’s up to him to self-evaluate here).

Anyone reading here knows, of course, how rubber-meets-the-road my husband is in being one of those men that, you know, actually does speak to other people’s children, waves and smiles at them, picks them up, feeds them, takes them to the park or the bathroom  – and doesn’t molest them! (I know! It’s kind of crazy!). So please understand handwringing about how men just can’t do this stuff because of teh wimminz is met with wry cynicism by both of us. For which, here dear reader, I apologize (because truthfully it does suck men get told they’re ALL MOLESTER ASSHOLES). I’ve just heard the lady-blaminz too much and it’s often a smokescreen for a lot of unhelpful action or inaction on the part of a lot of men.  Speaking to exactly WHAT a man can do and HOW MUCH he can help/assist/wave at child? Yeah, Ralph Hogaboom wrote the fucking book, why don’t you ask him how it’s going (I did. He said he gets a lot of “Thank yous” and smiles from mothers, and he’d be happy to give advice to men wanting to step up more).

Incidentally the derisive sexism aimed toward men who perform “traditional” women’s roles (everything from dishes to pushing a kid on a swing at a park) was experienced by us in a very real way the first year of our daughter’s life while Ralph stayed home with her and I worked-for-pay and has continued full-force since Ralph is so family-and-child active. This sexism was/is levied by both men and women and, like many constrictive gender roles containes an underbelly which is not only reductive to men but also perpetrates oppressive attitudes toward women and short-changes children. But perhaps most surprisingly to those who would lie back, shake their head and bemoan men “can’t” do this-or-that because of the Evil Sexism of Paranoid Women, Ralph experienced Sexism more often in his “favor”; that is, he received and continues to receive fawning attention, compliments, and accolades for being “Superdad” (while performing what he calls the “bare minimum standard” of child-care).

Sexism indeed.

Anyone reading here probably also knows how important it is to my husband and I that more men engage in educating themselves on so-called “Women’s Issues” (which are really Human Rights issues), and yes that includes non-rapists and self-proclaimed “I’m not part of the problem!” men. And hint, fellers: the first step is to read, read, read, read more, and listen, avoid mansplaining, and when you’ve read and read and read you might start talking, and – this part is important, expect to get schooled (and yeah, it hurts sometimes, I’ve been there re: straight-privilege, anti-racism, anti-imperialism, etc). If you’re here and give a damn that my husband and I give a damn about this lady-business, go ahead and read and read and read some more

Or just Get Off My Lawn! and by that I mean my blog.

In other happy news, the twelfth Carnival of Feminist Parenting has been put up at Mother’s for Women’s Lib. Knowing Anji, it’s going to be chalk-full of awesomeness. I’ve read about a third of the pieces.  Here are some that spoke to me:

“Is stay at home motherhood a class issue?” (UK blog)
Short answer: Yes.

“Kids: screw ‘Em” at Pandagon
Money quote: “Needless to say, Robert Rector considers himself ‘pro-life’.  You’re precious to him on a cellular level, but once you start breathing and feeling and eating through anything but an umbilical cord, you’re on your own.”

“Yes, I Am a Feminist Housewife” by Natasha at Offbeat Mama
Dont worry, honey, you’ll grow out of wanting to self-apply that label the more you read feminist blogs who tell you how much you suck. Snark aside? She writes a lovely article.

What does feminism have to do with breastfeeding? at Breastfeeding Medicine.
Breastfeeding: a “choice” (which we can then skewer ALL women with, no matter what they choose) or a reproductive right?

From formspring: Corporate women & breeder hate

Asked on formspring by a reader of Underbellie. Keep in mind I am no expert on high finance but was asked to weigh in on an article that concerns this world:

Along the lines of your posts on underbellie on society devaluing mothers, two thoughts – The first, best summed up here:

“Wall Street’s Disappearing Women” at forbes.com

And the second, this whole hatred for “breeders”. Discuss!

I am just now getting to this question as I found that Forbes article difficult to wade through. My first thought: even despite data, facts, and many (heretofore unimpeachable) professional women’s testimonies, it is still impressive how many people will try to come up with ANY possible reason these women “deserve” a disproportionate rate of firing and or (fake) “layoffs” (my favorite line of reasoning: new mothers categorically “lose their edge”. Complete and utter bullshyt).

The story of Rosenberg and Bostjancic at Merrill (and Bostjancic’s immediate replacement after years of “stellar” work) is a very telling (and predictable, and depressing) one. In fact all the stories are depressing(ly familiar) and I wish these fighting women luck in their suits brought against these companies. As women in powerful positions the battle they’re waging has far-reaching implications for all professional women and (I’d hope) even working- and middle-class women.

As long as women are still expected to do most of the childrearing, and then punished when they *do* have children (or evidence of family life), it’s pretty obvious how severely the deck is stacked against them. I had some of this fallout in my career as an engineer but for brevity’s sake I will not go into it now; if you’d like to chat more do re-question or send me an email at kelly AT hogaboom DOT org.

Back to the Forbes article: compare the reactions to professional women and their marginalization especially when it comes to family life with the reactions regarding suggested changes at Downing Street (not corporate but the highest gov’t office in Britian):

http://www.fertilefeminism.com/in-the-news/downing-street-goes-family-time-friendly/

Notice anything similar? Women are expected to be doing all the at-home stuff, and expected not to lead, to be paid, or afforded status for their “less important” work.

If you are interested in more evidence regarding our less-than-egalitarian country regarding men and women’s roles in the workplace and family, I recommend adding this blog to your feed reader:

http://contexts.org/socimages/

I’m sure there are better ones but this is one I enjoy.

“This whole hatred for ‘breeders'”: goodness. This is where I lose my chipper optimism and just begin to feel despair. First of all, the hatred of “breeders” is of course disproportionally heaped on A. women and B. children (OMG you childfree grownup you are *so awesome* for picking on a four year old!). Secondly, it’s about the most short-sided kind of hatred I can think of, by turns insensitive, callous, and selfish. Only miliseconds ago according to the calendar of our Earth YOU were born and cared for and fed and raised up and clothed; mere milliseconds from now you will be aging and dying, your body failing and nurses and family and friends ushering you on with kindness and compassion (if you are fortunate to live a natural life). In addition, any of us are only one accident away or one illness away from disability. Boy, in all THOSE cases (infancy, illness, old age, disability, our death bed) we sure will be happy for those nice people who give selflessly to care for us!

But for now? F*ck those snot-nosed brats and their cattle-like parents (moms).

So, so sad. I’m glad breeder-hate is a rare and vocal minority, but I do feel so down when I see it. It demonstrates some of the worst qualities human beings can evidence.

Thank you very much for your input; your article was a good one to share.

televisor por mi enfermedad

I’ve been nursing a sore throat and thereby being Smart and sitting on my ass watching several bits on Neftlix Instant View (and finishing up various knitting and hand-sewing projects).  The films I’ve seen in the last two days are as follows: Doubt (2008), Deliver Us From Evil (2006), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Pan’s Labyrinth (2008), and Ninja Assassin (2008).*  As well as this, often when Nels and I are snuggling late at night (while Sophie puts Ralph to bed) we watch “The Vicar of Dibley”, a British sitcom.  Nels loves it as it concerns a beautiful, fat female vicar (that means pastor) who’s a nice person and a funny person and gets to all sorts of silliness in her little township.  There’s also a bit of farm animal humor and bathroom humor and all-in-all, Nels and I are laughing and snuggling well into the wee hours.

You know, in all of this I’ve lucked out in that the viewing has all been very good except for perhaps one stand-out ( *cough, cough!* ).  Today Sophie watched quite a bit of Pan’s Labyrinth (yes, I know it’s not appropriate for children) and there was this scene where a man grabs his pregnant wife’s very pregnant tummy, and I didn’t think much of it but my daughter said, “That is so rude to grab a woman’s tummy without asking!”

And I thought, Sophie, you are seriously fucking awesome and I’m glad I’ve got my Feminist Paranoia rants set to 11.

* Yes, I know that’s a weird selection.

of love and churlishness

Today we had a concrete mission: visiting the North Beach PAWS, looking for adoptable animals (check out Marty, THAT MOTHERFUCKING NORWEGIAN FOREST CAT).  My girl Jasmine was interested in a dog – and found one, but was ultimately offended and felt herself rebuffed by the Dog Adoption Beaurocrat who grudgingly “allowed” Jasmine the option to take home an animal, but – in Jasmine’s view – was a bit unfair, exacting, and pushy – by the end demanding that my friend adopt her preferred animal today, on the spot, or by not doing so she’d prove she didn’t want the animal at all.  So, I wasn’t there for that part – I was busy catting (more below, and SEE: MARTY), so don’t have a first-hand account of the scenario.

The adoption process at this PAWS is steep. I told J. the Cat Woman my kids were interested in a kitty, and so was I – but my husband was the hard sell.  After escorting the children and I to meet the animals and talking with me a great deal, even knowing an adoption was not imminent, J. brought me downstairs with clipboard and a long form and asked me a series of questions which became increasingly personal: Where do you live?  Do you rent or own?  How long have you had your current pets? Why do you want to adopt a dog / cat?  Will your cat be indoors, or go outdoors?  What veterinarian do you use, and are your shots up to date? What is your philosophy on pet ownership?  You seem a little high-strung, are you sure you don’t need to spend more time centering yourself before owning another animal?  It seems pretty obvious you only want another creature to fill up a hollow, spiritually-devoid Emptiness inside you.  No, really, I mean what makes you think you’re good enough to adopt any of these animals?  Look, I know you think you want to help, but I can see into your soul and you’re simply a sad, pathetic human being, and you should come back when you’re ready, that is, IF you ever really are ready.  Good luck, now.*

The four of us made it out of there eventually – after visiting all twenty-seven felines in person (SEE: MARTY), and it is a credit to my children’s hunger level they did not request a trip to the beach.  We ordered food at the Pub, but it took so long getting there we had to have it packed up, and drive home or else miss Jasmine’s work shift.  Cue:

My daughter has been out of sorts the last couple days; prone to being upset, short-tempered, unsatisfied.  What was fun was that when I was growing up, from the time I was age eight or so, whenever I got pissed off enough to express myself as such my mom would follow me and speak timidly through my (locked) door something like: “Kelly, you might be experiencing feelings and emotions because you’re going to get your period soon.”  Right, because first of all, don’t say “period”, kthx. And more relevant: it is so fun to be told your Very Self is just sort of silly and crazy because you have wacky lady parts!  Please, anyone reading, do me a huge favor and do not imply that when a woman is angry or has a strong, outspoken opinion this is because she has some kind of monthly craziness! Oh and incidentally, I did not start menstruating until age fourteen, which means, essentially, my blowups were diminished and tossed out as “hormonal” for oh, many, many years. Nicely done! (P.S. my dad and brother’s techniques for dealing with me my whole life: ignore in any way that I am, in fact, female).

So anyway, my daughter has been pissed at us lately, here and there, but I’m a smart woman and I know that it’s important she knows it’s OK to be pissed, even if it’s inconvenient for us at times.  I gave her a little talk the other day about good, healthy, normal feelings of irrational Hate.  I said, “You know, I used to just hate my mom, for no reason.  I’d look at her and just loathe her.  And if you feel that way about me sometimes, it’s okay.”  And Sophie was quiet.  And I could tell what I said meant a lot to her.

So today, as we sat down to dinner, she was kind of short and rude and angry with her brother, and we were all very patient with her. Then suddenly she burst into tears and said, “Mom, I’m sorry for my actions!  I’m so sorry for the mean things I’ve been saying!” and cried in such an open, vulnerable way, and put her arms around me.  I held her close, and I told her it was okay, and that I accepted her apology.  And I was glad that in that moment the apology came one hundred percent from her, because she felt bad, not because she knew I was mad or disapproving (I wasn’t).  Then I said, “You stay by me, okay?” and she nodded, tears streaming, and I kept my arm around her and rubbed her back.  And with her little black t-shirt and jeans and her blunt-cut dark blue haircut she looked so very, very much like the young woman she will become, not a little girl at all.  I thought of how so many people make it sound like teenagers are full of vitriol and laziness and entitled behavior and spite, and I wondered if in any way we could avoid that path by making so damned sure we remain open and loving to one another when things go hard.

If there’s one thing we Hogabooms do okay, it’s fighting, and then apologizing, and getting on with the loving.

* Seriously? I recognize a good shelter when I see one: this is a No Kill shelter, hosts two free neuter/spay clinics a year, charges fees that help run things properly, and is obviously a passionate and hard-working enterprise.  I unreservedly recommend adopting from their facilities, that is if you can stand the Penance Stare of the attendant administrators.

freaks & squeaks

Our friend has a new camera with a high definition video function; she’s been doing a few short films including some of my family.  Here she graces you with a glimpse into our Halloween, sitting on my mom’s porch and handing out candy*:

This one was taken by our own teeny little camera, and the subject speaks for itself, literally:

* What say thee on the feminist front?  Are Westernized women’s problems over – do we live in an egalitarian, just society that treats them with respect, as my mother’s boyfriend argues here?