Tag Archives: conspiracy theories

A Very Garrison Keillor Christmas

12 Dec

This post is written in response to Garrison Keillor’s mewling whine Leave Christmas Alone published in the Baltimore Sun. it’s from 2009 but has been once again making the rounds on social media.

Hello, and welcome to the Keillor family Christmas celebration. Emphasis on the Christ. As in Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe that Jesus Christ is our saviour, then you can leave. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that in an hour or so god will peer into my house and incinerate any non-believers and, well, I’d just rather not clean that up. Plus I don’t really feel like risking my own precious soul by allowing infidels into my house. You know how it is.

I bet those politically correct Cambridge elite won’t even tell you that the word Christmas is derived from the Old English Crīstesmæsse, or Christ’s Mass, a fact which I blame on that dilettante of the intelligentsia, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Did you know that Emerson once preached at a Unitarian church that has since tried to remove all references of god from “Silent Night”? Because both of these things happened in the same building, Einstein’s law of Cause and Effect and Spooky New England ghosts proves that they’re indubitably related.

Did you know that there’s a war on Christmas? Why, just yesterday they were burning Christmas trees in the town square. A mob had the mall Santa bound and gagged and were threatening to burn him at the stake, only to spare him at the last minute. Last week a little girl was sent to juvie for singing Jingle Bells. There’s been talk of making all of those who celebrate the birth of our lord Jesus Christ wear manger-shaped patches, the better to round us up when the real campaign of terror against Christians begins. Of course it goes without saying that when we must worship in secret; we all live in constant fear of the government coming into our churches and forcing us at gunpoint to say “Happy Holidays” instead of the good ole fashioned “Merry Christmas.”

Have you ever seen a grown man have a full-on tantrum? Well, prepare to be dazzled by the one I’m about to throw over Christmas Carols! It is wrong, wrong, wrong to re-write Christmas songs to get rid of religious stuff. How dare you steal our sacred music? I mean, it’s fine when Christians do it, like when William Chatterton Dix wrote “What Child Is This” in 1865 to the tune of “Greensleeves,” whose previous lyrics are an Ode to Henry VIII’s boners. Dix was obviously only trying to improve an unworthy ditty, whereas when you change the words to “Silent Night” you are literally ruining my life.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard the term “cultural appropriation,” but Christmas is a classic example. Did you know that lots of Christmas carols are written by Jewish men? And that sometimes non-Christians put up trees and exchange gifts on December 31st? This has nothing to do with the oppressive cultural domination of Christmas in the west and everything to do with Jews and their ilk trying to horn in on our holiday. Do I celebrate Yom Kippur or write songs about Rosh Hashanah? No, I don’t, because I for one know what it means to be respectful of other religions, unlike you and your spiritual piracy.

We Christians have been Christ-like about your “cultural elitism” long enough. And by Christ-like I mean that we have a history of killing, torturing and ostracizing those who don’t share our beliefs, stuff which is very similar to the acts performed by the actual Jesus Christ, like healing lepers and caring for the poor. Regardless of all that, it’s time we Christians stood up and said no more! Yes, all of you non-Christians are forced to endure two months of Christmas crap colonizing practically every public space, but don’t you dare try to participate! Get your own damn holiday. Celebrate Yule instead which, admittedly, looks a lot like Christmas since many of the old pagan traditions were incorporated into western Christmas celebrations. But really, I have no idea what Christianity’s history of appropriating other religions and cultures has to do with anything.

So please, come in, and let us begin our celebration. We will sit by the fire in a circle of rough-hewn wooden chairs, eat seasonal nuts and tubers, and smugly remind each other that Christmas is ours and ours alone. While you’re here, we’ll probably pull out my old notebook, bound in a leather hide I tanned myself, and completely re-write the last 2,000 years of history so that we Christians somehow come out looking like the oppressed minority. Later, we’ll come up with a list of synonyms for the word “elite” – so far I’ve got “Jews,” “Unitarians,” “People Who Say Happy Holidays,” and “That Harvard Dude.”

The nice thing about being a white American man is, well, literally everything. I’m able to be outraged by only things that directly affect me without having to think about how any of my actions or words hurt others. Everyone treats me as if my thoughts and beliefs are precious jewels to be cherished forever. I get to lull myself with some kind of weird myth about how everyone is equal now, which allows me to bellow like a cow in heat every time I feel that the status quo, which prioritizes me over literally everyone else, is becoming even slightly more inclusive. Being a white man means that, even though I’m a serial adulterer who has been married thrice, I’m allowed, nay, obliged to lecture all of you on morality and Christianity. So come in, and bask in my light. I promise not to play any awful Christmas songs –  none of that dreck like Rudolph or Jingle Bells. Here we will have only the classics, like that one carol all about killing babies. That one always puts me in the holiday spirit.

To finish, let me end with what might be the most petulantly White Dude statement of all time: if you’re not in the club, buzz off. This also applies to gentleman’s clubs, country clubs, and sock-of-the-month clubs. Buzz off, and take your faux-hymns with you. Quit trying to steal back all the stuff we righteously stole from you.

Merry Christmas, my dears. If Jesus were alive today, I’m sure he would have written a blog post just like mine. Because celebrating his birth isn’t about peace on earth or good will towards men, it’s about fighting over who owns what.

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Abortions Are Just Like Hot Air Balloons: Your Tax Dollars At Work

13 Nov

My old friend Stephen Woodworth, master architect of Motion 312, is feeling a little concerned. See, he’s worried that you, dear Canadian, don’t understand what M-312, which deals with fetal personhood, has to do with abortion. Woodworth, his brow furrowed by deep thought, has been wondering and wondering why his motion didn’t pass. Finally, he realized that his brilliant idea was just too complex for people to understand. Thankfully, man of the people that he is, he’s come up with an allegory to help explain it to us.

I’ve copied it below for your reading pleasure:

Part I: Motion 312, Fixed-Wing Technology and Ballooning -An Allegory
 
Note:  The following account is intended to be entirely fictional.  Resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
 
In the early days of air flight, a Canadian aviation engineer was well-known for his opposition to ballooning (which was the established method of air flight in those days).  He actively spoke and wrote against ballooning, penning letters to the editor and articles in professional journals to express this opposition to ballooning.
 
After years of being stonewalled by an aviation establishment entirely enamoured with ballooning and which was completely unwilling to consider alternatives, he fell into deep thought.
 
“Perhaps I could find some other issue to pursue on which a majority of Canadians could agree,” he wondered to himself “Could I find some aviation principles on which we might find a consensus?”
 
After serious analysis, he came up with some aviation principles he felt might be acceptable to everyone.  He suggested a process to study the principles of fixed-wing aircraft to determine whether or not they should be pursued.  He suggested that the study consider whether or not existing legal prohibitions against fixed wing aviation were consistent with early 20th century aviation science and understanding.  He pointed out that Canada was one of only a few advanced nations to completely protect ballooning against fixed wing development.
 
An honest man, the aviation engineer acknowledged the relationship between fixed wing technology development and ballooning, and even admitted that the development of fixed wing technology might mean fewer people would engage in ballooning.
 
You can imagine that the ballooning industry rose immediately to the challenge.  Their first attack was to indignantly accuse the aviation engineer of being a ballooning-hater whose only motive was to destroy the ballooning industry.  “He says he just wants to improve aviation, but his real interest must be to simply destroy the ballooning industry since he must know that fixed wing aviation will mean fewer people will pursue ballooning”, they said.
 
The engineer protested that ballooning and fixed-wing aviation were not necessarily inconsistent with each other, but the balloonists ignored him.
 
He pointed out that something wasn’t right if balloonists felt they needed to pretend that fixed-wing technology didn’t exist.  They still ignored him.
 
The balloonists lobbied against his proposed study on the basis that their minds were made up that ballooning was better than fixed-wing aviation, they knew they were right, and so dialogue and review of modern aviation science would be a waste of time.  They argued that ballooning was simply better as it existed, period, discussion over.
 
Finally, the balloonists pointed out that existing Establishment views supporting the ballooning industry had only been established after long and difficult public debate, and that “re-opening” that debate should be avoided since it would provoke passionate or even divisive comment.  The engineer’s reminder that the right to study fixed wing aviation had been explicitly preserved and allowed for when protection of ballooning first became popular with the Establishment, was ignored.  The engineer knew that these existing differences between fixed-wing technology and ballooning would actually be brought to resolution by his proposal for dialogue and study, but he was ignored.
 
Many balloonists took to social media, publishing vile and insulting slanders against the engineer and misrepresenting his proposal.  He was not deterred.
 
Members of Parliament who spoke against the engineer’s proposal focused entirely on the necessity of protecting ballooning.  Not one even mentioned the subject of fixed wing aviation.  Not one questioned the aviation principles proposed by the engineer.  They expressed a single-minded preoccupation with ballooning to the exclusion of any consideration of wider aviation principles.  A number of professional aviation associations, filled with balloonists, were told that the engineer’s proposed study was about ending all ballooning and were in that way induced to pass resolutions condemning him and his proposal.
 
In the end Parliament defeated the engineer’s proposal, setting back the cause of fixed-wing technology in Canada for a time.  Clear-thinking people were amazed that a modern democracy could accept such a result, turning its back on modern aviation principles.
 
Now do you understand the relationship between Motion 312 and abortion?

All right, all right, I know what you’re thinking – your small lady-brain can’t quite grasp this. I know. Shhhh, it’s okay, I know. Normally I would be right there with you. Fortunately, I’ve given myself a few injections of testosterone this evening in order to help explain this all to you.

Okay so first of all, ballooning is abortion – which is, I guess, our established method of dealing with unwanted pregnancy? Much like ballooning is the established method of air flight in this story? That’s sort of what he’s saying? He also apparently believes that we’re totally enamoured with abortion; I guess he’s one of those men who think that women totally have abortions for funsies, like it’s a fucking trip to the spa or something. I just love the foot massage they give you after they remove your unwanted fetus.

Anyway, the protagonist of this allegory, an engineer who is both a gentleman and a scholar, hates ballooning, and starts a nasty anti-ballooning campaign. Sadly for him, everyone else loves ballooning and/or no one gives a shit about his letters to the editor and/or this guy really needs a hobby, so his plan is going nowhere fast. In a moment of brilliance, he thinks to himself, “Perhaps I could find some other issue to pursue on which a majority of Canadians could agree“. Obviously he is talking about fetal personhood fixed wing aviation.

Here’s where shit starts to get nonsensical. See, he wants the Canadian government to “study the principles” of fetal personhood fixed wing aviation, which all seems fine and normal and reality-based, but then he goes on to suggest that the government, “consider whether or not existing legal prohibitions against fixed wing aviation were consistent with early 20th century aviation science and understanding“. Er, what? So he wants us to examine the legal prohibitions against personhood? Which don’t actually exist? Like, no one is saying that he can’t call his own fetuses “persons”, just that he can’t start assigning personhood to all fetuses ever.

Next comes one of my favourite lines in his whole allegory:

[He] even admitted that the development of fixed wing technology might mean fewer people would engage in ballooning.”

No shit, dude. If you are trying to pass personhood laws in order to enact abortion legislature, then for sure less people will fucking “engage in ballooning”. I mean, except for the people who go to those back-alley balloon enthusiasts in order to balloon in secret.

Fuck, you guys, I just have to take a minute here to tell you how gross it is that he is comparing abortion to a RECREATIONAL SPORT. Like, terminating a pregnancy  is totally comparable to something you do for fun at the fucking county fair. Look, I’m not saying that everyone who’s had an abortion absolutely agonizes over the choice, but I really don’t think that anyone is ever like, gee, I’ve got nothing better to do this afternoon, may as well terminate my pregnancy then go eat some funnel cakes and ride the ferris wheel. It’s still a medical procedure, for God’s sake.

Ugh.

Anyway, so the allegorical abortion ballooning industry gets all up in arms, thinking that Mr. Fixed Wing Aviation is out to destroy them, because of course that’s what this is really all about. The abortion industry. The secret abortion lobby that controls Canada. The board of shadowy abortion-loving figures. It’s not about women having the right to control their own body. It’s not about bodily autonomy. Women obviously only have abortions because the abortion industry manipulates them into believing that abortions are better than cake and pie combined.

Also, I’m so sure that abortion, especially abortion in a country with socialized medicine, is so profitable. Like, I’m sure Scrooge McDuck is sitting in a cash-filled room somewhere, rubbing his hands and cackling over how awesome killing babies is. Okay, now that is a Disney movie I’d watch.

The rest of the allegory is basically a giant whine-fest about how everyone is so mean to Stephen Woodworth the fictitious engineer and how he was slandered (vilely and insultingly!) in social media. The engineer is shocked and appalled that the Canadian government wouldn’t even consider his proposal, and apparently men “clear thinking people” everywhere were “amazed” that Canada could be so behind the times.

Now do you understand the relationship between Motion 312 and abortion?

Uuuuggghhhh you guys, this is actually the worst allegory ever. I mean, I totally and fundamentally disagree with Stephen Woodworth, and I could still write a better anti-abortion allegory than this. First of all, it’s so gross and offensive to compare abortion to an activity that people do for fun. Second of all, it’s full of ridiculous half-truths and rife with misinformation. Finally, it ends with the assertion that all modern democracies are enacting personhood laws, which is just untrue, unless by “all modern democracies”, he means, “America”.

Anyway, Stephen, I guess I give your allegory an E for effort. Thanks for coming out, and don’t quit your day job. I mean, please do quit your actual day job of being an MP, but, you know, don’t give it up just to become a man of letters. Unless becoming a writer would mean that you would write allegories about how underfunded the arts are in Canada, in which case: have at ‘er, buddy.

The Racist Roots of the Pro-Life Movement

2 Oct

Most people probably think of abortion as being a fairly modern convenience, and imagine that the pro-life movement has probably been around for quite some time. For one thing, people who are pro-life often cloak their message in the Biblical idea of thou shalt not kill, and, you know, the Bible has been around for like forever. With that in mind, it would totally make sense for anti-abortion sentiment to have been rampant and widespread for the last couple of hundred or even thousand years.

Except that it hasn’t been.

The roots of the modern pro-life movement can actually be found in late 19th century America. Laws criminalizing abortion in the United States didn’t begin appearing until the 1820s, and even then they were still fairly rare. In the 1860s (so, during and after the civil war), these laws became more common, and by 1900 abortion was illegal in every state.

Before that, abortion was totally legal up until the “quickening”, i.e. when the mother first feels the fetus move. This was partially because at the time, there was no definite way of knowing that a woman was pregnant until she felt fetal movement; of course there were other signs, such as lack of menstruation or things like morning sickness or breast tenderness, but any of those could be symptoms of conditions other than pregnancy. Because of that, the moment when a woman felt her baby “quicken” (which typically happens in the 4th, 5th or even 6th month pregnancy) was really the moment when society considered her to be pregnant. Before that, she was just a woman with an irregular or disrupted menstrual cycle.

Which is why most advertisements for 19th century abortifacients looked like this:

Most patent medicines promised to do things like “correct irregularities”, or, even more abstractly, offering “relief for ladies”.

Abortion was actually one of the most common forms of birth control in 19th century America. Doctors estimated that there was one abortion for every five or six live births. In fact, the 1867 Richmond Medical Journal reported that,

“Among married persons so extensive has this practice become that people of high repute not only commit this crime, but do not even shun to speak boastingly among their intimates of the deed and the means of accomplishing it.” 

Abortion was so common that classy ladies were chatting up their friends about the best ways to do it.

Probably not what you would expect to hear at a Victorian tea party, right? Kind of amazing to picture, though:

Won’t you please pass the cucumber sandwiches, Priscilla? Oh and did I tell you about this absolutely smashing new way I’ve discovered of aborting unwanted fetuses?

Someone please invite me to that tea party.

So what the hell happened?

Well, people started worrying that if women were allowed to control their own fertility, bad things might happen. Like the end of society as we know it!

Let’s take a look at the historical context: the 1860s were obviously a very turbulent time, especially with regards to racial issues. The fact that there was such an increase in abortion legislation during and immediately after the civil war is quite telling. The aftermath of the war inspired a growing panic among white people that people of colour, who they were sadly no longer able to enslave, might try to take over “their” country. Maybe as payback for all those years of slavery? This panic paved the way for the idea of “race suicide”.

What, exactly, is race suicide, you might ask? I’ll just let my old friend Teddy Roosevelt explain it to you:

” …if the average family in which there are children contained but two children the nation as a whole would decrease in population so rapidly that in two or three generations it would very deservedly be on the point of extinction, so that the people who had acted on this base and selfish doctrine would be giving place to others with braver and more robust ideals. Nor would such a result be in any way regrettable; for a race that practised such doctrine–that is, a race that practised race suicide–would thereby conclusively show that it was unfit to exist, and that it had better give place to people who had not forgotten the primary laws of their being.”

(On American Motherhood, by Theodore Roosevelt, 1905)

That’s right – race suicide is the idea that white people will become “extinct” if they don’t have enough babies.

This fear, that people of colour would out-baby us, is where we find the actual origins of the pro-life movement. It didn’t come out of the idea that abortion was a sin, or the dogma of be fruitful and multiply, but rather the panicked notion that white people might not run the world anymore.

This racism still exists in the pro-life movement, although usually in more subtle ways. I’ve heard of white women requesting abortions and being asked, pleadingly, by medical professionals, if they know how wanted white babies are. And, of course, the pro-life movement is stunningly racist in other ways, for example when they posted this what-is-this-I-can’t-even billboard:

Look, I’m not saying that if you’re pro-life, you must be racist, or that everyone who hates abortion also hates people of colour. But what I am asking you to do is take a look at the history of the movement, educate yourself, and re-examine why you hold the beliefs you do.

I’m also asking you to admit that when it comes to anti-abortion sentiment, it’s not always about God or saving babies or whatever; it’s also about white people, and our xenophobia, and our desire to maintain our death grip on a society that we perceive as being only for us.

ETA: Sadly, the pro-choice movement has a pretty racist history as well. Stay tuned for the next in this series, The Racist History of the Pro-Choice Movement. Racism. It is why we can’t have nice things.

Just (or, an insidious little word that I use too often)

27 Sep

I teach a regular yoga class on Sunday evenings. My friend Charlene, who is an amazing teacher that I respect like whoa, teaches the class right before mine. For a few weeks now she’s been threatening promising to take my class, the thought of which was basically vomit-inducing.

I mean, imagine this: you, a neophyte in your field, suddenly have someone with years of experience and training under their belt, someone who has been inspiring you with their amazingness for quite some time now, who wants to be your student. Pretty nerve-wracking, right?

Anyway, I was nervous, my voice quavered a little when giving instructions, and every time I looked at her I forgot everything I’d ever learned, but other than that it went pretty well. Afterwards she thanked me for the class and said she’d enjoyed it, so I asked if she would email me with some feedback and constructive criticism.

I received her (extremely lovely and thoughtful) email the other night, and one paragraph really jumped out at me:

I noticed that you say “just _________”  a lot, as in, “just reach your arm up, just step forward”.  I catch myself doing this as well sometimes and realise that it detracts from the impact of the practice and my presence. There are no “justs” in yoga, since every movement and breath should be linked with some degree of awareness and attention- everything we do matters. Saying “just” a lot also makes the class seem more casual than perhaps we want it to be, since after all, people come to class to learn….they need to trust that we are confident in our capabilities to guide them.

Having read this, I’ve been carefully monitoring my speech for the last few days, and I’ve come to the following conclusion: I say just a lot.

I don’t just say it in a yoga context, either. I use it quite often when I’m talking about myself, and about my accomplishments. This morning I was sitting in the cafe across the street from the studio, and a woman asked me what I did for a living. Oh, I just manage a yoga studio, I replied without thinking. The real kicker is, it’s NOT EVEN TRUE. I don’t just manage a yoga studio – for one thing, phrasing it that way makes it sound lesser or inferior to other jobs, and for another thing, I also teach yoga and write, but for some reason I never think to mention those.

I mean, I say some reason, but I totally know the reason. It’s because I am a woman and, as such, it makes my life easier to constantly diminish my own accomplishments and make myself appear less threatening.

Every time I say just, what I’m really saying is, This isn’t important. I’m not important. Please don’t question me on this.

Every time I say I think when I really mean I know, what I’m actually saying is, Please don’t think that I’m trying to show you how smart I am or how accomplished, I’m sure you’re very smart and accomplished too.

The dangerous thing is that I keep telling myself that if I just teach more often, or get more stuff published, or accumulate more successes, then I will stop feeling this way. I tell myself that I use this kind of demeaning language against myself because I’m just not good enough yet, but someday I’ll get there. Really, though, the truth is that if I don’t think I’m there yet, then I will never get there and I will never be good enough, because my desire to self-deprecate will continue to push my goals just out of reach.

Let’s go back to the basics here:

Men feel threatened by women, especially powerful, successful women. This is ground that’s been covered over and over, but it bears revisiting.

Women also feel threatened by the success of other women, because we’ve been set up by society to compete against each other. There’s some jealousy in there, of course, but I also get the feeling that women often feel like success is something finite, and if one woman uses up a big chunk of success, then there will be less for everyone else. And maybe that’s a even a bit true, because while society seems to tolerate plenty of successful men, it doesn’t seem to have a lot of room for women at the top.

So how do you react when you’re challenged by someone on your success? Do you get defensive, grow angry and maybe start to lose your temper as you try to prove your point? Some people do, and that’s not necessarily a bad or wrong reaction – but it is one that’s certainly far more accepted from men than it is from women. If a man becomes righteously angry, he’s often lauded for it. If a woman does the same thing, it’s frequently blamed on her menstrual cycle, or her lack of sex, or because, you know, ladies.

So what’s one way around this problem? To be nice and reasonable, because you catch more flies with honey? To be nice enough that you can convince men that sure, you’re smart and well-educated, but you’re not one of those women. To be reasonable enough to prove that not all feminists are hysterical and crazy, some are totally kind and thoughtful and soft-spoken.

To be so fucking nice and reasonable that you start to undermine yourself, to diminish yourself because you don’t want to cause conflict. To be so respectful of other people’s opinions, so concerned about not offending them, that it starts to become hard to stand up for what you yourself believe in.

I’m not saying don’t be nice and respectful, but what I am saying is that these are qualities that men have come to expect from what they think of as “reasonable” women. And every time you describe yourself as just being whatever, every time you back away from an argument by conceding that everyone’s allowed an opinion even though what the other person is saying is totally wrong and offensive to you, you are playing right into that expectation.

I’ve written here about being careful about the words we use when talking about other women, but we also need to watch the words we use when talking about ourselves. In order to be successful, we need to learn to talk ourselves up, to speak positively about our accomplishments, and not be afraid of a little conflict. We need to learn to be assertive, because society isn’t going to begin tolerating assertive until more women are comfortable in that role.

So I challenge you to spend a few days watching what you say, and taking stock of how often you use words like just or think or only when you’re talking about yourself or your opinions. Ask yourself what your speech would sound like without those words. Finally, try to make a few statements about yourself every day that celebrate your work, your life, or your accomplishments instead of demeaning them.

Because if you don’t take yourself seriously, probably no one else will.

The Myth of the Woman-Child

20 Sep

My good friend Audra Williams challenged me to blog about this piece on Tavi Gevinson. Then she posted this ridiculous article from Jezebel on Facebook, and I thought I would address both of them at once. I am killing two birds with one stone! Two ugly, judgmental, anti-feminist birds!

Both articles are concerned with the girlification of today’s women. Katrina Onstad, author of the Tavi Gevinson piece, bemoans the rise of “girl culture”, complaining that the word “girl” is “wispy and feminine, destined for head-patting and glass ceilings“. Jezebel’s Deborah Schoeneman, on the other hand, uses the term “woman-child” to describe those of us she feels aren’t acting our age. The hallmarks of a woman-child are, according to Schoeneman, many and varied. She writes that, “from sporting sparkly nail polish to religiously reading every bestselling young adult novel, these women seem to be reliving their teenage years with real gusto.” 

First of all, I didn’t realize that there were rules on how to be an adult female. Maybe there’s a handbook I’m missing? The handbook that, according to Schoeneman, would tell me to watch What To Expect When You’re Expecting instead of The Hunger Games, and advise me against using nail art. Because as a lady I should want to watch movies about other lady-types having babies instead of movies about smart, strong teenage girls kicking ass and taking names, I guess. Also I should have really boring nails.

The funny thing is that Schoeneman is totally selling me on the idea of becoming a woman-child. The way that she describes the beliefs and behaviours she dislikes actually make them sound more appealing than appalling. For instance:

“[The woman-child] truly believes that women are in it together and is all about helping her friends start businesses, meet guys and pick out a cute outfit for a big event. Competiveness among females in the workplace is perceived as totally 80s.” 

I am really confused about what world Schoeneman is living in where the above would be considered a bad thing. I guess she’s maybe concerned that so-called “women-children” are naive about the way things really work? Do I need to point out that we can end competitiveness in the workplace among women if all of us would just flat-out refuse to compete?

Schoeneman is also pretty concerned about the lack of rings on ladies’ fingers and buns in their ovens. She writes that:

“The woman-child will likely get married later than the increasing national average. Advances in fertility treatments like egg freezing have also added to their confidence that they can reproduce older and potentially prolong their own girlhood.”

And this is where she (hopefully) totally lost everyone who identifies as a feminist. Because what she’s advocating here is the same old song the patriarchy keeps singing: marry young, have babies, fulfill your biological destiny, etc. It doesn’t seem to occur to her that women might want to delay (or totally avoid) marriage and children for reasons that have nothing to do with an extended adolescence. It seems like for Schoeneman, as with so many other people, a husband and child are still the ultimate goal.

Schoeneman’s article, while outwardly angrier and more condescending, is ultimately easier to dismiss. It reads like the frustrated rant of someone who has not found adulthood to be the land of fancy dinner parties and Cartier bracelets, the way she always thought it would be. It reads like she’s someone who doesn’t see herself or her style reflected in some of the current trends, and has therefore decided that the trends themselves are at fault. It reads as if she’s upset that her female friends and acquaintances have continued to be themselves, rather than morphing into SERIOUS GROWNUPS at the stroke of midnight on their 21st birthdays.

At the end of the day, Schoeneman is the one with the problem, not the so-called women-children. If the way that her friends behave is an issue for her, then she needs to find new ones. Maybe some married friends with kids?

Onstad’s article is trickier for me to dissect, in part because it talks a lot about the dangers of nostalgia, and I am a total nostalgia machine.

First off, Onstad begins by complaining about the use of the word girl to describe grown women, writing that “…a roaring, shag-cut “woman” is a powerful agent“, whereas “girl” is “the word before the drunken grope“, as if those four little letters are somehow responsible for what she perceives to be the diminishment of feminism. As if the very word girl is somehow responsible for the “drunken gropes” and everything else we’re subject to.

Onstad uses this opening to segue into a sort of review of Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie Yearbook One, a collection of pieces (and “girlie ephemera” like stickers and a 45) that mostly come from Rookie, Gevinson’s online magazine. 16 year old Gevinson is, Onstad assures us, an actual girl (and thus, I guess, allowed to call herself that), and her magazine is aimed at teenagers.

Onstad begins by praising the honesty and authenticity of Rookie Yearbook One, and then starts veering towards the but that you’ve been sensing since the beginning of the article. Rooke Yearbook One is great and all, Onstad tells us, BUT it is totally, totally nostalgic for the 90s. Ah, the wonderful 90s, described by Onstad as, “the time when “slut” was lipsticked across bellies and Donita Sparks of the band L7 threw her tampon into the audience“. Those were good times, right?

Onstad then draws the following conclusion:

Perhaps this, then, is why a surprising chunk of Rookie’s girl culture is about the former passions of 30- and 40-somethings. The promise of that tough, smart, sexually confident ’90s “girl” never died, but it’s never quite been realized either. For women of a certain age, it’s intoxicating – and possibly narcissistic – to revisit the pop trappings of girlhood, and attempt to make sense of what happened.

And, you know, this is where it gets tough for me, because revisiting the trappings of my girlhood in an attempt to make sense of what happened is, like, my favourite thing to do. So there’s a part of me that wants to call Onstad up and be like, okay, you got me, guilty as charged.

But then I think, hang on. Let’s hold the metaphorical phone, Joan. First of all, Tavi Gevinson was only a tiny kid in the 90s, which makes it pretty damn hard for her to feel nostalgic about them. Like many (most?) teenagers, she probably feels dissatisfied with the current state of teenager affairs, and perhaps thinks that things were better (or at least more riot grrrrrl-y) 20 years ago. I went through a phase like that, too, except it involved me wearing tie-dye and listening to bands from the 60s (much to my mother’s amusement/dismay). It wasn’t that I was nostalgic for that time – how could I have been? – it was that I was struggling to figure out where I fit in the particular pop culture landscape that I inhabited.

As for those of us who lived through the 90s, it’s hard not to look back and think that yeah, badass ladies were having a moment back then. I don’t think that this is so much nostalgia, though, as it is a desire to figure out how to bring about a similar moment for the badass ladies of this decade. It’s not wallowing in narcissism and the pop trappings of girlhood, it’s a need to sift through the past, to sort the bad from the good so that we can figure out what needs to be discarded and what we can keep.

And yeah, I’ll admit, the idea that there’s a smart, savvy generation of girls eager to take up the mantle of badassery and fight the good fight is pretty damn intoxicating.

Finally, let’s take a look at the term “man-child”, the male cultural counterpart to the “woman-child”. A “man-child” is typically described as someone who is emotionally immature, often refusing to own up to his responsibilities. A “man-child” often lacks any sort of motivation, and prefers to avoid many of the milestones of adulthood. Now, contrast that to the descriptions above of the “woman-child” as someone who reads YA books and wears sparkly nail polish. A man is a “man-child” because of his total lack of maturity; a woman is called a “woman-child” based on her likes and interests alone.

So, basically what I’m saying here is, fuck the patriarchy, and fuck this anti-woman bullshit. A woman can like whatever she wants, can wear whatever she wants, etc. By believing that they should avoid certain cultural phenomena just because it’s perceived as being young or girlish, Schoeneman and Onstad are missing out on a lot of good stuff. By telling us that we should avoid these things as well, they are attempting to create an even narrower definition of how we, as women, should behave. And believing that the way forward is to put limits on what a woman can like, say, or do is, like, the least feminist thing ever.

So there.

“Hi, it’s me, Tavi. I am way cooler than you. I mean, in case you were wondering.”

The so-called Mommy Wars (or, what I learned from watching the X-Files)

15 Aug

If you are a person living in the world who has children, knows people who have children, or has ever spent any time on the internet, you’ve probably realized that people like to debate various parenting ideologies.

Now, for most of human history, I would say that the dominant parenting philosophy has been do the best you can with what’s available to you and hope that your children survive until adulthood (and also it would be nice if they didn’t turn out to be serial killers or Rob Ford or whatever). In fact, this same philosophy is still employed in many parts of the world today. However, for those of us living in the western world, most of us have more options when it comes to how we raise our kids. More options should equal everyone is happier and has a better time, right? Wrong.

Maybe I should rephrase that first sentence: if you are a person living in the world who has access to the internet, you have probably heard of the (sigh) Mommy Wars.

Can I just take a moment to say how frigging much I hate the term “Mommy Wars”? Like, a lot. For one thing, who put the mommy in mommy wars? Yes, every child has a biological mother (I mean, probably – but I’m not super up on science or whatever, so I could be wrong), but many children have other styles of parents or guardians, mostly fathers, but also sometimes grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. So why the focus on mothers? Oh right, because women are crazy and can’t control their emotions society loves to crap on women.

Full disclosure – I watched a lot of X-Files growing up. Like, I could probably still recite entire chunks of dialogue from that show. Because I am aware of Mulder’s lasting influence over me (paranoia! the unexplained! the government is up to something!), I am hesitant to be all THIS IS A CONSPIRACY. But, you guys, I think this might be a conspiracy.

Here’s the thing: I really do believe that one thing holding women back from achieving equality with men is the fact that we’re too busy fighting viciously amongst ourselves. The energy we spend snarking and nitpicking and flat-out attacking each other could do so much good in the fight against the injustices that we face, if only we could see the bigger picture. And who does it benefit the most to keep women from seeing the bigger picture? Well, you know, the patriarchy.

Although men don’t often participate in the more vitriolic discussions surrounding parenting, many of the things that perpetuate the “mommy wars” (you have no idea how much it makes my skin crawl to have to keep typing that out) come from men. Men in the media who continue to remind us that breastfeeding beyond a certain age is weird and gross (for example, Martin Schoeller, the photographer whose contentious oeuvre recently graced the cover of Time Magazine), men in politics who think they should tell us how, when and why to have children, male doctors weighing in on parenting philosophies that really have negligible impact on children’s physical health, and even the frigging Pope who somehow thinks that he gets some say over our sex lives.

The patriarchy doesn’t want us to be better mothers; it wants us to become so consumed by the idea of doing it “right” that we don’t notice how little power and agency we have in our lives. It wants us to continue to be distracted by busy work so that it can continue to do what it does best: try to run our lives.

Let’s face it – most of the debates that fuel the “mommy wars” (stay-at-home mom vs. working mom, breastfeeding vs. formula, babywearing vs. not babywearing, bed-sharing vs. cribs) are just one valid choice pitted against another valid choice, with the same arguments being repeated over and over, ad nauseam (no, seriously, I actually feel a little nauseous sometimes). The thing is, all of the above parenting choices are fine. No one is a bad parent because of ANY OF THESE THINGS. Every parent is different, and every kid is different, and same style of parenting isn’t going to work for everyone.

So let’s all step away from our computers, take a deep breath and realize that being a parent is really fucking hard work. And you know what the best way to get through these tough times is? Supporting each other, and supporting the choices other people make. Let’s all hug it out and promise to have each other’s backs, okay?

Oh, and let’s get out there and kick the patriarchy right in the balls, you guys.

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… that it’s possible to be a parent and not be a dick about it