We just got back from a great two week jaunt back east, visiting M’s family in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, my mom’s side of the family in Lake Anna, Virginia, my dad’s family in Rockville, Maryland, and our friends back in Washington, DC. We put over 2500 miles on the car, which is now covered in bug carcasses and smells like swamp ass.
I feel like I’ve been on a permanent vacation for the past two months. The baby was born on May 4 and here it is, July 1, and I’m only now getting back to work full time, for real. It’s been a lot of work raising the Nugget so far, but mom is taking the brunt of it. But it has felt very strange not to be doing work for so long. Today, I had to leave the house to get some work done at Theo’s. Mom’s at home with Nugget and I admit it’s a bit tough to be away. But it’s been a good morning so far. Productive.
My last post was June 11, and that aside from a brief spurt there in early June, this thing is looking a little empty since Nugget was born. But that’s OK, and I’m thinking maybe it’s best to let this thing die a slow painful death, like an Aloe plant that you stop watering, but which hangs on for months and months on end, showing brief spurts of life as kind neighbors and housesitters do the good thing and dump glassfuls of liquid into the pot of dust in which it sputters.
Neil Halstead - You Are The Glue (Daytrotter Session)
An unreleased track from the Slowdiving lad from Mojave 3. Digging it on this Thursday that feels like a Friday. I love how loose and sloppy and intimate it is, how it feels like it was recorded in a tiny hotel room, on a portable recorder balanced precariously on the edge of the bed. More here.
Some interesting analysis from the NYT, which suggests Obama’s efforts in the middle east, including the big speeches but also other policy shifts since he took office, may already be paying off:
"There were many domestic reasons voters handed an American-backed coalition a victory in Lebanese parliamentary elections on Sunday — but political analysts also attribute it in part to President Obama’s campaign of outreach to the Arab and Muslim world."
Call me a cynic, but I am pretty skeptical of the Lebanese elections as a reflection of a decline in anti-Americanism or that all of a sudden the region is becoming moderate. What I see is that Western countries allied with regimes such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are locked in a constant struggle against the more extreme Muslim regimes in Iran and Syria, and there is always some push and pull back and forth. For the time being, Obama’s less hostile stance seems to have shifted the fulcrum an inch, just enough to slightly alter the balance of ideological power enough for our allies in the region to get the benefit of the doubt.
What I don’t really like about this article, and others like it, however, is that they lump the Iranian elections (today) into this extremist vs. moderate paradigm, which seems to me dangerously off the mark.
Mir-Hossein Moussavi, the leading opponent to Ahmadinejad, and the one the NYT likes to call a moderate, has been part of the revolutionary vanguard since 1979 and is a strong supporter of the overall regime led by the clerics. He speaks down to any potential conflict with them and he has spoken about supporting the revolutionary “principles” that the fundamentalists so support.
I dare you to read interviews with Moussavi such as this one with the Financial Times and conclude he’s a moderate in any meaningful way. All the NYT can offer, really, is that he’s appeared in campaign posters with his wife holding hands.
It’s clear that if Moussavi wins it’s because he manages to appeal to older conservatives who remember him as a hard-liner from back in the day and to youth who are disillusioned with the current management. It’s about corruption and competence, about the “marriage crisis" and epidemic unemployment, not about moderation of religious extremism or increased human rights.
As far as the West is concerned, none of the candidates are really pro-West, as all are determined to continue the “peaceful” nuclear program and none favor improved relations with Israel. Even Moussavi’s wife recently referred to Israel as Iran’s “main and everlasting enemy.”
Since the only candidates allowed to run were approved by the deeply conservative clerics, it’s better to think of the Iranian election as a warped version of a GOP primary than a true battle of ideas. Indeed, if you want to think of Moussavi as anyone, he is McCain, not Obama. McCain after Bush may indeed have been a change, but on so many fundamental questions, it wouldn’t have meant much difference.
The biggest difference between Moussavi and Ahmadinejad seems to be that Moussavi wants to return to a state-managed economy and wants to reduce cronyism in the government. That’s the reform agenda: it’s the economy, stupid. And has been reported everywhere, the economy is terrible.
So it’s hard for me to see the Iranian election as a referendum on moderation so much as a referendum on loudmouthed incompetence. It’s not the narrative that the press wants to tell, but it seems to me to be much closer to the truth.
A lone gunman known to authorities as a white supremacist shot and fatally wounded a private security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in downtown Washington today before being shot and wounded by guards who returned fire, officials said.
One can only conclude that like terrorist sleeper cells, these extremists have now been set in motion. Indeed the evidence is already there. The chatter, the threats, the hate-filled rhetoric are abundant.
In the last year of the Bush administration there were 396 harassing calls to abortion clinics. In just the first four months of the Obama administration that number has jumped to 1401.
What does it say about the respect that right wingers have for democracy that when they lose elections, elements in their midst think it’s ok to start shooting?
I suggest you do something revolutionary and volunteer for a rape crisis center. With any luck, you might have your eyes opened to the type of shit women are going through on a daily basis, and you might even start to think about the connection between your objectifying women and other men treating them as though they are less than full human beings. On the other hand, you might just revictimize some poor woman by telling her to chillax and stop being so emotional. (I presume you wouldn’t tell a male survivor to chillax because “Ew, gay!”*)
Of course, you might not make it through the screening process, but based on the fact that a participant in one of the training classes I attended was actually spouting off rape myths as if they were facts, I suspect there’s a low barrier to entry at some of these places.
Jokes aside, though, I am actually serious. It occurs to me that possibly the only way that het guys will ever understand this shit is by seeing it firsthand. And for those of you who already get it, you should think about volunteering, too.
*Before someone reblogs and points out that women can be perpetrators, too — yeah, I know.
I don’t rape people. I don’t. I can’t control what other people do. I really can’t.
If today was the last time I ever objectified a woman (by whatever generalized criteria you use) it still wouldn’t stop the abuse and victimization of women, because they are women, by men.
So, I’m not going to stop laughing at the occasional sexist joke. I’m not going to stop lusting for women. I certainly think that kind of behavior can go to far, can be rude, crude, and unnecessary. Even (and often) offensive.
But I don’t rape people, so stop putting that shit on me.
OK, I’ll bite.
I think Jason takes it a bit too far here, as the original post was (I think) merely trying to suggest that by bearing witness to the horrific results of rape, men will be a bit less likely to perpetuate more minor forms of sexism. I happen to think she’s right, but I take issue with her argument that there is a direct and causal relationship, that rape is some sort of extreme result of what she terms “casual sexism.” By extension, she is (sort of) suggesting that anyone trading in such “casual sexism” is perpetuating rape, which angers Jason and which I find to be a pretty ridiculous argument.
But before I get into that, what I think is absolutely obscene about her post is the suggestion that men should volunteer at rape crisis center so they won’t make sexist comments. No, men should volunteer TO HELP THE WOMEN WHO HAVE BEEN RAPED! Her flippant attitude suggests that, boy, howdy, this is a handy learning tool. The further couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is that any male who goes through the 40 hours of rape training will be so shell-shocked, horrified, and emotionally drained that he will have a hard time not hating his own gender for a while.
He will stop using rape as a verb to describe how he did on an exam or how his day went at work, and because rape and other forms of sexual violence are about power, anger, and rage, he will start to take even minor acts of hostility towards women far more seriously.
He will not likely make minor sexual comments, and might stop laughing at crude jokes, but this is completely unimportant compared to the fact that he will become an active voice and agent against sexual violence. He will learn to see the signs in women he knows, and he will learn how to help them.
This is if he has the chance. Many rape crisis centers do not allow men as counselors, and there is a wide swath of rape advocacy that is openly hostile to males in general. PAAR in Pittsburgh would not allow me to become a counselor, though that policy might have changed in the last decade.
In college, a friend told me her story of assault. I needed to learn more to help her, and eventually volunteered with an on-campus group of “sexual assault advisors.” We weren’t an official rape crisis center, and we tried to refer all survivors to these professional centers (who have legal advocates and other resources we didn’t have), but I did go through 40 hours of traning.
Over the next few years, I counseled in one way, shape, or form at least a half-dozen women who needed someone to talk to. I think a few of them felt more comfortable talking to me than a woman, possibly because they needed to hear from a male that what they went through was wrong.
I learned a lot, and it was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. Counseling victims, even informally, was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but also one of the most fulfilling and important.
Still, there were women in the organization who were constantly arguing that me and the other few men shouldn’t be allowed to be counselors. It is not surprising that many counselors were survivors themselves, and some felt that by having men around they felt less comfortable to share their own stories in group meetings than if we weren’t there, and that only by sharing with each other could they become stronger survivors and better counselors. I can’t blame them for this. They may be right. I don’t know. It’s not a straightforward kind of thing, and I did my best to be respectful, but it’s a hard thing to volunteer and know that half of the people don’t want you there.
Still, many men would do well to volunteer as the original author suggests, and many women would as well. But know that it is hell on earth. There are other ways for men to get involved, too. The DC-based group “Men Can Stop Rape” (http://www.mencanstoprape.org) is a good place to start.
That being said, to take it back to the original argument, rape and sexism are not the same thing, and whether sexual violence and “casual sexism” are even remotely related seems questionable. When young boys are raped, is that due to sexism? No. Rape is about power, and while I will grant that there are power issues associated with sexism, blonde jokes and date rape aren’t on some sort of simple continuum where stopping one prevents the other.
I think we need to be very careful about diatribes against “casual sexism” unless we play by very PC rules, rules that would preclude, for example, the objectification of women demonstrated by posting of sexually suggestive images of half-naked celebrities to a blog.
I’m not arguing for such restrictive and reductive boundaries, because creative expression is important, perhaps never more so than when boundaries are crossed. I happen to believe that pornography is directly associated with sexism and the sexual objectification of women, and that a lot of porn borders on violence, but I believe even more strongly that folks should be able to do what they want to do, say what they want to say, and view want they want to view, so long as they aren’t hurting anyone directly or exploiting an individual against their will.
That is the boundary. There is a difference between an off-color joke and hate speech, and a difference between hate speech and hate crimes. Likewise, there is a reason why rape is a crime, and T&A jokes are not. You may not like the jokes, and you can argue that they are wrong, but it is ridiculous to lend them moral equivalency to acts of heinous violence.
The systemic problems and obstacles women face in this country are real, but you can’t lay them all at the feet of the guy who makes a rude remark or laughs at an offensive joke or has a pin-up calendar in his office. We all live in society, and blaming individuals for jokes or comments is wagging the dog — these are not the CAUSE of a sexist society, but the RESULT of one.
To stop sexism, we need to attack the institutions that perpetuate it, like organized religion. Read Genesis in the Bible and tell me that the overarching message of feminine subservience isn’t galling. Think about the patriarchal Catholic Church for a minute, and how many other churches are run nearly exclusively by men, and about how few female televangelists there are, and then contemplate how Christian a country this is. This is but one such foundational problem.
If you want to do something about sexism, focus on the major causes and societal structures that perpetuate it. If you want to do something about sexual violence, focus on preventing the acts themselves through education and advocacy and help survivors in any number of ways. But don’t try to pretend you’re out there changing the world and saving lives just because you got all self-righteous and gave some dude a hard time for subscribing to Maxim.
Streaming video-on-demand for cinephiles. Free and pay as you go options, focused heavily on international films, festival winners, and the library of the Criterion Collection. It’s Flash-based, so there’s no third-party app, and all the films are available in HD and have reworked Dolby surround sound. DVD extras such as commentaries and featurettes are also supposedly available, though I couldn’t see any when I browsed around. According to Wired, there are 84 films up now, and they hope to have a library of 1000 titles by the end of the year. There’s a whole social media aspect to it, too, but I could give a crap about that, honestly. More importantly, I just watched snippets of a few films and the interface is clean and the video looks crisp as hell. This thing looks like it was done right. So awesome.
“An African-American President with Muslim roots stands before the Muslim world and defends the right of Jews to a nation of their own in their ancestral homeland, and then denounces in vociferous terms the evil of Holocaust denial, and right-wing Israelis go forth and complain that the President is unsympathetic to the housing needs of settlers. Incredible, just incredible.”—Jeffrey Goldberg
This is an interesting article in this week’s New York Times Magazine by Lisa Belkin, who writes their Motherlode blog.
It’s about the rise of a new movement in parenting advice that suggests a more laissez faire attitude. The article references the “slow parenting” movement and the “idle parenting” book I referenced a couple of weeks ago.
I think she is right that there is a new trend, and I especially like how she draws the distinction between “parenting trends” and “parenting truths.” She is spot on in the last paragraph of the article: “we have replaced the experts who told us what a good parent worries about with experts who tell us that a good parent doesn’t worry so much.”
This is so true. As a new parent (4 weeks), I admit an attraction to such books as “The Idle Parent,” and the idea of slow parenting, and she is entirely correct — I’m attracted because these books validate what I’m feeling, not because they offer objectively better advice.
I don’t think M and I are going to be following any specific handbook for raising E, but I do think we are among a growing number of parents who are looking to find some middle ground between the hyperactive, neurotic style of overambitious overachieving parenting and the new vogue of neohippie attachment parenting. The former is about stuffing as many skills and as much “success” into your kid as possible, while the latter is all about emotional security and bonding and making sure your kid feels loved every instant of his or her life. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive and share a certain zealousness towards a very active form of parenthood that M and I find a bit overdone and unappealing. But how can we reject this form of parenting without going too far?
M and I have decided to practice “calm parenting,” which simply our term for not getting bent out of shape over every little thing. We don’t know how to raise a child, but we don’t want to be the sort of high-strung, neurotic, overworked parents we have seen freaking out around us over the last few years. So we’ll muddle through, convinced that we’re smart and caring folks who will generally do the right thing most of the time, and we’re confident things will work out just fine.
Parenting is a bit of a rabbit hole, especially for the educated middle class parent. There is no end to the stream of new research and opinions on raising kids, and every decision seems to call for an exhaustive Google search to get to the bottom of the right choice. (After reading a riduculous breastfeeding piece in the Atlantic, I had to go download the medical journal the author referenced in order to refute her).
I can’t speak for M, but for me, the active decision to be a “calm” parent is about refusing to relent to the pressures to be tuned in to the best advice all of the time. I am going to read the blogs, and the books, and I am going to make more conscious choices as a parent than a more casual dad. I happen to have very strong views about certain things: vaccination, gender neutrality, the power of open-ended play, wooden toys over plastic, simple over complex, and so on. I admit that I think I’m right. But I know I’m obsessive, and that I could see myself being the sort of opinionated hovering helicopter parent that I find so annoying. Being calm means we also have to remain calm about what we might view as the “mistakes” of others. The lines are blurrier for things like vaccination, wherein my son is more at risk of serious illness because my neighbor refuses to vaccinate her kid, but most things folks get all riled up about have no such public health attribute.
The true key to “calm” parenting is being non-judgmental, and recognizing that there is more than one right way to raise a kid. Some people cosleep with their babies until they’re 3 and some kick the kid to his or her own room at 3 weeks. Some parents breastfeed and some don’t. This is fine. It’s not my baby, not my problem. This should be obvious, but any parent will tell you: it is mindbogglingly insane the degree to which complete and utter strangers feel comfortable publicly judging you on your parenting or giving you unsolicited advice. The stories are out there, and I’ve heard them first person. The woman who gets chided for bottlefeeding her daughter instead of breasfeeding, by someone she’s never met. Battle lines over pacifiers, or thumb-sucking. There is a reason they call them the “mommy wars.” My neighbor told me that if we want a healthy child, we should have E outside all the time, and preferably near water, due to the power of ionization.
Being calm is a daily struggle. I have to push down my desire to pamper and to buy the best things, and to obsess over every developmental milestone. And I can’t quite eliminate the judgment of others. I do think that we have created a generation of infantile adults through over-parenting (college students whose parents call their professors, like M, true story, and present excuses for their grade difficulties) and though I am loathe to fully endorse any one way of raising a child, I say good riddance to the babying of children well through adolescence and into young adulthood. I say bring on the idle parents and the slow parents, but moreover, bring on parents who are intent on raising a child INTO an adult, and not merely postponing adulthood for as long as possible.