Wonk Wednesday: Schools as Vehicles of Legitimacy

An interesting trend in schools is this adoration of charter schools that are just one drill sergeant shy of being military institutions, at least as far as discipline goes. We read Teach Like a Champion in my teacher preparation program and talked a lot about the profound importance of instilling discipline in the younglings. In teacher prep programs and our broader culture, there is a lot of celebration of discipline as a key part of a successful school. In low-income communities, charters are celebrated for their “zero tolerance” discipline and rigidity; they are seen as bringing the savior of discipline to their students.

In the school where I taught, discipline was a constant topic. I was scolded for not writing enough referrals/being strict enough with my kids. At the time, I didn’t really have a specific reason why I didn’t believe in sending kids to the office constantly; I spoke mostly about the fact that I trusted them and wanted to work with them on their behavior and actions, rather than outsourcing it to the office (my students were 15 and 16 years old, so I stand by my belief in treating them like adults who are worthy of respectful discourse rather than ignorant children who need to be given time out). Looking back, though, I think part of it was that I felt that top-down authoritarian discipline wasn’t a value that I wanted to teach my students to love.

Granted, I was basically trying to lead a revolution in my classroom, so my methods may seem strange to others. But bear with me here.

My kids are not in an equal world. Most of them were students of color, most of them were coming from poor families (some were even homeless), and most of them were far behind where they “should be,” academically. Those who didn’t fall into all, or even one, of those categories, will still carry the stigma of being from Oakland until they can get far enough in life to shrug it off (if they so choose). “Oakland” carries associations, the majority of which are not favorable.

My kids have enough of disadvantages. I do not want to train them to be blind followers who rely on external authorities and rigid structures in order to make their way in life. My kids might have been academically behind, but it wasn’t because they aren’t smart. They are brilliant, in a wonderful diversity of ways. They are full of talents, ideas, and righteous anger. But I heard from so many of them so constantly that they were bad at school. That they were never going anywhere in life. That they were bad kids.

It’s possible that an absurdly rigid discipline system might’ve brought up some test scores. Possible (a lot of these vaunted zero-tolerance charters don’t actually score any better than their counterparts; it’s almost as if discipline isn’t actually the problem and that poverty and systemic inequality might be). However, I will feel like I am more of a successful teacher if I can send my students out into the world armed with a sense of self and intrinsic value than if I beat that out of them in exchange for discipline and test scores.

Strict discipline means you get to be someone’s lackey. I do not wish that life on my students.

Self-discipline does not necessarily spring out of externally enforced, top-down authoritarian discipline. Self-discipline is what leads people to be able to thrive through their talents and creativity and values. That is what I tried to give my students (though I’m not arrogant enough to believe I succeeded).

Social legitimacy means that your voice is heard and valued. Schools promise to grant young people social legitimacy through a credential. To get that credential, you must adhere to structures and discipline.*

So what is the value of legitimacy if it comes at the cost of having your voice silenced to get it?

This week’s essay, as you may gather, is about schools as legitimacy-granting institutions and vehicles of social mobility. It’s framed around the foundation put in place by the common school movement, which happened during a really fascinating time in history (the market revolution and the second Great Awakening–good times). The common school movement had the noble goal of bringing education to the masses and providing equality of education for all–huzzah! On the flip side, they also had a not really veiled at all goal of social control. Regrettably, even though our society has shifted away from the context in which we needed schools as places to socialize and discipline, the way that we assign value to schools hasn’t shifted away from that structure because we have to internalized this narrative of what school is and what schools look like. Thus, despite the noble goal of legitimizing marginalized communities, what happens instead is that communities are smothered and neutered in senseless discipline and empty “education.”

I am just really angry about all the ways in which our culture demands that “non-dominant narrative” people have to justify themselves and prove their worthiness before their voices will be heard. From heavy issues such as race down to the lighter issues like the fake geek girl hubbub, I am sick of people being made “less than” based on whether or not they meet arbitrary standards. Truly, one’s worth cannot be measured by a high school diploma, and although I personally think having high school diplomas is great and I want my students to have them, I think it’s a shit way to determine whether or not someone has merit as a person. And yet we can’t seem to stop.

The Common School’s Legacy: Legitimacy and Social Control – PDF

Texts for this week:

  • Cuban, Larry. (2013) Inside the Black Box of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Cuban, Larry & Tyack, David. (1995) Tinkering Toward Utopia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Labaree, David. (2010) Someone Has to Fail. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Apparently, Harvard University Press is getting a lot of damn money from me.

*I know that I mentioned that I would write about why I left teaching. I will, I promise. But this is a little window into one of the reasons–while I came to teaching because of my drive to help people and change lives for the better, I am partially pushed away from teaching because in many ways my values reject the way we do schooling in America. I do not truly believe in the system, so while I tried hard to give my students the best that I could, I felt like a fraud and a hypocrite. That gets exhausting.

10/08/2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Hold me closer, tiny dancer! Or: I’m sick of being nice.

So here’s a delightful story that has made my afternoon: in Ohio, strippers are protesting outside a church because they are sick of the church protesting outside of the club.

Fuck yes.

Look, I don’t have anything against religion. Hell, I myself grew up in a Christian family and am confirmed (I gave a speech about pie). Christians really aren’t bad people or jerks or anything. It’s just that there’s this little bundle of them who give the rest a bad name (this stands, in fact, for all religions. For the most part, they’re just nice folk and then there’s that small clique of asshats that goes and fucks it up for everyone else).

I am so delighted to see the tables being turned. Fuck turning the other cheek. Fuck being nice. Fuck being shamed into being silent through bullshit just because if you speak up, you’re somehow validating the other party’s bullshit claim.

Having a spine and defending yourself is good. But somehow, we constantly get shamed into apologizing when we try to defend ourselves, shamed into keeping quiet instead of “making a big deal” or making mountains out of molehills.

But if mountains are being made, they are not our mountains. They weren’t our molehills to begin with.

I’m sick of being nice and tolerating bullshit just to keep other people from getting uncomfortable. I am too busy and stressed out and strung out to deal with flagrant, narrow-minded jackassery.

I was at a friend’s birthday party Saturday night when a dude laid down the claim that women can’t drive. I rolled my eyes and said “Oh please. You have got to be kidding.” He insisted no, he was serious. He asked another couple guys standing nearby to back him up; they wisely dodged the question. I asked him what weight of oil his car takes. He said he has no idea; that’s what mechanics are for. I went on my oil rant. I asked him what double clutching is and why it’s relevant. I asked him what it means to turn into a spin and why. He had no answers. I walked out of the room.

Later, he came into the room and tried to explain that he is the way he is because WAAAAHHHH. He took a women’s studies course in college and he was one of three guys in the room of fifteen women. Two of the guys were dating girls in the class. He felt like his ideas and input weren’t valued and it was really hard for him. So he turned misogynistic; it’s not his fault, that class made him that way.

OH GOLLY WHAT ABOUT THE MENS.

Motherfucker, if I have to listen to another fucking sob story of when some dude took a women’s studies class and wasn’t celebrated for it, I am going to turn all misandrist.

It’s not my fault; your idiocy made me that way.

Seriously, if I were to walk around saying that I had a really hard time when I took a computer science class because I was one of three women in a class of fifteen guys and the other two girls were dating guys in the class so I felt invalidated and shunned, PEOPLE WOULD FUCKING LAUGH. They would tell me to stop being so sensitive and irrational and that maybe I was ignored and invalidated because I didn’t have anything to contribute because I wasn’t smart enough and what was I doing in a computer science class anyways?

I managed to resist whining, “Oh waaaaaahhhh the poor mens! It is tough being an upper middle class white dude in college!” but only just barely. I held back because I didn’t want to be THAT BITCH that makes the room uncomfortable. That crazy feminist.

You know, the honest person.

The dancers and club owner out in Ohio? Fucking fuck yeah to them for not letting themselves get silenced by not wanting to be the person that makes things uncomfortable.

They have absolutely pushed some boundaries and made people uncomfortable. It takes a lot of bravery to be in a line of work that carries as much social stigma as stripping does and to then turn the tables on people trying to kick sand in your eyes.

That’s fucking awesome. Those ladies rock.

08/09/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Where is our news coverage?

I have a question for you, internets. I know I’ve been out of touch lately, due to being up to my eyeballs in class and all, but I’ve still been scrolling my Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader feeds. I generally am kept pretty up to date via these things, because I follow a lot of primary sources on Google Reader, and Twitter and Facebook are full of my well-read friends who regularly link interesting new things.

They also link the new Harry Potter trailer like eight billion times, but that just goes to show that what is being consumed by the mass public WILL show up in my feeds, and usually several times.

So why is it that I had to read posts from Toronto natives on a vegan cooking forum, of all places, to hear about what’s been going down at the G20 summit?

Oh wait, I apologize–there has been an article at Jezebel (and it’s a doozy). However, why isn’t this getting anymore attention? Why are we only worrying about what the first ladies are wearing?

I am appalled.

Here’s another great article worth reading.

Now, start talking about it.

07/01/2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The Crotchal Tyranny!

Fear me, for I am the High Queen Crotchula, Withholder of the Sacred Vaginamancy!

So I have had this article sitting open in a tab in Firefox for a while now, waiting for my brain to be ready to be coherent about it. I am, honestly, failing hard. It just blows my mind.

It is an article entitled “Reasons Women Withhold Sex.”

First, let’s talk title: withholding sounds evil. You withhold rent if your landlord turns off your heat. You withhold food if you’re a prison overlord from a horror pulp in the 40s. You withhold services.

I am going to say this, and I’m only going to say it once:

My vagina is not a service.

Astounding, right? Anyways, moving on.

Reason 1: She’s pissed.

A HURR HURR DURR. I see someone has been working hard on this one! Yep, sometimes, when angry at a significant other, we do not get turned on. It’s true! Just like sometimes because there are other things in our mind we do not want to cook, or balance our checkbooks, or solve multivariate calculus equations. Sometimes, the things that are urgently on our mind ARE URGENTLY THERE. So it’s hard to think about other things–including sex.

Reason 2: She’s asserting herself.

…because you are such a jackass that you have shown her the only way she can possibly hold ANY power is through her vagina. Good work. You dug this hole for yourself, so I’m just gonna stand back and laugh, okiedokie?

“If there’s one area of a relationship women think they have control over, it’s sex.”

Truly, it is positively INSANE for us to think that we have the right to decide whether or not something is put inside of our bodies. Consent–it’s totally just a figment of a crazy little woman’s imagination!

Reason 3: She’s manipulating you.

“When no other methods of getting what she wants are working, she might resort to revoking your sex privileges until you agree to what she’s after.”

Now remember, boyfriend, you can only play with the toys if you behave yourself and eat all your vegetables! …Seriously? Seriously? Can we please grow up here?

I think what bothers me the most about this statement is that sometimes it is actually TRUE. Bastions of rationality such as Cosmo encourage women to go on sex embargoes to get things from men, or to get their boyfriends to prove how they “really feel.” People, that is NOT the foundation of a healthy relationship! And in this article, the advice is to just give in and give her what she wants. How about instead of feeding a passive-aggressive cycle, you elect to be the mature one and see what’s going on and try to, y’know, communicate?

No, of course not. Why would we do that when we can continue to use our detachable genitals as bargaining chips? Just stick the ol’ vagina in a tupperware in the freezer till you need it.

Reason 4: She’s bored.

“She could be avoiding sex with you because she’s not enjoying it.”

Okay, article, good work. You have made a valid point. It turns out, dudes, that us ladies do occasionally become involved with you folk for reasons other than sex (it’s been years since I’ve done that, so don’t look at me). And word on the street is that when y0u care about someone, you put up with a lot of shit. Including your boyfriend’s unattractive beer gut, his lack of interest in foreplay, and the fact that he’s just not a good lay, if he even lasts very long. Truly, it is astounding the sort of sexual desserts women will exile them to because the guy is so great in other ways. So yeah, she might actually even actively dislike sleeping with you! But she doesn’t want to hurt your fragile penile ego, because we know how important the majesty of your dick is to you.

Scathing bitchiness aside, it’s true–sometimes couples don’t have sex often because the sex is unsatisfying. It’s the job of BOTH members of the couple to fix this. But dudes, as much as it might be painful to think, when your girlfriend is avoiding sex, instead of assuming that she’s manipulating you or trying to make a point about her power, pause to think when the last time you gave her orgasm was (and remember When Harry Met Sally. Faking: it happens). Think about to what extent you’ve really worried about her satisfaction, and think about whether or not she has been responsive. This is actually probably the BEST problem to have when it comes to lack of sex, because it means you’re not dating a bitch. This can be fixed without someone needing to be kicked to the curb. And fixing it can be FUUUNNN!

Reason 5: She’s tired.

Again, how astute. Yes, sometimes we just want some sleep. No, really. It happens. It happens to dudes, too! I’ve been turned down for sex by partners because they’re tired. It’s kind of part of the modern world–we work hard, we’re busy, we don’t get enough rest, so we’re tired. If you’ve never been too tired for sex, then either your sex requires very minimal energy, which is kind of depressing, or you have an easy life, and I would like to borrow it.

Although, a note from this section: “Or, you could be truly unselfish and devote your time entirely to her pleasure for one night, making her more likely to want to return the favor another time.”

Yeeeeeep. That about says it all. You don’t devote your time to pleasing your significant other because you like to make that person happy–you do it in hopes that it will be reciprocated in the future.

Fun trivia: when I’m with a guy, I like sucking his dick because I like making him happy. I’m not getting turned on by it because I’m gleefully thinking “Oh boy, oh boy, now he pretty much HAS to eat me out!” No, I’m thinking about how much I like satisfying my partner and how hot it is to hear him breathing hard and moaning. I really have a hard time believing that I’m the only one like that.

Reason 6: She’s cheating.

I can’t really argue that. I find cheating abhorrent from either sex, so I won’t even begin to make an argument for the woman in this case.

Reason 7: Playing games.

It’s a good thing I don’t actually own an xbox or Playstation, because I’d probably pass up sex pretty often so that I could try to beat that level. “Sorry sweetie, I can’t come to bed yet, I’ve decided to turn to the Dark Side so I’m using my Force powers to toss Jawas at stormtroopers. UTINNI!”

Oh. Oh wait, they don’t mean those kinds of games.

“Women withhold sex because men let them get away with it.”

Yeah, gotta keep those bitches in line. Don’t they know that vaginas belong to the MENS and that they can’t be ALLOWED to keep them away? Jeez. Next time your woman tries to deny you access to the vagina that is rightfully yours, squirt her with a bottle of water or smack her on the nose with a newspaper. When pets misbehave, they can’t be allowed to get away with it!

“It’s pretty clear it’s the one thing that most guys can’t live without and that they’ll do pretty much anything to keep it coming on a regular basis.”

Ah yes, the “men are slaves to their penises and have zero cognitive capacity beyond what their penis is kind enough to allow them” argument.

DUDE-FOLK. YOU HAVE BRAINS. I SWEAR. I KNOW IT. You aren’t just penis-transport-mechanisms. You have free will and the ability to think rationally and make decisions for yourself and all kinds of neat things! As much as I love the word “vaginamancy,” it isn’t actually possible for a woman to control you with her vagina unless you let her.

Please. Please stop this bullshit. I am so sick of hearing about how men are powerless in the face of sex and vaginas because they just WANT IT SO BADLY, and women are sex-hating man-manipulating lumps of frigidity.

I seriously do not understand why people continue to bother with trying to have relationships when this is the sort of bullshit that we are being programmed with. Everything about that article made me not want to be a woman, and not want to date a man.

Congratulations, Fox. I think you have turned me gay.

06/14/2010. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

On Passivity and Gender

So, I’ll be the first to admit that I have some pretty major body image issues. It’s really hard for me to talk about size and weight in the media because I hate my own body so much and am constantly embroiled in a vicious struggle to lose weight, tone my muscles more, and generally look “better.” (I know that I’m messed up in the head about this. I get it, I really do. I look in the mirror and suck in just right so that my ribcage angles in a bit so that I don’t look so wide from side to side and I think “God, if they offered a surgery procedure to tuck my ribs in, I would get it! I look so much prettier when I suck in my ribs!” You guys, that’s kinda fucked up.) So when I say that it’s hard for me to talk about bodies, I’m not shitting around.

I, like much of culture, frame my obsession with my physique around health. Within reason, this is valid–I don’t like getting winded when I have to suddenly run a block to catch the trolley; I want riding my bike to be pleasurable, not painful; I want to be able to have pretzel-like and marathon-length sex sessions without a post-coital ER visit; I like lifting heavy objects and changing the tires on my car; etc. Being healthy is good! I have yet to meet someone who will disagree with me that having a healthy lifestyle is good. Hell, my determination to be healthy is one of the leading reasons I don’t smoke cigarettes regularly anymore, so that’s a good thing.

Where do we draw the line between healthy in the real way, and healthy in my “oh god you guys there is a tiny bit of muffin top above my belt!” way?

My crush on Amanda Hess of The Sexist continues as she covers wedding weight loss and how, shockingly enough, you guys–it’s not about health!

First off, I really want to see the Groom Weight Loss Challenge. Cause, dirty little secret, I think dudes with guts look WAY SILLIER than chicks with guts. For all that I am obsessive about my own weight and need to be skinny, I think girls with curves can be so gorgeous–I mean, we have boobs and hips and all those nice aerodynamic curves to help even things out. I know way too many dudes who are like a floppy version of the “tits on a stick” porn star idea–they are all gangly skinny limbs and then, like, BLAM. A watermelon. Oh fragile judgmental culture of ours, I don’t want THAT in my wedding pictures any more than I want myself looking like that!

But we’re all pretty chill with dudes looking like that. (Oh hey, health obsession, I’m actually not. I’m a shallow asshole, you guys! I admit it! I consciously try not to be, but I am! I objectify dudes all the time. I’m a bike-by-ogler. The danger is real! Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, there goes some chick, undressing you with her eyes as she bikes by! And let me say, nice tattoos. And the superhero undies? Damn, boy. Unf.) Wow that was a tangent.

Anyways, our culture lets dudes look like that. I mean, we totally celebrate the super fine and extremely foxy of the dudes, I’m not saying that unreasonable dude-spectations do not exist or anything, but it’s by and large okay for a dude to have some paunch or not be perfectly groomed or not conform to an exacting standard.

Cause, like, he’s so QUIRKY and ECCENTRIC. We’re going totally gaga for so-and-so’s rebel-without-a-cause attitude and devil-may-care style! Or something like that. Whatever those headlines are.

Because dudes are busy doing OTHER THINGS. BETTER THINGS than worrying about their appearance. I mean, dudes that are well-dressed and well-groomed and svelte and whatnot are often, in fact, maligned as being too feminine, too fussy, too high-maintenance, etc. Because there are BETTER ways for them to spend their time than worrying about how they look.

Us ladyfolk, on the other hand, get to spend our time on being PRETTY. Which is why it is so amazingly unacceptable for us to carry any extra poundage, to not be dressed just so, to not have our full arsenal of makeup and hair products deployed at every minute of every day. What else would we be doing?

I was at Target the other day looking for a muffin tin. Instead of finding what I was looking for, I found these:

Om nom nom.

Okay, seriously people? There’s a “girl cookie pan” and a “boy cookie pan.” And just look at what you can bake for your pretty little girl! Crowns, flowers, butterflies, castles, a kiss, and purses. What do boys get? Rocket ships, a jet, a sports pennant, a trophy, a shirt with a medal, and a sports car.

The female items are all PASSIVE. Other than the purse, which I suppose you take your husband’s credit card in and out of, you don’t interact with that stuff. It’s just that–STUFF. Pretty things. Flowers! Butterflies! Lips! Castles! Crowns!

So, like, the chances that the little dude you bake the rocket ship cookies for is going to grow up to be an astronaut are ridiculously small. The chances that your little girl is gonna grow up to be a princess? Yeah, NONE. If the little dude holds onto that dream of becoming an astronaut, he might just fulfill it. Or at the very least, he might study astrophysics and engineering and still have a rewarding, exciting life. What do you study to become a princess? What do you major in at college? What extracurriculars do you pursue? (Please, no jokes about sororities.) You don’t. You sit and wait and hope to attract a prince.

We are socialized from the very beginning to be PASSIVE–to sit still, to be delicate, to be proper.

The only time we’re allowed to be ACTIVE, to engage with anything and to do more than just sit and look pretty, is for the sake of being skinny. We’re allowed to exercise. We’re allowed to dedicate all of our activity to improving the quality of our passivity.

Despite the fact that I can sit back and KNOW all this, I am still only eating a half granola bar, a small cup of yogurt, and a banana today, because I’m meeting up with friends later and I expect I’ll probably have some beers and snacks and I want to keep under my daily calorie goal. Because it’s healthy.

That’s some powerful fuckin’ social programming, that is.

06/11/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

The Trouble with Tribbles: Brown People Everywhere!

First off, I am rather irritated with WordPress–I logged in and realized that about the last three or four entries that I’ve written have all been saved as DRAFTS and never published. So, uh, all that time last week when I thought I was writing blog posts? Yeeeaaah.

Oh well. So it goes. One or two of them might get bumped and published, or I’ll just let them die a dusty death in the WordPress drafts folder. Who knows.

So I’m back. I was out of town in North Carolina for the weekend, and that was quite an experience. I’ve always been aware of small, subtle racism, but let me just say: holy shit dudes. That is some heavy, intense stuff. Oh, the broiling anger.

Speaking of brown folk, why aren’t there any in The Last Airbender? I am really excited about this movie coming out, because I recently watched through–and loved–the animated series that the movie is based on. The series is cute, funny, and just plain cool, plus it features a lot of incredibly strong female characters, including Katara, who practically spouts feminism left and right. For the record, all of the characters are awesome, but it’s just so refreshing to have a female protagonist who not only kicks ass, but constantly challenges assumptions about her gender (at one point she is told she cannot learn a certain skillset because she’s a girl and she immediately proves everyone wrong).

Anyways, let’s review:

Katara, animated

Katara, on film

*sings* One of these things is not like the other…

I am so totally going to see this movie and I will probably love the hell out of it. However, I gotta say–whyyyy? I really just can’t believe that there aren’t any talented, melanin-infused actresses out there (or actors to play her brother, Sokka, who got equally bleached). I’m sure she’s a great actress and will play the role wonderfully. I’m just disappointed. It seems like in order for anyone non-white to get a leading part, the film has to be ABOUT the character’s non-white-ness. This was such a great opportunity for that NOT to be the case. Goddammit.

Anyways, check out some trailers for The Last Airbender and get excited for some rockin’ martial arts. Just hope that not every character has been treated to the same skin-lightening.

No matter how righteously angry I get about little brown fictional girls turning peach, I still reap all the comfy benefits and privileges of being correspondingly peachy-colored. I try to keep myself cognizant of that, but it doesn’t always work. For example, I was deeply humbled when I read this excellent post by Alicia Canady about the recent surge of murders in some of the “less savory” neighborhoods of Boston. When I read news about another teenager getting murdered in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, etc, I pause for a moment to feel sad, but then I continue about my day. There is a part of me that thinks, “those can be potentially risky areas to live in.” That’s acceptance. But Ms. Canady makes an incredibly powerful point: why do we accept that?

I mean, one answer is that it just takes so damn much to change things. There’s so many forces at work. There’s crappy educational systems in low-income neighborhoods. There’s generally shitty public transportation access (for those who actually live in Boston, you know what I mean–the light rail will take you all over in Cambridge and Brookline, which aren’t even part of the city of Boston, yet accessing Southie or Dorchester or Roslindale is a bit more tricksy) and without transit, unless you own a car, getting to a better job is next to impossible, and cars are freaking expensive. There’s less availability of all kinds of services, and even arguably less access to quality food (go ahead. Google where you’ve got Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. I’m not saying that yuppie food is the only way, but I’ve sure as hell noticed the difference in the quality of produce and meat between those stores and, say, Market Basket). In general the infrastructure is less–you can’t count on the police, fire department, or other emergency services like you can elsewhere. The lack of police enforcement is really significant here, in that it facilitates drugs and crime.

Wrap into this perfect storm all the cultural expectations (or lack thereof) and BAM! we have incubation for murder.

That was a really short synopsis. But what I’m saying is that we need to NOT normalize and accept the idea that low-income neighborhoods are inherently dangerous, that murder is “just part of living in [Dorchester/Mattapan/Eastie/etc]” because it doesn’t have to be. Ms. Canady states it all so much more eloquently than I ever could, but she is speaking directly to her peers. We who are not part of these communities should not go plowing in and going “we’re going to fix this!” because that is patronizing and stupid and, well, wrong. We can’t fix it. What we CAN do is stop thinking that it is unfixable, that brown children dying is a fact of life, and that we should just ignore it. We can change how we see things. We can react with the same outrage when a child is shot in Mattapan as we would if a child were shot in Newton. This shouldn’t be an “us vs. them” concept–socioeconomic status, skin color, address… none of these things make any of us less of a human being. That’s what we all are. Human beings. So we need to stop subscribing to our identity politics and ignoring what goes on outside our own little bubble.

"It's the brown people, sir, they're everywhere!" "Well, just stick 'em in poverty and they'll kill themselves off."

Dammit, Jim, I’m a blogger, not a social engineer! I wish I knew how to make all these things happen. But for now, I’m going to circulate Ms. Canady’s article to everyone I can–it’s a really important article. I ask that you do the same, and take a moment to consider why we think the things we do. Every little bit counts.

06/02/2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Ask Me No Secrets, I’ll Tell You No Lies

Tonight is “make dinner from whatever you can find in the pantry/freezer” here at Chateau van der Cake, so this post will be like that too. I’m piecing together this post in a similar way.

For starters, I don’t want to talk about the health care bill. It’s not perfect, so basically no one is happy with it. It tries too hard to make everyone happy, so it’s pretty damn mediocre. Never mind the fact that it still won’t provide abortion coverage. Superb. However, ultimately, I think the best commentary actually comes from 4chan, so have fun with that.

Also, I don’t want to talk about the judge in Ohio who is ordering adolescent girls to undergo a polygraph test as part of their rape trials. But, just like HCR, it’s going on. (It is not, however, a trending topic on Twitter or even showing up at all on my Facebook home page. Notable?) People who have had their houses broken into aren’t being told to take a polygraph. People who have had their identity stolen aren’t being told to take a polygraph. But teenaged girls who were brave enough to report their rapes are. Talk about victimizing the victim. Talk about validating the actions of the rapists and denying the girls their voices. Where does this shit come from?

I don’t want to talk about how we are hurling racist epithets in our nation’s capitol. Bodies remain war zones, whether they are the bodies of women, the bodies of non-whites… God help you if you are both a woman and non-white.

I don’t want to talk about any of this depressing stuff. I want to talk about something cheerful. But the fact of the matter is, this isn’t a really cheerful time. There’s a lot of bright sides to look at, I’m not denying that. But sometimes we have to accept that shit is ugly out there. Looking away and patting ourselves on the back on how far we’ve come won’t change that.

Sure, let’s be happy that HCR passed, but let’s not get complacent just because we were handed a cup of sour milk to go with our stale cookies. Sure, we’ve got milk and cookies, but it’s not exactly a party.

03/22/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Breakin’ Hearts and Takin’ Names

Gentlemen, I am here to break hearts and chew gum. And I am all outta gum.

Seriously, though, there is something about a lady who does not return a dude’s feelings. That something is “bitchiness.” Or perhaps “cuntiness” if the dude is feeling particularly vulnerable-ized.

Over at the always super-rad Tiger Beatdown, Sady has done something brave that I am too scared to do–she has watched (500) Days of Summer. Lady deserves a medal or something, because as soon as I heard the smallest description of what that damn movie was about, I knew it would take gunpoint at minimum to make me watch it (although her descriptions of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s handsomeness make a strong case to give it a go). It just screams, “Magic vaginas! Magic vaginas! The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (TM) has gone awry! Somebody hit ctrl+alt+del because we’re getting the relationship blue screen of death!”

Because when a dude finds a lady and determines that her vagina is going to be the vagina to Make Him Good or whatever it is that dudes are lookin’ for in a vagina, it is not okay for the vagina to have other plans. Dude needs to put his penis there, ya dig? That whole “being independent” thing is really gonna cramp his style. Her quirkiness and independent spirit are all well and good–as long as they apply to every part of her life except him. He needs his sexual healing. He needs his lady to prop up his self esteem and give him worth and be his property.

It’s just not okay for a lady to not have feelings or to not be after feelings. Cause us ladies, we are chock full of feelings. Like Old Faithful, we are geysers of feelings. In fact, we’re more like Mount Saint Helen’s, or maybe Vesuvius–we got so many feelings that we lay apocalyptic waste to the landscape with all our messy sloppy emotions. So when we do not provide feelings to the gentlemen who want ’em, then it is highly probable that the planet has stopped spinning on its axis.

People, this is like… Coping skills. For real.

I know so many guys who are so obsessively hung up on some ex, which is part of why I live in fear of ever accidentally seeing (500) Days of Summer. I think I might stab someone.

I had the Really Big Deal Relationship. It lasted about two years, and there was some Serious Motherfuckin’ Drama with the end of it. Guess what? I moved on. Hell, I even occasionally get dinner or drinks with the dude. You know why? Because life doesn’t always pan out. Almost all the time, the people we think are so really ultra mega super duper perfect are actually not all that perfect. We kick back and idealize them and throw them up on a pedestal.

I’ll bet that chick in (500) Days was not the flawless angel that our poor emotive hero thinks she is, kind of like none of my buddy’s exes are the paragons of humanity that they think they are. And what this is, you guys, is creepy. It’s a different kind of objectification–instead of turning a woman into a sex object, it’s turning her into an emotional sponge. A place to put all your problems and neuroses and neediness. It’s denying her any agency or self, because instead of being who she is, she is being what you want her to be.

You guys, it’s creepy. It’s not cute or sweet or flattering when a guy can’t move the fuck on. It’s scary and it’s upsetting.

And then we pile onto this the rage that this idealized heavenly being isn’t responding in the way that you have decided she is supposed to and is instead exhibiting her own personality and independent will. Suddenly she is a bitch and a whore and deserving of being raged against (mind you, all this anger will vanish the second she agrees to once again be his very special Manic Pixie Dream Girl magic vagina of cuteness). This makes me especially uncomfortable because I think there’s a slippery slope toward actual violence against the woman in question. This is where stalking comes from.

As Sady points out near the end, in one of my favorite points, if a female were to behave the way Gordon-Levitt does, the censure against her would be like a tornado armed with knives and brass knuckles. She’d be psychotic and clingy and unable to move on. Because he’s a man, though, he’s simply sensitive and sweet and romantic.

I call bullshit.

Fuck you, double standard. If a lady wants to go ahead and have a sexual relationship without offering herself up emotionally, that’s her prerogative. And any dude who is gonna make himself out like he’s this vulnerable fucking martyr while he puts her on a pedestal and walks around lamenting how positively awful it is that she didn’t give him what he wanted even though she said no from the very beginning–well, he’s a sleazy jackass.

Emotional boundaries: they exist, just like physical boundaries. If you can’t admit that, then Houston, we have a problem.

I’m not saying that getting your heartbroken isn’t okay. We all get clotheslined by our hearts now and again–it’s not the exclusive domain of dudes or ladies or straights or gays or any possible bit of the gender or sexuality or whatever spectrum. However, we’re all responsible for learning how to cope and move on and keep on living. This celebration of the heartbroken man crying over this woman who would be so perfect if only she were the imaginary thing in his head has got to stop because frankly, it’s goddamn ridiculous. Please stop trying to date your imaginary friend. The rest of us left those behind in elementary school, ya know?

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl isn’t actually real, so please stop looking for her and please stop getting angry at every woman who turns out to not be her. Just because we don’t love you back doesn’t mean that we’re whores or bitches or lesbians. (I mean, we might be, but it’s not necessarily for that reason.) There is a chance that, you know, we’re just not that into you.

I hear there’s a book about that. Sure, it’s targeted at women, but don’t worry, you sweet sensitive dude of emotional in touchness, you can read it too. Cause you’ve got those feelings, so you can relate, right?

03/17/2010. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Don’t Laugh At My Shoes, Motherfucker.

Back around the holidays, a bunch of my friends all gathered to drink hot toddies, mulled wine, and other warm (and alcoholic) holiday beverages while eating roasted chestnuts and hollering carols. We were having a really good time.

In a crowded living room, I found myself sitting on an ottoman, so I stretched my legs out in front of me. I had come straight from work, so I was wearing a skirt and my new black wedge heels were more or less in the middle of the room. One of the other women at the party said, “Oh wow, those are so cute! Are they new?” Always happy to talk up my own frugality, I joyously shared with her the great sale price and free overnight shipping I had gotten, as well as promoting their comfort.

A man walked into the room. He stopped short. He shook his head and went, “Leave the ladies alone and it turns to shoes. I just don’t get it!”

I was several spiced wines in, so I spun around gave him what-for. Look, buddy, we don’t wear 4 inch heels and skinny jeans that require Vaseline and several ladies-in-waiting to get into for OUR sake. Push-up bras were not invented with women in mind. Bikinis are not practical for swimming. We don’t primp and preen because we think it’s fun to get up stupid early so we can style our hair and do our makeup before going to the office to make 75 cents of your dollar and be called “sweetie” by the UPS guy and have people on the phone ask for “someone who actually manages things there” and be denied promotions because we’ll probably catch baby fever soon and end up leaving the company anyways. No. That is not actually a hobby.

We do this for YOU. The male gaze.

We wear cute shoes, because if we wore sneakers and combat boots all the time, we’d never hear the fucking end of it. So don’t you DARE roll your eyes and laugh at how stupid and inexplicable it is that women are so obsessed we shoes.

We are because our society has made us this way. We are because we have to be. Because if we don’t subscribe to our proper role and wear our pumps and skirts and blouses or little black dresses and red lipstick then we aren’t proper women. And if we aren’t proper women, we don’t get our shitty underpaid dead-end jobs and we don’t get to date our creepy skeezy boyfriends.

So no, we don’t HAVE to do any of this. We aren’t obligated to look pretty and girly. But it’s pretty fucking internalized into this culture and everyone who participates in it as to what women SHOULD look like and how they SHOULD behave. It’s a lot harder to achieve ANYTHING, even the tiny little shitty “rewards” that we get to “win,” if you don’t look like you should and act like you should.

There is nothing more infuriating than listening to a man talk shit about how irritating it is that women are only interested in clothes and makeup and shoes and that they can’t take them out anywhere because they’re counting calories and they take forever to get ready for anything… But just listen to the way the shit will hit the fan if ladies DON’T do any of those things. I have heard guys criticize both in the same breath, even!

Our culture demands that women subscribe to a certain lifestyle but then berates, belittles, and degrades them for following the instructions that they have been given. If you stray, however, the punishment is worse.

What the fuck.

All I am saying is that if motherfucking vajazzling ever hits the point where it is being talked about like my shoes, I am going to start burning shit down.

03/15/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Stop Happiness Whenever Possible

There’ll be a full-on post later today, but right now I have important things to do, so here’s a quickie…

The gays are SO SCARY that we need to CANCEL PROM lest a girl bring a girl as her date. Heaven forbid one of them wear a tux!

AAHHH THE SANCTITY OF MY HETEROSEXUAL DATE. IT IS UNDERMINED.

Sometimes I forget how lucky I was to live where I did. I brought a girl to the junior prom and no one even batted an eye (admittedly, I was already the punk-rockin’ rebel, so I guess they figured “let social outcasts be social outcasts” or something). Which does raise the question–which do you think would be “better” for this lesbian couple: to be allowed at the prom and be completely shunned by everyone, or to have prom canceled?

I want to hope that the cancellation of the prom will lead to students rising up in support of their lesbian classmate (and any others who may not be out) because they are so outraged at this ridiculous treatment. I fear that it may lead to them lashing out against her as they will perceive it as her “fault” that they can’t have prom. And that, my friends, is fucked up.

Remember a bunch of years back when someone joked that if gay marriage is going to be made illegal then all marriage should be made illegal? I didn’t actually think anyone would follow through on that kind of thinking. Oh humanity. Stop making me sad, please.

P.S. On the plus side, this has spawned a new tag. Joining the hall of fame of favorites like “magic vaginas,” we now have “the gay agenda.” Can I get a what what.

03/11/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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