Bits

Ok, a large clean-up post to get rid of all of the partial posts and drafts languishing due to Holiday business.

There’s been no lack of blogging, just a large lack of completed blogging. And a lot of work.

  1. Are Men Necessary
    Maureen Dowd’s new book has been getting comment all over. After reading the published excerpts, I bought a copy before we headed off to Orlando, taking it with me to read on the plane and in between trips to the Magic Kingdom.

    First of all: When you take the book out in public, it elicits comment. And if not comment, at least a puzzled or amused glance, and only very occasionally a distasteful glare. I had several gentlemen ask, “So, am I necessary?” I don’t know what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t response of a flirtatious nature. Perhaps there is something to that whole disinterest spurs interest equation.

    Now, about the book’s actual content: I agree with her detractors, on several fronts. It is largely anecdotal. She focuses on people like herself, and her social sphere is clearly upper-middle-class. There is little self-awareness or self-examination—i.e. she seems to want to find an external reason for the lack of marriage proposals. I think the question of marital suitability is really a factor of multiple qualities: personal, intrapersonal, geographic, social, religious, practical, and physical. It’s hard to answer that for any one person, much less to speak generally for entire groups of people. I guess I can’t fault her for focusing on one aspect—tackling them all has occupuied poets, novelists, and playwrights for the whole of human history.

    I also diverge from the critics on the question of validity. I think it’s perfectly ok for Dowd to look around, ask around, and write a book about the experience. I think her experience is rare, but still valid–every bit as valid as any other lifestyle, situation, or choice. The results of her choices and chances are interesting, and perhaps unfair… but who said life is at all fair? Different strokes for different folks works both ways. She wants a successful life at the top of her career. She can have that. Many men don’t want a high-powered wife, especially powerful men. They can have that, too. Obviously.

    That sounds so gendered, making it about “men” and “women.” We’re taught to think along gender lines, but if you take away that aspect, it’s probably still true. Many powerful people feel threatened by other powerful people. They might want strong company in some contest of skill or smarts, but who wants to be battling for pole position all the time, at home and at work?

    Am I suggesting that submission is the way to go? Yes and no. I think it’s largely unavoidable, but I don’t think it’s necessarily gendered, except by social construct. Women bow out because men, by and large, want to be on top. (And there I go again, with the “men want” and “women want.” See how easy it is?) There are—of course—exceptions. But if the experience of Dowd has any validity, I think there are places where the status quo is more… status quo-ey.

    I was interested in what she had to say. I don’t expect to find myself living her lifestyle one day (though, hey, a Pulitzer and an op-ed job at a major paper… would be cool), but I do think her experience is meaningful. And kind of scary.

    Rich people don’t somehow have completely alien concerns and desires. They get more of what they want sometimes, but they want the same sorts of things. People with plenty of ready cash need the same stuff as people without it. People with babies need the same basic stuff as career-women with no children. Food. Clothing. Shelter. Happiness. Freedom from fear and pain. Success.

    Now, the details around the edges are different. What is success to a career-focused big-city writer is not the same existence as the gentleman farmer who wants to work his family’s land. They have different end-points to their lives. But they are both seeking like-minded companionship, continuing friendships, and social support and acceptance–in essence, for the world to make space for their choices.

    The world, on the whole, makes way for the gentleman farmer. Or at least lets him (or his wife) write a book in peace.

    But even before Dowd published her analysis, she seemed to be getting a lot of flak—simply for being successful. She talks about some of it in the book. And now—yeesh. She’s labelled a harrigan, a dried-up hag, deemed worthless. Salon’s been particularly vigilant (Broadsheet, the blog evolution of the Mothers who think set, is worth reading) at pointing out some of the erstwhile “analysis” of her book… and it’s quite ugly. It lends credibility to her tales of her potential mates’ reactions.

    And that’s the part that’s truly frightening. People who haven’t even ventured past the title page deem her unnecessary, an “evolutionary dead-end.” They seem to say that any woman—or man, I imagine—who chooses not to procreate or form a nuclear family that could be the foster of children… is a failure, a wasted human being.

    Which I find really strange. I find it particularly strange since this gentleman is a conservative individual who favors theology over evolution. Biological evolution progresses because beings possess singular drives to replicate, to repopulate the world. Children–in a purely biological sense–are the goal of every human life. Further contribution to the genetic pool, increasing variety and the chances of further evolution.

    Doesn’t God have more going on than purely reproductive possibility? Isn’t there all this stuff about loving neighbors and serving the poorest among us, and doing Good, being Good? And getting busy with God, up to and including those Called by God to enter things like the priesthood or (get thee to) a nunnery? Are nuns cold and shrivelled shrews, selfish and foolish for not snagging a man and getting down with the baby-making? Just wondering.

    Fact is, there are lots of people who don’t have spouses, or don’t have kids. Shit happens: divorce, death, infertility. Some folks just don’t like constant company, or don’t feel they can handle the responsibility that comes with being someone’s parent. Judging by the prevalence of child abuse and neglect—the murderers of children are usually their parents, after all—lots of people can’t handle it. So bully to the ones who know it ahead of time. Sometimes people just don’t get around to it. It doesn’t work out. They’re unlucky in love. Whatever.

    Mareen Dowd is probably one (or some) of those things. The kind of men she seems to like seem to like something else, and that’s unfortunate. But it doesn’t make her a horrible person.

    And, yes, I intended every single sexual pun in that whole damn entry. I am a dirty, dirty girl.

  2. unapproachable opposites
    One of the other topics rattling around lately has of course been abortion (again). The Supreme Court’s recent upheaval, plus the parental notification case, plus the investigation into the delays in drug approvals for “controversial” medicines… and all the orbiting blog-banter (Is or isn’t abortion a core issue for Democrats? Are we turning back towards 50s-style repression and control of women? Are advances in technology making the moral distinctions between living and non-living more and more unclear?)… are worrisome.

    I’m (obviously) staunchly and permanently pro-choice. I can’t think of a reason in the world I would choose deny a woman the choice of whether or not to carry a child for nine months—to be a mother for a lifetime, even “just” by mere biology—if that was not their desire.

    But that is just me. There is a world of opinion out there on the subject. And those opinions are the biggest cause of the great dust-ups that constantly fill right- and left-wing political discourse.

    There simply isn’t any middle ground. Nowhere to compromise. One side sees baby-murder where the other side sees the horrors of state-enforced pregnancy.

    And the balance could shift either way. For most of my life, I never even entertained the idea that abortion could become illegal. The horror stories of pre-Roe women were just historical stupidity—the kind we as a society learned from, like slavery and child marriage.

    But did we really learn those lessons? And are there some topics where there simply isn’t any middle ground? I’m beginning to really, really think so.

Five and five and five and five…

  1. What did you want to be when you grew up?

    A fire truck.

  2. Did you follow through? If not, what happened?

    Um, no, not so much. Well, first of all there’s that whole business about fire trucks being inanimate objects…

  3. Is your life turning out the way you thought it would when you were a kid?If not, is it better or worse?

    Nah, things never turn out like you planned.

  4. Paradoxes aside, if you could time-travel back to when you were 10 years old, what would you tell your 10-year-old self?

    Nothing. Don’t you people watch any science fiction movies? Oh, wait, paradoxes aside… enh, still nothing. It could turn out worse, and life is pretty ok like it is.

  5. Do you think the child you were, would like the adult you’ve become?

    I don’t know that I would care. Growing up well is not usually a concern of children, unless they’re Sims.

Also, a couple of catchup fives. Just to get back in practice.

  1. Who is your favourite superhero?

    Sandman, Dream, Morpheus.

  2. If you were a superhero, which one would you be?

    See above. For the swishy cloaky goodness. And the distinct lack of brightly-colored spandex. Also, a nice hat that certainly would resolve a bad hair day.

  3. Justice League or Injustice League?

    Neutral-evil. Like Snape. You think he’s good, then you think he’s bad, then you just don’t frickin’ know.

  4. Which supervillain would you be?

    The evil midnight bomber what bombs at midnight

  5. If you could have superpowers, what would they be?

    Hm. It would be nice to have control over time. That could come in handy.

  1. On what day do you celebrate Thanksgiving?

    Um, Thanksgiving? Is this a trick question?

  2. How do you traditionally celebrate this food filled holiday?

    Hanging out with my family, watching and/or playing football and running around with the dogs/children. As a child, I would have said ‘jumping on the trampoline,’ since we often went to my aunt and uncle’s house, where my cousins had a huge trampoline that I loved.

  3. How do you like your stuffing cooked (in the bird, separately in a dish, store bought, etc.)?

    I like my mom’s stuffing, which she always makes from scratch and cooks in a dish. I don’t like it as much when she puts oysters in it, but she helpfully leaves them whole so they’re easy to identify.

  4. What is your favorite dessert to eat on Thanksgiving and who makes it?

    I do like sweet potato and pecan pies (which my aunt sometimes makes), but I think I like it best when my mom makes Fresh Apple Cake. It’s a bundt cake with a caramel icing and great big chunks of apple. Mmmm.

  5. Can you name five things you are thankful for?

    Roof over my head, shoes on my feet, family, friends, and food to eat. I pay attention to the world; I know how lucky I am.

  1. What do you do for fun?

    Read, sleep, knit, play video games, watch TV, catch a movie. Hang out with friends. Play DnD. Write.

  2. Is there a person from your past you would like to talk to again, even if it would be a potentially painful conversation?

    Sure. There’s always the desire to go back and re-do the Conversations that Went Way Wrong(tm), or see someone lost just one more time. Everybody’s said something they wish they could ‘do over.’ I know I have, and I would.

  3. What is your favorite comfort food?

    Soup, probably. I love when it has finally gotten cold enough to make soup or chili or various slow-cooked winter warmers.

  4. What is your preferred form of self-expression? (Do you dance; or express yourself through music, conversation, etc.)

    I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, so no musical arts. Obviously, I like to write. And I can talk, depending on the company. I’d probably rather sit and draw more than anything else.

  5. You just received $5000; what do you spend it on?

    Nothing immediately. Put it into savings, or most of it anyway. I’d probably spend a little on something frivilous for someone’s Christmas.

  1. What is your favorite noise to hear?

    Purr of the cat, at night before I fall asleep. It’s very peaceful.

  2. If you could live in any era of time, what would you choose and why?

    Now or in the future. I don’t think I could stand the more modest role of a historical woman.

  3. You just found $50 while cleaning your house. Where do you decide to spend it?

    I just stick it in my wallet and use it for typical stuff like gas or cigarettes.

  4. What magazines to you subscribe to/read on a normal basis?

    I read a lot of trashy crap, like Us and Star, and then a fair amount of high-brow crap like Wired and Gourmet and Mother Jones and Paste. And Salon. And Time.

  5. If you could witness any event in history, but not change anything about it, what would you choose and why?

    It would be something good, like a celebration or party, or a remarkable achievement by someone or in some field that I find fascinating. Woodstock or the first Muppet broadcast. Pink Floyd performing together, with Syd Barrett. A Shakespeare play being performed in its time.

  1. What are you most self-conscious about?

    Like most women, the obvious. Weight/appearance. But running a close second: my propensity for saying really stupid things

  2. What’s your favourite word?

    I really like subtle.

  3. What’s your biggest fear?

    Failure.

  4. What’s the weirdest thing ever to happen to you at work/school?

    There are so many, I couldn’t possibly choose. Creative people are strange. Strange people are fun, mostly because they do weird things and you rarely know what to expect.

  5. If you were going to have a revolution, what kind of society would you create?

    One much more relaxed and liberal than the current establishment. I’m pretty sure it would involve a lot of tree-hugging hippies.

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