Category: Brazen Politics
|September 26, 2011||Filled under Androgyny vs. Equality, Brazen Politics|
Once upon a time, I made the mistake of asking my not-yet husband to help more in the kitchen.
These things can happen when you’re young and naive, an idealistic feminist, and under the impression that all tasks can be equally divided between men and women.
Back then, I thought I was scoring one for the home team. Why should I be responsible for all these household tasks? I work too! Why am I the only one that recognizes grocery shopping involves ingredients and not just yogurts and Pringles? I was certain that exposing my man to the bigger picture of meal preparation would not only foster greater appreciation for my efforts, but create a more balanced division of labor between our gender differences.
The experiment lasted all but two days. On the first day, he purchased approximately seventeen pounds of beef and pork which subsequently spread various strains of E. coli around our kitchen until, four hours later, he had finished deep frying enough sausage patties to cater Oktoberfest.
On the second day, I came home late from work to a man in the apron huffing and puffing in the kitchen because the pork chops had dried out in the oven while everyone was waiting on me. Then he forgot the potatoes and when I said it was no big deal he replied: “Fine.”
No really. He said that. And then I knew I was in trouble because the “fine” response is a) reserved solely for the very pissed off woman and b) in 98% of all uses, a precursor to violent sobbing. The kind that has you heaving and sucking snot back in your nose and looking like a mascara-attacked raccoon devouring a pint of Haagen Dazs in front of Sleepless in Seattle.
That was the beginning of my awakening to a reality that years of college lesbianism had blinded me from: Men and women are different. And it’s okay.
Since then, I have made an effort to recognize some simple truths about the man in my life. There are things he is really good at. Boy stuff. Throwing laundry on the floor. Picking up heavy things. Bringing home the bacon. Buying Haagen Dazs as a reflex to hearing me say “fine.” And protecting our family from modern day predators (the tax man, the health insurance scams, bounced checks, gardeners named Jose who insist on working with their shirts off). And he is really good at these things. He has millions of years of evolutionary development and hormone balancing to make him good at these things.
Asking him to do things that are out of gender character results in two things: 1. He might suck at it and I have to do it “right” again later and 2. I turn into a cranky ho because my man doesn’t notice that the pillow cases don’t match.
And he might, as an adaptation tool, become metrosexual. Or, lord have mercy, an interior decorator.
I believe that by requiring people to do things that are not in their nature, we essentially are reconfirming their failings on a regular basis. I am not talking about chronic laziness (I swear to cookies, Husband, if you quote me on laundry not being “in your nature” you’ll be doing yours for a year). I’m talking about emasculating men by requiring them to be more like women, or degrading them by complaining when they fail. I don’t often hear men asking us to be stronger or more callous or fall asleep after orgasms. So why do we expect them to use lotion and enjoy” Bridges of Madison County”?
I’ve stopped asking my husband to cook dinner. He’s responsible for it once a week and usually it means take out or a suggestion to find a corn dog stand in a nearby neighborhood. Sometimes the Neanderthal in him comes out and he again purchases what appears to be the entire livestock of a Texas ranch and systematically cooks it on the grill while grunting, breathing in smoke, and doing a modern day version of a fire dance. Usually to AC/DC. Sometimes he even identifies, chops, and combines vegetables in something resembling a salad. On these days, I love him for his efforts, and remind him that he has to take the apron off after cooking.
|August 10, 2011||Filled under Brazen Politics|
Lucky for me, my current career involves a lot of cooking for men and playing tic-tac-toe with a four-year old. But it wasn’t always like that. Once upon a time I worked in big companies. With desks. And phones that had all kinds of functions I never understood. And other adults. Male adults and female adults.
I’m not a traitor or a woman-hater (or a rap song writer because I think I almost heard a beat in that). The reality is that women never made my job easy and I was always baffled by this phenomenon that pitted us against each other and gave us (women) a bad professional reputation. Let me expand.
com·pe·ti·tion [kom-pi-tish-uhn]; noun
There are all sorts of evolutionary reasons why women would compete when it comes to creation of social clusters, and workplaces are generally full of them. The success of our species is highly attributable to our female ability to lure in men with our breast-like bottoms and then convince them that washing dishes is not emasculating. Under the protection of an Alpha Male (or Beta maybe if our breasts looked more like a deflated set of bagpipes), we scavenged and had babies. Babies are key here because human babies, unlike other animals, are dependent on parental protection until the age of… well… 18 in most countries. Hence the unique need of women to retain their men. Praying Mantis larvae start university in the second hour of gestation. It’s no wonder the female eats the male’s head after copulation.
Back in my corporate life, I worked in large technology firms with lots of boys. It was a kind of heaven for a girl who swears more than a Brit on a bender. I had one senior manager that was female. Other than that, the women were in their traditional roles in bookkeeping, personal assistants, and call center staff. My title, my ambition, my short skirts, and my sleeping with members of management were not well accepted. That latter part was just wishful thinking anyway.
The fact of the matter was this: Women were neither supportive of my success, nor curious to know how to achieve it. Not only that, but there was a palpable resentment for the fact that I would go against the grain and openly tout my desire to achieve professionally. The glass ceiling I saw was the result of a culture of women emotionally evolved just shy of Australiopithecus Africanus. I saw three problems:
1. We’ve come to believe that successful women should behave like men.
2. We’ve come to believe that successful women that behave like women must be crawling up the ladder on their backs.
3. Women are cranky bitches.
To the first point, the traits of successful people appear to be relatively similar across the board (focus, confidence, articulation, intelligence, etc.). To the second point: This is sexism. And to the third: duh.
For all the values and qualities of the male gender (aggression, strength, physical presence), the female gender has equally useful qualities (intuition, sensitivity, communication). In fact, if you combine these into a team of a full set of interpersonal and personal skills, you’d have a bad ass duo working for you. Instead, we’ve learned that our female traits are not only overly emotional, but often viewed as overly sexual. A woman appears to be either emotionally unstable and suffering from the unavoidable distress of PMS, or confident and extroverted, thus using sexuality (or downright sex) to succeed. We, as women, are conditioned to shame ourselves and each other for both.
Strangely, I’ve never had an issue with men in the workplace (except for once when some Saudi’s appeared at a meeting and were really offended to discover that “Ammi” was a girl name). I like working with men. If a guy does a bad job, you show up at his desk and you say “Hey, I told you three times to do this right, stop being an asshole and fix it.” If a woman does a bad job, you better show up with no less than three compliments about her dress and hair before you try to work in some “constructive criticism” which will, any way you put it, result in either tears or the Wrath of Khan a la L’Oreal, but usually both.
So how can we women learn that our feminine qualities are actually key to our professional success? How can we support each other in professional development without competing on caveman terms? In which jobs and roles can we be women? I’m thinking logger. Not too many chicks, and even if a few slip in, you probably can’t hear the nagging over the chain saws.
I won’t presume to know the answer to either of these. But I’ve got some ideas. And it’s the beginning of a series of blogs exploring gender. I’m calling it Equality vs. Androgeny. Join me in the coming weeks while I piss off both sides in an adventure of curiosity about the role of men and women, our chronic mutual sexism, and some lessons in basic anatomy.
|July 13, 2011||Filled under Brazen Politics, Miscellaneous Prose|
Once upon a time there was true love at first bite. It involved me, some salivating cheeks, and a very rare, bright pink medallion of filet wearing nothing but its own juice and a white restaurant plate. As far as meat goes, it doesn’t get sexier than that. Unless I was wearing the au Jus maybe.
I am the kind of girl that orders a steak and gets excited when my request for “rare” is met with the question “cool pink or warm rose?” I eat tartar and carpaccio. Sushi and lamb. And a lot of stuff in between. Or at least I did before I went vegan.
Veganism was a kind of experiment for me. Like most of my experiments, there wasn’t a lot of forethought about consequences or the question of whether or not it was a good idea at all. Or if I’d like it. Or keep doing it. It wasn’t inspired by an ethical dilemma about taking a life to feed my own. Or a disdain for meat. Or a high cholesterol count. It was the product of a few random things coming together, kind of like Michael Jackson’s face only more organized.
I had been living in India for a year and watching my cook prepare meat. I couldn’t really watch her do it because the kitchen hygiene was at a level that you’d think would have the CDC dropping out of the sky in helicopters with quarantine kits at any minute. Amazingly, we were not stricken with Ebola or The Plague, but we did greatly limit our meat intake. After I left India I picked up a book about barefoot running (Born to Run) and read there that many of the world’s greatest ultra runners were vegans. Then I read a few more books including Food Inc. (a follow up to the movie) and Fast Food Nation. After all this influx of information on the evils of the food industry, I decided I didn’t want to be a contributor to such nonsense and cruelty (to animals and people).
So I decided I’d be a vegan for 12 months because it seemed like an idea I hadn’t thought through well enough to realize might be bad. I had blood drawn before I started (Cholesterol 125, because I eat garlic like a vegetable) for comparison reasons. And I decided to run an ultra marathon (39.3 miles exactly in this case) too, because one poorly considered idea seems better if you follow it with an even worse one.
I went vegetarian for a month before veganism, then went vegan on August 1st 2011. I cut out dairy, eggs, all meat products and proteins. I still ate honey occasionally. Bees? I mean really. And I wore leather. To all the REAL vegans out there: Respect. Because vegan shoes are ugly.
I spent the year reflecting on my food choices a lot more. But mostly I spent it learning how to make perfect vegan cupcakes and vegan chocolate truffles. My scientific experimenting confirmed that vegans can get fat (whiskey truffles and vegan frosting work great). I broke my leg and missed the ultra marathon, but not before I ran some pretty great training runs (result: veganism was good for my joints). I made great soups and salads, probably developed a walnut allergy, and served many dinner parties vegan meals. I did not eat in restaurants frequently because Germans eat meat and cheese as the main ingredient to just about every course.
And as the year came slowly to an end, I asked myself if I would stay vegan. Considering that the smell of bacon had become a sort of porn for me, I was assuming I’d revert to being a meat eater once more.
And I will. But more responsibly. I won’t eat dairy because I don’t think it is for human consumption, and I know it is not for my consumption. I don’t want to be a part of an industry that damages both farmers and animals and laborers with poor ethics and poor practices and poor wages. So I won’t buy my meat from anywhere but local, trusted sources (which is thankfully possible where I live). I believe that humans are indeed carnivores and some of us do better with or without animal protein. I ate, even as a vegan, a very protein-rich diet. But I still sometimes craved animal protein. And who knows, maybe I’ll eat meat and it won’t have the same allure anymore, and I’ll end up sticking to fish, or going back to my friends, Tofu and Tempeh. And I’ll go run that ultra marathon next April. Just for the hell of it.
What I’ll miss most about veganism is the elitism. There’s a sort of braggart’s right when you’re a vegan, that whatever you eat is morally superior to the meal of those flesh eating heathens around the world. I’ll have to find something else to be elitist about. Maybe I’ll join a church.
My cupcakes and truffles, however, will remain vegan.
|April 29, 2011||Filled under Brazen Politics, Motherhood|
Once upon a time in a distant land or a parallel universe or some time continuum that existed before breastfeeding when I could actually remember what I had read about in the morning newspaper…
I wore designer Manolo Blahniks and Bruno Maglis on my days off. I knew I was valued and essential because I got to negotiate salaries and job descriptions, because my name was printed on invitations to things, and because I did my Christmas shopping in airplanes with Miles & More points. And I thought, back then, Wow, I am all these things, defined by being available 24/7 on my mobile and on having a business card with the word Manager on it. Life had meaning. My pay checks had meaning (often correlating to shoe sales). And I’d never leave the perfect world of personal and financial value behind me (not that I separated the two anyway). I knew I was good and important because people told me I was good and important. I was soooo self-actualized.
Thinking about this now has given me some LSD flashbacks to college where I once learned about Maslow’s Pyramid of Human Needs. Maslow applied some little known technique to his ideas here, sometimes referred to as “logic” but not commonly used in the home of your average housewife. What I noticed about Maslow’s diagram is that self-actualization is just the tip of the iceberg which basically means it’s fluff, an extra, air-conditioning in a cool climate, stuff like that.
Here’s Maslow’s Pyramid and a few notes:
- Sex as a basic need: This explains much of my husband’s argumentation.
- Sex listed again with intimacy: What wasn’t intimate about the first mention of sex? You can’t be mingling genitalia and have it NOT be intimate. And if offspring occur, you can bet there’s not much more intimate than sharing the reality of an accordion-like vagina during labor.
- Self-actualization has to do with “accepting facts?” If I accepted many of the facts of my life… the only thing I’d be actualizing is a drug dependency as a coping mechanism.
Back then, all this made a lot of sense. Then one day something happened and I didn’t have a purpose anymore. It wasn’t a gradual process or a slow awakening – more like a blunt baseball bat to the head and waking up with half my clothes on backwards. Only my wallet was emptier and there were milk stains on my shirt. It was clear to me that any purpose I had was something more like an evolutionary vessel of species perpetuation. If only I had remained blissfully unaware and thwarted the ticking of that goddamn biological clock!!!
Now here I am, a bona fide housewife, wondering how to achieve self-actualization. It’s a conversation that happens frequently around playgrounds and sand pits in Mother Code that usually goes like this: ”I am trying a new recipe for dinner tonight. If my children don’t discover the vegetables and my husband doesn’t notice the meat is missing, I will consider myself a successful mother for the rest of the day.”
Recently I was talking to one of these mothers, a particularly fulfilled housewife who I am sure whistles while she works, leaves love notes in her husbands ironed shirts, and pulls steaming casseroles out of the oven faster than I can pull excuses out of my ass. She felt that mothers were meant to be at home, if possible, and satisfied in such a role. After I was done flashing back to 1960 when happy hour started at 4 o’clock just as the morning’s dose of Valium was wearing off and women were satisfied in their housewife roles, I asked where we were supposed to get our sense of self-actualization. She said (and I’ll burn in hell for sharing this): “From our husbands.”
Hang on, I have to go bang my head against the tile counter for a minute so I can keep writing.
Anyway. This made me wonder if we were over-valuing self-actualization anyway and if one of the cultural issues we have with this whole hype of “equality” is that we assume women need self-actualization. I decided to make a pyramid that better represents the modern housewife’s, or wife’s, or mother’s, or woman’s needs (did I leave anybody out?). We’re going to call it Brazen Apron’s Painfully Realistic Pyramid of Lady Needs. It looks something, well exactly, like this:
My conclusion after this in-depth, scientific analysis of chick needs is that we cannot expect a single person or task to fulfill us. It’s a learned habit to take pride and ownership of all the good things around us in a day. Some days my options are limited, so I just pretend that I’m responsible for the sun rising that morning. Sometimes, I even tell my toddler that so she says things like “Wow, Mom, you are so amazing and powerful and smart and appreciated and needed.” Or at least that’s what I imagine she’d tell me if she wasn’t busy screaming “I almost pottied mostly in the toilet!!!”
|March 26, 2011||Filled under Brazen Politics, Motherhood|
In our age of entitlement, and as it is illegal in most countries for small children to work as laborers, I’m struggling to teach my child about contributing to the household. Having grown up in a family that made Puritans look like a lazy bunch of hippies, it’s been my approach to expose the toddler to work-ethic issues early in life. We gave B dinner duty when she was two, but after living almost solely on peanut butter wraps, we’ve had to redistribute the household tasks. Now she’s mostly responsible for Remote Control Management, Cushion Turning if she secretly pees on the couch, and Full Cup Supervising (in this challenging tasks she oversees the adult filling her cup with liquid and throws a subsequent tantrum of colossal drama should it not be filled to the molecular maximum).
I’ve been watching the spectrum of parenting approaches on this one in an attempt to apply one effectively in our household. My particular favorite are those encouraging parents who find ways to make every job some kind of fun and game. Put your fucking socks on, kid, I’m not pretending it’s a choochoo train. After you learn how to run the espresso machine and wake me up with lattes, we can renegotiate.
There are also those who apparently have enough time in the world to wait until their kids decide on their own to do… well… something. Those are the same people that ask me how I get so much done in a day (you know, like feeding my family AND taking a bath) because they spend their days informing their children that it isn’t possible to leave until they’ve decided to put their shoes on. They’re generally still barefoot when it’s time to go off to college.
There are those who just do stuff themselves. I know those moms. I have many of them in my circle of friends. They live for their children. I call them Martyr Mothers and I’ve got a whole separate blog waiting to unleash on them and their blatant ways of making the rest of us look bad. There are those patient, discussion-having mothers who somehow REASON with their children to motivate them. I believe this is some sort of parenting witchcraft, though, and I don’t trust it for a minute.
And then there’s the approach I usually take: Broken record until defeat, or lofty threats of impending hell-on-earth should compliance not soon follow. Neither seem to work and it might be that B just doesn’t understand how much she’ll want to go to prom in 15 years, but she’ll be sorry then that she didn’t put her plate away, let me tell you.
Then I saw this picture. This is a real picture with a real person that I really know. I did not know the chicken. And suddenly I realized something - it isn’t about teaching our kids to do CHORES as if they were some evil plot of prolonged torture we’ve designed to get even with our children for years of waking us up early. Unless of course you were my parents (who we’re now getting even with for years of waking us up early).
It’s about encouraging them to partake in community. There’s an additional bonus here, and at risk of sounding like a communist, I’ll explain anyway. Children who have active roles in the community of their family are more likely to partake productively in the larger community, i.e. society (Citation: a blog by a hippie kid that grew up on a commune and is now a model citizen).
Community seems to be some sort of long-lost folklore, and maybe that’s what is contributing to our household decline. And who is to say (not me) that it’s a decline – this could just be a neutral cultural shift, a change in values that is the yin to some other yang.
I tried explaining this to my daughter when I suggested that she put her plate in the sink on her own. While she ensured me that I was much more efficient at cleaning up plates because I am “the bigger mama,” I articulated the privilege of a meal that was not solely based on cruciferous vegetables.
In the end, I resorted to the time-tested Star Chart. Star Charts are the shizit (note modern lingo usage here, it keeps me hip). My kid might not want to pick up the playdough slaughterhouse she just created on my bed for reasons of good will, responsibility, accountability, or community. But for a fucking felt-tip star on a paper chart, she’ll polish the shoes, make me dinner, and profess undying toddler love and adoration while folding the laundry.
My hope is that we’ll one day graduate from Star Charts to some other less obvious form of bribery, like the personal satisfaction of achievement or the reward of belonging to a community. Until then, I’ll have to keep dancing around like a banshee on crack in a supportive display of motivation every time she earns a star.
|March 11, 2011||Filled under Brazen Politics|
As some of you might have noted from all the commercials listing statistics about how many women are underpaid in a man’s world, International Women’s Day was this week. I celebrated by waking up without penis envy, briefly considering working as a high-dollar hooker (ha! we don’t always earn less than men in the same field), then leaving one arm of each of my husband’s shirts un-ironed.
On International Women’s Day, we in classic female fashion, pulled out the big guns, the media, the wooden spoon and did just what we always do best: Nag.
I hate to say it ladies, but I for one am disappointed. Every font of newsfeed, column of newsprint, or commercial starring Daniel Craig in a dress (still hot) was about all the suffering we poor, suppressed, sad little women have endured. By the end of the day, I was so sorry for myself having been born a woman, I was prepared to start googling a whole new type of cosmetic surgery (as opposed to my usual rate-comparison for breast lifts and chemical peels). And then I wanted to divorce all the men of the world and, hand on my hip, remind them to take the trash on their way out.
Reliable sources like the internet say that International Women’s Day (which used to be called International Working Women’s Day – saucy little paid bitches apparently think they’re MORE equal than women who don’t work) was created to celebrate women. I did not see any celebrating or stories of Georgia O’Keefe tattoos. I saw Amnesty International signs lamenting unwed mothers, photographs of raped and beaten women, endless numbers proving the painful reality that we are not emancipated, we are not equal, we are not to be celebrated.
Where was the parade of glorious breasts bobbing and bouncing around? Where were the poems of intense love and adoration that brings even the staunchest of men to their knees? Where were our amazing achievements listed? Where were the stories of mothers and aunts and sisters? And why, for the love of God, are we always comparing ourselves to men? Why can we not be proud of our unique contribution to society, the economy, the perpetuation of our race, or ownership of the multiple orgasm and g-spot?
Independent of men, we’re an amazing creation with amazing traits. Our bodies alone have the strongest muscle in the human anatomy (as we are monthly reminded, or should we so choose, during childbirth when it is justified to curse men and the horrors they have brought upon us). We claim the first recorded author and poet, not to mention orgy mediator and high priestess. We have pretty feet and round asses. We are born with an incredible gift to nurture, to experience life within us, to cling to fading strings of intuition. We are wonderful. And instead of spending a day pointing out all the terrible injustice that happens to us as a singled out sex, could we for once just rejoice in the gift that we are? Should we not join arms and create strength and freedom and real emancipation in our unity and community and by instilling global appreciation for the feminine?
International Women’s Day could be best retitled “Why Men Are Failing Us Day.” Or “Why We Should Be Like Men Day.” Or “Look, We’re All Unwitting Victims Day.” And since when is equality proven in numbers? When just as many men are sexually abused in a year – will we be equal? When I can earn as much as a man in the same job – then are we equal? When my haircut costs 10 bucks and comes with a shave – then are we equal?
If you want to celebrate women, then be one fully or love one fully. See, accept, and be grateful for what we contribute to our society as women. Support our sisters in strength, education, health, and occasionally the unexplained disappearance of an abusive husband. Teach each other how to heal, how to recognize the power and potential in each of us, and how to get a bra properly fitted (or if you’re an old school feminist, how to burn one with low blaze risk). Show our younger female generations what self-respect and fulfillment are, that we are not born victims, that we are, regardless of statistics, Cosmopolitan magazine, and Jane Fonda, capable of anything.