i know it's overkill, but bear with me

KP lays it down again in her column this week:

You're always so glass-half-full in public," my editor says at this point. "But in private you're as down as Dowd." Well, not quite that down. But yes, I thought we'd be further along by now. I feel for young women today--somehow, between the irony and the knowingness and the 24/7 bath in pop celebrity culture and its repulsive values, it can be harder for them than it was for us to call a sexist spade a spade. They've been bombarded from birth with consumerism and Republicanism and hyperindividualism, and told in every possible way that feminism is deeply uncool and unhot. Dowd is such a credulous audience for backlash propaganda it doesn't occur to her that she is promoting, not reporting, the problem she describes. I'm amazed, actually, that feminism is still around, given the press it gets.

Dowd, for example, thinks feminism may be a 'cruel hoax' because it keeps women single--men are scared of spunky, successful women. (In interviews Dowd denies she's attributing her own unmated state to her fame and fabulousness, but that's how she's been read.) Well, some men definitely want the young compliant type. But--anecdotal evidence again--most women in my circle are paired, and we are all feminists and really, really great. Men hold a lot of cards in the mating game, but fewer than they used to, and women hold more than before. There has never been a better time in all world history to be a 53-year-old single woman looking for romance. Besides, as ferocious young Jessica Valenti put it over at Feministing.com, 'Feminism isn't a f***ing dating service.' Out of the mouths of babes. "

(from The Nation)

For the Orphans

"Perhaps all unsheltered people are angry in their hearts, and would like to break the roof, spine, and ribs, and smash the windows and flood the floor and spindle the curtains and bloat the couch." -- Marilyn Robinson, Housekeeping

"Loneliness is an absolute discovery." --MR

Reading it out of context, the quote might seem more general, related to the dispossessed, the poor and the homeless. Which of course, it is. But this morning on the train, in the voice it is spoken, and in the reader, it was all family.

There are times, when I hear people speak about their families, their parents, their meals, their homes, their emails, their support, their lives -- when I want nothing more than to march up their porches (decorated, I imagine them, with the appropriate holidays dressings and cleared entirely of leaves) and split open their front doors. I want to flood their bathrooms and invite strangers into their kitchens, to eat from the cabinets and leave the drawers swung open, crumbs spread out.

I want to walk in on the domestic bliss (love, comfort, no abuse) and sit down amongst them like a troll. I want to run a slimy knarled finger over their cheeks and stain them with the generational residue that marks me. I want to empty their pockets and see if they still smile so brightly. I want to crack their flat flat tvs and chip all of their glasses and see if they are so perfect, so good, still.

I want to know the difference between other families and mine. I want to know if they have been pushed to hard or if they are just weak. I want to know if all those mothers who call on the phone, who send care packages to their grown children, who know the names of their friends and who counsel in times of need simply have all the leisure time in the world or if they are wonder-strong and as shiny as they seem. Who are these fathers with wide laps and big grins, who aw-shucks and chuck balls about the yard? Have you seen them?

It's not simply the lack of shelter I feel so intensley, but disbelief in roofs in general.

For reference: The Organization and Formation of Blizzards as Seen by Satellites: A-Z by Ander Monson (Indiana Review)


defining one's chances

I can't get the Lotto out of my head this week.

Ever since I was a small child, I had the implausible and unshakeable conviction that I was going to win the lottery. This weekend I'll write about Ed McMahon and my baptism dress -- how they are inexorably linked for time and all eternity.

But for now I have to ask myself: why is this fantasy so persistent. It involves many layers. There is the trust I would set up to pay for the education of my family's descendants; The loans I would pay off for friends (promises I have articulated to them, years ago, and probably every few months since we've known one another); the lit mag I could start; the graduate school I could afford; the loans I could pay off; and then there is the ultimate -- something I wasted an entire subway ride on yesterday -- how I would tell my parents.

I could tell them to print out a credit report, wait for them to do it, and then tell them all of that worry, all of that stress, all of that burden -- is over. I could send a crew of construction workers to the house to finally patch those uncovered vents and the decay of the barn. I could scream or I could deliver it deadpan (my preference). I could call my grandmother first and let her break the news to them. I could fly out, arrive at their doorstep with a check to pay off their mortgage. I could. . . you see how this goes on. I get stuck in the vastness of that moment -- the gift, the relief, the burden lifted.

I can't stop thinking about it. Powerball, Mega Millions, King Kong Millions (for a limited time only). I think this is how gambling addicts start, right? Playing Keno or video poker. Luckily, that's not legal here. I got snowed into a hotel in Portland (iced in is more accurate) and they had video poker in the bar. It was a long strange night. I don't think I could actually spend large sums of money -- just time, energy, and all of this idiot hope*.

(*that being said, I partially wrote this entry so that when I win it will look like prescience.)


Other good news

It's only 11:15 here, so nothings for sure, but it looks like Prop 73 (parental notification bill) is going to fail in Cali. (!)

And Corzine won in NJ (take that Pataki). Maine passed a resolution outlawing discrimination against the gays.

Sadly, Ohio rejected the voting reforms it needed to make the state function democratically. Oh well, as long as Blackwell never becomes governor. Never, ever, ever.

Okay, I'm going to check the lottery results. If the VA election is any indication, things are going good golly's way tonight.

Trumpeting for Kaine

Archivists amongst you might note that the first few entries of this blog came in the sad mid-november days of last year. And I called then for a look ahead, for the signals of 2005 and activism to motivate for next year -- one that will surely mark either a turning point or a state of continued insanity for our country.

Tonight, I am pleased to report, our fair state of Virginia elected Timothy Kaine to be its next governor -- defeating a well-funded and vitrolic opponent who ran ads last week that claimed Kaine would have been opposed to the death penalty for Hitler.

"Equally significant, Mr. Kaine's victory was a major hit for Mr. Bush, who campaigned for Mr. Kilgore Monday night even though his own approval rating had dipped below 50 percent in Virginia.

Mr. Kilgore's aides said Mr. Bush's appearance was crucial in increasing Republican turnout, but Democrats and political analysts said it might have also energized as many or more Democrats and independent voters to turn out for Mr. Kaine.

Democrats are likely to trumpet Mr. Kaine's victory as evidence that Mr. Bush has become a detriment to local and state Republican candidates in advance of next year's midterm congressional elections." (from nyt)

While "Democrat" is far from my first political allegiance, consider this entry to be one of the chorus tonight that plays the first note of "Taps" for the neoconservative movement.


national book award reading

What: National Book Award Dinner

When: Nov. 15th

Why: Because it's 21 readers for $10

Get yr tickets. I'll smuggle in skittles. We can hold hands if you want.

who hates time select?

I do. I do.


the length of one's self

The length of my hair is an obsession.

I don't have that many. I have plenty of things I can talk about endlessly, but they don't consume me the way this does. The length of my hair is something I choose to dally over, to measure with the stroke of my own hand. I think about it all the time, make decisions, change my mind, map out a five-year-plan.

It is a larger question than brown or black, light brown or chesnut, bob or razor bob. My hair represents -- in it's micro fashion -- the entirety of my gender expression. There are certain outfits that when my hair is short, I cannot pull off. A dress, one with layers or movement, doesn't look right. Looks like drag or camp -- a performance of a good-golly girl self. Likewise, now that my hair is stretching out toward my shoulders (touching them daily) the tie I used to wear quite freely feels like some attempt, some joke at another person. A laughable tomboy.

Those polars are wrapped up in so much more -- there is a sense that my adult clothes, the things that allow me to manuever through "professional" or "mature" settings are inherently more feminized. Meanwhile, my sneakers, jeans, even button downs have an adolescent flavor. It's hard for me to wear something fancy, wear something for a job interview say, and have it maintian the level of masculinity, or adrogyny, that I would prefer. Which I don't think is inherent in any way, but more a symptom of the way in which both ideas of myself have developed.

This is more complex then "when I was twelve I realized to grow up I would have to become a "woman" and learn to dress more like a girl". Which is, of course, true. But it is tied also to the realization that my more androg impulses are tied to a certain politic. One that might have me off making radical rather than typing on the high floors of a downtown building. That version of myself might not suffer through, nor place themselves in such a way to get invited to, a fancy dinner. There is a way in which I tied the version of myself at my most comfortable -- definitely boyish, although with a dyked out flair, tailored, sneakered -- is my most irreverent. But I also find this disturbing. I don't like that decked out in dress I feel more obligated to be demure, to shy my eyes, to flirt rather than pursue. I hate how easily tied those personas are to some kind of gender expression.

I wish that I felt the cocky ownership of the world in heels that I feel when I'm tailored down. I resent that I've internalized all of that so easily -- or more accurately, I resent that knowing it hasn't abated anything.

And so I am here. With almost shoulder length locks feeling detached from my body


feminism and straight sex

My previous post with critique of Maureen Dowd's article in the NYT magazine is relevant -- the whole reporter trend of going after "women regress and love it" with faulty research is something that I want to call bullshit on.

But there is something more problematic about the original article and its replies. Why is the success or relevance of feminism measured by the ability of straight women to "catch a man"? Why is the ability to find marriage material how one should judge where to place the bar of social critique?

There is some argument to be made about the ways in which feminism (or backlash) has affected interpersonal relationships both sexual and political. All of these articles talk as if feminism actually "happened" in some way and we are going back, rather than arguing that feminism was articulated at some venture and continues to operate as an idea but not a reality for most women.

When I read the article this weekend, the first thing it made me think was "I'm gay." I stood up out of bed and looked around my apartment. For some reason it struck me very suddenly that I lived with another woman and that my concerns were very much removed from what Dowd was talking about. At the same time, I felt that most of the people I knew approached relationships (issues of sex, whose going to pay, and what is a successful relationship) with a lot more maturity then all of subjects of these articles. There is no crisis of faith, no attempt to recraft oneself as "the hunted," and while there are plenty of concessions I find depressing -- they often aren't intentional, let alone strategized.

My point is this: feminism has the potential to restructure all personal interactions. It could, if ever embraced, destabilize all sorts of sexual scenarios. But the merit of equality is not how many dates it gets, its not even how much things have changed, its that equality is desirable. Of course there are a million moral relativist claims to be made here. I'm just more interested in a real exploration of cultural forces and sick of feminism being relegated to the scapegoat for the dating woes of modern America. It has to mean more than that.

In the meantime, someone needs to explain hetereosexuality to me, cause I don't get it.*

*I mean, I get it. I get men and women sleeping together and dating and all that. What I don't get the belief that it's "natural" or "just what you are" anymore then I buy that claim for the queers.

Dowd right wrong

Maureen Dowd annoys me usually. There's something grating about her columns and something even more frustrating that she is the lone female representative on the NY Times Editorial pages. But then she writes trash like ""What's a Modern Girl to Do?" and I just have to shake my head.

What is she talking about?

Luckily, there has been a response:

Why Dowd Doesn't Know What Men Really Want
By Rivers and BarnettWeNews commentators

(WOMENSENEWS)--A growing media narrative over the past year says men do not like high-achieving women.

It's been fueled by stories in, among others, The New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, Toronto Star, "60 Minutes" and the Atlantic magazine.

This drumbeat reached its zenith Sunday in Maureen Dowd's New York Times Magazine piece, "What's A Modern Girl to Do?"

The article has become the most e-mailed article from the Times' Web site and has left Dowd fielding readers' mail on "the past and future of feminism."

What a waste of such a powerful platform. If only Dowd--capable of such wit, charm and political insight--had bothered to check her social science data.

"Decades after the feminist movement promised equality with men," Dowd laments, "it was becoming increasingly apparent that many women would have to brush up on the venerable tricks of the trade: an absurdly charming little laugh, a pert toss of the head, an air of saucy triumph, dewy eyes and a full knowledge of music, drawing, elegant note writing and geography. It would once more be considered captivating to lie on a chaise lounge, pass a lacy handkerchief across the eyelids and complain of a case of springtime giddiness."

For this surreal description of contemporary men and women, Dowd draws on "data" that shows her running with the media pack, yes, but sadly out of touch with serious social science.

An Alleged Trend

In particular, Dowd hypes an alleged trend of men rejecting ambitious women based on a 2004 study by psychology researchers. Those findings, by psychologists Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan and Brian Lewis of University of California, Los Angeles, were wildly overblown.

The study was done on a small sample of 120 male and 208 female undergraduates, mainly freshmen.

The males rated the desirability as a dating or marriage partner of a fictitious female, described as either an immediate supervisor, a peer or an assistant.

Surprise, surprise! The freshman males preferred the subordinate over the peer and over the supervisor when it came to dating and mating.

The study, however, was no barometer of adult male preferences. Rather, it reflected teen boys' ambivalence about strong women.

Men, by contrast, do not reject achieving women. Quite the opposite. Sociologist Valerie Oppenheimer of University of California, Berkeley reports that today men are choosing as mates women who have completed their education. The more education a woman has, the more likely she is to marry. Unlike the single University of California, Los Angeles study, this finding comes from an analysis of 80 peer-reviewed studies.

Evolutionary Theory

Another major problem with the college students study was that investigators claimed an evolutionary basis, namely, that men's drive to reproduce their genes leads them to prefer relatively subordinate, docile females.

By the same evolutionary token, then, women should be "hardwired" to seek as mates men who are older, dominant and in control of financial resources. But that same college study found nothing of the sort. Instead, the young women showed no preference for dominant males over other males for either dating or mating.

The notion that women are driven by their genes to seek older, rich men has been skewered by recent research.

Alice Eagly of Northwestern University and Wendy Wood of Duke University provided a major review of mate-selection data with findings from 10,000 people in 37 countries.

It found that in societies where women have access to resources, they do not choose older "provider" males to marry. Instead, they go for men who are kind, intelligent and can bond with children.

Yes, when women can't pay their own way, rich older men look pretty good, even if they don't change diapers or listen to what a woman has to say. But when women bring home the bacon themselves, they start looking for something quite different in a guy.

Dredging Up the IQ Study

Dowd dredges up another study about men not liking smart women. This one was conducted by investigators at four British universities (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol and Aberdeen) and found that for every 15-point increase in IQ score above the average, women's likelihood of marrying fell by almost 60 percent. The Atlantic published this research in 2005 under the title "Too Smart To Marry?"

Really bad news for bright women, right?

Not. Neither Dowd nor the Atlantic bothered to mention--apparently they did not know--that the data were gathered from men and women born in 1921; the women are all now in their 80s.
Should a study of octogenarian women be taken as a guide for today's young people? No.
Dowd also recycles Sylvia Ann Hewlett's argument, from her book "Creating a Life," that high-achieving women tend to be miserable and often childless. For a challenge to that data, read Heather Boushey of the Center for Economic Policy Research. In a 2002 published study based on several large government data sets, Boushey found high achievers little different from other working women.

From 36 to 40, high achievers are more likely to be married and have kids than other female workers, but they marry later than other women. Boushey found that women between the ages of 28 and 35 who work full time and earn more than $55,000 a year or have a graduate or professional degree are just as likely to be successfully married as other working women.
Dowd writes that many women today "want to be Mrs. Anonymous Biological Robot in a Docile Mass. They dream of being rescued; to flirt, to shop, to stay home and be taken care of." And so forth.

Irritating Fluff

Dowd's writing is fun, but is basically a bunch of irritating fluff.

As a piece of institutionally self-serving evidence, for instance, she refers to a recent front-page story in The New York Times about young women attending an Ivy League college who were planning to reject careers in favor of staying home and raising children. The article claimed that 60 percent of women in two Yale dorms wanted to jettison careers and be stay-at-home moms.
The story was not written by a Times reporter. It was written by a journalism student doing her graduate thesis who based her story on an e-mail survey. Slate media writer Jack Shafer found the "facts" in the story so flimsy that the reporter "deserves a week in the stockades. And her editor deserves a month." He pointed out that the writer used the word "many" 12 times in place of statistics.

Writing in The Nation, columnist Katha Pollitt said she had contacted a number of people at Yale, including professors and students who were interviewed. She said not one felt the story fairly represented women at Yale. Many students said they'd thrown away the reporter's questionnaire in disgust.

Physics professor Megan Urry polled the 45 female students in her class and only two said they planned to stay at home as the primary parent.

When Dowd bases her views of men and women on such poor research, it's no wonder that Dowd looks into the crystal ball of feminism and finds the picture so disconcerting.
Caryl Rivers is a professor of journalism at Boston University and Rosalind C. Barnett is a senior scientist at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University. They are co-authors of "Same Difference; How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children and Our Jobs."

From Women's Enews