Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is Feminine Writing about Storytelling?

For a few days I have been ruminating a lot on what might be the differences between "masculine" and "feminine" writing. I am choosing to think of this in terms of gender roles rather than strict sex differences, because I know plenty of women who write--in what I will below articulate--as "masculine" voices and vice versa.

This whole "intuition"--because I am a philosopher, I don't do studies--came to me after I finished writing a grant. My male colleague in Psychology--who is masculine in very traditional ways--also wrote a grant for the same reason; we are co-teaching a course and looking for support. Anyway, when I reviewed his grant and compared it to mine, I was struck by how succinct, pared down, and downright terse it was in comparison to mine. I started to panic. That devil--self-doubt--creeped in and sent me into a spiral of fear and loathing. (Isn't amazing how writing for the public can do that so regularly?) I showed my version of the grant to a male colleage (who, tends to write in a more "feminine" mode) and he led me to the kernel of my intuition about gender differences in writing.

The first thing he said about my grant in comparison to my male colleagues' was that it read like I was telling a story. His reaction carried me back to a conversation I had years ago with a former colleague from the French department. We were discussing what kind of writing we liked better: the New Yorker with its long, sprawling stories or the terseness of the Economist. My French colleague preferred the latter because, "I just want the facts."

And in traveling back to this memory, I was jarred to reflect on a more recent conversation with Za, wherein he was gearing himself to complete some paperwork and relishing the idea of making his answers as succinct and terse as possible.

So, I thought about how much the stripped down writing--no run-on sentences, no unnecessary adjectives, no extra stuff--is generally more praised in our culture (Hemingwayesque). I have always resisted this kind of writing. I find it very hard to do well and yet so much of my own discipline hangs on this ability of getting at the core, the nub of the argument, cutting out what is unnecessary and extraneous to meaning.

So, why do I write like a storyteller? I guess I attribute it to my very traditionally feminine nature. I like to communicate--I like relate with my speaker, create a community, forge a relationship. I don't try to master the content--leave some openings--allow for the other to help shape what I want to communicate so that I can be sure that I am not being misunderstood. Granted, the terse style probably has the last goal as its primary aim--to not be misunderstood. But, the very terseness and bareness of this mode of expression is precisely what leaves me totally confused by what the writer means. I want examples; I want to know how to use this concept.

So, I guess my hypothesis about gender differences in writing is that women write long, sprawling stories that aim to communicate (and at times annoy more masculine writers and readers), while men aim for economy and clarity.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Let Me Tell You About My Mother [Guest Post]

By Metapsychologist

I see my mother two or three times a year. Every time I come from the US to visit her in Britain, I spend a few days explaining to her how to use her TV and VCR. Now 77, she wants to be able to watch her videos but she gets very confused. To add to her problems, the UK has recently converted to digital TV, which means now she has a new remote control to struggle with. So now there's the TV remote, the VCR remote, and the Digital TV Box remote. The buttons are little and she has difficult pressing the right buttons. When she does press them, she holds them down hard for minute or so. Each time she has more difficulty learning new information, and makes the same mistakes again and again. Telling her to press the buttons gently and quickly doesn't do any good. The remotes are not designed with people like my mother in mind. Instead of words, the little buttons have little symbols on them. I have drawn much larger pictures of the remotes on pieces of paper with words explaining what the different buttons do, but these pictures don't help much. I wrote a list of instructions about how to turn on the TV and the Digital TV Box and select the desired channel, splitting up the procedure into several steps, but that's pretty confusing. I wrote another list of instructions about how to use the VCR, but after practicing for four days, she still gets confused. I doubt she will be able to watch many videos in the coming months. The whole process of explaining how to use the TV and VCR requires a great deal of patience -- generally more than I have. She was never very adept with this sort of technology, but clearly her abilities to remember and follow instructions have become worse. I tell her she needs to turn on the VCR, and she looks at me blankly. Occasionally she succeeds in playing a video, and sometimes she gets so frustrated she says she is just going to give away her video collection. I wonder why it is not possible to buy a TV/VCR combination designed for older people, but then I remember that VHS videos players aren't even for sale any more in the UK. My sister has suggested that my mother get a DVD player, but I tell them there is no way she could ever work out how to use it. Even if we could find a more user-friendly machine, my mother wouldn't be willing to pay for one, and she would get confused by having a totally new piece of technology in the home -- she is confused enough by the ones she has had for several years.

My mother's always had difficulty with technology. According to my father, forty years ago my mother had about one hundred driving lessons, and then the driving instructor gave up, saying that after a hundred lessons, she still didn't know where to put the key to turn on the ignition. She has often had problems with manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination too, yet she was able to use an electric typewriter for many years. She is able to use a telephone without too much trouble. So it's hard to know exactly what the problem is.
My mother has many skills and is able to cope on her own. She has always loved reading, and she often goes to see the latest art movies. She speaks several languages. She is often good at getting other people to help her, and she has some old friends. She had two marriages and two children. She strikes many as being full of emotion, charismatic and caring. One woman she knows recently described her as having a heart of gold.

I see her rather differently: she was rarely attentive to me or my sister when we were growing up, and in many ways has always been mainly concerned with herself. Everyone who has ever lived with her has ended up shouting at her, and on a regular basis. She makes people close to her angry with her, generally by asking what they want, and then completely ignoring what they just said and doing what she wants. Maybe she means well, but she is deeply frustrating.
She's a physically small woman, but she drinks a fair amount of wine, often starting well before lunch and going all day. Occasionally, with the encouragement and nagging of others, she cuts down a little but soon she goes back to her regular amounts. Her alcoholic father died in a psychiatric institution, a fact that she occasionally mentions, possibly with the thought that she may face the same fate. I don't know what psychiatric diagnosis she has, but I do know she takes a mood stabilizer, and has done so for nearly forty years. Her two sisters, both younger, have also had their share of psychiatric problems: one is a non-stop talker for every single minute she is awake, and made a suicide attempt at one point; the other has had significant problems with agoraphobia and depression. Their mother never got a diagnosis, but apparently she was so eccentric that her daughters would never bring their friends back home in case their mother embarrassed them.

Talking about my mother with others, I speculate about possible causes of her cognitive and emotional problems. We can come up with a long list of possible explanations: manic depression, attention deficit, learning disorders, her abusive father, the death of her mother, postpartum depression after the birth of my sister, Asperger's syndrome, alcohol abuse, Korsakoff's syndrome, decades of taking lithium carbonate on top of a steady diet of alcohol, her husbands, loneliness, Alzheimer's, or possibly some kind of brain damage. She's been evaluated by mental health professionals, but they don't invest much time in subtle diagnostic issues; she is stable on her current medication and on the occasions she has stopped taking her lithium, she has become more difficult. She is not motivated to try any other forms of treatment, and it is very hard to imagine any kind of talk therapy being of any possible use. She's not willing to make much effort to reduce her alcohol consumption. She might benefit from some kind of social services or community support, but so far she has turned down all the options available.

My mother is gradually declining in her abilities to think clearly and look after herself well enough to live independently, but she wants to keep living where she is. She keeps herself busy when she can, volunteering at a local charity store, playing cards with other people, seeing old friends very occasionally. She has a granddaughter, but she isn't really very interested in the little girl, and wonders why the girl makes so much noise. Certainly she can't help babysit or in other ways, and when my sister sees my mother with her granddaughter, it looks as if my mother never had anything called maternal instinct. So my mother spends a great deal of time alone, fretting about Princess Diana, little baby Madeline, and the latest human interest stories on the news. When I visit, I do what I can to help her, but there's only a certain amount one can do to help someone who is unwilling or unable to help themselves. As with many people with aging parents, I wonder what the future will bring, and find it hard to be optimistic. At some point, we will probably decide that she isn't able to live on her own, and then we will have to work out what to do next. We are already exploring the options.

So there's little to be done but do what I'm already doing and hope for the best. Without someone to help her, my mother will struggle on her own. She'll get out the instructions and try to work out which remote is which, and what she should do after she puts the video into the machine. Hopefully she will have turned on the TV first. There's nothing more I can do to help, at least until my next visit.

Monday, January 28, 2008

We Need Empathy: Reflections on Roe

I missed the opportunity to blog about Roe's 35th anniversary last week. I just couldn't bring myself to say anything else about the issue of women's reproductive rights in this country. Many other bloggers wrote important pieces reminding us how much the right wing in this country keeps chipping away at Roe. Alternet rounded up many of the best posts. What strikes me as important to always keep in mind as folks line up on one side or another of Roe, is that this issue is about real women facing really difficult choices.

I learned that one of my best students traveled down to join the March for Life in front of the SCOTUS. I shouldn't have been surprised. I knew she was a devoted Catholic. But, I was disappointed nonetheless. I spent the weekend thinking about why I was so disappointed by this news, and it occurred to me that it couldn't really have anything to do specifically with her. After all, I don't know her reasons for taking off from school to join that march. She might have a really important story or good reasons for protesting abortion. Knowing her compassion and kind heart, I am sure that her reasons for protesting are hard to criticize.

So, her participation in this event helped remind me that people I so admire nonetheless reject abortion. And, it is precisely because I know that many of these folks are so genuinely admirable, moral, and caring people that I fully understand why Roe is such a divisive issue. So, the passing of Roe's birthday is not just a cause for celebrating the gains women have made in reproductive health, but it is an opportunity to remember the humanity of those who oppose Roe.

It is all too easy to attack the strawman, and paint all those who oppose Roe and abortion as women-hating folks. There is no doubt that what is troubling about most of the "Pro-life" groups is their total rejection of measures that would decrease the rates of unwanted pregnancies, e.g. supporting access to contraception and comprehensive sex education. Many religious figures leading the "Pro-life" movement advocate overturning Connecticut vs. Griswold, upholding the rights of pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions, discrediting a right to privacy, and the rights of hospitals to refuse Plan B to rape victims. All of this is true. But, the many many supporters of the Pro-life movement, like my students aren't marching to deny women resources, help, services and their humanity.

When I put myself in the place of my student--and I don't know her real reasons since I am not going to shout her down or force her into a debate with me--I imagine that part of her passion for overturning Roe comes from a love of children and the gifts they bring. There are surely moments in my life when I think that there is nothing more precious than a baby, nothing so life-transforming in ways that I could've never imagined. But of course, that is wholly from my context, my experience, and my situation. I have to also admit, that if defending abortion was solely about defending a practice to end pregnancies from reckless sexual encounters, I would reject it as well. I worry that so many who protest abortion think that this is what they are protesting--reckless action that leads to the termination of a precious life. Man, who wouldn't oppose abortion if that was the story. But, it's not.

We will never get anywhere with this issue in American politics if we can't find a way to talk to each other--not shout talking points or slogans--about our views. And, when I mean talk to each other, I mean really communicate--bring into existence a community. We need to find a way to see ourselves as connected to each other and sensitive to the difficult life choices we might face. We need to talk from our experience and learn from each other. We need to widen our horizons and recognize that people face things that we can never imagine. We need more empathy.

On a related note, I was just talking to my colleague about judicial philosophies this morning. A student--who is partial to the rigid principled stance of Scalia--was writing a thesis that was in essence a total rejection of the more pragmatic judicial philosophy of Sandra Day O'Connor. I found myself really wondering why it is so attractive to have a rigid, black and white, worldview like Scalia. I mean, I guess if you are Scalia you don't have to think much about the nitty-gritty details of life--the grey, the ambiguity. You can just apply your principles from a distant and high perch. What appeals to me so much about a more pragmatic approach--and I don't really count Sandra Day O'Connor as my model here--is that it reflects the difficult nature of real decisions that we face in our lives. We can be perfectly moral and consistent without relying on such spare, decontextualized moral principles. Until radical conservatives understand that point, we will be unable to have a meaningful dialogue about the messy issues that beset our lives.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Back to Work--You Tubing in the Classroom

I am officially a working mum. I just completed my first day back to work after Maddie. I experienced some really embarrassing "mommy brain" moments earlier today. First of all, Za gave me my car key and I put it away in my purse and completely forgot the whole exchange. I called him up huffing and puffing--"where is my car key?" He reminded me in detail of when, where and what I was doing when he gave me the key. I insisted he was wrong, until I looked in my purse and with great embarrassment, found sitting there. Then, as I was off to class I asked our Administrative Assistant if I could borrow her keys to open up the cabinet with the computer. I said "I totally forgot to bring my keys into day," to which she responded, "well, how did you get in your office?" Blush. I was totally embarrased by this exchange.

Despite my challenged short-term memory, things got off to a great start. I enjoyed my new students, I am excited about the material, and feel right back in the swing of things We'll see how things last.

On a totally unrelated note, I spent some time surfing You Tube to find fun bits to use in my Kant and the 19th Century class. I found some real gems, which I will link to here.

Does anyone else use You Tube in the classroom? I am specifically interested in folks who might have encouraged students to do assignments that ended up on You Tube.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is Motherhood a Point of Intersection?

SteveG forwarded me the link to this discussion on Democracy Now!: The War and Peace Report between Gloria Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell. I was able to watch 3/4 of the show until Maddie had enough and wanted to do something more fun. But, from what I did catch, I must report that I found myself adrift in a sea of very complicated emotions. I don't know how to say it, but Harris-Lacewell emasculated Gloria Steinem.

She began by telling Steinem how appalled she was by her Op-ed piece and never let up from there. Many times she referred to Steinem's piece as the worst example of what is wrong with 2nd Wave Feminism. [I take it that she is representing 3rd Wave Feminism, a wave that I have never fully comprehended. I guess I don't see us having resolved the major political issues of the 2nd Wave: Equal Pay, Reproductive Rights, Affordable and Quality Daycare, Pornography, Domestic Violence, Affordable Housing, Humane Welfare Policies, Fighting Environmental Racism, Fighting Homophobia. . . If anything, we have seen a real push back on whatever gains were made by the right wing in this country.]

What did make a great deal of sense to me about Harris-Lacewell's position was to point out why intersectionality theory is more powerful for unraveling the complex ways in which race, class and gender are fundamentally intertwined in the United States. Harris-Lacewell made the compelling argument--that so many others have in the past few days against Steinmen--that appropriating the experience of black women--or their positionality--to suggest that sexism is more potent in the United States than racism is appalling. If anything, black women's experiences show how complicated these forces are;they cannot be disentangled. Whenever they are, an Oppression Olympics kind of discussion usually follows. I think she is dead on.

What bothered me, however, was the adversarial nature of the conversation. Call me an overly conflict-phobic whitebread chick, but I didn't see the value in the aggression. Gloria Steinem, however, didn't help her case. She didn't seem to complete a thought; was not capable of defending herself well and generally backed down. But what was accomplished in this discussion? What I couldn't figure out was: is this a discussion about the persistent tensions and obstacles in feminism--why women cannot seem to unite around concrete goals and policies due to the failures to think through more effectively the intersectionality of race, class or gender? Or, was this an argument over why feminists who support Clinton and see her as standing up for all women are wrong? Was this a theoretical discussion? I don't think so.

When I first started blogging about HRC after the Iowa causes, I found myself disappointed in Clinton's loss because now that I had a daughter, I wanted to her to see a woman become president. And, then I go look at Harris-Lacewell's blog and she writes the following:

I am mad because on the night that Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses, I was in a crummy hotel room in Manchester, N.H. I was there with two dozen college students who came to work the primaries and see American democracy in action. Many of them were propelled to their first political action as a result of Obama’s campaign. I also brought my 5-year-old daughter, Parker, because I wanted her to take part in this historic election. When the Obama family took the stage in Iowa to perform the traditional presidential wave, I could not resist waking Parker from her sleep so that she could watch Barack, Michelle, and their daughters. “Look at the beautiful black girls who might get to live in the White House,” I told her as I held her sleepy head in my hands. Whatever authenticity anxieties the American media conjured last year, Barack’s Iowa triumph was unreservedly a moment of racial pride. Parker spent the rest of the week proudly carrying an Obama rally sign all over New Hampshire. Last night, I had to explain Obama’s loss. She wanted to know if his daughters were as sad as she was.
I read this and I think, man, aren't Harris-Lacewell and I both projecting a lot of hope and dreams onto these candidates--whether HRC or Obama--to make a new day for our daughters? She wants her daughter to grow up with racial pride; I want my daughter to grow up knowing that being a smart, competitive, and ambitious woman should not result in misogynistic attacks. Can Harris-Lacewell and I find a point of intersection in our hopes as mothers for a different world for our daughters. Can we start there? Then, can we talk about what leads us to be drawn to one candidate over another--why we find this choice often difficult because we see so many great options out there? Can we talk about how sometimes certain aspects of our identity tend to rise in importance in relations to others? Context matters. There is no easy decision to make her as feminists. That if we find a partiality toward HRC, we aren't just part of the same ole Middle-Class, White, Eurocentric narrative in this country?

I can't help but wonder if the vitriol that is likely to pit feminist against feminist--lead to charges of white guilt and/or identity politics--is the result not of the personalities and policies of Obama or HRC, but the winner-take-all political system? We are being forced to pick our candidates (and despite what my posts say, I really don't know yet who I will support) and then go on the attack of those who have rallied around another. We are put into a bind where we are feeling guilty if we are drawn--for not wholly rational, pragmatic, or political reasons--to a candidate.

I am finding it hard to continue writing this post because for almost every sentence I construct, I can already anticipate the arguments that will be made against me--even the attacks. So, I will stop and see what others think . . .

Friday, January 11, 2008

It's OK to be a Girl?

Two very different takes on the meta-meaning of Hillary's teary-eyedness worth discussing. First of all, Judith Warner, blogger for NYT, argues that Hillary's melt down and the support it garnered among women is a bad omen for women in general. She writes:

I don’t for a moment begrudge Hillary her victory on Tuesday. But if victory came for the reasons we’ve been led to believe – because women voters ultimately saw in her, exhausted and near defeat, a countenance that mirrored their own – then I hate what that victory says about the state of their lives and the nature of the emotions they carry forward into this race. I hate the thought that women feel beaten down, backed into a corner, overwhelmed and near to breaking point, as Hillary appeared to be in the debate Saturday night. And I hate even more that they’ve got to see a strong, smart and savvy woman cut down to size before they can embrace her as one of their own. (my emphasis)
The overarching point of Warner's post seems to be that "feeling without thinking"--a no no that even the young Hillary Rodham decried--is a horrible basis upon which to vote for a candidate, whether that be HRC or others. I am partially sympathetic to this view, due to my philosophical training. Warner wants to say--I think--that women voting for HRC because they are beaten down by entrenched sexist institutions and attitudes and want to know that she is beaten down too is--well--ressentiment. The worst instincts among women lead to her win; only when she was down in the mud, enfeebled, weakened, and exhausted did she win them over.

I am not sure I like Warner's read of the situation. Since I am clearly someone who was warmed by Hillary's emotionality, I want to disagree that it was my need to see a savvy woman break down that made me a fan. I felt warmth from her. I saw her passion, her kindness and gratefulness in the face of what she took as concern (even if Warner shows us that it wasn't). If I may be so bold, it wasn't just her humanity that warmed me. It was her femininity. The softer, feminine emotions that she displayed made me hopeful that one day it may be OK for women to be able to display a range of emotions--even girlfriend bonding type stuff--and still be respected as competent. I want to say hurrah! It is OK for women to shed the armour, to drop their guard, and just be women. Do we really have to always act like men to be taken seriously. And, even if we are taken seriously, do we have to also be called a bitch on top of it?

I much prefer Mary Schmich's--of wear sunscreen fame-column. (H/T Specialk). I like her no nonsense advice and her take that Hillary needs to be careful not to lose the real message from the rallying support after her emotional display:

May we offer our thoughts?

*Get some sleep. We believe that sleep deprivation -- not political calculation or self-pity or weakness -- caused your mini-melt in New Hampshire on Monday. We can relate. We've all had those days, when the mind or the body crumples from fatigue.

As luck would have it, exhaustion served you well this week. That little crack in your voice apparently opened new vistas to voters. They saw a passionate, compassionate aspect of you often described by people who have met you but too seldom seen by those who know you only on a page or screen.

Even better, the mini-melt stirred a sexist overreaction ("Look! The wimpy girl is crying!") that ignited a counterreaction among women, especially middle-aged and older, who are tired of seeing you mocked for the way you dress, laugh or almost cry.

In general, however, lack of sleep causes errors. You can't afford one now.

*No need to tell us again that in New Hampshire you found your voice. Avoid the temptation to turn a natural moment into a stilted new script. Just use your new, true voice.

Be more conversational in your speeches.

You're never going to be a Baptist preacher, you're never going to be black, and you're never going to be a man, so don't try to impersonate them. When you do, you sound strained. When you sound strained, it makes us tense, or worse.

*Relax. If you could relax a little more, so could we. Have you tried meditation? Deep breathing? How about more exercise?

*Keep pointing out that you have had a wider range of political and policy experience than Barack Obama. Point out inconsistencies in what he says and does. But don't insult him. Never be snide.

Even people who don't support Obama tend to like him. Some of the same ones who rallied to you when they felt you were under sexist siege will rally to him if he's attacked.

*Find new ways to reach younger women.

Women over 45 -- who voted for you in Iowa and New Hampshire -- know that a woman born in 1947 has had to bust through brick walls with her head to achieve public power. Women close to your age have bumped into similar barriers, so they know how extraordinary your success is.

Younger women may understand, kind of. From history class. Or their mother's lectures. But they're unlikely to feel in their gut how amazing your journey has been and how much opportunity the trailblazing of women your age has opened to them. So the public toughness you've cultivated strikes many of them as rigid, bellicose, haughty, old, weird.

Let them see more of you at their age -- the personable college student who fought for civil rights; the law student who worked to protect abused children; the new mother with a job.

Show them that you were once a young woman like them -- one who wanted to change the world.

*More Chelsea in your campaign, less Bill.

*Really, less Bill. Everybody knows he's your husband. Everybody knows he was the president. No further reminder needed. Now you need to prove that you can fly alone.

*Be yourself. You're a wonk. Go for it.

By many reports, you're also down-to-earth and funny. Go for that, too.

*Resist fighting cynicism with cynicism, snark with snark. Among media pundits, snark and cynicism are the paving stones on the road to glory. Not so for politicians.

Your tone was perfect in the recent debate after the moderator asked what you'd say to voters who don't find you likable.

We liked how you answered wryly, but not sarcastically, "Well, that hurts my feelings."

*One final tip: Don't always obey your advisers.

I think Schmich is right to stress that she needs to stop obeying her advisers who apparently tell her to hide her warmth, likability, and humor (see kos). I also like her advice that she find ways to connect with young women voters who aren't as likely to know what a feat her success is.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Problem of Choosing from Personal Experience

Lesboprof alerted me to this powerful and humbling post by AngryBlackBitch which brought me back to reality and reminded me how dangerous it is to get swept up in my own personal wishes and experience. I read Steinem's Op-ed and for better or worse parts of it really resonated with me. Her early rhetorical question--would a woman with Obama's qualifications become a front runner in the Presidential race--stopped me in my tracks. The questions conjured up the image of Carol Moseley-Brown--to me the most eloquent of the Democratic candidates running for the nomination in 2004. Every time she spoke, I agreed with her. She was far more qualified than Obama is now and didn't have a chance. But, as *I* reminded me in the comments to yesterday's post, not everyone is likely to answer a rhetorical question the way the author intends it. It is risky to start off that way, and doing so, Steinem did a poor job making her case. Perhaps, she consciously structured her Op-Ed to fire up women like me. If so, very Karl Rovian.

The second part of her piece that really resonated with me was the following paragraph:

So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no “right” way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what (my emphasis).
In the past few days I have found myself surprisingly sympathetic to Clinton's candidacy. More than I thought I would. I shared the sentiment that *71* has: we didn't need another political dynasty. But, when she lost in Iowa, I was sincerely bummed. I tried to articulate it here, but I couldn't justify my support for her even when I set down to write it out. Upon greater reflection and thinking of those words bolded above, my support for Clinton comes precisely out of the social location I find myself in. I am a mother and a working woman, in a heavily male dominated field. I aspire to have greater roles of leadership someday, and I don't want to be called cold, calculating, robotic, power-hungry, or a bitch. The very qualities I admire in someone like HRC--very smart, very very articulate, very strategic, and ambitious--are precisely the qualities that so fully turn off others. I must say, however, that I do distinguish between those who reject HRC's political decisions, votes, centrist instincts, and corporate money taking from those who reject her because she is a cold, calculating, power hungry bitch who doesn't want to bake cookies. The former camp are my friends, people I respect, and people who truly challenge my support of Clinton. The latter camp is precisely what keeps redoubling my commitment to her during this primary process.

I am like many women who have had it with this sexist bullshit. I think *I* was dead on in the comments when she clarified what I thought was true in Steinem's piece. It is not that racism is not tolerated. Rather OVERT racism is not tolerated. There is no doubt that lots of structural racism, de facto segregation, and covert racism continues in this country without enough outrage. I was thinking about OVERT sexism and racism. The kinds of sexist comments that pundits make don't raise hackles nearly as much as Don Imus's comments did months ago. So, like many women trying to be ambitious, successful and a good mother, I got sick of the small box that I saw Hillary getting shoved into. Even my own father said--only half joking--that the reason most men his age won't vote for Hillary is because she reminds them of their first wives.

I don't have any ability to save Steinem's Op-Ed from Angry Black Bitch's eloquent rebuttal. I can see why Lesboprof and *I* are disappointed with Steinem. And, I wonder if I have been easily manipulated in this political process--after all--that is the game. I am very wary of stepping into the minefield of trying to figure out what holds us back more: race, class, sexual orientation, gender or ableness. I read Steinem say we shouldn't do it and skipped completely the subtext of the piece, which is indeed an attempt to prioritize feminist (white) issues over race.

I guess at this point, I want to open up this discussion and hear more from others.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I'm Thrilled.

I'm thrilled. I can't hide it. The more negative press, the more sexism that creeps in against Clinton, the more I am behind her. Damn it, we need our first female president. (Having said that, I won't be upset if either Obama or Edwards win).
I was away for the past few days so I missed the footage of Hillary's teary-eyed declaration, but caught it on You Tube last night while watching the returns on CNN. I had heard about this from NPR, but in a manner that incensed me. The report was that many linguists were going to be hired to determine if her display of emotionality was in fact real. That was it. It was precisely at that moment that I wiped my hands with the wave of negative reporting and pot shots at Clinton. I would love to see many of those critics try to undergo what she does every day and see how well they weather it. When I saw her on Stephanopolus a few weeks ago, I admired how masterfully she was able to shake off the intense mudslinging with a "what do you expect George." I am not sure I have that kind of thick skin.

She is being tested and in ways that the male candidates aren't, nor will be. See Echidne on her blasting of Maureen Dowd and her analysis of Steinem's claim that sexism isn't taken as seriously as racism in this country. Well, the women voters have had enough of this crap.

Now, back to her "emotionality" that seeped through or how she put it: "I found my own voice." I was sincerely moved. I did not see this as scripted. She let us all in on the weariness she must feel and the passion with which she is pitching this battle. I am clearly not alone in my reaction to this.

I am not an ultra left winger. I have always been a big fan of Bill Clinton and was impressed with Hillary from the first time I heard her speak on my college campus in 1992. She is a woman that I would like to be; she is articulate, smart, and tough.

In the final analysis, this election--for me--is about the Supreme Court. The next President will determine if the SCOTUS will be lost to the Roberts-Alito-Scalia-Thomas camp. I want a President who appoint a SCOTUS justice that will push back on last year's decisions, particularly the chipping away at Roe, the undermining of equal pay for equal work, and the de facto (de jure?) segregation of schools. Would Clinton appoint that kind of justice? Yes. Will she appoint a woman? Yes. So, there it is.

OK. Let's hear it . . . your incredulity with my view, your support, your confusion. It's all good.

UPDATE: And here is the co-chair of Obama's campaign doing everything but accusing HRC of faking her tears. Check out Melissa on this.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Conflicted about Hillary Coming in Third

I was a bit surprised that Obama won in Iowa last night, although I probably shouldn't have. I guess I had become convinced by the MSM that Clinton was the obvious heir apparent. I am not sure how I feel about Obama's win. I like him; I really like him. But, I started getting jazzed about having a woman president now that I have had a daughter (not that the game is over). But, earlier on I made it clear that I was "all in" for Obama on this blog, so what happened to me?

I have to make a confession and one likely to get me lots of flak, but I guess I went all "identity politics." I chose the woman over the man of color as someone who would best represent me and my daughter in the future. I thought about my affiliation to Clinton as supporting a role model for Maddie. Another confession--I guess having read enough about Women's history and their long struggle to get the vote, I wanted a woman to be elected before a man of color. Women have always lined up after men of color when it comes to getting theirs.

There you have it. Two rather embarrassing, but honest confessions.

I am so jaded these days to believe that any politician is really going to bring the kind of change that would make a massive difference. Obama is great, young, vivacious, really turns out the vote (WOW!), but he bankrolled by big dollars and those supporters are gonna want something back. This is the reality of American politics. So, my heart is not really in this anymore. I want a Democrat. I like all the candidates. So, my primary affiliation has been motivated by something much more personal and perhaps petty.

What did the rest of you think?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Love Her

Nellie McKay is my new favorite artist. I got her newest album, Obligatory Villians for Christmas.

She is hilarious, adorable, and a little trouble maker.

I am sure I am late in discovering her, as I am for all cool things. But, if you haven't yet heard her voice, listen to the preview of her song Mother of Pearl at Amazon here. Or watch this (crappy quality) video below.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Heidegger Isn't Helping Anymore.

I wanted my post yesterday to be upbeat since New Years Eve was not so wonderful for us. Za found out that one of his new colleagues died in a freak accident. When he told me, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. Maddie was sleeping as he told me the news and we both had an instinct to check in on her. The idea that someone young, thriving and full of life could die, suddenly, was too much to take in. I don't know the details of his colleagues' death, nor do I think it is appropriate to discuss it too much, but I wanted to take the opportunity to write some reflections, in general, about my first encounter with death post-Maddie.

Horror. That is the best word. Death has never been something I deal with well. In fact, this is probably the reason why I gravitated toward the work of Martin Heidegger while I was an undergraduate. The whole concept of Being-towards-death was the only way I could take something that scared the living shit out of me and turn it into something positive and powerful for my life. If I could remember to confront the fact of my death, then, Heidegger argued, I could begin to fully live my life--knowing full well that my life was finite and that it was conditioned by certain facts that I had no control over. Death was the occasion for life in Heidegger's early writings. In fact, death was the one inevitable possibility of our life that gave us the power to escape conformity. Through the confrontation of our death, we could choose a life that was our very own choosing, that capitalized on our best strengths, and gave us real joy.

That was how I read Heidegger. And, that was where my mind was supposed to go when I was reminded that death was the inevitable end of my life. What Heidegger doesn't talk about--at least not that I remember this--was that facing your death, once you are a parent, opens up profound fears about not you, not your life, but the life of your child. Heidegger does argue that death is what reveals (what he calls) the structure of Care--that we are related to a world, to others, and to meaning-making (leaving a legacy). But, he really sees death as about the self. Whereas now, I see death wholly about the others I leave behind. Death fundamentally discloses to me that I am responsible for a child and to leave that child alone in the world is frightening.

Of course, I can prepare for this possibility--wills, life insurance, god parents that will be most like me, etc. But, those actions do not seem to allay a new found fear I have about dying. Neither does Heidegger. I am set adrift again, looking for some solace in the wise writings of minds that came before me to help me reconceptualize what it means that at any moment I could drop dead and leave my daughter.

Since I have no way to think of this without great fear, I turn this problem over to my readers. Point the way for me . . . .

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

It's Going to Be a Good Year.

The new year has finally arrived and I anticipate that it will be a good year. This will be the year that little Maddie will learn to crawl and say a few words (hopefully Mama). Za is embarking on new projects, including designing a nifty children's book about a beagle who can drive a motorcycle. And, I am gearing up to return to teaching with a new perspective on the students in front of me.

Becoming a mother has singularly transformed my life in ways that I could never have anticipated. Any inkling that I knew what was coming was just hog wash. My fears of the changes were well founded, but frankly I wasn't afraid enough. But, what I had no capacity to imagine was how much I would enjoy every second of watching this little baby girl grow, develop and change. I am in the bloom of my love affair with her, which is why posting on this blog has seemed less appealing than it once was.

I wrote to my colleague the other day (with a great deal of embarrassment) that having Maddie has literally given meaning to my life. Can you think of anything more trite than that to say? But it is true. I wake up every day knowing that she is in the world, that I get to play with her, and that she will smile at me and perhaps giggle and melt my heart. When I think about my future goals, what I want to write about, how I will teach my courses, where I want to travel, all of these decisions focus around her.

The important thing here is that putting her at the center (wish I could express this better) of these decisions is not putting myself on the back burner or fringes, as I once feared. Choosing for her is choosing for me. The unfortunate dichotomies that too many mothers and fathers absorb--her or me--are totally inept at capturing what the relationship is like. Sure, I am still new at this and I might change my opinions fifty times over. But, at this moment, what I realize is that doing what I love to do and parenting Maddie are not as incompatible as I feared. She has steered my interests in new directions and she has also redoubled my commitment to excellence at what I do. She also inspires me to continue to grow up (no other way to put this, I tried).

I imagine that when I return to work this week that my postings will return as well. But, my new years resolution is to make choices about what to do in a way that promotes my relationships to my family and friends. This might mean that I learn to crawl and speak new words along with Maddie this year.

What are your resolutions?

P.S. So this doesn't sound like the sappiest post in the world, I should mention that my day started with Maddie spitting up on me, yo which Za cleverly quipped "Happy New Years!"