Thursday, April 27, 2006

Today Show Gender Antics

This morning on The Today Show, they had a segment where the husband traded places with his wife. It is such a ridiculous premise, but of course, I should not be surprised that Today would stoop to such lows. Not to mention, jumping the shark.

The story usually starts with some, poor husband/father/breadwinner who has somehow relegated his stay at home wife to the worthless and taken-advantage of category. She is furious that he doesn't get how hard it is to be her. He doesn't appreciate her, blah blah blah.

Said SAHM gets wisked off to the Caman islands where said neglectful wage-worker takes care of the screaming, diapered brood at home. ALONE.

Initially, all is good. He speaks happly into the confessional "real-world" camera that everything is going smoothly and he was right all along.

Things quickly go downhill. He has to (gasp) change diapers, and kids run wild as if in a stupid movie.

Fast forward to the end of the segment (who has time or an interest in watching the real world daddy day care?): Dad ends up respecting mom, they start having sex again, he goes back to the peace and quiet of his office, and everyone is happy (except for the mom who came back from vacation to diapers and kids gone wild).

Why not do a really innovative story that talks about how the partners share the drugery of diapers AND the pressure of bringing home the bacon?

Monday, April 24, 2006

More Milestones: Eureka!

So, Mr. Big (ahem) discovered himself today.

Between watching this happen, mid diaper change and again later during his bath, (it looked like he must have been hurting himself!), reading Why Gender Matters, and my most recent discovery via the New York Times (yeah, I'm out of the loop), I am learning a lot about men.

I finally finished Why Gender Matters last week. It was fascinating and I recommend it to anyone who deals with kids in any way. He is definitely an advocate of treating kids differently based on their sex because he believes that "gender" is far from socially constructed. One important consequence of the "gender-neutral" pedagogy of the last 20 or 30 years has been, in his opinion, a relaxing of a cultural understanding of what it means to be men and women as adults (he has a very developed explanation for this which I recommend but cannot reiterate here). We have few areas in which boys are ever at male-only events or vice versa because we have put faith in the notion of a gender-neutral society. He feels we have severely failed kids in this way. Boys are never in a male-only arena and thus, don't learn from their elders in a way that used to be common in our society (and vice versa). As a result, kids grow up not knowing how to behave like "real" men and women. So, they attempt to approximate it in, as it turns out, perverse ways. In the book, Sax documents the increasing regularity of teenage sex at ever younger years. He discusses studies which have documented a change in teenage culture in which kids no longer "date" but hook up and/or consider oral sex to be what "first base" once was.

Couple this with TuckerMax (who, by the way, I read voraciously this past weekend). His exploits describe the perverse alpha male that Sax warns us about. I am not taking a stance on TuckerMax here. He is smart, lives by his own rules, writes decently (however repetitive his antics become) and although he says he doesn't hate women, I can't quite figure out what he's doing or what he's looking for (although he states it quite bluntly: nonmonogamy whilst bearing at least five children with a 'four-star' woman who is willing to breast feed as it boosts IQ points by 10-15). What I'm concerned about is, how realistic is his MTV-hyped world and is this the world we're sending our kids into?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Tale of Two Cousins

I've got two cousins in the public eye right now.

One, is still on Survivor, despite all of the odds.

The other is in a rather heated legislative battle in Nebraska regarding race and educational districts. He was recently quoted on CNN and in the New York Times. He an his wife, also, had a baby two days ago! Congratulations Brother of Cousin (who is regularly referred to in this blog)!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Boy Is As High As An Elephant's Eye

And it looks like he's climbing right into the sky!!!

Today ZeYo/Mr. Big is four months old.

What a four months it has been! I've been told by at least one reader that the blog's been a little short on text lately. Its not for material. Its just that usually when I sit down to blog I'm also holding the young man as he's napping. Typing with one hand is just not, well, its just not satisfying.


I think we've finally figured him out. Four months later. Putting my feminist roots aside, I've been engrossed in the book Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences by Leonard Sax. Let me preface this discussion by saying that my understanding of child development is quite slim, and I have not even finished this book let alone any of its critiques. So far, however, I am quite enjoying its explicit critique of the politically correct notion (one that I have believed whole heartedly) that gender is entirely socially constructed.

Basically, the author is putting forth the scientific evidence that boys and girls are simply hard-wired differently from our brains to the cells in our eyes. It is fascinating. I'm taking it to heart, too, making more efforts to wear the boy out every day with long walks and lots of play.

Let me also say that I'm not becoming a Lawrence Summers fan after reading this. I'd like to see a melding of the two theories, and, again, I'm not far enough in the book to say, but the author does not seem to condone sex(ist) stereotypes. He, for example discusses the concept of 'learned helplessness' which basically argues that we don't give our girls enough challenges so when they are faced with some they give up too easily. He just seems to be providing us information about biology and how we can deal with that as parents and teachers. For example, rather than trying to push away (some) boy's need for action and agression, we need to figure out creative ways to feed those desires.

I'd also love to see what anyone else thinks out there.

I just took the boy around the lake in the lovely 65 degree sunshine. He didn't sleep a wink while we were on the walk -- too much to see. But he's out cold now snoozing in the familiar.

Don't Need To Be Coy, Roy

Yesterday the SYO and I were making dinner together and listening to a little Simon and Garfunkle provided to us by the lovely, Cousin, when they started playing "Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover."

I could almost hear the wheels creaking in her brain.

Who is YOUR lover? She asked.

I try to avoid all romantic questions and contexts with her, feeling that her imagination is already such a powerful motivator in her life. Why encourage some parts of it?

Once in a while in her make-believe world, she'll say Okay. You be my boyfiend, Eric. She's too naive to know what being one's boyfriend or girlfriend actually means. It's just that she's aware of some cultural significance attached to the label. I usually respond with the I'm uncomfortable pretending to be your boyfriend. No need for the obvious qualifiers: a) I am not a boy, b) I am 30 years older than you and c) I am your parent. Anway, I wanted to avoid this particular question for fear that she'll include it in any future play: Okay, you be my LOVER, Eric.

As an aside, (and I bring this up only to point out how seemless our transition has been to the new, Catholic school) we were walking into school the other day and she read a sign on the billboard advertising the Girl Scout's Father-Daughter Square Dance. She asked if I'd go with her. I simply pointed out that she wasn't a Girl Scout.

Whew. I don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to avoid having that square dancing conversation with her. . .

What, exactly, does that song mean? She asked.

Um. I think its about when a girlfriend and boyfriend break up. When they decide to stop dating,
I responded.

Oh. Why would a boyfriend and girlfriend break up?

I dunno. Maybe they just don't get along anymore.

Is it okay to break up after you're married.

Well. It happens, but you really only WANT to get married once. That's why you want to really get to know someone. See if you like them. Oh, AND be thirty years old. AT LEAST. Okay?

Will you help me find someone nice?


Friday, April 07, 2006

All The President's Plumbing

The New York Times reported yesterday that the President APPROVED the intelligence leak.

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff testified that he was authorized by President Bush, through Mr. Cheney, in July 2003 to disclose key parts of what until then was a classified prewar intelligence estimate on Iraq, according to a new court filing.

The testimony by the former official, I. Lewis Libby Jr., cited in a court filing by the government made late Wednesday, provides an indication that Mr. Bush, who has long criticized leaks of secret information as a threat to national security, may have played a direct role in authorizing disclosure of the intelligence report on Iraq.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


My colleague over at A Random Walk just published a counterpoint to a point on immigration in our local rag. You can check it out here.

My only critique is that it wasn't long enough to make even more of a case for opening up immigration. For example, he didn't point out the exact degree of the miniscule wage premium that low wage earners have received over the last few decades through limiting immigration (less than 8 percent). Or that immigrants more than make up for any increase in social expenditures by the contribution they make to GDP (and therefore taxes). Or that most Americans think that we should let illegal immigrants become legal once they've set roots in a community.

My grandpa came from Ireland and I've directly reaped the benefits of his willingness to take that risk. Why should we think differently about this issue now that most immigrants are no longer white or less educated?

Too Much Information

I've added a quick link to Mr. Big's vitals through Trixie Tracker.

Not vitals exactly, but you can tell if he is currently awake or sleeping.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Unexpected Consequences: Saddam and Women

I got this from colleague:

Published on Thursday, March 30, 2006 by Inter Press Service

Saddam Better for Women
by Sanjay Suri

LONDON - Women were far better off under former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein, a women's group has found after an extensive survey in Iraq.

''Under the previous dictator regime, the basic rights for women were enshrined in the constitution,'' Houzan Mahmoud from the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq told IPS in an interview. The group is a sister organization of MADRE, an international women's rights group.

Under Saddam, she said, ''women could go out to work, university and get married or divorced in civil courts. But at the moment women have lost almost all their rights and are being pushed back into the corner of their house.''

The recent constitution which was written under the U.S. government's supervision is ''very backward and anti-women,'' Mahmoud said. ''They make Islam the source for law making, and the main official religion of the country. This in itself means Islamic Sharia law and according to this women will be considered second-class citizens and will have no power in deciding over their lives.''

The whole of Iraqi society has been subjected to ''chaos and brutalisation,'' she said. ''Security is absent, all basic services, and above all the protection for women's rights is in no way on the agenda of any of the political parties who have been hand-picked by the U.S. administration in the installed so-called parliament.''

MADRE is calling for the deployment of a United Nations-led peacekeeping force and an immediate end to the U.S. occupation. As the crisis in Iraq intensifies, the group says women and their families in Iraq face an urgent need for security, functional government, and the provision of basic services within a human rights framework.

Over three years of occupation, the situation is becoming more dangerous and bleak with the presence of the occupying forces, and ''the more violence and terrorism is in function in Iraq the more women will fall victims of such climate,'' she said.

''The rape, abduction, abuse in prisons by prison guards, and killing of women is widespread,'' she said. ''The lack of security and proper protection for women is a major issue and no one, neither the occupying forces nor the local police of the puppet regime. is doing anything about it.''

But the position of women does vary within Iraq, she said. ''In the Kurdish part the situation of women is slightly better because Iraqi Kurdistan was out of the hands of the Ba'ath regime from 1991, so it was not part of the U.S. military attacks in 2003. But the attitude towards women is not progressive there.''

Beyond any dangers from the political situation, ''a lot of so- called 'honour killings' are still taking place, and the Kurdish authorities are not doing much to prevent it from happening.''

But the south is directly under daily military occupation ''and the presence of various Islamic armed militias who are terrorising women has made their situation worse,'' Mahmoud said. ''Also, the so-called parliament is divided on the bases of religious sects and ethnic backgrounds, so the majority of Shiittes who are in power are institutionalising women's oppression and are systematically forcing Islamification on Iraq.''

Women are 60 percent of the population of Iraq but they are not being consulted on any political issues and are being deprived of this right, she said.

The presence of a few women should not mislead people on the situation of women, she said. ''The U.S. administration has handpicked a few women and imposed them on people in the so-called parliament,'' she said. ''These women are very unknown to Iraqi women. Most of them belong to the reactionary right wing parties in power and they follow their agenda, which is discriminatory against women.''

Women would first like to see ''an end to the military occupation which has created chaos and destruction of Iraqi society and also resulted in the daily mass killing of ordinary Iraqis.''

Women particularly would ''want to see security restored so at least they can go out freely without being attacked, kidnapped or having acid thrown on their face,'' Mahmoud said. ''In addition, women want equality, freedom and their rights to be recognised in the constitution, and above all to be treated as equal human beings.''

© 2006 IPS - Inter Press Service