Category Archives: politics

It’s not perfect, but it’s better than most have…

I’ve been procrastinating on the writing lately, and one of the ways I occupy myself instead of writing is StumbleUpon.  It’s quite the efficient time waster, but sometimes I come across interesting things that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.  It could be crafty stuff, or computer stuff, or social consciousness raising stuff.  Today, it was women’s issues stuff.

I have an exchange student this year.  It’s the first time I’ve done this, so it’s a new experience for all of us.  He’s from Yemen, from what he calls a “modern city.”  By this, I believe he means that it’s not as rigid as a more traditional Muslim city.  There are women teaching in the

schools, and many of the things that are very repressive (in our western ways of thinking) are less so in Aden.  We’ve had a couple of opportunities to talk about women and men and how society differentiates between the genders.  There have been discussions on equal wages (or not), voting (or not), driving (or not), and any other number of activities and issues that we American women tend to take for granted. Then, while meandering about the Internet, I came across an article about women on Divine Caroline. Entitled “Nine Things American Women Take For Granted,” the article very briefly examines nine freedoms that American women enjoy today and should “take advantage of.”  It was when I read that phrase that I stopped stumbling and started writing.

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I believe that most American women have forgotten just how recently it was when we didn’t have these freedoms.  The right to own property (The Married Women’s Property Act 1882) and vote (June 14, 1919), saying no to marital sex was not permissible before 1976 – a year before I graduated from high school. Reproductive rights are still not a reality for many women both in the US and around the world.

I have spoken to my daughters about women’s rights and while they agree on principle, but don’t want to accept the label of Feminist.  They tell me it’s not relevant any more.  Feminism is unnecessary in their view.  As their father and I have instilled in them, they know they can do whatever they want.  They believe that they have nothing in common with the bra burning, in-your-face activists of the ‘60s.  They’re not interested in being identified with Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.  To them, Susan B. Anthony was just another outspoken woman who wanted to vote.  I look at my granddaughter and I wonder what her life will be.  Right now, at 9, she’s all about Barbie and jewelry and makeup.  Don’t underestimate her, thought.  She’s not afraid to throw a punch and “Don’t get mad, get even” should be her motto.  Like her mother, she’s nitroglycerine in a demure, delicate looking package.

On August 5, 2011, The Guardian (UK newspaper) published an article asking if feminism was dead..  “Feminism, the pessimists say, is over, drowned in a froth of pink tulle and buried with a stiletto heel through its heart.”  There are only a few of us around who remember the time “before.”  The time in the 70’s when being a divorced, working mother meant that you were also a slut and your daughter probably was as well.  The time early in that decade when a girl in an all-boy aeronautics class was such a complete oddity that the teacher wasn’t sure how to grade her work.  Employment ads specified “girl for typing,” and “stock boy” – implying that a typing boy or a strong girl were somehow not right.  My sister and I were routinely sent to clean our brothers’ rooms, while the boys never did any “women’s” work.  Somehow, though, cleaning the garage was a gray area and we all pitched in to do that.

Feminism is not dead.  It’s merely repackaged itself for today’s politically correct world.  While many women hesitate to accept the label “feminist,” they are quick to address discrimination and inequity when necessary.  Until the recent publicity surrounding Rush Limbaugh’s vicious attack on women, most activism was focused on human rights, inclusive of women.  I think that does an injustice to women and to human rights.  There are many instances of human rights violations that are not specifically female issues, but some issues lose their sense of urgency when focused on the human, and not specifically on the feminine.  Things like reproductive rights and pay equity are not generally an issue for men.  Women, however, struggle with this around the world.  Women still don’t make an equal wage for equal work, even here in the US.  In no country on this planet are men barred from voting.  Women, while most are legally allowed to vote, often have circumstances forced upon them that make voting impossible such as the inability of women in many Muslim countries to drive, or even go outside without a male relative.

 

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While my daughters hesitate to self-identify as feminists, each is – in her own way.  One daughter, although married with two children, is still the primary support of her family.  There is virtually no gender delineation in her house with regard to household chores.  She is raising her daughter to never question being able to become whatever she wants to be.  She would find it amusing if someone suggested that she check with her husband before going out with friends, just as she would not expect him to ask her in the same situation.  They coordinate scheduling, but never permission.  Parenting is a joint venture, as is housekeeping and earning a living. The other daughter is happily self-sufficient, and requires any guy who wants to be with her to accept her as she is – a strong and capable young woman.

My sons have been raised without gender lines, as well.  Having had a father who was an at-home dad for 12 years, they all know that being a man sometimes requires you to change diapers, make dinner, and mow the lawn.  Being a man doesn’t mean being in charge – it means being part of a democratic endeavor called family.

I am a feminist.  My husband likewise considers himself a feminist.  My daughters and sons, whether they identify as such or not, are feminists.  All that means – today as it did in the 60’s – is that we believe women are not less than or greater than men.  They’re equal, and are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities.  Feminism is most definitely not dead.

Recycled Silk Yarn – and Occupy Wall Street

I started this post on the 4th, so technically I only missed one day since then… 🙂

I have had, for several years, a few hanks of recycled silk yarn.  It’s multicolored and nubby.  I know it will make something wonderful, but I have never found the right pattern.  I’ve looked all over.  Still can’t find one. I think the problem is the nubbiness of the yarn.  It’s beautiful, but very nubby.  I have, I believe, four skeins.  More than enough to make a shawl, or a couple scarves, or a scarf and hat.  Maybe a few fabric bowls?  That works better in crochet, but I can do that.  Suggestions?  I’m at a loss.

 

 

Now…for the political portion of this message…

Since I started this post, my attention has been captured by the Occupy Wall Street phenom.  It started when my student worker was discussing utilitarianism.  I did a quick and dirty internet search, and realized that in many ways, the OWS movement is a micro-utilitarian society.  It’s a gathering of people for a common goal, it’s being run by consensus, and everything they do is for the good of the group and movement.  While that may not continue to be true, it’s fascinating how it’s taken shape.  Sort of brings back the ’60s in a less chemically altered, free love kind of way.

The movement has captured the attention of the world and has been condemned by some politicians (who probably should read about the broad support before they burn any bridges with the general populace).  Some law enforcement officials apparently feel the same way.

Many bloggers and news commentators are calling OWS the American “Arab Spring.”  Referring to the “leaderless resistance movement,” New York Times op-ed columnist Charles M. Blow calls Occupying Wall Street a “festival of frustrations.”  He’s right, except about the festival part.  We (the general American public) are frustrated, and our elected officials seem to be much more inclined toward making sure the “other side” doesn’t get what they want than in truly representing our collective interests.  He sites a series of Gallup Polls that illustrate our growing (???) dissatisfaction with the political machine and our record low level of trust in the government.  According to these polls, we generally feel that the government poses an immediate threat to our  rights and freedoms.

Today, in Bloomberg Business Week, it was reported that the movement has now spread from coast to coast.  Even without a stated objective, OWS represents an upwelling of popular discontent and disillusionment in a way that encourages each of us to participate in some way.  We don’t need to give money, or necessarily take time off work.  Everyone can get involved in some small way, even if it’s only sending an email or writing a blog post.

So, regardless of your political leanings, speak out.  Tell ALL of the elected officials to shut the hell up and do their jobs – represent their constituents.  They all need to stop doing what’s politically advantageous and do what is right for this country as a whole.  One of my students made the point that our “government is supposed to be of the people, for the people and by the people.”  Not of Bank of America, by the oil industry, and for those rich enough to purchase a congressional vote.

 

Almost back on track

This is going to be a short one, since it’s only 20 minutes until my bedtime.   I’m very strict with myself on bedtime, and I don’t want to have to ground myself this weekend if I’m up late. 

I’ve been thinking all day about what to write about, and I’ve come up with a lot of topics that take a lot of research and 20 minutes isn’t enough time for that.  I would have had more time, but I was setting up The Boy’s assignments for the week and typing up the instructions.  If all goes as planned, he’ll have a driving permit by Saturday afternoon.  Then the REAL fun begins.

None of our other kids got a license before they moved out.  It wasn’t that we planned it that way, but one thing after another happened, along with several moves, and each kid got his or her license on his or her own.  The Boy will be the first one to have a permit prior to his 18th birthday. 

I’d been dreading this, because I have nightmares about the cost of insuring a teen boy.  I was overjoyed to find out that you don’t have to insure them until they actually obtain a license.  Permits don’t require insurance.  Of course, you do have to actually let them drive, which is a bit scary.  We all learned at one time or another, though, so how bad could it be?

Since The Boy’s friend has his license, there’s already the possiblity that he will be out on the roads without parental supervision, albeit as a passenger.  His friend is 18, so he’s legal to drive with others in the car even though he’s only had his license for a few months.  This is also scary.  He (The Boy) did go to Indianapolis to GenCon with his two licensed friends, and they all came home safely.  I drank a lot of wine that weekend.

I’m sure everything will be fine, and The Boy will do all the assigned school work, and he’ll pass the written test for his permit, and we’ll have a lovely Sunday practicing driving, and the Republicans will back Obama…

Got carried away there.  Sorry.  And my time is up.  Ten minutes to get ready for bed, set the alarm, and dream happy dreams of The Boy driving, and stuff like that.

Wonder and Dismay

I wonder about a lot of stuff.  Sometimes its stuff like what goes on over at the neighbor’s house and do they know their kids are obnoxious felons?  Other times its stuff like who was the first person to eat an artichoke, and how did someone figure out to dip the ends of the leaves in butter and scrape off the flesh with their teeth?  I mean, really, how do you get to that from looking at a thorny thing like an artichoke?  Would you put any part of it in your mouth?  And yet, they’re delicious.  Either that or it’s just an excuse to eat butter.

Mostly, I wonder at the difference between what people say on Sunday, and do on Monday.

Every religion I’m familiar with professes that each person has a responsibility toward others.  We’re all responsible in some way for the well-being and care of our neighbors.  Each faith says it differently, but that’s the basic premise.  Yet, everywhere I turn, people turn their backs on each other.  For evidence of this, check out Facebook.  Any discussion of health care reform, or immigration, or welfare, or any other endeavor that has to do with support of the less fortunate is met with malice and vitriol.

It’s almost a daily occurrence when someone posts something on my Facebook page about “my” Obama doing yet another thing to drag this country down.  There was a flame war over the issues in Arizona.  Bring up food stamps and AFDC and the stereotypes and prejudices come flying out faster than you can say “charity.”  There are more social issues that prompt wars of words than I want to list here, but I think you get the idea.

Religiously-observant people I know site the Bible as their guide to being a better person.  They say that any value worth having is in there.  The road map, if you will, is there – you only have to read it.  I’ve been told many times that a non-religious person couldn’t possibly have strong values and a commitment to her fellow human (they said “man,” but let’s not go there).  Children, I’ve been told, can’t possibly grow up to be caring and productive members of society without the guidance of god.

I don’t buy that.

I was raised Catholic.  I converted to Judaism.  I’ve flirted with Paganism and earth-based religions.  I’m pretty much comfortable being a Secular Humanist.  I believe, completely, that people are either good, bad, or as is most often the case, in between somewhere.  Values and morals are something your parents pass on to you, and something that you groom and hone as you live your life.  Way back before there was a Bible, or one god, or any gods at all, there were people.  They cared for their young, nurtured their old, sacrificed for the good of the clan.  They didn’t have Exodus 20:1-7 to tell them not to steal.  They didn’t do it because it wasn’t accepted.  It was a value.  No god involved.  There was only a society that didn’t value stealing from your clan.

Not so, today.  Now it’s apparently ok to take from those less fortunate, as long as you can get away with it.  It’s ok to kill because of the greater evil of “them.”  Depriving people of the opportunity to feed their children is fine because they didn’t fill out the form properly, or were allowed to even get a form to begin with.  The children in my neighborhood will never be forced into human slavery, but it’s ok to ignore it when it’s a teenage girl from China.  We would never let the next door neighbor starve, but the children of war torn countries are much easier to dismiss.

It’s really not about values, is it?  It’s really about money.  Money that “we” have and “they” don’t.  No one disagrees on a philosophical level that no one should starve.  But when it’s time to pony up the old checkbook, suddenly the hungry person is “lazy,” and “unmotivated” to move himself out of poverty.  Bashing Obama for costing “us” money on the healthcare bill is rather like blaming a child for his parents’ lack of financial sense.  Obama wasn’t the only one working on this.  He has said, in many sound bites, that there is no way for his vision to prevail when there are so many special interest groups out there undermining his intentions.  And before you start bashing me in the contents, do a little research on your own to find out just what parts of the health care bill came from whom.

It isn’t religion that dictates our values.  It’s society as a whole.  And as long as our society continues with the “me first” method of value setting, it isn’t going to change.