The Kitty Milestone!!

OMG YOU GUYZ SUSANNAH DISCOVERED THE CAT.

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So of course the first thing she did was pull his fur and twist his ear.

We intervened, once we stopped laughing (we’re such awesome parents!), and had a lesson on how to pet the kitty, not grab the kitty. For his part, Emperor Norton (full name: His Imperial Majesty Joseph Norton, Second of that name, Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico) was pretty patient with the whole deal, only moving on when he’d finally had his fill of drool rubbed into his fur. It went well, but we hesitate to repeat the experiment with Miss Barbas (full name: The Black Paladin Barbas, the Great President of Hell and Governor of Thirty-Six Legions of Demons), because while Norton is far crankier than Barbas and thus more likely to take a swipe at, say, a grown man, he’s also demonstrated that he’s intelligent enough to recognize that kittens (even human-shaped ones) are smaller and weaker, and to treat them with a certain amount of gentleness. Barbas, on the other hand, is sweet but stupid and if provoked enough might attack without ever realizing it’s wrong.

At any rate, she’s never really noticed the cats enough to pay attention before. Now she can’t take her eyes off them. It’s kinda cool.

*****

In other news, Lady Su is experiencing her very first head cold. Man, if someone had told me motherhood would mean sucking green snot out of another human being’s nostril, I think I might have passed. She’s lucky she’s cute, ‘s all I’m sayin’.

*****

Around the intarwebs!

* If the minimum wage had risen in step with inflation and productivity since the late sixties, it would be almost $20 an hour today. Woohoo! If I work really really hard and bust my ass for commission, in a year or so I might be making minimum wage! …Suddenly it all makes sense how in the 50’s and 60’s the idea of a single income family with a house, a car, 2.5 adorable children and a dog was not considered ludicrously implausible. (Nah, I’m just kiddin’. My generation is full of lazy slackers just looking for handouts, amirite? No other explanation for rampant poverty and double-income families that still need gov’mint aid.)

* Speaking of us slack-asses on food stamps, this year the ingredients for my traditional Christmas fudge and jam will be bought with my Access card. Why do you hate Christmas, conservatives??? (Although with luck, my benefits will end soon. Gods, I HOPE this job will earn me enough to not need ’em any longer!)

* What do you think women have missed out on with our incessant dieting and make-upping and hair-doing and Zumba-ing and on and on? …Suddenly I no longer feel as bad. I may dress like a hobo and smell like sour milk (the joys of motherhood!), but I’m well-read!

* I think a lot of these men really do think they’re oppressed. In a way, they are. They are oppressed by bullshit masculinity standards that assert that a man’s dignity is tied to never feeling vulnerable, especially around women. Patriarchy Harms Men Too. Spread the news.

* Is it weird that someone like me, who politely dislikes Christianity, tends to be wary of Christians until it’s demonstrated that they’re not going to condemn me out of hand, and gets a little skeeved when confronted with Surprise!crosses and other pointedly Christian symbols in a public place… absolutely adores Christmas? I think it’s weird. I should at least be a good Pagan/secularist and stick to non-religious carols and Pagan-themed rewrites, instead of walking around humming “Do You Hear What I Hear” and “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” all month. Oh well. (…this isn’t really from the intarwebs, but there wasn’t really a great place to put it.)

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So… I kinda dislike “radical feminism”

My mother is a feminist.

Has been pretty much since she was introduced to the idea. When I was, oh, maybe a year or two old, my mom met up with an old friend from college. Old friend asked what she was up to. Mom, smiling, explained that she was married and had a little girl, and was staying home to take care of me.

Old friend, with an expression more appropriate to news of the sudden death of a loved one, replied, “Oh, and we had such high hopes for you!”

My mother almost punched her in the face.

My mother’s friend, as far as I can tell, subscribed to the idea that women needed to be brought equal to men, especially in the workforce, as soon as possible, and therefore it was important for every woman to get out there and make her presence known and be a strong voice and take on a man’s world. The fact that my mother had abandoned that for a “traditional” feminine role seemed, to her, like a defeat.

To my mom, however, feminism really was “the radical concept that women are people,” and that women should be allowed to decide for themselves what they wanted out of life, without fear or pressure (or at least no more than men in similar situations face). She had a degree. She was married to a wonderful man, who would (and in later years, did) support her wholeheartedly and enthusiastically if she’d wanted to enter the workforce, or stay in academia, or go into politics or start a non-profit or do missionary work in Africa or whatever. She thought about her options. She considered them carefully. And she decided that what she really wanted to do, right then, was to be the primary caregiver for her children – and, happily, we were financially in a position where she could do just that. And now someone she thought understood the importance of free choice and self-determination was giving her shit about it. It felt like betrayal. Once again, someone was trying to dictate to her how she should live her life – only this time it wasn’t coming from the patriarchy, it was coming from her own people.

…….

When I was pregnant, Spouse-Man had an odd and rather morbid conversation with his mother and grandmother. One of them – I don’t know who – raised the terrible and painful question: what if the labor went wrong? What if (gods forbid) the awful choice had to be made: save me, or save the baby?

My mother-in-law was adamant: this was something we both needed to discuss, ahead of time, and decide together about. It was my life, after all – the main voice in the decision should be mine. My grandmother-in-law was equally adamant: under no circumstances was any option other than “save the woman” acceptable. I should NOT be consulted, as it would only upset me, and hormones could cause irrationality in any case. If it came up, he should choose to save me, and I would appreciate it later.

Both of these ladies identified as feminist.

In his grandmother’s generation, feminists were fighting for basic rights – the kind we take for granted now. In her day, it wasn’t even a choice. Doctors would save the baby and let the woman die, every time. That was one of their battleground issues, in fact – the right to choose not to die in childbirth. To her, sacrificing the woman for the child was unthinkable.

In his mother’s generation, the fight was for women’s voices to be heard. No one was routinely letting women die anymore, but they were certainly talking over them and making choices for them. The right to determine your own fate, to have your opinion matter as much as a man’s (or more, if the issue was your own body and health), was a battleground issue. To her, treating a woman as a doll to be protected, rather than a fully-functioning being with the right to choose to sacrifice herself or not, was unthinkable.

…….

I am a feminist.

Possibly not a very good one, but I am one.

I bring up these two stories to illustrate the point that feminism is not a monolithic movement, and “feminist” is not a one-size-fits-all term.

NicoleandMaggie have caught some flack for their post describing the various schools of feminism, but I like it. It helps clarify a great deal – such as why I can call myself feminist, yet run into other self-described feminists who are, to my mind, just awful.

For the most part, I consider myself a blend of liberal feminism and post-modern feminism. I do think the ultimate goal is for men and women to be treated equally; I also understand that society is structured in such a way as to make that very, very difficult, and that patriarchy is kinda insidious. I have a touch of cultural feminism – that is, while I don’t think the traits and roles traditionally described as “feminine” are exclusive to women, nor that all women hold them, I do think that “feminine” traits and behaviors are as important to society as “masculine” ones, and I long for the day when raising children to adulthood is considered as valuable and respectable as being CEO of a corporation, and when favoring diplomacy, empathy, and gentleness is not considered “weaker” than being aggressive, straightforward, and bold. I don’t know enough about “marxist feminism” to have an opinion.

And then there’s radical feminism.

Which I do not get. I don’t. I don’t know about the theoretical stated goals of radical feminism, but the actions/words of many radical feminists seem to be more focused on “getting back” at men rather than fixing the damn problem.

“Who cares what men feel about this?” Um. Me. Not because I think men are more important or that their voices should dominate, but many of these men are my friends, so yeah, I kinda care about them. Also, they are human beings, and I do try not to hurt other human beings if I can reasonably avoid it. Also-also engaging in the same behaviors we’re fighting against is kinda not cool.

This all came up because of a series of posts I read about whether men can/should identify as feminists. One camp says no. Loudly and often. Another camp says sure, why not. Yet another says definitively, yes, please do – more wishy-washy terms like “pro-feminist” and “feminist ally” only serve to enhance the idea that what you can do and who you can be is determined by your gender, which is, uh… something we’re against. Remember?

I found it kinda fascinating. Yes, yes, a true feminist shouldn’t be spending so much time thinking about men and what men think and feel. But I’m sorry, I can’t help which issues make my curiosity go ping, and this one did. Because I’m a word geek. Words matter, dammit. Definitions matter.

Some of the issues I saw raised:

* Men haven’t had the same experiences women have

That’s true. Men do not have to deal with the constant, low-level sexism that women are taught to accept as normal from society. Men were never raised to constantly doubt and second-guess themselves the way women are, nor to hold themselves and their own bodies up to physically impossible ideals. Men are not socialized to police their thoughts and words and to silence their own voices to make way for others. Men do not have to automatically run every new acquaintance through the filter of “is this person likely to rape me?”

I freely grant all of this.

However. Not all women’s experiences are the same either. I do not know what it is like to be a victim of a violent or forcible rape, or to be considered a sex object or called slutty because of my clothes. Those are things that have never happened to me. However, I am capable of listening and learning, and so I know that these things do happen, and I can and do stand up for women who have experienced such things and fight for a world where it doesn’t happen and isn’t accepted. If we were to judge feminism credentials on what types of oppression one has personally suffered, I’m afraid I would fall sadly short. And yet I can claim the title of feminist and not be challenged.

Furthermore, men do also suffer when patriarchy has free rein. A man who is deemed insufficiently manly – who is androgynous in appearance, perhaps, or who prefers “feminine” pursuits or values – is very likely to be the subject of harassment or even violence from other men. No, it’s not the same as the sexism experienced by women, but it still means that they have a dog in the fight. As long as the patriarchy is in place, men have their own defined gender roles that they break away from at their own risk. Yes, those roles come with privilege, but as others have pointed out, a gilded cage is still a cage. Any man who has an interest in defining himself by his own terms rather than those the patriarchy prescribes for him has a personal investment in the goals of feminism.

I would also like to point out that empathy and imagination do count for something, as does care for loved ones. I don’t have to be LGBTQ, for instance, to care about my friends who fall into that category. When I hear of someone being hurt for who they are, I immediately think “what if that were (person X)??” When I read about racially-motivated crimes, such as the Trayvon Martin case, it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to think “what if that were my child?” It’s not the same as living it yourself, but it’s not nothing. Given that most of the men I hang around with put themselves into the shoes of a werewolf or a half-human faerie refugee or a 19th-century scientist or an illiterate barbarian warrior on a regular basis (and actually put some real thought into it), I give them credit for the ability to step into my shoes and come away with, if not a perfect understanding, than at least enough to allow them to move forward towards my goals.

* Men shouldn’t expect cookies just for being decent human beings

Also very true. Granted, I personally enjoy handing out cookies whether they’re earned or not, because cookies (metaphorical or otherwise) make people feel good and more people feeling good makes the world a tiny bit nicer, but. The basic tenets of feminism, yes, are ones that all right-thinking people should get behind, and simply saying “hey, I haven’t oppressed any women today” isn’t enough to get you special favor.

However. There is a world of difference between giving someone cookies and refraining from giving them a steaming pile of shit.

Man says: “I am a feminist.”

Response:

“Oh my god, you’re a man who’s a feminist??!? That’s so incredibly brave of you! Please, come to our next event and talk to us about how hard it was for you to make this step!” = cookies.

“*shrug* Cool. So, what did you think about [feminist issue du jour]?” = neutral

“Oh wow, thanks for being our White Knight. Did you want to mansplain to us how we’re doing it wrong while you’re at it? Look, you’re not a feminist, you’ll never be a feminist, stop trying to claim a title you have no right to.” = steaming pile of shit.

Do you see the difference?

Look, to me, a man who claims to be a feminist is trying, hard, to align himself with me, my causes, my interests, and my voice. I appreciate that. If he’s doing it wrong, believe me, I will tell him so, but honestly I appreciate the support. You don’t get a special place for it, and it doesn’t net you a pass if you do something horribly wrong, but I don’t believe it’s politically or ethically sound to kick someone in the shins for the sin of publicly declaring they support you and your cause.

* By calling yourself feminist even though women have told you not to, you’re demonstrating your lack of concern for female voices and opinions

Ok. Look. I am female. I am a feminist. And I am saying, out loud and on purpose and for posterity, that not only am I ok with men identifying as feminist, I actively prefer it.

Look, feminism has a bad rap these days. And I think that’s bullshit. I want people to identify as feminists. I want people to own it. When someone starts talking shit about feminism, referring to “feminazis” and similar bullshit and presenting strawman arguments, I want everyone present, male or female or genderqueer, to go “Uh, yo, I’m totally a feminist. When you say that shit you’re talking about me.” That would make me feel all warm and squishy inside.

Further, as hinted at before, I think barring men from the feminist title just smacks of gender prescription – “you cannot be this thing because of how you were born.” And since that’s pretty much what feminism is against, I feel engaging in it – or using language that supports that mindset – is pretty damn hypocritical.

And doesn’t my opinion count too? Why should exclusive voices matter more than inclusive ones? Should your desire to exclude men trump my equally strong desire to include them? Am I not equally a woman, equally a feminist?

* Men can ally themselves with the cause, but they shouldn’t take on an oppressed identity that isn’t theirs

…they’re not identifying as female, they’re identifying as feminist. One is a state of being. The other is an ideology/movement. Words=important. There are no gender prerequisites to join an ideology or a movement. Moving on.

* It is impossible for women to oppress men, as men have all the privilege

Oh, bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

Yes, men as a whole have more privilege than women. But nothing exists in a vacuum, and there are no absolutes. In some settings, in some spaces, some women will have more power and more privilege than some men. Even if, outside that space, the man belongs to the privileged group – then and there, it is possible for a woman to have the power and privilege. And if she chooses to use that power and privilege to exclude and silence a man, simply because of his gender, then yeah – she’s engaging in the same oppression and abuse of power that the patriarchy is.

Yes, men do it all the time. That doesn’t make it right. Yes, being excluded for no reason other than his gender gives the man in question a tiny taste of what it feels like to be a woman. That doesn’t make it right.

Does this mean I’m expecting women to hold themselves to a higher standard than men hold themselves to? Well, yes. Because ethics and morals are not an us-vs-them game. Just coming out ahead of the other team doesn’t mean we’re winning. We have to be willing to play by our own rules – to practice inclusion and listening and all those other good fuzzy virtues, to treat people on their own merits regardless of their gender. Otherwise we all lose, even if we “win.” I can’t make the other team behave, but I can certainly tell my own team to do so.

We create the world we want to live in by acting as if it’s already here.

* There are far too many men who call themselves feminist, then go on to mansplain feminism to women, white-knight for us, and otherwise try to make their voices, not ours, the primary voices for the movement

You are so right. This happens, often. And it is awful. Those men should be called out, and if necessary, appropriately demonized.

But not all men do this.

Again, this is a case of (some) feminists doing the same thing we call men out for – in this case, judging the group on the actions of a few. We admonish men from judging all women based on (for instance) the actions of that one terrible ex-girlfriend, right? So why judge all male feminists because some who claim that title turn out to be glory-hogging asshats?

I have a few friends (one of whom, I feel certain, is reading this) who are both a) male, and b) feminist. These guys would never try to pre-empt female voices or put themselves forward as experts on the topic, but they claim the title and claim it proudly, and I’m glad they do. I wish more men did. I wish more women did.

And… I’m tired of the in-fighting. I’m tired of the politics. I’m tired of people acting like “feminist” is some rarified title that you have to work hard to earn, instead of what it is – an acknowledgement that you pass the bare minimum test to qualify as a human being. Because I’ll be honest, if you don’t consider yourself – at least in the privacy of your own mind – a feminist, then I lose some respect for you. I want you to want men and women to be equal. I want you to recognize that we’re not there yet. And I want you to be willing to make some effort – whether it’s something as big as starting your own charity, or something as small as speaking up the next time your guy friend makes a sexist comment – to rectify that situation. I want to be able to assume that any halfway decent person I encounter is likely to consider themselves a feminist. The fact that we’re not there yet means that there is a problem, and it’s not a problem we’re going to fix by attacking those people who are willing to don that mantle.

And I know there are feminists who disagree. I disagree with them. And I’m not willing to shut up and let them define the movement. My version of feminism, my understanding of its ideals, are every bit as valid as theirs, goddammit, and I will not let my identity be co-opted by those who want to use it to exclude anyone. My feminism judges based on your words and actions, not on your gender, and I’m willing to fight to make that the version that most people know.

TDoR

In more somber news, today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

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A while back, I was challenged by a radical feminist to seriously consider their objections to transgender rights.  And I have.  I actually have a three-part blog post (eventually) coming on the topic.  It’s proving ridiculously hard to write, because while I’m doing my best to rein in my immediate knee-jerk response and see the other person’s point of view, and while I can admit that SOME of their concerns are legitimate (if, in my mind, disproportionate and exaggerated), I have a hard time soberly weighing their opinion when their actions are so very often hateful, harmful, and cruel.

And indeed, that’s why I can’t work on it today.  Because I honestly can’t lend even lukewarm credence to voices arguing against transgender rights in the face of a reminder that to so many people, this is not an academic question.  Real people die over this issue.  We still live in a country where people I care about, my friends and neighbors and colleagues, can and do get murdered simply for being who they are.

TransGriot posted a link to TDoR events around the world.  Gods willing, I’m hoping to attend one with Su on Sunday.  I urge others to do the same, whether trans or cis.  Those who’ve died deserve to have their names remembered; those who live need the support of their whole community to keep it from happening again.

New milestone!

OMG YOU GUYZ SUSANNAH ATE SOLID FOOD

…and by “solid” I mean mushy quasi-liquid rice cereal, and by “ate” I mean I think she managed to swallow nearly 25% of it, BUT STILL!!!!

She’s not doing the tongue-sticking-out reflex anymore. WHICH MEANS… she can actually try wee little bits of Thanksgiving 😀 Pics to come.

It’s amazingly awesome to watch her try to figure things out. She only has the dimmest possible idea of cause and effect so far, but I think she’s starting to catch on that hands + toy = MUSIC! She’s not entirely sure WHY this happens, or what precisely the hands have to do to the toy to make music happen, but when hands are in the general vicinity of the toy, sometimes there is music and it is awesome.

Randomness from around the intarwebs

* “When someone is a little bit wrong — say, when a waiter puts nonfat milk in your espresso macchiato, instead of lowfat milk — it is often quite easy to explain to them how and why they are wrong. But if someone is surpassingly wrong — say, when a waiter bites your nose instead of taking your order–you can often be so surprised that you are unable to say anything at all. Paralyzed by how wrong the waiter is, your mouth would hang slightly open and your eyes would blink over and over, but you would be unable to say a word.” – Lemony Snicket, The Reptile Room. 

This quote sums up my reaction to so much of the internet; from now on, when I refer to something as “nose-bitingly wrong,” y’all will know what I mean.

* If you let poor people have money, they’ll buy things!  If you let senior citizens have financial independence, they won’t be financially dependent!  THIS IS AWFUL POVERTY FOR EVERYONE

* There’s some controversy over at the Catholic Church about whether Dorothy Day should be canonized as the church’s newest saint.  Not being Catholic, I don’t actually… y’know… care, but I do think it’s funny that part of the controversy revolves around her “mis-spent” youth.  I mean, I can see where they’re coming from.  I can’t imagine someone who was wild, worldly, and (per Catholic dogma) immoral in their youth ever being made a saint, can you?  *cough*St. Augustine*cough*

* This exists:

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* Parents to teacher: “Waah!  We can no longer emotionally abuse our daughter!  SOMEHOW THIS IS YOUR FAULT AND YOU SHOULD BE FIRED.”

* If anyone out there is waiting for me to comment on the Savita story, sorry.  You’re going to have to wait until I can get three sentences out about it without wanting to burst into tears and punch someone in the face simultaneously.  (So, maybe in a couple years.  Maybe.)

* C.S. Lewis and Parke Godwin, two authors I’ve loved since I was a kid (albeit for very different, sometimes completely opposite reasons) shared one thing: a vision of Hell in which the exits were well-marked and brightly lit, and the inhabitants were encouraged to use them.

In both versions, Hell was not something an external authority imposed on anyone.  Rather, people carried Hell with them.  At any time, the choice is theirs to stop being miserable – not to convert or bargain or anything like that, but simply to decide to set down their misery and allow themselves to be happy.  And in both books, it is a source of continual frustration to the outsider looking in how few people ever decide to do so.

This is what comes to mind these days when I read yet more reports of Republicans wailing and gnashing their teeth over the election.  (I’m not including a link on that, because really, you’re online – you’ve seen ’em.)  I’ve gotten past the gloating stage and honestly, I kinda feel bad for them.  They have created a horrible world for themselves, a world where everything is awful and everyone is out to get them.  And sure, you could say they brought it on themselves, but I don’t think anyone deserves to live in a world like that, even if they did make it themselves.

Like BooMan, I’d like to be able to tell these people that the bogeyman isn’t real and it really will be ok.  Sadly, I think I’d have about as much luck as the people carrying that same message did in The Great Divorce.

A sweet gift from a sweet baby girl

Awwwwwwwww.

Miss Susannah was worried that Mama might feel lonely and miss her, all alone on my first full day of work.  So she made sure to spit up ALLL OVER my freshly laundered, color-coordinated sleeve, so that every time I whiffed sour milk I would think of her.

I feel so blessed and loved…