Sex & Gender Archives

August 11, 2009

What do People Do all Day

The New York Times presents a fascinating interactive graphic showing what people do all day: How Different Groups Spend Their Day

I found the differences between men and women interesting, and also the different shifts worked by whites, blacks, and Latinos.

Many nights I am among the 1% who are reading or surfing the Internet at 1:00am. This is not so good.

Posted by Red Ted at 11:27 AM | TrackBack

March 25, 2006

More from the sex-negative crowd

The always valuabe Echidne points me to a little chart comparing positions that oppose abortion to positions that oppose sexuality. Interestingly, the two lead to very different policy options, and the "pro-life" crowd tends to follow the second option in every case.

Jpeg below the fold.

chart of political positions

Posted by Red Ted at 05:05 PM | TrackBack

December 08, 2004

Is your blogroll pink or blue?

A week or so ago one of the feminists I read challenged her readers to add up the male and female names on their blogroll. I forgot to mark the post and now can not find it - a bad habit of mine.

While grading I counted men and women on my blogroll as a study break - grade three, add up some names, grade two, crank a tune, and so on.

I noticed a couple of odd things about my blogroll: the academics I read are fairly evenly divided; the pundits I read are largely male; the literature and lifestyle blogs I read are largely female. This matches the standard story about separate blogospheres.

The second odd thing is that group blogs are heavily biased toward men or women, with the academic group blogs being more evenly balanced than the political blogs, but still more heavily male than the singleton academic blogs.

So, looking at the entire blogroll I had 88 men, 53 women, and 4 woodland creatures (bloggers of undetermined gender), so the bloggers I read regularly are about 61% male.

But, that counts the six guys in Begging to Differ as six bloggers. What if I pro-rated group blogs by their gender ratio, so Crooked Timber for example is 13 men and 3 women, or 80% male. If I did that then the blogroll by blog came out to only 57% male, i.e. the blogs I read are about 57% male.

Subgroup statistics below the fold.

p.s. I have my excel spreadsheet available for downloading in case anyone wants to plug their blogroll in and save some time working up their own ratios.

Sure enough, the singleton blogs are about 51% male while my group blogs are 71% male - there are a couple of large boy-bands in my politics section.

Then I went and looked at the sub groups. I divide the blogroll into three ideosyncratic groupings: Academical Villagers; Law, Politics & Punditry; People & Prose. The groupings should be fairly self-explanatory. The only oddity is that I made the executive decision that law professors were more like lawyers than like professors (Law School takes your old brain and issues you a new one, after all).

So, here are percent male for: all in category, singleton blogs, group blogs, pro-rated group blogs for each.

Academical villagers:
all bloggers: 72%
singleton bloggers: 53%
group bloggers: 80%
all blogs (groups pro-rated) 61%

Law, Politics & Punditry:
all bloggers: 62%
singleton bloggers: 65%
group bloggers: 59%
all blogs (groups pro-rated) 72%

People and Prose:
all bloggers: 36%
singleton bloggers: 35%
group bloggers: 50%
all blogs (groups pro-rated) 35%

What do all these numbers mean:

First off, Academical Villagers are more nearly gender balanced than the other groups. My pundits are mostly male, my People and Prose almost as heavily female.

Secondly, People and Prose are more likely to be singleton blogs, while the big group blogs are almost all in Law, Punditry and Politics. Many of the women in this category are the 10 women in misbehaving.net.

Finally, these are really rough numbers. Halley Suit and Timothy Burke are both double counted, for both have a solo blog and a group blog on the blogroll. My methodology basically ignores the four woodland creatures. I made an arbitrary decision that the bloggers of record were counted, regular guests were not. This means that Amy Sullivan of the Washington Monthly did not get counted - that blog is counted as the sole work of Kevin Drum. Similarly, Sergeant Stryker recently revised their group of bloggers, but their list of bloggers of record still dates to before the change. I used the old list of 3 men and one woman.

These rough numbers were a useful exercise. I learned something about my blog-reading habits.

Oh, I had to choose between recording percent male or percent female. I run this blog with a male identity, so I counted percent male.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:50 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 22, 2004

Every woman needs a . . .

Amanda at Mouse Words has been thinking about the social changes that she sees coming from the Christian right.

Dim thoughts indeed. But I for one am looking on the bright side. When the Wingnut Revolution is all said and done, I think I may qualify for a handmaid. I've always wanted one. I mean, not the child-bearing part or the watching my man have sex with another woman part. But I sure would like someone to go to the store for me everyday.
J and I know what she means. Every so often, usually while in the middle of tedious housework, J will look up at me and tell me that "every woman needs a wife." And, while I don't mind going to the grocery store, there are times when having another set of hands around the house would be mighty convenient.

Alas, we can not afford a housekeeper, the traditional way of adding an extra wife -- not quite as sexy or political as a handmaiden, but the emotional upkeep is much easier.

More seriously, through most of the 18th, 19th, and into the 20th centuries the most prevalant form of paid labor for women was housekeeping -- as maids or servants in other people's houses. In addition Kathy Peiss argues that many if not most urban factory workers in the late 19th century either supplemented their income with prostitution or, at the very least, relied on boyfriends for spending money, clothing, and other aids to their effective income. The handmaiden idea combines these two common practices in the form of a scare tale about resurgent patriarchy.

Perhaps I should finally read Margaret Atwood's book
. But first I must go finish Uncle Tom's Cabin by noon tomorrow - and I can't find my copy of the book so I am reading it online. I hate reading long books online.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 09, 2004

Harvey Fierstein

Via Heather Corinna, I find this wonderful commentary by Harvey Fierstein.

He wrote a terrific essay, and he has a good point about the cowardice of self-censorship, but he does misunderstand the workings of the first amendment - you have a right to say what you want, but I have a right to not include it in my compilation if I don't want it. So the final conflict that he frames in first amendment terms is better framed as a moment of political cowardice.

Still, watch the whole thing.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 08, 2004

17 >> 19 (for prose style)

Tomorrow's class will be reading parts of the Beecher/Grimke debate. As I was reviewing Catherine Beecher's explanation for why women should not participate in politics I noticed that she made a point that had earlier been made by John Winthrop in his "Model of Christian Charity." However, Winthrop said it much much better; Catherine Beecher puts me to sleep.

John Winthrop:

GOD ALMIGHTY in his most holy and wise providence, hath soe disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poore, some high and eminent in power and dignitie; others mean and in submission.
Catherine Beecher
It is the grand feature of the Divine economy, that there should be different stations of superiority and subordination, and it is impossible to annihilate this beneficent and immutable law.

Both of them get longwinded as they explain their point, but Beecher is just a polysylabic babble while Winthrop is at least writing in the rhythms of the king's English. Or, better yet, Beecher makes her point with adjectives, Winthrop with nouns.

Full paragraphs below the fold.

Winthrop:

GOD ALMIGHTY in his most holy and wise providence, hath soe disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poore, some high and eminent in power and dignitie; others mean and in submission.

The Reason hereof.

1 Reas. First to hold conformity with the rest of his world, being delighted to show forth the glory of his wisdom in the variety and difference of the creatures, and the glory of his power in ordering all these differences for the preservation and good of the whole; and the glory of his greatness, that as it is the glory of princes to have many officers, soe this great king will haue many stewards, Counting himself more honoured in dispensing his gifts to man by man, than if he did it by his owne immediate hands.

2 Reas. Secondly that he might haue the more occasion to manifest the work of his Spirit: first upon the wicked in [Page 34] moderating and restraining them: soe that the riche and mighty should not eate upp the poore nor the poore and dispised rise upp against and shake off theire yoake. 2ly In the regenerate, in exerciseing his graces in them, as in the grate ones, theire love, mercy, gentleness,
temperance &c., in the poore and inferior sorte, theire faithe, patience, obedience &c.

3 Reas. Thirdly, that every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knitt more nearly together in the Bonds of brotherly affection. From hence it appears plainly that noe man is made more honourable than another or more wealthy &c., out of any particular and singular respect to himselfe, but for the glory of his creator and the common good of the creature, man. Therefore God still reserves the propperty of these gifts to himself as Ezek. 16. 17. he there calls wealthe, his gold and his silver, and Prov. 3. 9. he claims theire service as his due, honor the Lord with thy riches &c.--All men being thus (by divine providence) ranked into two sorts, riche and poore; under the first are comprehended all such as are able to live comfortably by their own meanes duely improved; and all others are poore according to the former distribution.

Beecher:
It is the grand feature of the Divine economy, that there should be different stations of superiority and subordination, and it is impossible to annihilate this beneficent and immutable law. On its first entrance into life, the child is a dependent on parental love, and of necessity takes a place of subordination and obedience. As he advances in life these new relations of superiority and subordination multiply. The teacher must be the superior in station, the pupil a subordinate. The master of a family the superior, the domestic a subordinate--the ruler a superior, the subject a subordinate. Nor do these relations at all depend upon superiority either in intellectual or moral worth. However weak the parents, or intelligent the child, there is no reference to this, in the immutable law. However incompetent the teacher, or superior the pupil, no alteration of station can be allowed. However unworthy the master or worthy the servant, while their mutual relations continue, no change in station as to subordination can be allowed. In fulfilling the duties of these relations, true dignity consists in conforming to all those relations that demand subordination, with propriety and cheerfulness. When does a man, however high his character or station, appear more interesting or dignified than when yielding reverence and deferential attentions to an aged parent, however weak and infirm? And the pupil, the servant, or the subject, all equally sustain their own claims to self-respect, and to the esteem of others, by equally sustaining the appropriate relations and duties of subordination. In this arrangement of the duties of life, Heaven has appointed to one sex the superior, and to the other the subordinate station, and this without any reference to the character or conduct of either. It is therefore as much for the dignity as it is for the interest of females, in all respects to conform to the duties of this relation. And it is as much a duty as it is for the child to fulfil similar relations to parents, or subjects to rulers. But while woman holds a subordinate relation in society to the other sex, it is not because it was designed that her duties or her influence should be any the less important, or all-pervading. But it was designed that the mode of gaining influence and of exercising power should be altogether different and peculiar.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:05 PM | TrackBack

November 01, 2004

Unfortunate Name

With kids in daycare we are very aware of the current crop of new baby names. In addition to the usual shifts and changes - Jane is out, Samantha is in - there has been a rise in titular names, names derived from an old English profession. So there are lots of Hunters, a few Coopers, lots of Taylors (different spelling, and a girl's name, but still), some Fletchers, and so on. If it were not for the racial connotations that have attached themselves to workers in iron or in tin we would surely see a mess of Blacksmiths and Whitesmiths. I doubt that we will see many Butchers, Bakers, or Candlers, but who knows where name trends will go next.

In many ways these names seem to be a variation on the old hortatory names, where you named a child after a quality that you hoped they would acquire. There are still a few Hopes and Faiths, not so many Chastities or Preserveds, while good 16th century names like Praisegod are pretty much defunct. The problem with hortatory names is that, in addition to marking a parent as potentially overprotective, they can lead to either embarassment or irony if the child grows up to act in a manner completly unlike the name - an Atheist named Faith, a sexual adventurer named Chastity, and so on.

Many of the new titular names appear to be secular equivalents of a hortatory name - you name the child after a quality or image you hope they will grow into, but that quality or image is tied to body image, or machismo. It does not always work.

I was reminded of this because I noticed a kid at the park Sunday afternoon. He was perhaps 10 years old, although it was hard to tell. Not only do I have trouble judging kids' ages, I have more trouble judging fat kids ages, and this was a fat kid. He could walk, but he looked to be 30 to 50 pounds overweight and about 4 feet tall, perhaps a little taller.

I was playing with the kids on the swings (the infant loves the swings, the toddler is afraid of them. Go figure) and this boy was sitting on a swing nearby making an odd hooting moaning noise. I looked over to see what the noise was, I looked again and a third time to try to figure out how a kid that young got so fat - it looked like body by HFCS soda had gotten him, but who knows. Mom was upset that her kid was making a fool of himself and sent him to the benches for a time out. As he was waddling over I compared the mental image that goes along with his titular name, a name that I associate with lean, active, wiry people.

He was a Hunter, and it looked like he was the sort of a hunter who would need a power assist to get into his tree stand.

Still, it could have been worse. They could have named the fat kid Runner.

P.S.

I like traditional kid names - three out of the four names (first and middle) for our two boys are Biblical, three out of the four are common 20th century names - and one reason why I like them is the lack of conflict between the connotations of a titular or hortatory name and the unknown aspects of a child's growth. Also, a bit of truth in ranting, the toddler's middle name was chosen because it was a family name, because I thought it was a cool name, and because I like the hortatory implications of naming a child after someone who spoke truth to power. So when I rant about hortatory names or titular names it is because the parent has not done a good enough job of raising the child to the expectations inherent in their name.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:06 AM | TrackBack

October 29, 2004

Mother and Daughter

Now this is a dysfunctional family. (Both articles through the Atlanta Journal Constitution - free registration required.)

Mom is head of the Georgia Christian Coalition and is leading the charge to make same-sex marriages unconstitutional.

Daughter is in a long term same-sex relationship, would be married if she could, and writes a response editorial explaining that Mom's anti-gay bigotry has split the family, estranged her daughter, and left her daughter terrified that Mom will somehow claim custody of daughter's child, especially in the window between daughter getting pregnant and daughter's lover fully filing adoption papers - a problem that married couples NEVER have to face.

The great irony is that Mom's rant includes some howlers -- "marriage has always been between one man and one woman" -- with a very good point that divorce has indeed weakened the institution of marriage. Daughter would like to strengthen marriage, but Mom can't see it.

Posted by Red Ted at 02:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 19, 2004

Do You Know What Love Is?

A couple of three weeks ago a friend sent me an email asking me what my definition of love was. I wrote back a quick nothing saying that I liked the Jonathan Edwards / O Henry / Robert Heinlein definition: love is when you put the interests of another before your own interests.

I did not elaborate, and she complained that this was disinterested benevolence and not "a whole lotta love." So, let me try again.

I like to define my terms and break complicated ideas into bits. So lets break affection down into love, lust, and friendship.

I stick with the notion that love is putting the interests of the beloved before your own interests, but I add two caveats. Requited love requires that your beloved love you, and put your interests before their own. That is the point of "Gift of the Magi" and failure to keep that point in mind helps explain why so many of us are willing to turn ourselves into doormats in the name of love. Furthermore, I personally feel that we can put anothers interests before our own and yet not abandon our own interests. J and I regularly negotiate - figuring out what the other wants and trying to figure out a way to satisfy both of us, or at least frustrate us both equally.

Lust is simpler. It is the urge to rub the bacon with a particular individual. It is a powerful emotion, and combined with love can produce something quick to spark, quick to satisfy, and quick to burst again into flame.

Friendship is the third. One powerful wedding cliche is the invitation bearing the phrase "Today I marry my best friend." It is a cliche because it is true. Friendship, the desire to spend time with another, to talk and converse, share minds and interests, is perhaps more lasting than lust, more reliable than love. A lifelong friend is a good thing, and one to be cherished.

From what I know of this friend's current romance, she has friendship with her honey, and has been fantasizing about rubbing the bacon, but she is not sure about the love bit. He, meanwhile, is talking about kids, minivan, and vast quantities of domesticity (which is freaking her out a little).

I do think that for a long-term relationship to be successful it has to have love, lust and friendship. Different couples will combine them in different proportions; the two partners may well feel these emotions in different mixture: one may be love-friendship-lust, the other friendship-lust-love, but as long as they communicate it might just work.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 07, 2004

Shoes

I seem to come back to this point every fall. Perhaps I am a fashion-hound like Alfie.

Yesterday I was talking with the kids about why the British Redcoat uniform was a carefully designed and practical garment - at least from the perspective of the officers and ministers who designed it.

One reason for its design was that the trim - buttons, claywork, etc - required a lot of upkeep. This was busy work for the soldiers - the equivalent of having them go whitewash rocks - and it was intended to keep them from using their time outside the drill field to drink, grumble, or possibly get up a mutiny. There are other reasons for the uniform, but that is why it has some pesky trim.

As part of that discussion I asked the kids how many had spit-shined a pair of shoes recently. None had. In past semesters I have asked students how many know how to spit-shine shoes, and who taught them. About a third know how to do it, mostly guys, and they mostly learned from their dads or from their football coaches - football shoes are shined.

I was thinking about that this morning while touching up the shine on my brown wingtips, shoes that I paid some $120 for back in 1982. A good pair of leather shoes, maintained and resoled, will last almost forever. A trendy pair of decorator basketball sneakers will last a few months. They cost almost the same.

Athletic shoes are differently comfortable - I wear New Balance 851 to walk the dog or as my hanging around shoes, but for relatively sedentary activities a well-broken-in pair of wingtips is a remarkably comfortable set of shoes.

Athletic shoes and dress shoes do have a very different image, informal and formal, designed for movement or designed for sedentary occupations, and both in their way have a different social meaning than do, say, steel-toed work boots. Athletic shoes suggest that the wearer is athletic, that they have the time to engage in purposive exercise. Like a tan, they are a marker of non-functional time spent on entertainment. Dress shoes suggest that the wearer is engaged in an office occupation, that they are white collar and not blue collar workers. Both, then, distance the wearer from people who have to sweat for a living, the one by suggesting that they have time and energy to sweat for fun, the other by suggesting that they don't need to sweat at all.

At one time it was common to measure another person - their class status, adherence to detail, and so on - by checking their shoes. This is less prevalent these days, ever since Nike turned athletic shoes from "little old ladies in tennis shoes" to "runners shoes for everyone" in the 1970s we have lost that focus on spit and polish as a way to present our social identity.

Still, I think that when we get to middle class manners later this semester I will come back to the meaning of shoes, and remind the kids that one of the few groups of people who do check shoes are business recruiters and interviewers. Part of a college education is learning how to play class roles; education breaks class boundaries because it teaches people to play a class role other than what they were raised in; class distinctions can be reinforced by our attention to teaching class manners; I, however, feel better about it if I can both help the students both navigate the shoals of race, class and identity in the modern world and also help them be aware of their actions as they do their navigations.

And so to teach.

Posted by Red Ted at 11:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 23, 2004

Defending Marriage?

I double-checked the text of the Louisiana marriage amendment and, according to the Lafayette Advertiser here it is:

Amendment No. 1, Regular Session, 2004, A JOINT RESOLUTION “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Louisiana, to enact Article XII, Section 15, relative to marriage; to require that marriage in the state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman; to provide that the legal incidents of marriage shall be conferred only upon such union; to prohibit the validation or recognition of the legal status of any union of unmarried individuals; to prohibit the recognition of a marriage contracted in another jurisdiction which is not the union of one man and one woman; to provide for submission of the proposed amendment to the electors and provide a ballot proposition; and to provide for related matters.”
What struck me was that this amendment bans one false threat to marriage, ignores a real but rarely discussed threat to marriage, and barely touches on the largest threat to the institution.

I think of marriage as companionate marriage: two people promising to care for one another. This is a contrast to patriarchal marriage, where he promises to protect and she promises to obey. Over the 20th century companionate marriage has mostly replaced patriarchal marriage in most industrial societies.

What is the greatest threat to marriage? I believe that the biggest two threats are broken marriages and marriages never entered into. When teaching about colonial Virginia I ask my students how many of them have friends or neighbors in a broken or blended marriage. Almost everyone raises a hand - not surprising since about one marriage in three ends in divorce (statistics that are remarkably robust across religious, regional, and class lines.) I then use that to point out that colonial Virginia had a comparable number of broken and blended marriages, but that the culprit there was death and not divorce. I digress.

About one in three marriages ends in divorce, many of them after the couple has kids. This is a historically high level of broken marriages, comparable to conditions in colonial Virginia, and has important social ramifications. Divorce is the most obvious blow against marriage; it is clearly against New Testament teachings; and even 34% of Evangelicals believe that divorce without adultery is acceptable despite it being clearly condemned in the gospels. The pragmatics of being humans with a certain urge towards infidelity and serial monagamy outweigh religious teachings, and along the way they have created a nation with a lot of broken and blended families. This is the obvious but rarely discussed threat to marriage. It is obvious because of all the divorces - heck, politicians including conservative politicians appear to be prone to serial divorce - but we choose not to talk about it because, by and large, we prefer to escape unhappy marriages than to be trapped in them. As Kieran Heally of Crooked Timber pointed out a few months ago, even Ireland now has legalized divorce.

The largest threat to the institution is that it might become irrelevant. Why get married? You can provide for your kids, commit to your honey, and still know that you can walk away and do it again with another person. From this perspective it is striking that while the entertainment heroes of mid-century were notorious for their marriages and divorces, it is commonplace for the entertainment heros of today to have several children by several partners and never a wedding license in sight. They do not cause behavior, but I am struck by the change from being titillated by star divorces to being blase about stars making bastards. On a more prosaic level, conversations with young men about marriage often boil down to the fact that they want to have the benefits of polygamy combined with the lack of responsibility that comes with being single. This is a potential social time-bomb.

The Louisiana statute defines marriage as one man and one woman, and then provides "that the legal incidents of marriage shall be conferred only upon such union." If read strictly, this would mean that long term heterosexual partners, boyfriend and girlfriend raising a family and owning property together, would have the same lack of visitation, custody, and financial rights that same-sex couples now have. This would re-introduce a legal stigma to living together without wedlock and might, although it is doubtful, encourage some of these couples to head down to the county clerk and pick up the paperwork.

Marriage these days consists of three discrete moments. There is a bit of legal paperwork from the state or county - cheap and accessible for heterosexual couples, restricted for same-sex couples. There is a religious ceremony, optional for all, with some religious groups encouraging same-sex marriage, others banning it, and all applauding heterosexual marriage. Finally there is the kick-ass party. Some people don't do the first because they can't afford the third. (Disclaimer, we spent too much on our party because, well, J wanted a big party and I was in a manners phase.)

If we are serious about defending marriage we should do more to make getting hitched easy, the first part. This would involve re-thinking the "women and children first" logic of AFDC and reworking our social safety net to look more like the European dole, thus removing one economic disincentive for marriage. We could revise the tax code to increase the transfer payments from single people to married people. We might want to revise our public institutions so as to systematically shame those who have children out of wedlock, with the challenge being to blame the parents and not the child. I don't know how politically viable these proposals are, but they would "defend" the institution of marriage. Several of them would also offend the people who are most vocal about defending marriage from same-sex unions. So be it - we clearly distinguish between principle and rhetoric only when someone chooses an action because it conforms with their principles even tough it is against their other interests

We have already taken authority over marriages from religious groups and moved it to the state - part of the separation of church and state is that the government and not the church tells us which cousins can and can't get married, what age is too young, and so on. Religious groups are currently free to hold whatever ceremonies they desire for whatever couples they desire, knowing that the ceremony has no legal validity without the state paperwork. I know that the PC(USA) is currently debating same-sex marriage, that debate will continue in that and in other religious groups. I suspect that the Presbyterians will remain against same-sex marriage for another decade or longer.

The last is the social status of the kick-ass party. We have all heard the anecdotes about people who don't get married because they can't afford $10,000 for a reception. This is silly logic, but it grows out of the American bridal industry and our tendency to use coming of age rituals for rituals of conspicuous consumption. You don't have to have a big expensive party. Up until the mid 19th century Protestant weddings were small affairs held in the house with a few family members around. Only when American middle-class people began copying English middle-class people who were copying Queen Victoria did we start to see the big white dress, the reception, and the rituals of consumption and display. Even the folks who talk about the big expensive wedding they went to last weekend would probably be just as happy with a small intimate affair.

A marriage, in the end, is two people standing up before friends and family and, invoking the Divine for aid, pledging to build a lasting relationship. If we can remind ourselves of that, the party can also stop being a barrier to marriage.

We can make a good case that civil partnership is a threat to marriage, because it offers a sort of half-way marriage, with the economic benefits but not the public blessings and support of friends and community. A civil partnership coupled with a religious ceremony and a party would be better, and would strengthen the institution, but letting any two people march into city hall, show common residence and presto-chango get preferential legal treatment and transfer payments from single people might well threaten the institution.

Civil unions as a half-way marriage would threaten the institution if people got civil unions instead of a full marriage. They would strengthen the institution if people got civil unions instead of being long-time boyfriend and girlfriend. I have no idea which way it would go for heterosexual couples - it looks like a wonderful research agenda for someone in the humanities.

Based on what we have seen in San Francisco, Massachusetts, and Canada, same-sex couples are taking half-way marriage and combining it with religious ceremonies, the blessings of friends and families, and a public committment to a stable long-term relationship. For them, half-way marriage strengthens marriage, and if we want to protect the institution of marriage we should be encouraging more same-sex unions.

That Louisiana amendment does nothing about divorce, might do something about long-term relationships that fall short of marriage, and is an exercise of bigotry against same sex couples. It is a poor job of defending marriage, a good job of justifying discrimination.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 02, 2004

Another quiz

Eden Gardener took this variation on a personality quiz and decided that she came out pretty accurately. I think I came out fairly accurately - although I wonder what result I would get if I channeled memory and took the test with the personality I remember having at 23.

In any case, I "The Slow Dancer" - a deliberate, gentle, love dreamer.

That is not such a bad thing to be - although it reminds me that much as I might enjoy flirting with Eden, I must be careful not to go too far. Unless, of course, J also wants to play ...

Posted by Red Ted at 08:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 01, 2004

Eye Candy: Married v Single

This is an older thought, but there was a cute young thang in a miniskirt at the bank earlier today and I reminded myself of it.

What is the different between a dirty single man and a dirty married man?

Well, when I was single I do admit that I would sometimes see a cute young thang dressed in attractive clothing, and then I would mentally undress her.

Now that I am married, I tend to mentally undress her, then mentally hand her a dressing gown while I mentally dress my honey in the cute young thang's outfit and decide if it would look good.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 15, 2004

Followup to the previous

Belle Waring does not share J's aversion to the larger than usual schlong. Instead she is amused by them: "Ay Caramba!" she says at the sight of a killer whale penis.

I wonder if that is the male equivalent of the bust-hips-waist proportions of a barbie doll?

Posted by Red Ted at 08:52 AM | TrackBack

From the Spam folder

As I was reading my email this morning I found a fine piece of spam that offered to increase my penis length by three inches.

I mentioned this to J. Her response?

"Ouch"

Seriously, penis enlargement spam is an extension to men of the same sorts of body-anxiety advertising that women have had to deal with since the 1920s if not before. While it would be nice if body issues for women moved closer to what they have historically been for men, not a big deal other than the occasional cry of "chicken legs," it appears that instead men are picking up some of women's anxieties and concerns. And that is a bad sad thing.

Posted by Red Ted at 02:31 AM | TrackBack

April 12, 2004

Name Changes?

Via Just One Bite I see that folks have dug up the old debate about whether or not women should change their names at marriage.

Eden suspects that if she were to remarry she would take husband's name. That confuses me, because she is a professional woman living and working on the East Coast, and as such is in the demographic most likely to retain their previous name.

J kept her last name, mostly because "thats me" and partially because she had the beginnings of a professional career and publication record under that name. Academics and professional women have changed their names without losing their careers for a long time, and folks do adjust, but for many the name change suggests that she will stop creating things and start raising children instead.

We compromise, she agrees that the kids teachers will call her Mrs Red Ted, I accept that her co-workers will call me Mr J, and the dry cleaners and other business establishments we frequent know us by the surname of the partner who first started dealing with the vendor.

In other words, we made a low-key decision and are living with it, much like Amanda Butler expects to do if and when she marries.

That seems to be a surprising choice considering some of the overheated rhetoric bouncing around the blogosphere. And, as everyone knows, people use blogs to post nothing other than well considered policy positions that have gone through an extensive editing and rethinking process and that the poster is willing to commit their life's work to implementing. Still, when Matthew Yglesias suggests that women be shamed into keeping their maiden names and his first commenter trolls that "If my wife doesn't want to take my last name, she can marry someone else" then there does seem to be a little heat in the question.

With comments like that, and with Dean Esmay and Sara at Diotima both complaining about feminist misogynists who insist that women who change their names are perpetuating male hegemony, it does appear that there is more to the question than simple practicalities.

It seems to me that the debate about whether she should change her name, and the relative balance of normative and practical decisions, is in many ways a debate about the meaning of marriage. If marriage is the creation of a single new organic whole then that whole should have a single collective name, in our society the man's name. If marriage is a collaberation of individuals to perform specific purposes - raising children, caring for one another, getting a tax break - then it is best to retain separate names.

The first conception of marriage is closer to that espoused by the folks who argue that marriage is the foundation of all society and that to mess with the institutions of marriage is to mess with the very basis of the commonwealth. It is a fine Reformation understanding of the institution. The second is a modern interpretation, the logical successor to companionate marriage, the new woman, and now same-sex marriage.

As a practical matter, living in a society with relatively easy divorce and a very high divorce rate, marriages are de facto in the second model already. The only meaningful debate we could be having is how to strengthen marriage as a companionship of equals.

And here we have a paradox. I believe that words matter, that the labels we use to describe the world shape the way the we understand and act on the world. But, where Matthew Yglesias would shame people into following his preferred model of the world, I am among those who argue that her decision about changing her name is a matter of preference and practicalities.

If you live in Boston where it is common for women to keep their maiden name, then you face one set of assumptions and norms. If you live in rural Virginia where women almost never keep their names you face another set. The name decision can not be made in a vacuum nor can it be made based on national norms or national data. It is a personal decision and thus a local decision.

We have met a fair number of folks in Jersey, especially the traditional Catholic sections of Jersey, who are completely baffled by the different names. Academic folks, by contrast, take it as a matter of course.

In any case, J is keeping her last name because it makes her happy to do so.

Edit - typo'd Dean's last name.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:25 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 27, 2004

Wedding Vows

Just to make it clear that the post below is parody, here are the vows that J and I exchanged. Real names replaced with blog names.

Celebrant:
Ted, would you now raise J's veil.....
Take her hands in yours as you face each other, and repeat after me:

I, [Red Ted],
do take thee, [Lady J]
to be the wife of my days,
the companion of my home,
the friend of my life,
and the mother of my children.
I take thee to have and to hold;
for better or for worse;
for richer and for poorer;
in sickness and in health;
to love and to cherish,
till death do us part;
and thereto, with my whole heart
and with my earnest and compete devotion,
I do pledge thee my troth.

Celebrant:
J., take Ted's hands in yours and repeat after me

I, [Lady J.]
do take thee, [Red Ted]
to be the husband of my days,
the companion of my home,
the friend of my life,
and the father of my children.
I take thee to have and to hold;
for better or for worse;
for richer and for poorer;
in sickness and in health;
to love and to cherish,
till death do us part;
and thereto, with my whole heart
and with my earnest and compete devotion,
I do pledge thee my troth.

They are strong vows. We liked them then, we like them now.

Posted by Red Ted at 07:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 26, 2004

A Solecism in Patriarchy

The very notion of same sex marriage just makes no sense. I mean, think about it.

Everyone knows that marriage is the way that we transfer property between generations; without a legitimate heir (and she had darn well better be faithful or we will disinherit the funny-looking kid) how do we decide who gets the property and with it the liberties and rights that are attached to that property?

More than that, in a marriage the woman loses her legal identity to her husband. She enters his household and he has governance over her and over the children just as a magistrate has governance over the whole of society. The family is a little commonwealth or a little kingdom, take your pick. Either way, women and children are dependents, taking their legal existence from the husband, sworn to obey his wishes, and subject to his desires and corrections.

So if we have a same-sex marriage, how do we figure out whose identity gets subsumed into the other? If two men marry, do they both get to chastise the other with a stick no thicker than their thumb? If two women marry, do their legal identities vanish completely? Who is the patriarch and who is the dependent? Who gains property rights in the other's body? Do they just draw straws to decide which one vows to obey and which one vows to honor? The whole idea is a solecism in patriarchy.

What, marriage no longer works that way?

Never mind.

Posted by Red Ted at 03:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 03, 2004

TMI



The brouhaha about Janet Jackson exposing a breast on national TV reminds me of my ambivalent feelings towards getting my own nipple pierced. I told you this was a TMI post.

I am intrigued by nipple piercings. I am not sure if it is the striking image of metal against flesh, if it is the promise of increased sensation, or if erotic piercings are the next step now that genital shaving has gone mainstream, a way to mark one's body to indicate that sexuality is important.

I have chosen not to get one, and will not get one for many years yet. Why not? In reverse order of importance:

I sometimes attend science fiction conventions and, while J and I do not play in the BDSM scene we have friends who do. Some subgroups overlap, some individuals from those subgroups assume that a visible nipple piercing is an invitation for a twisting, and some of those individuals assume that a dectable piercing is effectively visible. I would respond to such an action with violence, and I am not much of a fighter despite having a terrible temper. If I were to get such a decoration it would be for me, not so some drunk at a con could ask me to punch him in the throat. Not a major reason, but there you go.

I would be vaguely embarassed to show it at the beach. I don't know why, but I would.

And, the real reason why I am not going to get anything pierced anytime soon, is that babies have little grasping pulling hands. Number one spent the first year of his life pulling my chest hair. Number two is coming and we might go for three. Until we are completely done with having kids, I do not want anything painful and grab-able attached to my chest. For a while with number one I thought about shaving my chest hair.

So, no new holes in my flesh for several years, and in several years I may not want one.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:37 AM | TrackBack

February 02, 2004

Janet Jackson


The whole blogosphere is chiming in on Janet Jackson and the Superbowl halftime show.

Baah Baah Baah

I am a sheep. I shall do so as well.

I had the TV on and was in the room during the halftime show - I missed the grand exposee. As I recall, I looked up from my book, noticed the samurai chic with Jackson's pants, wondered why she looks more and more like old pictures of Michael every time I see her, resolved that I do not, after all, care for the sort of music that show was presenting, and then went back to reading.

Carly at Pornblography has the best comment, as often happens in situations where the media get their collective panties in a knot over sexuality in popular culture:

Furthermore – and perhaps I’m taking this a little to feminiazi-ish, but bear with me – it bothers me to no end that the exposure of a female body part is so traumatizing. Why is this so offensive? Why does it require apologies abound? Granted I’m not suggesting that the next time I go out for dinner my dining companion should reach over and yank my top down, but Janet was clearly okay with the situation and didn’t seem to be the least bit shamed by it. So why are we treating her like she should be?

And you all wonder why women have body issues.

I don't have a good answer yet, but it does remind me that I owe a couple more posts in the Body Issues series.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:50 AM | TrackBack

January 29, 2004

Minor Details


The little man likes Badger Badger. He got bored with Cows With Guns.

While watching Cows with Guns I noticed something very disconcerting. The lead character was a partially transgendered cow.

What do I mean?

Cow is a generic term for neat cattle, it is also a technical term for a fertile female just as a bull is a fertile male. Milk cows spend their working lives pregnant so they will lactate. Sterilized females (and young females) are called heifers, sterilized males are steers.

The hero, Cow Tse Tung, is referred to as "he" throughout the song. The animation for the hero shows udders - female secondary sexual characteristics: cow boobs.

Our hero is either a male with cow-boobs or a female with gender issues. Once I noticed that, I had to choose between reading the song as transgendered subversion or a total loss of my willing suspension of disbelief; it was no longer just general silliness.

And no, I do not know why it bothers my suspension of disbelief that "he" has udders but it does not bother my suspension of belief that "he" reads Che Guevara, packs an Uzi, and leads a cattle revolution.

I think it has something to do with genre conventions.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:05 AM | TrackBack

January 27, 2004

Dating and Sorting


Part of the purpose of the dating process is to sort out potential partners - this person might work, this person won't work, and so on.

For that process to work, it helps if you are careful to keep a watchful eye on the process. You can err on either side when you do this, of course: Cat Nastey is upset because Sweet Jezebel has fallen for the wrong boy; DW has worried that she is too critical about her potential emotional partners. It is hard to strike a balance, and so all those early-date questions about what music do you like? Those maybe-we-are-serious discussions about how would you name a baby - all are ways to figure out who this other person is and will they be compatible in the long run.

So, when this lad proposed to his honey by building her a custom case mod computer, well, she now knows that she is getting a sweet, sappy, nerd for a fiance. Link via Stupid Evil Bastard.

Click on the custom case mod and wait for the pictures to load - it is worth it.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:58 AM | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

Body Issues II


Bodies, Perceptions, and Power
Body Issues I

Stephen Coonts, a nice guy and adequate novelist, wrote a pretty good memoir about flying an antique biplane into every state in the lower 48. At one point at an amusement park he sat and watched people go by for about an hour, just watching. At the end, he notes, "People really do come in all shapes and sizes." When I read that I was reminded of a comment made by a friend after she and a batch of our friends came back from hitting the hot tubs: "people really are funny looking."

We all have a set of aesthetics, a collection of shapes or sizes that we admire. These shapes affect the way we interact with others; they should not but they do. S-Train gives a good example when he talks about how the staff at his fast food restaurant talks about one of his regular customers. Body shapes, no, bodily ideals, also convey power. If we react to you based on your appearance, then your status will depend on how you look and how you present yourself.

Does a puffy body mean that someone is self-indulgent and weak willed? Or does it mean that they are too busy with helping others to take time to exercise themself? Does a lean body and a runner's face mean that a person is focused, dedicated, and self-disciplined, or does it mean that they hit the road to avoid dealing with the people in their lives? Do muscled arm and weightlifter traps mean that a person is focused and able to maintain a long-term plan, or do they mean that they are narcissistic and work poorly with others? The correct answer, of course, is none of the above - insufficient data.

Self presentation includes body shape, it also includes grooming, fashion decisions, manners, body language, and all the various bits that make up our public face. Men wear a tie to a job interview not because their ability to do the work is related to a piece of cloth tied around their neck, but because wearing this impractical garment signals that they perceive the occasion as formal and important, and that they want to make a good impression. We read other people's clothing and grooming constantly, and one challenge is to learn to distinguish between cultural accents and personal representation - do you refuse to hire someone with long hair? Short hair? An Afro? Corn Rows? What about someone who attends a job interview with unwashed, uncombed hair? We constantly read other people, we judge them on the assumption that their outward veneer will reveal their inner character, or at least their willingness to signal their desires.

Body shape, like it or not, is one of the things that signifies status. At one point big was in, for it said that you were so rich that you could eat more than you needed to survive. Renaissance Italian women's clothing tried to make the wearer look pregnant, because pregnant was sexy. At the moment, thin is in. I was at my college reunion a few years ago - it was an elite school and the folks who are doing well are always more likely to attend. The most striking thing about the folks who were there was how skinny everyone was. I was in the heavy five percent in my class, and I am only slightly overweight. I was also lifting at the time, and was in the muscled five percent even though I have scrawny little arms - muscularity is another class signifier; muscles are blue collar.

So, as a guy, I have a fairly easy set of physical norms I can use to signal my status: lean and angular for upper class status, and either puffy-fat or puffy-muscular for working class status. These are not absolutes, of course; I know some buff lawyers and judges and some scrawny day laborers, but body shape is one of then many class indicators like tooth maintenance, hair style, clothing choices and jewelry. While no one of them is complete, a set of them does give a pretty good picture of a person's status and the things that are important to them.

For women, body politics are endlessly more complicated. They share with men a predisposition for firm, youthful skin. They share with men a tendency to assume that lean is higher class, puffy is lower class. But beyond that women have to decide how to use their secondary sex characteristics - do you dress up the girls or do you hide them? As DW put it, "Nipples can transform the most conservative school marm outfit into stripper gear in no time flat. ... Without nipples, breasts under clothing are an abstraction. They are potential breasts, swellings in the fabric that may be attractive and arouse the interest, but usually don't arouse more. Cleavage helps. But add nipples and suddenly those are kinetic breasts, bouncing around and begging to be touched and nuzzled. For those easily moved by such things (like me), the lustful reaction is involuntary and spontaneous." She goes on to give some anecdotes about selectively emphasizing or hiding nipples as part of office politics.

Women are looked at more than men are, and that constant gaze and constant judgement means that most women are far more body conscious than are most men. Many women internalize those gazes and try to reshape themselves to meet what they think people want to see. There is a complicated power dynamic here, for body shape reflects class status and also femininity and, to a surprising extent, self-worth. People come in all shapes and sizes, we use body shape as one of the many visual clues to a person's status, personality, and desires, and those visual clues have a lot to do with the way we relate to other people; the challenge is to read them correctly and act on them appropriately.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:06 AM | TrackBack

January 22, 2004

Body Issues I: Disclaimer


Body Issues II: Bodies, Perceptions, and Power

Helen at Everyday Stranger is a woman of remarkable honesty. She is able to look into herself and then write about it in a way that I never can.

Recently she has written two great cathartic posts about body and body images, the first involving body shape and the second involving kids. I can't handle writing on her second, I just don't know what to say, but I did want to write about the first post.

I am a guy, and we have different body issues. Trying to see it from her perspective, from any female perspective, is an exercise in historical consciousness just like trying to see the world from a past perspective. It will always be incomplete, but as a matter of professional pride we must insist that it can be done. So, remember that the post above this is about bacon and eggs from the perspective of the chicken, someone who is involved with the question, and not from the perspective of the pig, who is committed.

EDIT: Added link to first followup.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:01 AM | TrackBack

January 13, 2004

Whither Romance?


Dirty Whore NWS asks why men no longer treat her romantically


So I think back to when men were really romantic. The key difference between me then and me now, besides my age? I used to be more of a bitch. My body was just about the same, I dress and look better now, I am much more financially stable? but I?m also more tolerant and easy going, and far less demanding and petulant. Is that the key? Are men only romantic toward women who barely appreciate it?

I can only speak for myself. I learned the hard way that there is only one way to treat a demanding and petulant woman - walk away and don't look back.

That said, I rather like to be romantic - even if it is just stealing a kiss at red lights. I am fairly demonstrative, very touchy, and J has learned to like (or at least I hope she likes) to have my fingers trail over her back or shoulders. She still does not like it when I walk up behind her, lift her hair, and kiss the nape of her neck - but she puts up with it as long as I don't do it too frequently. She gets her revenge - my bald spot gets smooched when she walks up behind me.

I do think that as a society we are no longer training ourselves to be romantic. Men no longer automatically open doors for women, now the first one to the door holds it open for the second person, unless someone is carrying a package. Men no longer open and close car doors for women, except for the people at Taken in Hand who are living an exaggerated and self-conscious version of gender roles. Men no longer make sure that they are walking on the polite side of women. Heck, I barely remember if I should be on the street side or the wall side as we walk along the sidewalk - feh, I just realized it has been so long since we have been contradancing that I don't even remember default dance position, am I on the left or on the right?.

Some romantic gestures were symbolic gestures of strength and protection, legacies of patriarchal households where a man proved his worth by protecting and providing for his dependent women and children. We are moving away from patriarchy: women want to work, want to feel independent in case they have to provide for themselves. The challenge is to devise a language of romantic gestures that recognize her equality while still celebrating interpersonal tension.

Kissing her hand still works, but it can be stagey and feel fake. Holding hands is a big winner, as is planning a date. J hates surprises, so we tend to plan dates together or, at the least, I will tell her that I have planned something and how she should dress. Still, "Honey, we are going on a date on Friday. Wear shoes you can walk in." is enough warning before I take her to the zoo, or to a museum.

Looking back over what I wrote, the key seems to be to create a sort of respectful dominance - give her space and identity, but make it clear that you are trying to celebrate and please her. When swing dancing, women spin and twirl and show off, men make it possible for her to show off, and the men lead and give direction. Swing dancing, any sort of dancing, is not a bad metaphor for adding romance to a relationship.

Methinks DW needs to go out dancing more. For that matter, so do J and I.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:39 AM | TrackBack

Relationship Tuesday


Whereas, Several of my favorite bloggers have been writing about relationships and

Whereas, People like to read about dating and relationships and

Whereas, anything that happens three times is an instant tradition

Therefore, by the power invested in me by my own ego, I do declare this to be

Relationship Tuesday

And I call upon all bloggers to say a few words about finding, caring for, and managing their relationship with their sweet baboo, snugaboo, significant other, or poor captured fool.

I already did my part.

Posted by Red Ted at 03:06 AM | TrackBack

January 04, 2004

Orientation


The Washington Post has an interesting article on teenage girls who are "partway gay."

The gist of the article is that a suprisingly large number of women engage in a mixture of same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, that they are able to distinguish between behavior and orientation - performing an action and defining an identity - and that their actions do not fit our current models of sexual orientation and behavior, most of which were derived by studying straight white men.

What I found interesting about the article was the extent to which these girls seem to have picked up a habit that is also found among the bdsm and kinky sex community - it is more important to play with the person than with the body. For many people, what matters in a lover is what matters in a friend - can you talk, can you inspire one another, can you create a shared headspace together? Plumbing is only indirectly related to that sort of connection.

This more open and experimental approach to dating and sexuality reminds me of another difference between what I will call queer and straight sex for lack of a better phrase. For many "straight" people, sex is penis in vagina hopefully leading to orgasm. No PiV, no sex - just ask Chuck Robb or Bill Clinton. For many "queer" people, sex is two or more people, one or more orgasm, or penetration (the definition of sex that I worked up in college many years ago.) So, heavy petting is "sex," as are a great many activities that are a felony in Virginia. (1)

Behavior v orientation and "queer" definitions of sex have interesting implications for the current debate on the nature and purpose of marriage.

Polls on same sex marriage have revealed a strong age-based difference, with most young people supporting either same sex marriage or some form of meaningful civil union, and most older people objecting to both. Pundits have pointed out that, if these trends hold, then same-sex marriage will become a political non-issue as its opponents die off. The comparison is to generational attitudes about race relations and gender roles, with the generations raised following the civil rights and women's liberation movements having very different expectations about their futures.

So, if bisexual, omnisexual, or heteroflexible approaches become, if not normative then at least normal, how will that change our approaches to marriage, child rearing, casual flirtation, or even such everyday moments as restrooms and gym lockers? I have some thoughts which I will explore off and on over the next few weeks. Mostly, though, I have questions.

(1)Virginia's sodomy laws made it a felony to touch another person below the neck with your mouth. In the right tone of voice, "Hey babe, wanna commit a felony?" can be a good way to tell your honey that you are horny.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:41 AM | TrackBack

December 08, 2003

Being a Gentleman?

Via Matthew Yglesis, I see some folks discussing a speech by Harvey Mansfield.

Mansfield criticized the increase in recreational sex, suggested that recreational sex was somehow a "man's game" and that women would be better off with a more restricted dating environment. I gather that he was referring to the common college practice of hanging out in groups, "hooking up," and no longer dating in traditional pairs. I know that when I was an undergraduate in the 1980s I was an idiot who was not willing to give face time and relationship time to the women I was seeing - and I had no physical relationship with the women I regularly went out to dinner with, went dancing with, or otherwise was social in public with.

The line that jumped out of Yglesias's summary was this: "Students said they were offended when Mansfield said the only gentlemen left were either gay or conservative."

One of the things I learned after graduation was the incredible power of manners and mannerisms. Most women have had little experience with the Victorian formulas. Many of these formulas are very powerful. Consider this common example (it helps if you are a little sweet and a little goofy, which I am).

You have been talking with a cute thang at a party or at a bar, and you wish to continue the acquaintence. Or, for the college kids, your eye has been caught by one of the other people in your little social circle. How do you indicate that you are interested in spending more time together? You could drop hints, or give inarticulate grunts, or say something on the fly. I suggest this, played mostly straight:

Take their hand in one or both of yours, look in their eyes and say: "I have very much enjoyed talking with you. May I have your permission to call upon you in the future?"

Hokey, yes.

But, it shows interest, it shows sincerity (if you can fake that you have it made), it gets their contact information, and it gives them a chance to respond with anything from "future? come home with me right now" to "While I enjoy your company, you should know that I [have a boyfriend, bat the other direction, have taken vows of chastity, don't like bearded redheads]"

Furthermore, it lets you show decisiveness without being overbearing. Women, as a group, tend to like strong willed nice guys. Wimps and jerks don't last long. A few women prefer strong willed to nice, others prefer nice to strong willed, but if you can develop both characteristics you can do well.

Folks who are worried about their social life could do worse than dig into some of the Victorian dating manuals. Many of those rituals were put together when a society moved from intimate communities to gatherings of strangers, and as such they can be adopted to the twenty-first century. And, these rituals were put together in a society that valued manly independence and yet was also adopting to sentimental desires.

When in doubt, go old fashioned.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:00 AM | TrackBack

December 05, 2003

OK, I missed something here


Via LeeAnn I see that Dana at Note-It-Posts has started a new blogger alliance called Bloggers with Boobies. There is also a sub-group for men called Bloggers who Support Bloggers with Boobies.

Dana wanted "a badge of pride for all strong, self-assured female bloggers ..." and, in the spirit of someone who is pefectly willing to tell folks she disagrees with to "suck my left tit" she decided to use boobies as her rallying signal.

This is fine by me - I like strong, self-assured women, I like boobies, I think a little crudity adds spice to conversation even though too much potty language destroys conversation.

What threw me was how Dana finished her manifesto: "a badge of pride for all strong, self-assured female bloggers (like me) who refuse to be ashamed about their femininity. We're the anti-feminists."

I guess I have been hanging out with the wrong sort of feminists, because I am more familiar with the body-aware feminists who urge women to "own your cunt", who celebrate bodily differences while denying, absolutely and unequivocally, that these bodily differences should be related to power hierarchies.

To steal definitions from Nancy Cott, an ahistorical definition of feminism in the long twentieth century - describing the ideal type rather than one particular manifestation of similar ideas and organizations - boils down to:
1, A distinction between sex (plumbing) and gender (how we act, think, and react to others).
2, An awareness that sexual differences are real, exist and will continue to exist
3, A rejection of social hierarchy based on gender
4, An awareness that gender roles are socially constructed, not Divinely or genetically defined
5, A sense of social solidarity or group awareness among women.

Now, to some extent I am arguing against a straw man woman in this little rant. Dana does not appear to be arguing against feminism as I defined it above. Rather, like many young people in the twentyfirst century, it appears that she has allowed one particular group of feminists to own the label, and because she disagrees with the violent prissiness of the Andrea Dworkin crowd, she must be an anti-feminist.

When talking about gender roles in class I often use the following exercise. I first ask how many people in the room describe themselves as feminists. Almost none raise their hands. I then lay out Cott's definition, especially the rejection of power hierarchies based on gender, and ask how many agree with that. Almost all do agree. Then I point out that I have just defined feminism, and ask them why they embrace the goals while denying the label. It always leads to an interesting discussion. I am trying to replicate that discussion in this blog and trackback.

Now, it might be that I am being like King Canute here, only without his irony, working against a tide in changing group identity labels and against a tide in changing notions of gender norms. In other words, it might be that the mainstream feminists have succeeded so completely that all we ever hear about are the wild-eyed crazies or the anti-feminists who want to take schools back for boys, turn the constantly redefining sets of gender norms in another direction, and regain some level of male entitlement. Or, it might be that I am missing something crucial in Dana's world view.

Posted by Red Ted at 12:40 PM | TrackBack

November 21, 2003

Muffins


I baked blueberry muffins last night. I also baked corn muffins on Wednesday morning - I appear to be on a muffin kick. Recipes are at the bottom of this entry.

As I was walking the hound and the baby this morning I thought about the muffin-making process. I like to bake. I have liked to bake ever since, when I was in 7th grade or so, Mom decided that while she did not have time to bake pie for me, she did have time to find me some recipes so I could make them myself. I started with grandmother's lard-based pie crust and a family friend's lime chiffon pie. The first one was OK, the third one was very good indeed, and I have been a baker ever since.

The more I bake, the easier it is to do. Scooping and leveling flour is slow the first time you do it, faster the fourth time. Beating muffin/brownie/chemical bread batter together in a few short deft strokes is a lot easier after you have done it a few times. The first time I had to beat egg whites and then fold them into batter it took me a long time, and I checked Julia Child three times to see if I did it right. These days I think nothing of grabbing the blender and separating eggs so that the waffles will be lighter.

I don't make many pies any more; I am watching my saturated fat intake because of the cholesterol, and both the lard crust that I used to make and the butter crust that I shifted to about 10 years ago will break my fat budget. (The lard crust is flakier, the butter crust is tastier.) I do bake a lot of bread and, when I remember how easy they are, I bake muffins.

Muffins are: 5 to 10 minutes of prep, all of which can be done while the oven heats; 15 to 20 minutes of baking; 5 minutes of cleanup, most of which can be done while the muffins are baking. They are quick and easy.

Or rather, they are quick and easy if you have all the ingredients handy. Because I like to bake, I keep a fully stocked baking cupboard. I rarely find a recipe that calls for something that I do not have, and when I do I usually happen to have a substitute handy. Preparation means that baking becomes a whim, an instant gratification, rather than a project or a bother.

There are other things in life that are easy to do if you have the tools and supplies handy, and are a bother otherwise. When I putter around the house I always have to go to the home store once or thrice to get parts, get tools, and get supplies. Home maintenance is a bother. At some point, it will go from being a bother to being a chore. This pattern is not limited to mechanical things; it also applies to life skills from being able to use a hammer to having practice performing other tasks.

I am teaching my students how to write. Most of them have improved their writing over the course of the semester. Similarly, I am using this blog to give myself extra practice at writing - I still need to get better at short, fluid, effortless prose. We learn by doing.

We also build up stock of emotional tools, personal communication tools. I think of this because Lilith and Rupert have been talking about communication within relationships. Read the comments on Lilith's page. We learn phrases and bits of grammar just as we learn how to beat an egg or wield a hammer. With experience we figure out which phrases best convey which emotions. Every long-term couple has a phrase or three that they use to indicate, for example, a desire for sex. For us it is a simple "Hey baby, what'cha doin'?" In a long term relationship, we figure out when to hint and when to hit our partner with the metaphorical two-by-four.

I found myself trying to inventory life tools. What are the interpersonal equivalents of a jar of powdered buttermilk in the cupboard, or the skill of beating egg whites to a soft peak without using sugar, salt, or vinegar? I am not sure. I might make a list as a study break while I read rough drafts today.

The last few paragraphs were either very deep or very banal. Rather than decide which, I will leave you with the blueberry muffins I improvised last night. This is a lower fat recipe. I happened to have all the parts on hand. Adopt it to your kitchen.

blueberry Muffins, by Red Ted
10 minutes prep
20 minutes cook
my muffin tray makes 12 medium muffins.

Dries
1 cup AP flour, scooped and leveled
1 cup cake flour, scooped and leveled, plus one heaping tablespoon cake flour.
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda (crumble it in your palm to get rid of the lumps)
pinch salt (1/4 tsp?)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp powdered buttermilk

Wets

1 egg
about 1/4 cup non-fat yoghurt (I glopped with a spoon twice and said good enough.)
about 2 tbsp oil (again, I measured by eye. I use olive oil.)

other
1 cup skim milk
1 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 425
combine dries in a large bowl, stir them together with a whisk
combine wets in a small bowl, beat the egg, oil, and yoghurt together

spray a muffin tray with non-stick spray coating

Add wets to dries
add milk to dries
mix together in a few short, deft strokes
when almost combined, add blueberries
finish mixing - remember that if you develop the gluten the muffins will be tough, so easy does it.

pour batter in to muffin tray.
use a spoon to steal from the large and fill the low until they are all about even
bake for 15 to 18 minutes

remove muffins from the tin immediately, cool on a rack.
Once they are cool enough to eat, they are ready to eat. (Unlike bread which should breathe for an hour before cutting)

Posted by Red Ted at 09:04 AM | TrackBack

October 27, 2003

The Politics of Personal


The Politics of Personal Appearance

My random thought for today was inspired by discussions of Ann Coulter's Adam's Apple. Some people argue that because she has a visible Adam's Apple, she must be a transgendered individual. I forget how I found it, but Lies.com points out that if you do a google search you will see commentary on her anatomy from all parts of the political spectrum. Ms Coulter is a remarkably skinny woman and, like many very skinny women, you can see her larynx through the skin of her throat. Her face is stretched over her skull exposing the bones of her cheeks and forehead. You can also see neck tendons and, in some of the pictures on her website, you can see that she just about flunks the knee test. She looks skeletal, not masculine. Her Adam's Apple is visible because she is so very lean. If I had a student with that body type I would be concerned about eating disorders and would contemplate an intervention. But, that is not my point.

What struck me by this was the way that people who disagree with her politics do not just attack her ideas and methodology, they attack the person as well. Unlike common Type-M arguments that focus on the motives of their opponent, this argument goes for her gender, suggesting that Coulter is transgendered and then using this supposition to justify ignoring her positions and arguments. It is ad-hominem: because she has a nonstandard gender history, her critics suggest, we need not take her seriously.

Now, while I disagree with most of Coulter's positions and despise her tendency to use arguments that systematically misinterpret other people's positions, I am also very concerned with this critique of Coulter. It not only reinforces traditional gender roles but, by assuming that unusual gender de-legitimizes a speaker, it also reinforces a system of deviance where "normal" is contrasted with "transgendered." This reinforcement does not come in formal critiques, most of the people who make those critiques will also argue that the issue is whether Coulter is lying about her past rather than about the plumbing she had at birth. The reinforcement comes as the meme about Coulter's Adam's Apple reaches into the mainstream. "Did you hear that?" "Is it true that" "What Glee, I hear that" and so on. At that point you are reaching towards character destruction, you are making a Limbaughesque argument based on derision and not content, and you reinforce traditional gender patterns and deviance patterns.

You find this sort of reinforcement and derision in many places in society. One place where it is particularly prominent is men's sports. "Lets beat these pussies" is commonplace. Men and boys in competitive sports, especially physical sports, will often call their opponents women and will use a rhetoric that links gender to moral and physical weakness, lack of competitive fire, and essential worthiness. Men, even men on their team, who do not display the right sort of aggression might be taunted as "gay" or "fags" because they are displaying "feminine" weakness despite wearing a masculine body and attempting to engage in "masculine" competitive sports.

I make this connection because Ann Coulter is a particularly competitive and aggressive woman. She competes with words and ideas, not with physical strength, but she competes in the realm of politics and ideas - a historically male realm - and she displays "masculine" aggressiveness as she does so. One way of coming to terms with a woman who displays "masculine" attitudes is to suggest that she is not really a woman. One way of putting down someone you dislike is to mock their sexuality and, especially against women, to mock their secondary sexual characteristics.

So far this interpretation is relatively timeless. I could change the names, find something other than the Adam's Apple, and dig around and find similar strong women and similar criticisms at almost any point in the last forty years. However, at the start of the twenty-first century we are engaged in a national discussion about gender roles and gender norms. People with non-traditional gender identities are refusing to be second-class citizens, while the national Republican party is attempting to replace its Cold War anti-Communism with anti-homosexuality. This means that the whole silliness about Ann Coulter's neck falls within a context where gender roles are both looser and more political than they have been in the past.

The silliness about Coulter shows a group of people who disagree with her positions, and are thus presumably moderate or liberal in their own politics, picking up on a social conservative meme to undercut a vocal conservative. If it was a conscious decision, we could argue that it was a form of rhetorical jujitsu intended to topple the social conservative movement: if their leaders do not practice the narrow gender roles that they preach, perhaps anti-homosexuality will be recognized as a particularly cynical bit of hypocrisy.

But, the strongest appearances of the Adam's Apple meme come in passing, as folks use Coulter's mixed-gender appearance to mock their opponent without really thinking about what they are doing and why they are doing it. That, in turn, warns me that social conservatives may well win both electoral and cultural contests by continuing to taunt, despise, and dehumanize people whose gender roles do not fit within a very narrow set of norms.

So what can we do about it? In this particular instance, do as I did at the top of this rant. Turn the focus from gender roles to body shapes. Coulter has a ballet dancer's neck and a marathoner's face. I would rather speculate about the psychology of someone who prefers to be thin than to be strong than speculate about what it says on her birth certificate. In broader terms, John Lewis may be right to turn the focus from gender roles to individual rights, and from religion as the basis of social norms to national political principles as social norms.

When you catch people using gender norms to establish deviance, ask them "What part of 'all people are created equal' don't you understand?"

And back to work.

edit, revised lead paragraph, added links to knee test and Coulter's page, new title.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:25 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 06, 2003

Licorice - Revised and Extended

"Not everyone likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice." J and I use "licorice" to refer to most forms of kinky sex. I felt the urge to write an erotic story without using any potty language. I revised the earlier sections after Twiddlybits gave some commentary. If I add anything more it will just go up as Licorice (Number) with a link to this entry.

One

The bell tinkled. Susan walked into the store and looked around. The place was dim and gloomy; rich scents came out of the dusky corners and from the display cases: chocolate of course, but below that licorice and anise tantalized her. Hints of anise, of cinnamon, and of vanilla lurked like dust motes in the air. She inhaled, carefully tasting the air and savoring its promises.

A long glass counter ran along the right side just inside the door. Shelves within the case held the ordinary confections: chocolate bark, and raspberry creams, and all the many variations on nuts and caramel. She stepped farther into the room, her head turning as she looked farther.

To the left, in the crowded clutter of the open space were a couple of small tables, looking unused and unwanted, crowded by spinning racks with boxes of salt water toffee and presentation chocolates. She went past these as well.

Towards the back of the store, deepest in the gloom, were the real treasures. This was an old case; the wood was black and glossy as if it had been old even when it was first constructed. The licorice was here. Little papers held the squares of red and black licorice, the licorice creams, drops of dusky jelly. Sleeves of anise cookies rested before the counter. Swinging above it, drying in the air like twisted sausages, were ropes of red, and black, dusted with sugar. The air here was thick, redolent. Her nose wrinkled, responded to the acrid bite, to the drying sugar, to the seeds and oils trapped in the candies.

She pressed her hands against the case, leaning forward. The tip of her tongue extended and, gently, pointedly, licked her upper lip. She inhaled again, closing her eyes to concentrate on all the odors.

"Can I help you?"

He was tall and thin and dusty and, somehow, twisted like the ropes of licorice that swayed from the motion of his recent passing. He stood still behind the counter, looking at her.

"Yes, I want ... I want to buy some licorice."

"We have licorice here." He coughed lightly; perhaps it was a chuckle, perhaps it was dried sugar in his throat.

She smiled.

Two

The bell tinkled. Susan stood up from the little table in the back room. She walked through the curtains into the space behind the two counters. There were three of them there, standing towards the front of the room. Two were standing at the front case, looking at the chocolates and the creams, picking and choosing, speculating aloud about what they might be buying. The third wandered aimlessly, turned a white rack, looked at the dried out cookies, the boxes of toffee.

Susan began to fill orders for the first two, taking out three of these, four of those, weighing out the chocolates and putting them into little boxes and bags. While she did this, she watched the wanderer. He was thin, as she was, and looked distracted. He glanced at the back counter, then quickly looked again at the rest of the room. She rang up the order, took money, handed over change. The two left; she could not have said if they were men or women, all she had seen were the pointing fingers, the greedy voices. He was different: still here, still moving in a sort of Brownian motion through the space to the left of the door. He must have just come in at the same time as the other two; he did not leave with them, had not talked to them. They were not together after all. He was alone, except for Susan and the store.

She swung up the gate between the two counters, walked forward. He turned, surprised by her silent presence. His eyes darted to her, to the counter, to the ceiling above the back counter, and back to her again.

She smiled at him.

"Can I help you?"

"Do you sell, erm," He looked at the floor. "Licorice here?"

"Oh yes, we sell licorice. We have all kinds of licorice here. Follow me."

Three

They sat at a small white table in white wooden chairs. She was thin, pale, blonde. Her hair hung back to her collar. He was older, thinner, and grey. He looked like he had been hung up to dry, and while drying had gathered dust in all the crevices of his face and clothing. Even his voice was dusty.

"Let me pour you some tea."

He stood, crossed to the stove, poured water from the kettle into a small blue-grey teapot. He busied himself gathering cups, spoons, and honey. She sat and watched him. The smell of the tea began to spread around the cluttered little kitchen.

He poured into two plain white teacups, placed them on saucers on the table. She took hers in her hands and brought it to her nose. She inhaled, concentrating, then turned and looked at him with raised eyebrows.

"I smell tea, black tea, and licorice root, and ... something more?" Her voice was a soft alto.
"That's most of it. There are some rose hips, a little lemon zest."
"It smells nice."
"Add honey, honey goes well."

He sat. They sipped their tea. His voice was still dry and dusty.

"So, how long has it been?"

"Since I first walked in here? Years. Time seems to stop when I am behind those counters: every moment is just right and every moment is forever."

"And do you still feel the same way?"

She looked at him, and smiled.

"I think so, yes."

"And now what will you do? Summer is almost over."

"I thought about it. State is close, and I could still work here weekends. But I think I want to get farther away."

"You had a lot of offers."

"Yes, I did. I think I will go East. They have the food chemistry, and the writing program. I will be better prepared when I come back."

"I will miss you, but your young man should be able to take over for you."

She smiled again. "My young man? He belongs to you, or to the back counter more than he does to me." She paused, then continued.
"I will miss that back counter."

"Yes, I know."

She looked at him, at the wedges and angles of his face, at the lines in his cheeks. He was ageless, without race, grey, brown and dusty. His clothing smelled of licorice. The powder he worked with had gotten into his clothing, into his skin. It was part of him now. She loved that about him.

She stood.

"I need to go, I have to finish packing, I have to tell State I won't be coming."

"Come back before you leave. Please."

"Of course." She smiled again.

She went out through the curtain. He heard the bell tinkle as the door opened and then closed. In the air disturbed by her movement he could smell licorice.

Four

It was hot. The line in the bookstore snaked back from the ringing cash registers. Students held books, and bags, and little plastic baskets full of books and notebooks, pencils and pens. The woman in front of him was short and thin. Her blonde hair fell to the collar of her white dress, parted in the middle of her head. She was wearing an unusual perfume; he could smell licorice. They bumped as the line lurched forward.

"Sorry, lost my balance" He was apologetic, curious to see her face.
She smiled up at him.
"It's ok. It is crowded here."
She had a thin face, grey-blue eyes, strong cheekbones. Her voice was low and husky, surprising in such a small woman. Her hair was yellow and blonde and grey all shaded together, but her face was young, the eyes plain and unmarked. She wore no makeup.

He looked at her basket, hoping to see something he could use to continue the conversation. Several slim volumes of poetry were lying on top of the textbooks. He recognized psychology, and the great big textbook for introductory chemistry.

"Do you read a lot of poetry?"
"Yes, I do. I love to see words used precisely."
"I do also. Do you have any favorites?"
"I am taking the English romantics this fall. But I read all sorts. I like to read about desires and compulsions."
She looked at his eyes as she said this. Her voice dropped even lower on the last words.

Later, his friends came over to him.
"Did you get her number?"
"No, but she got mine."

Five

He made little names for his students to help him remember which name went with which face. Susan Blonde-in-White was sitting at the front left of the class again. She was wearing a dress. She always wore a white dress. This one was short sleeved and showed a little leg; it was still very modest. The other women in the class were all dressed more casually. Susan was always very formal and she always sat very still. He could feel her eyes on him as he chatted with the students at the front right, by the door.

The bell in the tower on the other side of the quad rang the hour. He took a deep breath and began the class. He explained what they would be covering today. He drew on the board. He began to question them about the reading, and to elaborate on their fumbling answers. She sat upright and watched him teach, her pen in her hand.

After he worked through the first reading he told them to re-read the next item. While their heads turned down he walked over to the left side of the room. Her notebook was full of fine copperplate handwriting. He had never seen her pen move.

He continued to teach. She remained still and silent, watching straight-backed in her chair. He caught himself moving to the left again, and making eye contact with the front left part of the class. He forced himself to shift back to the right and look at the others.

He asked a question, and another. Hands rose, always the same hands. Susan sat very still. The sunlight had crept across the floor and onto her feet. She had slim ankles.

He paused, class was almost over now. He turned and asked her a question, ignoring the waiting hands, wanting to see what she would do. She smiled, took a breath, and answered. Her voice was low but clear. He was glad of that; so many of the skinny little women were mumblers and then he had to repeat their words to the class. She spoke on. He noticed in surprise that she was speaking in paragraphs. Most undergraduates, many professors, never mastered that skill. She finished. He raised an eyebrow, gestured with his hand. She continued to speak, elaborating her first answer. He had moved towards her as she spoke, to hear better. Partway through the paragraphs he realized that he had forgotten what he was going to ask next, had forgotten how he had planned to wrap up the class. He was very close to her now.

He tore his eyes away. She finished speaking. He managed to say a few words, to praise her thoughts, to lurch towards a wrapping point. Class ended in the usual shuffle of bags and papers. She smiled at him on her way out. As she left, he could smell licorice.


Six

She smiled as she poured, looking at him more than at the two glasses. The liquor glistened in the tumblers, then turned white as she poured the water. She raised her glass, extended her tongue to the surface, inhaled the aroma. He held his glass in both hands but did not look at it. His eyes glanced from her to the room and back to her again.

She put her glass down and spoke.

"Aren't your friends having that party tonight?"
"Yes."
"We should go."
"I know. They have been bugging me about no longer seeing them. They don't know what to make of you."

She smiled.

"I am not sure what to make of me either. I think of myself as a series of straight lines, but it seems that most other people see me as a spiral."

He frowned at her, then looked down at his glass. He raised it to his lips, sipped.

She raised her glass again, inhaled the vapors again, then drank. He could see her swirling the white liquor around her mouth before swallowing. She opened her mouth and inhaled, savoring the lingering aroma of licorice.

Later he looked at her and spoke.
"Lets have one more before we go."

She raised her eyebrow.
"Are you sure. We still have to get dressed you know."

He reached past her to the bottle, lifted it, and filled the glasses again.


Seven

"Is the Prince of Darkness blowing us off again?"

"He said he would come."

"Yeah, he always says he will come. He might be coming, but he sure ain't coming here these days."

They chuckled at this.

"Man, that boy is whipped."

"What does he see in that little white chick anyhow?"

"Don't ask me. I think she look like Caspar the Ghost's grandma. So pale, wearing those little white dresses all the time. She always smells like medicine or something. But he takes one look at her and its like, BAM, nobody home."

"Maybe he likes the blonde thing?"

"Naw, if that was it he could still be going with Gina. Now there is a woman who wiggles when she walks."

"Heck, she ain't really blonde. Gina she get her hair from a bottle an her tits from the plastic store."

"Who cares where she got 'em, they sure are big enough."

"Hey, look who just walked in"

"Yo, Prince of Darkness! We ain't seen you since forever."

"Hi guys.
"Do you guys know Susan?"

Posted by Red Ted at 12:42 PM | TrackBack