Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sluts Vote

(Image from Skreened.com)

STRONG LANGUAGE ALERT!!! Mom, you may want to skip this ūüôā

Back in the early to mid-90s, when I was coming of age, there were two main topics which dominated discussions about women’s rights. Now, this may be due to where I lived and where I went to school (California, a fairly liberal college) but the two main gender-related topics on the table were:

1) AIDS and the need for everyone to protect themselves from it (via safe sex)
2) Date rape

There was a campus event called “Take Back The Night”: a candlelight vigil where women and men marched through the university in the dark. The event was meant to illuminate the dangers women face at night, most specifically sexual assault, from fellow students or anonymous attackers. Our college had quite the reputation as a “fun place”, and it even won the Playboy title for “Biggest Party School” a few times. I think the designation was mostly true, and was due to an irresistible combination of the location (directly on a beach), the fact that the entire student community is a closely knit town where students can bike or walk everywhere and the weather, which is rarely below a balmy 70%. Anyway, the statistics at the college at the time claimed 1 in 4 women would be sexually assaulted. 1 in 4. This was a message that was frequently discussed: at parties, in the college newspaper, on banners around campus, in class. You couldn’t avoid that message if you tried.

It seems to me as if in the last year the agenda had shifted, pretty dramatically. Suddenly, we are talking about whether women should use birth control AT ALL and whether women in short skirts are “asking for it” and of course there is the growing movement for personhood (which undermines IVF treatments completely) and the restrictions on abortion and more and more….

I came across this article yesterday, which was incredibly upsetting. And I found myself wondering, is this the direction that society as a whole is going?

Then I thought, you know what? Women vote. We matter. We count. We have economic power, as Justine pointed out.

Esperanza wrote a post which has been percolating in my head all day.

The word I am most concerned about is the word SLUT. It is an ugly, ugly word. And it may be the word underlining most of the political debate about gender right now. It’s not spoken, but it’s implied. She’s a SLUT, so she got what she had coming. She’s a SLUT, she should deal with the consequences of a rape. (Including parenting a child, even if she’s 11, even if her father is the father.) She’s a SLUT, I shouldn’t have to pay for her birth control: she needs to be in the kitchen barefoot with her five children.

Aside: why aren’t we discussing why VIAGRA should be covered by public health plans?

Words are powerful, but what if we could remake a word so it wasn’t a slur? What if we could reclaim the word slut, make it our own?

Or maybe we shouldn’t. I don’t know. But I did see someone post a photo of the banner “Sluts Vote” on Twitter and it made my heart glad.

What do you think? Should we try to reclaim the word “slut?” Would that work?

19 Comments

Filed under Infertility

Perfect Moment: Smoke Caught in the Glass

Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.

My daughter loves to dance.

On vacation, there was a talent show. Ten-year-olds sang songs from such varied sources as Disney’s Tarzan, LMFAO and The Sound of Music.

Suddenly, the MC called my daughter’s name, and my four-year-old little dynamo strode up those stairs onto the stage in front of 50+ vacationers. (Her twin brother, her guard-at-arms, was close on her heels, acting as her bodyguard.)

And she danced. To a tune and rhythm all her own. It was if an unspoilt tropical breeze blew in and took over my daughter’s spirit. But of course, there was no introduced element: it was her own uncynical, carefree soul in its most free form.

And I thought: how honored I was to see this smoke caught in a glass jar: a momentary, blissful joy captured in the wild, even if for just a millisecond of my time here. How privileged am I to have caught a glimpse of this fume in this comely pure shape.

I tried to recapture the moment, here. She is so fluid, so shifting, so molten. She is like how I once was, she is nothing like me. She is she.

Extra bonus: my incredibly terrible cinematography and ugly brass-filled bathroom! Fire extinguisher still on the counter? CHECK!

12 Comments

Filed under Perfect Moment

When the Lines Between the Private and Public Blur

By now, you probably have all heard of the Joseph Kony social media campaign and the unfortunate public breakdown of its creator, Jason Russell.

I’ve watched the Kony 2012 YouTube video, and it is among the more brilliant pieces of viral media I’ve ever seen. You probably have, too: over 80 million people have viewed it. While the video meant to shine the spotlight on Kony and his evil reign of terror (including enslaving children to become soldiers and a lot of other atrocities), it attracted a lot of criticism too. There was talk that the short film was oversimplifying the political situation in Uganda, that Kony was not even the biggest problem in the region (preventable diseases are) and there were some skeptical reports of Russell’s foundation and the way they spent money.

Because Russell involved his own personal story in the video (how he met a victim of Kony’s, a former child soldier years ago and promised him he’d do something about Kony, the birth of his son, his son’s reaction to being told what Kony had done) he (indadvertedly, I think) made himself into a sort of bulls-eye target for skeptics and detractors.

According to his wife, the pressure and criticism really bothered him, to the point where he suffered from “reactive psychosis”.

The whole thing is unsettling to me, as an ALI blogger. My real name is associated with this site, and I have put myself out there as an advocate with the Faces of ALI series. The reason I attached my real name was because I was certain I was strong enough to withstand criticism from the outside world, and I was uniquely positioned to do so, being a SAHM with a supportive family. And I still feel that way. But there is a kind of dread attached to going really viral, like the KONY campaign. I have not yet received that mean comment from someone outside the ALI community. I know that day will come.

What I think surprised me recently is the fact that people within your own cause are not always 100% percent aligned. This makes perfect sense in retrospect. (Of course all individuals have their own unique viewpoint). To be honest, I don’t know much about advocating at all. I’ve never really had a cause to fight for, other than working on political campaigns, which is different than blogging for a cause. I had never told my personal story and connected it to a public problem.

Really, it was something in Harry Potter that spoke deeply enough to me when I was going through infertility and my miscarriages and moved me to advocate. I have always admired bravery more than any other trait, like I suspect Rowling does, probably because a lot of things scare me. In the end, I liked the lesson that Neville Longbottom, who’s kind of shy and timid like me, can be helpful to a cause and his friends simply by putting himself out there and standing up for his beliefs. He chooses to do that, it’s not like he’s an adrenaline seeker. (Like I kind of think Harry is. At least, that’s how I see him sometimes.) He chooses to do it, even though it makes him uncomfortable.

But I so totally, totally understand why so many of you choose not to (and in many cases have no choice at all due to relatives, work, friends, religious institutions, etc) and the last couple of weeks has really gotten me thinking about advocate blogging and the issues involved.

What do you think? Do you think it’s dangerous to mix the personal with the private while blogging for a cause?

14 Comments

Filed under Blogging

The Babysitter Who Works For Us A Few Times A Month: Worth Every Cent of the $60 I Pay Her?

Because I was looking to hire a babysitter of the highest exactitude and excellence, I put an advertisement in our local serviceperson-finding exchange. (A very well-qualified gentleman named Craig manages this exclusive directory.)

The advertisement read:
“Needed: a childcare professional who can handle many specialized tasks. You must be able to finesse our LOB-STAR Elite tennis ball thrower, be a leather-gloved chauffeur who can handle driving both our finicky Mazarati AND our sporty Range Rover, sail and know the starboard from the portside, be comfortable in both the environs of Chez Panisse AND Mission Chinese Food and preferably be bilingual in Mandarian and English. Perks include a private Pilates studio, biannual trips to Nantucket and St. Barts and the company of elite intellectuals who would NEVER sing David Guetta songs.”

Ah, but I did not anticipate how DIFFICULT it would BE to find such a paragon. My own heavenly mother’s helper did not appear, because, good help, it seems, is really hard to find.

There were the intangible qualities I was looking for, too. She would need to extract invitations on the chicest playgrounds in town from daughters and sons of the A-list. (She could only rub elbows with other nannies employed by captains of industry or possessors of very large fortunes.) She must know the difference between Salmon roe or sturgeon caviar, when over at Mrs. X’s house for a playdate. (And let me know, because if it’s the Salmon, she’s down on her heels.)

If this sounds bonkers, click here.

Here’s my actual advertisement:

“Competent, kind babysitter wanted to help out a few hours a week. The children are toddler twins. References and CPR-certified, please.”

I mean, REALLY!!!!

6 Comments

Filed under Dumb

Fresh Horses

“What is luck when it comes right down to it? How exactly does it differ from fate? Are we really the stories we tell? This, Judge, is just the tip of my iceberg. Grace – I need it – I need it badly. But the thing is, I can’t find it. Is it enough to be a decent mother, a wife or do I need to do something big?” She tucked in, her lemony hot breath puffing in his face. “Answer me this: Do you believe today everyone has the goods to be a champion?”

“Ah,” chuckled Artie Green, “a liberal.”

Three Stages of Amazement, Carol Edgarian

In the aftermath of the heated battle which shall not be mentioned again, I doubted myself. I doubted my ability to champion a cause. I thought about abandoning it. There were a few heated discussions with Darcy, wherein he told me that he would prefer me to channel my creative energies elsewhere. Why, he wanted to know, am I so focused on what lies in my past?

There are creative energies that are being left behind. The unfinished novel. I look to Esperanza with naked envy: she has taken her literary aspirations and turned them into a real, living, breathing, wailing, colic-y book.

***

At the resort where we stayed, almost every morning I slept in. I knew this act would be disapproved of. I knew I was missing out on activities, sun, life. But I repeated to myself: “Fresh horses, Jessica. Fresh horses.”

I told my mom before we left, “Faces of ALI is the best thing I have ever written.”

She asked me: “Do you know what the favorite work of every writer is?”

“No,” I replied.

“Their current one.”

***

I read three good novels on vacation. Room, by Emma Donoghue (which I almost didn’t finish: it is that disturbing), Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, and Three Stages of Amazement, by Carol Edgarian. And also, a Sookie Stackhouse novel. After Room. I needed some light relief.

I hadn’t read a novel in over a year.

***

At the resort, a jovial happy place where smiling seemed de rigueur, cliques didn’t exist and everything was easy, I thought and thought. Why am I the lucky one who gets to enjoy such a place? Shouldn’t I be out in a fishing village volunteering my time? Is it never possible to quell my mind of guilt?

I hung out with native Mexicans and asked them what Mexico was like, now. How was the country holding up in the face of the drug wars?

Armando laid it out for me: “My brother graduated from a top college in engineering. He works at a kind of Bed Bath and Beyond. But he’s lucky. Some of his fellow graduates drive taxis. The economy, it is BAD.”

And the drug wars, I asked?

“Unless you are in a cartel, they don’t concern you. At least, here. In this province.”

***

Why are some lucky and not others? For the longest time, I thought I was unlucky. I blamed the status anxiety of where I live (where BMWs are called “Basic Marin Wheels”) and the fact that having children was not a given for me. That it took science, a lot of it, to make me a parent. I worried that I am such an anxious mom, compared to others. Compared to the lucky moms on the playground, who I see judging me in their narrowed eyes. Oh, she has twins, you see. Fraternal twins. And you know what THAT MEANS.

They worry that my circumstances will rub off on them. They are afraid. They are scared that life is but a sacred veil: an illusion, that we control nothing, that we are born into a set of parentheses. That nothing is guaranteed except death. That death will come for them, too. For none of us wears an invisibility cloak. Ignotus Peverall only fooled death for a while.

***

Like David Foster Wallace, vacations make me ponder death. Why, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s that the business of daily living doesn’t permit thoughts of death to enter into my head.

There was a water aerobics instructor who looked like Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise and each day he danced to a special routine to LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” He was in on the joke. He winked. He knew he was helping us bide our time here on this funny, strange, tragic, stunning blue and green ball (I know I’m paraphrasing Anne Lamont here) through his comeliness, his willingness to make himself ridiculous in front of us. To me, he was courageous. For cheerfully reminding us all how absurd life is.

***

This is sounding depressing. I don’t mean it to.

On the last full day of our trip, Darcy took me on a guided horseback riding trek on a deserted, unfathomably lovely beach. We walked our horses past a crocodile-filled lagoon. And our guide let me gallop down the long, U-shaped bay. As I spurred my horse onwards, I rushed past Darcy and the guide, and felt the salt-filled air fill my lungs and nostrils as I steamed across the beach, fully engaged, completely in control of my running mutt of a filly and we both charged into the distance: crazily, optimistically and at odds with our own skeptical natures. (For the horse stepped carefully and I knew her to be of my mindset.)

And that’s what life is: it’s a gambol. It’s a wild ride of a trek. We don’t control it, though we often think we do.

***

In the end, I choose to try to champion.

***

You may not need me, you may well be better off without me, but I need you. You have been my lighthouse in the fog, you have made me laugh, you have made me think, you have made me look.

***

“A woman could die from a lack of real talk. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it a hundred times. And it’s not the kind of thing that a man can or should provide. In fact, any fellow who doesn’t worship his wife’s girlfriends is a fool.”

Three Stages of Amazement, Carol Edgarian

***

Thank you, for the real talk. It means more to me than I can say.

14 Comments

Filed under Discovering joy