Equal, but Different (Part 1)

I’ve been thinking about sex a lot lately.

Hold on now–don’t go all million moms on me or anything.

I meant I’ve been thinking about gender.  Mostly, the differences between men and women (besides the obvious.)

So I’ve been reading and thinking–a dangerous combination for me–and to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about the things I’ve read.

Basically, I’ve been presented with the idea that feminism is a big contributor to the somewhat depressing state of our society today.  Now, that statement needs some clarification and some qualification.  I shouldn’t have written “feminism.”  I should have written, “Feminism.”  Like, Gloria Steinem Feminism.

The aforementioned state of our society is that kids are raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles, whoever, because mom got pregnant when she was fifteen. Teen Dad has no responsibility at all.  Everyone gets divorced, more than once sometimes.  In short, “the family” is in shambles.  Lots of kids are so ill-behaved, you’d like to just pinch their little heads right off.

Before anyone asks me who peed in my Cheerios this morning, let me say I don’t even like Cheerios.

Let’s be honest.  Good, old-fashioned morals like respect (including for oneself) are somewhat decreased.  I’m sure that every generation has said that about the one after them, but maybe that’s because it’s the truth.

I digress.

My point was about feminism.

As a young person who knew absolutely everything about everything, I can assure you marriage and children weren’t top on my list.  I could have a career just like a man.  I didn’t need a man to complete me.  My own grandmother asked me why I wanted to get married–she said it just meant I’d have someone telling me what to do for the next fifty years.  Point taken, Grandmother.

But as time passed and things changed, I began to wonder about my highbrow ideals.  I got married, and a few years later my son was born.  That was the turning point.

I had a job when I got pregnant, but the thought occurred to me that someone would have to take care of my baby.  We talked it over, and I could not tolerate the thought of someone else raising him.  We traded our car for a cheaper one, and became a one-income family.  It was tight.  It was hard.

But it was worth it.

Now, many years later, I’m finally reflecting on my roles as both a mother and a wife.

I’m going to give you a very general summation of the point of my current readings.  Because of the feminist movement, gender roles have become blurred.  Each gender has double the responsibility and can therefore only do half as well.

Another interesting point is that although feminism was meant to “free” women, it has, in fact, only hurt them.  Women have become sexually objectified to the point of complete detachment, and the pressure to look a certain way, do it all and be everything is taking its toll.  Although we women are supposedly “free” and “equal,” we are in fact more unhappy than at any time in history.

Men have also supposedly been hurt.  Because they can sleep with whoever with no emotional attachment, they have no respect for women.  Because the woman works and calls the shots, they have no responsibilities.  They have become apathetic and uninvolved. No one is depending on them for anything.

The things I have read (which I am leaving anonymous for now) cite the sky-rocketing divorce rate, more troubled kids and kids diagnosed with ADHD and similar disorders, and more rampant use of antidepressants.  All of these things can be attributed, at least in part, to the dissolution of gender roles and family values.

I have found all of these topics extremely interesting, and more than that, I am extremely interested to hear some opinions from my beloved readers.  Right now, I’m not going to state my own opinions.  I’m saving that for a follow-up post.  I just wanted to share these things I’ve read and get some feedback.  I have an interesting perspective.  I am a child of divorce, I was raised by someone other than my parents, and my mother was a teen mom.  Now I’m a stay at home mother and have been in my first and only marriage for fifteen years now.  By some standards that may not make our marriage a success yet, but I think we’re on the right road.  So I have lots of thoughts about feminism and gender roles.

I can’t wait to hear yours, too.  What do you think about our current culture? Gender roles?  Feminism? Let it rip!

read to be read at yeahwrite.me


 

Campground Culture

We went camping recently, as is tradition around here.

I won’t hold you spellbound with any riveting nature stories (although I could,) or spend a bunch of time complaining about the cold weather up in those mountains, even in June (although I could.)  The only personal thing I am going to share about our trip is this:

It’s hard to see in this picture, but this is a rendition, in miniature, of the Battle of Watoga*.  Union forces were able to withstand the vicious Rebel attack, but, sadly, they were unprepared for the ants.

My son is a huge Civil War freak, and he loves building these battles.  It makes me sad, because every year he loses a little more interest, and I know before long he will be too “grown up” to build battles.

But I digress.

Instead of sharing nature, I wanted to tell you about a thought that occurred to me one night while I was attempting to sleep.

This grand revelation happened as I lay on our inflatable bed, listening to our neighbor at the next camp site as he snored loudly enough to nearly suck the rain fly right off of our tent.

Yes, I could hear the neighbor snoring.  Let me tell you, it is quiet up there. No passing cars or thumping doors, no windows and doors or background household noises to damp down the sound.  And that’s when it hit me that campground life is very intimate.

Think about it: essentially, you can hear and see people in very personal positions.  Our inflatable bed makes this sort of squeaking sound, so every time one of us turned over, you could hear it halfway around the campground, I’m sure.  Snoring is a big happening.  So are other…..um……various bodily noises.  You get up in the morning with your pj’s on and your hair all standing up and stretch and groan, right along with the strangers all around you.  You might not be together, but you are together, if you get my meaning.  You eat together.  You shower and use the toilet and brush your teeth in the communal bathhouse.  What is more intimate than brushing your teeth next to someone?

Another thing that I noticed this time was the various kinds of people who frequent the campground.  Since we have been camping there nearly every year for fifteen years, and sometimes twice a year, I can speak with a certain amount of authority.  Here are the types of people I observed:

  • The purist: these are the people who take their camping seriously.  No wimpy inflatable bed for them–they sleep on the ground.  They don’t buy tents and sleeping bags at Wal-Mart, they buy them at the high-end outdoors stores, and they are outfitted to camp on the moon, should the occasion arise.  Even their clothes are different from mine–and I’ll tell you, it’s not a look I can pull off.  They look cool–I look like an idiot.
  • The Athletes: where we camp is called “West Virginia’s Mountain Playground,” and with good reason.  The Athletes have canoes, bikes, kayaks–you name it.  We hike, but these people are on a whole other level.  They wear bicycle pants, for Pete’s sake.  Bicycle pants!
  • The Long Timers: I like these people.  These are usually older folks who have retired.  They have fancy motor homes or big travel trailers.  But that isn’t the best part–they usually stay for a week at a time, so they put out flags and lights and sometimes even little white fences (I swear.)  They have a sign up with their name on it.  They go from campground to campground from April to October.  They are awesome!
  • The Hot Shots: These guys are serious about their camping, too, but in a different way.  They have extremely expensive campers pulled by extremely big, extremely expensive trucks.  These campers have all the slide-outs, stainless appliances in the kitchens, and jacuzzi tubs in the bathrooms.  The campers are so big, they sometimes have trouble negotiating the relatively small, rustic campground at Watoga.  But they don’t care.  They have more money than you.
  • The Party-ers: We don’t always see this group.  We go too early or late in the year, and as a rule, the party crowd travels in the summer.  However, we went a little later than usual this year and ran into them.  They also have nice campers (usually toy haulers), but they lack the overall refinement of the Hot Shots.  In spite of the fact that quiet hours start at 10pm, and in spite of the fact that the whole rest of the campground is dead quiet (except the snoring and farting), they still talk and laugh as though they are trying to communicate with people in the next county.  They are literally breathless at their own wit.  The rest of us are contemplating whether or not their bodies could be successfully hidden up there in the mountains.
  • The Kitchen Sinkers: This, of course, is my favorite group, because we are in it. These are the people who generally have a love/hate relationship with the outdoors.  It is very beautiful, it’s fun, and we love it.  However, it’s buggy, and hot (or cold, or sometimes both), and raccoons eat the dog’s food if you forget to put it away.  Kitchen Sinkers are usually families with various numbers and ages of children.  Hence the name–we pack enough stuff (everything but the….) to deal with every conceivable situation.  Injuries, starvation, frost bite, heat stroke, headaches, allergies–it’s all covered.  We can cook, clean, sleep, bathe, dress, play, and eat, all with the same convenience of home, plus bugs and dirt.  We have jackets, tons of shoes, books, toys, flashlights, water bottles, snacks, and enough diapers and wipes to equip a hospital nursery.  The younger the children, the more stuff we have.  And I haven’t even started on the things that are required for the actual camping, like a tent. We literally take two vehicles, because all of our stuff won’t fit in one or the other.  What can I say?  We believe in being prepared.  The only thing we don’t have are bicycle pants.

So I encourage you to take your family camping.  It’s a fun thing that will create memories that last a lifetime.  You can get close to God, your family, and nature.

And to the folks in the next tent.

*not an actual Civil War battle

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Because I Said So

I have always thought discussing politics was the surest way to start an argument, but I think I’ve found an even more volatile subject–parenting.

On the blogging community Blogher, there is an article titled “I Don’t Like Spanking My Kids, but I Do It Anyway.” The mom who wrote the article discusses how she believes in spanking her children only when necessary, and that she was spanked as a child.

The resulting conversation is fantastically entertaining.

The vast majority of commentators are against spanking, and a lot of them refer to it as abuse.  Furthermore, I  kept seeing the phrases “explain to your child” and “discuss their feelings” and teaching their kids to “control their emotions.”

This got me thinking.

Paradoxically, I happen to have a very close relationship to my son, and we do discuss most things, because he is mature enough to do it.  It works very well for us.  Also, he was never one to have tantrums as a toddler, and I didn’t have a lot of trouble with him getting into things or touching things he shouldn’t.

That doesn’t mean we never had our issues.

The overwhelming tone of the comments is that you should parent with love (which is true) and that you should explain to your kids why certain things are the way they are.  I made a comment that I wasn’t really for spanking (I have never found it to really accomplish anything) but that I had smacked a hand that was reaching for a hot stove.  Someone responded that I should have just removed the child to a crib or high chair away from the stove.  And of course “explain” to a two-year-old that they shouldn’t do that.  Then we could discuss their feelings.

One mother believes that you really can reason with a tantrum-having toddler by discussing their “big feelings.”  She has had success with this method.

I’m happy for her.

From my perspective, there’s only so much reason you can share with a toddler.  They are NOT tiny adults–they are children! Their brains are developing, and so are their emotions.  If a two-year-old wants a piece of candy that he can’t have, he only knows that it is good and that he wants it.  He doesn’t know anything about cavities or diabetes, and he doesn’t care.  You just have to say no, and if they freak, you have to put them somewhere safe until they quit.

When my son was six, he was friends with a little boy who came from a very troubled home.  The father verbally and physically abused the mother, they used foul language, and they were into drugs.  Needless to say, he was never going to go to the little boy’s home.  But the little boy just kept asking.  My son wanted to go.  I told him no, that I didn’t know the parents.  He told me to go meet them so he could go to their house.  My son became very angry with me because was my answer was “no.”

Now, I’m sorry, but I didn’t owe my son any explanations.  My answer was no, and that was it.  He was not old enough for me to explain the reasons he wasn’t allowed to go visit his little friend.

I think that’s the heart of the matter–parents are more interested in being popular than being parents.  Even the very  best children will go through rebellious and challenging periods.  All teenagers think they know everything, and no amount of explaining and reasoning will convince them that you are right and they are wrong.  You just have to stand tough, even if they get mad.

The other thing that I found interesting was that everyone is convinced of their own superiority.  Not only that, but rather than accept other people parent differently than them, they go on the attack.  Their way is the only way.

I am certainly skeptical about a lot of these parenting strategies, but having never tried them, I couldn’t say.  Maybe they work great.  Or maybe they don’t.  I only know that parenting is very hard, and I know your children have to respect you and, yes, they must have a certain amount of fear.  It’s not a fear that you will beat them up or something if they mess up, but just that they will have to suffer the consequences.  That voice has to speak in their mind when they are faced with a difficult decision–“If I do this, my mom is going to kill me.”

I think if you raise your kids with love and respect and expect them to do their best, things will be okay.  If they know they have consequences when they mess up, maybe they won’t mess up as much.  Mostly, they model their behavior after their parents, so if you want your kids to be decent people, the best thing to do is be a decent person yourself.

That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

 


 

 

 

(not so) Sorry

Apologies are funny things.

 

 

 

 

 

Remember this guy? This was Jimmy Swaggart’s tearful apology for his prostitute habit.  He was so sad.  He was so sorry.

Right.

As a result of the mild backlash from her insensitive remarks, Margaret Cho has written a heart-felt apology on her blog.  I encourage you to hop on over there and read it, and be sure to read the comments.  They make excellent food for thought.

I don’t really care all that much about the apology itself.  I mean, I don’t know Cho, she doesn’t know me, and she doesn’t owe me any apology.  She can be a jerk if she wants, and I can slam her for it if I want. (Freedom of speech, baby!)  The thing that rubs me wrong is how typical this “heart-felt” apology is.  Some celebrity is guilty of a fantastic boob, then they issue a sappy, crappy, “oh-I-didn’t-mean-to-hurt-anyone” apology.

Whatever.

I always wonder about apologies.  I sometimes ask my son, when he gets in trouble, if he is really sorry for what he did, or if he’s just sorry he got caught.  The phrase that comes to mind is “damage control.”

A lot of the comments on Cho’s blog suggest that people are just looking to be offended, and that it isn’t that big of a deal.  I guess, from a certain perspective, that right.  Ultimately, what a minor celebrity says during a cable television interview isn’t all that important, compared to, say, the President, the Pope, or Stephen King.  People say jerky things all the time.  The world is consumed by jerkiness.  Bygones.

But here’s the thing–Cho promotes herself as a great human rights activist, standing up for minorities of all kinds.  More than that, while it may not make any difference about what a person says, it certainly reveals their character, doesn’t it?

Take those comments–a lot of the commentators remarked that it was an “accident,” or that Cho “slipped up.”  “Humans make errors.”  Hey, you don’t have to tell me that.  I’ve made enough mistakes in my time to fill this blog and ten more.  You know what though?  I have never called anyone a retard.  Ever.  I’m sure I’ve hurt people along the way, but there are no excuses, and no apologies.  Those people can hate me, and rightly so.

And while I’m at it, that whole “accident” and “slip-up” thing really got me thinking.  An accident is when you step on someone’s toe, then say, “Oh, I’m sorry!”  Or maybe when you back your car into a parking meter. (Just an example.)  Those are accidents.  You might even “accidentally” hurt someone’s feelings by something you say.  I personally am very familiar with the taste of my foot.

However, when you set out to do or say something that you know is going to be hurtful and hateful, well, that’s not an accident.  That’s not a slip-up.  Cho was giving a little comedy routine right there on live television.  She’s promoting her new comedy tour, and she was giving everyone a preview.  Part of her repertoire is being crude and pushing the envelope.   That’s who she is.  No sense in apologizing for it now, I guess.

Don’t get me wrong–I do believe in apologizing when you hurt someone. Here’s the catch–being sorry for something doesn’t fix it.  Apologies aren’t a license to do or say anything you want.  Everyone would do well to remember that they while they absolutely do have the freedom to say what they want, others also have the freedom to react.  People who were Margaret Cho fans before probably still are.  I would go so far as to say that a lot of people she offended had never even heard of her until now.

(Can you say, “publicity?”)

One last thing–it is possible to be funny and racy and edgy without tearing others down.  You can even poke fun at others without hurting them.  There is a line there, and when you cross it, don’t be surprised by the consequences, and screw your apologies.

Oh, and make sure you have a good publicist.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

 

 

Proud Parent of a “Retard”

Usually, I’m one of those people who are sitting at home, shaking their heads ruefully, when I hear about how everyone is mad because some pea-brained celebrity made some inappropriate comment during an interview.

You know what I’m talking about–someone uses a racial slur, or slams homosexuality, and the media feeding frenzy begins.  It’s played over and over and over and over and over on every network in the universe.  Aliens on the planet Zoobork hear about it.  Sometimes, it blows over, and sometimes a career can be shaken. (Remember Imus?)

I always sit around and say how the media makes it worse, let it drop, etc, etc.

Well, I’m a hypocrite, in case any of my regular readers haven’t figured it out, and I’m about to prove it to the tenth degree.

Recently, Margaret Cho, a comedienne, did an interview in which she declared she didn’t “necessarily want to have a retard” baby.  She’s older, and I assume she’s talking about the increased risk for birth defects as a woman moves along in her childbearing years.

This comment is possibly one of the stupidest things I have ever heard anyone say, and that, my friends, is saying a lot.  I refuse to believe anyone could be this ignorant.  She said it with intent–period.  Was it for the publicity, or is this really the depth of her mind?  Obviously, having a retarded baby is the least of her problems.

I hate that word–retard.  I hate it.  Hate, hate, hate.  Is has a real definition, and until very recently was commonly used in medical circles.  But that doesn’t matter–I hate it.  People use it, and they sure as hell aren’t using it medically.  They use it to imply someone is stupid or ridiculous.

In other words, they think my daughter is stupid and ridiculous.

In other words, Margaret Cho thinks my daughter is stupid and ridiculous.

I wonder if this little slur from this big idiot will get as much negative attention as, say, Imus’ referring to some black women’s basketball players as “nappy-headed ho’s?”  I sort of doubt it.  I guess the only ripples will be from people like me who have very personal feelings about these retarded babies, kids and adults.

I mean, purely hypothetically, if someone were to write something about Margaret Cho, and they were to use a racial slur, like Slant-eye or Buckethead, why, that would be very offensive, wouldn’t it?  Lot’s of people would be offended, and maybe whoever said those things would be dragged over the coals.  So of course, you would never want to use those types of racial slurs.  If you did, it would all just be in good fun, just a little joke, just pushing the boundaries to prove your edginess, right?  No harm done–no need to get upset, right?

In reality, I know I’m supposed to take the high road here, and that comments from such a small mind should just roll right off my back.  Oh, but it’s hard.  When I sit here and look at my daughter, and I think of how much I love her and how beautiful she is, I just want to snatch that bitch Margaret Cho bald.

Maybe there are lots of people who feel like her.  I understand that everyone wants to have a healthy baby, and no one would wish to have a child with any type of problem.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life, it’s that there are no guarantees, and let me go one step more–I would not trade my retarded daughter for ten “normal” kids. Here’s why:

  • She lives every day in the moment–no worries about yesterday or tomorrow.
  • She gets mad, but she gets over it.  No grudge holding for her.
  • She loves who she loves, unconditionally.  She has no prejudice, no bias, no preconceived notions about anyone.  (If only Margaret Cho could be so fortunate.)
  • She gives affection freely.
  • She has taught me what a gift life is, how important it is to be thankful for each thing we are given, no matter how small.
  • When she’s excited, she jumps and laughs and squeals.  She lives her joy with childlike abandon.  We’re all too hung-up with ourselves to ever really give ourselves over to happiness and joy.  We’re the ones missing out.
  • It’s hard sometimes, but it’s my privilege to take care of her.  She depends totally on me–what an awesome responsibility!
  • She is satisfied with so little.  It takes almost nothing to make her happy, where as all of us are never satisfied.

If all of these things come with being retarded, maybe we should all be so fortunate as to be counted among that number.  There are obviously worse things to be.

A narrow-minded idiot, for example.

 

P.S. In case you missed the message: Suck it, Margaret Cho.  You don’t deserve a “retarded” child. 

 

This is Evelyn when she was three.  Who knew being retarded was so frickin’ cute?

r-word.org

 

 

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