Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Abstinence-only education doesn't work

Well, it doesn't work for the stated goal of actually getting teenagers to abstain from sex.

DALLAS — Abstinence-only programs like those promoted by the Bush administration don't seem to be working on teenagers in the president's home state, according to a state-sponsored study by Texas A&M University researchers.

The ongoing study, the first evaluation of the abstinence programs across the state, found that students in almost all high school grades were more sexually active after undergoing abstinence education.

By the way, isn't it a misnomer to call it "education"? I mean, haranguing a group of kids for a semester about keeping their pants on isn't really teaching them anything. It's not like teenagers aren't aware that Sex Is Bad. How do they fill up class time? Teaching girls how to hold a pencil between their knees? After being bored out of my mind like that for a semester, I'd go have sex just to spite the school for wasting my time if I were a student.

Anyway, the story just mentions that the kids go to class, blow off the "lesson" and go out and fuck anyway. They don't mention if after wasting the kids' time and our tax dollars whether or not the kids then decide to take what they did learn (that condoms don't work and make your dick fall off, I mean, the "failure rate" of contraception) and use that new information to decide to blow off using birth control. My guess is yes.

Call me cynical if you must, but it's hard for me to believe that people have good intentions when they gather a bunch of kids into a classroom and tell them what they already know--adults don't want you to fuck--and then tell them that condoms don't work. In fact, that sounds almost as if the actual intention is not to keep kids from having sex so much as make sure that those who do pay for it with their health or their future. Maybe some starry-eyed optimists really do think that kids have sex because no one has ever told them not to and that's all it's gonna take, but my guess is that they are a minority of the abstinence only proponents. Everyone else?

Yeah, it's hard for me not to see abstinence-only education as a vengenance program unleashed on the young to punish them for growing up in a time where they have their health and their youth and they can have sex without risking their futures.

And if that's the goal, according to this map, abstinence-only is working like a charm. (Thanks for the map, Jill.)

The gender gap in politics and religion

Ampersand has an interesting post today on the religion and gender gap between the Republicans and the Democrats. At stake are two gender gaps and one religion gap. Women are more likely to be religious than men. Men are more likely to vote Republican than women. Religious people are more likely to vote Republican than Democrat. Why do these numbers skew all over the place? The Wilson Quarterly that Amp quotes suggests that women are simply more compassionate than men, and therefore more likely to support welfare and leaves it at that. I disagree. I think that these gaps are easy enough to understand if you realize that while being religious means that you are more likely to vote Republican doesn' t mean that all Republican voters are really religious. And then you can view these different gaps and different phenomenon that don't have to add up to a coherent picture.

From living in a community that had a lot of religious involvement, I think I have a pretty good grasp on why women tend to be more churchy than men. First off, the church is the best place in many conservative communities for women to exert influence and feel important. For many women I saw growing up, even if they had a full-time job there was still a sense that their jobs weren't all that important, just a way to earn pin money. But singing in the choir or organizing church activities or things like that made them feel accomplished. There are also a lot of men who avoid full-on church involvement because there's a sense that it's unmanly somehow. I guess it's because religion is an emotional thing.

The mistake is thinking that the Republicans use of "values" to appeal to voters has a damn thing to do with the values that are invoked in actual church life--values of community, charity and the like. Appealing to actual religious values isn't going to win elections, since while most Americans will tell a pollster they believe in god, they still want to sleep in on Sunday and get laid on Saturday. Anyway, I know lots and lots and lots of people who vote Republican, eat up the whole line about "family values", and don't ever darken a church door. And that's because "family values", as George Lakoff will tell you, has nothing to do with anything Jesus Christ said and everything to do with what he calls "strict father" mentality and what I just like to call the patriarchy. I'm an unreformed feminist, you know.

The Republicans have simply stolen the standard way Hollywood sells movies, which is bring in the men and the women will follow. The idea in selling movies is this: Stuff your movies full of good-looking women and violence, market directly to young men and they will drag their girlfriends to see it. And the girlfriends will go, because women are used to male authority in their lives.

The Republicans do the same thing. The Shrub is packaged up for maximum effect on a male audience. His rotating gallery of superhero costumes should be the first clue, as should the very existence of Ann Coulter, with her mini-skirts and her willingness to say nasty things about other women any chance she gets. The Stepford wife of a First Lady should really cause alarm bells to go off. The Republican party has been conveying a straightfoward, coherent message to the men of this country for a long time now, and that message is that they understand that men need to be Men and that the Democrats, in conjunction with the feminists, are trying to emasculate the men of this country. And that gets projected onto the nation as a whole--I would go so far as to say that 9/11 is perceived by many conservative voters as the result of our nation's "emasculation", that we became womanly and vulnerable and as such were violated.

Apparently, 59% of male voters are buying it, which sounds actually below what I would guess the gullibility rate is when people are inundated with messages about how they are losing a grip on their identity and virility. My guess is the rate of return on this strategy is going to continue plummeting for the Republicans, much in the way that action films aimed at teenage boys don't draw crowds these days like they did in the 80s. After a couple of decades of living with feminist reforms, it's becoming clear that women's gain aren't going to emasculate men. And while there was a spike in these anxieties after 9/11, it was barely enough to keep the Shrub in office. All in all, I think there's reason for long term optimism, as long as the Shrub can keep from burning the country to the ground. Maybe in a couple more cycles, masculine anxiety won't be a viable strategy anymore and we can return to the business of addressing real problems and solutions through government action.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

In honor of my new bad habit....

Congratulations! You are Susan Mayer, the divorcee
and single mom who will go to extraordinary
lengths for love.

Which Desperate Housewife are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Are people inherently depraved?

I was tickled to see a naked example of conservatism pop up in the comments at Alas, a Blog in this comment by Robert:

I believe that all human beings have the same basic nature. We all start out greedy, selfish, naughty, and all the rest. We can partially overcome these things; indeed, we had better do so if we want to have decent lives with one another. However, the nature remains, and the temptation remains, and we all stand capable of committing great evil if conditions are right.

Classic conservatism in the raw, which I was taught is best articulated by Thomas Hobbes. It's my personal opinion that much of American conservatism actually can be traced back to our Puritan ancestors and their Calvinist obsession with depravity and original sin, which also explains the American conservative tendency to lump lust in with other, criminal depravities. But of course, as soon as I pointed out that there was a philosophical difference at stake here and that American liberals generally don't subscribe to the belief that humans are inherently depraved, the commenter backed off his statement.

Too bad, really, though I know why he did it. Rare is the American conservative who embraces the philosophical tenets of conservatism, especially those who know that the widely stated American principle of liberty relies on a classically liberal understanding of human nature. So American conservatism has to be really stealthy for political expediency.

Of course, there is one kind of American conservative who embraces the theory of human depravity without apology, and that's the religious right who still explicitly ground their belief system in that of our Puritan ancestors. But it's important to remember that the majority of people who identify as conservative reject simplistic religious views like this and consider themselves intelligent and educated on science and all that. Which puts them in a real bind, since they can't explicitly embrace a classical position or risk sounding un-American but they don't want to align themselves with the snake-in-a-tree crowd, either. The only other option for justifying a conservative position is to take a simplistically cynical stance. Which is, "People are inherently wicked and need to be controlled and anyone who disagrees with me is a romantic, starry-eyed, tree-hugger."

I agree that a romantic view of human nature is unrealistic, but it doesn't follow that a cynical view of human nature is the realistic one. Both viewpoints stem from being having a selective eye and only seeing evidence that bolsters your point of view. The cynical-conservative viewpoint is that hostility dominates human relations and competitive strategies are inevitable so even trying to implement cooperative strategies is doomed and you might as well embrace competitive strategies. But I would argue that cooperation is actually the dominant strategy in most people's lives, and we only notice competition and hostility more because it's the exception to the rule. Granted, it's a common exception but it's common in large part because our social structures encourage hostile human relations. Think of all the small ways you cooperate with people in the day. Now think of how rarely you clash with someone in comparison. See what I mean?

I think that people will generally conform to the expectations put on them. You see this with the manufactured Social Security crisis. I was listening to NPR and they were interviewing people about various options for fixing Social Security. When most of the people they interviewed were told that the fund could fixed by pushing the age that you started receiving benefits from 65 to 70, people were surprisingly open to cooperating by putting off the age they can expect benefits to make sure that there were benefits for everyone.

But if BushCo pushes their private accounts on people, there will be an avalanche effect as the expectations put on people change. A handful of competitive types will immediately pull their money out of the general fund, not so much because there's proof that they will make more but because there is always a handful of people that conduct their business by maximizing the hostility in their strategies. And that will shrink the size of the fund, causing more people to panic and pull out until everyone has to because if they don't, there will be no money left over to pay out their benefits. Again, people will conform to expectations, which is exactly what BushCo is counting on to kill Social Security.

Last night's show and some pictures

It was a blast last night. Before the Yuppie Pricks, the Black Novas, the Put-Downs, and Young Heart Attack played. Of these three, I thought the Black Novas were easily the best. Despite the cold, there were a shitload of people there, which was thrilling. Jello Biafra did not show (boo). Otherwise, it was a blast. We stood at the front so my boyfriend could take pictures, and it was weird seeing how many rabid fans the band has accumulated in the years I've known them. It's funny now that they have so many fans, we were witness to a couple hundred people singing, "Fuck you, I'm rich," in unison.

I think Trevor is channeling his inner Reagan here. Posted by Hello

Deuce rocks out amidst the carnage of a plaster column that Trevor destroyed in a fit of yuppie petulance. Posted by Hello

The vanity shot. I got my hair cut yesterday, losing about 12 inches and gaining bangs. Which meant I spent the whole night having to swing my arms to get my friends' attention when they came into Emo's, since no one recognized me. Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 29, 2005


Good times tonight--the Yuppie Pricks' CD Release Party at Emo's! Word has it that Jello Biafra will be there to sing a song with them. He came down for SXSW for their show at the Elks Lodge , but I missed it because I was at work. But I have a bunch of lovely pictures of a bunch of my friends hanging out at the pool and drinking beer with a punk rock legend. Argh.

Anyway, I digress. Come to the show! Buy a CD! If you can't come to the show, buy a CD anyway!


This video is some fun stuff for a Saturday. However, I'm not sure if it's supposed to make the whole procedure more palatable because I am officially never going to do this.

And this is from a woman who has a couple tattoos and is looking forward to getting more.

You didn't really think that they'd stop at abortion, did you?

From Daily Kos, the battle of what to do about contraception if Roe v. Wade is overturned is getting ugly, as anti-abortion forces make it clear that they are going to try to turn a legal ban on abortion into a ban on as many contraceptives as humanly possible. In an effort to circumvent these anti-contraception efforts, Senator Mary Margaret Whipple of the Virginia Senate has written up a bill to protect the women of Virginia from having the birth control pills taken away from them once it's determined that women don't enjoy the privacy rights won in Roe v. Wade. The quibble in the Virginia Senate is over the two definitions of what "contraception" is.

There is the medically correct definition that Whipple intends to use, which is that it prevents pregnancy.

"Contraception" is defined, for all purposes, as the use of any process, device, or method to prevent pregnancy, including steroidal, chemical, physical or barrier, natural or permanent methods for preventing the union of an ovum with the spermatozoon or the subsequent implantation of the fertilized ovum in the uterus.

But some of the right wing men of the Virginia Senate don't like the correct definition of contraception, because it relies on correct definiton of pregnancy, which starts at implantation. And they don't like that because that means that after the man has shot his load, that doesn't necessarily mean the woman is pregnant. Nope, a woman's body still has work to do in order to be pregnant, an offensive notion to say the least.

But just because science says it's true doesn't mean the law can't pretend that pregnant is something that men do to women, instead of a two to tango situation. And the men-do-it-to-women-end-of-story definition is the one that the right wing men of the Virginia Senate prefer.

But Senator Devolites-Davis ignored the definitions of contraception used by medical science, turned to as her source of definitions of medical terminology, and has now introduced an amendment to Whipple's bill that removes Whipple's medical terminology, specifically the wording that refers to implantation.

As I have pointed out many times before, the debate over what "pregnant" is really reveals the ugly, wormy side of the anti-choice brigade. This ain't about babies, folks. It's about denying female agency wherever it rears its ugly head, even and especially in something as commonsensical as the fact that it may take a man to make a baby, but men surely aren't the ones who make babies.

Edited to add: Does anyone else see the irony in this whole situation? Anti-feminists are always complaining that feminists won't admit that there are differences between men and women. And yet in the one situation where we have mountains of evidence of a bona fide, undeniable difference--that women's bodies have a process to turn raw material into other human beings and men's don't--it's the anti-feminists that are denying the difference and saying that both men and women contribute equally to making a baby.

More censorship attempts

I missed it yesterday, but Salon compiled a list of the incidents that generated the 34 complaints of obscenity that the FCC dismissed. (Anyone want to tell the people who keep phoning in these complaints that the FCC wasn't really established to be the censorship arm of the federal government?) There are few things about the list that are extremely telling, not the least of which is an attempt to turn an extremely gentle joke on "The Simpsons" about the "WWJD" trend into an obscenity complaint. Laws banning even gentle fun-poking at Christianity violate the 1st Amendment from two angles, but I guess a good section of the country missed class the day that was discussed. Another telling thing is that the words "dick", "penis" or "vagina" are considered utter filth no matter how they are used. But the thing that really got to me is that most of the shows that were complained about air really, really close to "safe harbor", a concept that the AFA and other "family" organizations understand really well, if they are still hazy on 1st Amendment protections.

Safe harbor is the hours between 10PM and 6AM when the FCC doesn't really regulate what you say over the airwaves. The reasoning behind setting aside those hours is this: If they made an absolute law that there are things you can't say on television or the radio, they would be in violation of the 1st Amendment. Outright bans really don't hold up well under court scrutiny. However, there is broad support for the idea that the government can regulate what's accessible to minors, an idea that is abused to its hilt by the right wing in this country. (For instance, I find massive censorship in libraries of high schools to be an appalling practice.) Safe harbor are the hours that children are supposedly in bed, so if you can stay up until midnight, you can hear "fuck" on the radio all you want.

I think that any idiot can see that safe harbor is one of those concepts that should be treated in terms of degrees, and not as an absolute black and white thing. Some of the complaints on this list are nothing more than showing a man and woman in bed together or saying the word "sex" at 9:30PM. If there's any time that small children can be sent to bed instead of sit around watching TV with their parents, it's 9:30PM. Clearly, there's a bunch of people hiding behind the idea of protecting the children when what they mean is that they want to be protected and, more importantly, able to tell other adults what they can see.

I remember when I was in the community theater group in Alpine (yes, I'm a nerd, but there was nothing better to do) and there was an endless push-pull in the group about whether or not we could do plays with sexual themes or "dirty" words. Example of a dirty word: One play I was helping on costume in had the word "clitoris" in it, and one of the women in the theater group left the room when she came to rehearsals and heard it. This had nothing to do with children. It was well-understood that the Big Bend Players only did one children's show a year at Christmas, and that's all the theater your average elementary school kid wants to see anyway. The nice thing about living in West Texas is that people didn't (and probably still don't) take pains to hide how they really feel about certain issues. And this is one of those issues. The basic reasoning that was presented to us time and time again was that it was unseemly to say these things in mixed company.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Friday cat blog

Bedtime. Max is asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. Katy is getting there.

Sorry there's not more photos of them doing much beside laying around. That's the easiest time to get good pictures of them for obvious reasons. Posted by Hello

The perils of the engagement ring

Steve Gilliard has jumped into the engagement ring debates. He hasn't offered an opinion on the advice column from Cary Tennis where Cary suggests that there might be multiple readings of the meaning of the ring, but you can imagine how some of his readers reacted. Yep--it's a symbol of patriarchal oppression, a throwback to the days when women were purchasable commodities, a way of reinforcing the notion that women's worth is measured by their men, but all most of his commenters can do is sputter around about what a bitch the woman in question is for wanting one.

Of course, my first inclination on reading that the woman in question was demanding a 3-months-salary ring was, "Why don't you just peddle that shit on South Congress?" But while my thought was rude, I don't think it was particularly sexist--in no way do I think that women have some inherent need to be bought out or that we are greedy bitches. I just don't think that the romanticizing the purchase of wives is such a great idea, even if we claim to just be clinging to the trappings while denying their meaning.

Cary struggles to find more pleasant, newer meanings to the engagement ring:

We all know that in spite of social progress men still make more money than women and thus wield more power. So requesting that he buy this ring, although it sounds old-fashioned, may also be her way of asking that he recognize this continuing social and economic inequality; the act of buying the ring is a symbolic giving up of his unfairly derived power, a laying himself bare.

Nice try, but no cigar. A symbolic gesture of female subservience and decorativeness is indeed and acknowledgement of their reality, but simply acknowledging it does nothing to fight against it. In fact, adamantly refusing to wear a ring is also a symbolic gesture that goes noticed and it speaks volumes about one's unwillingness to just give into social customs that offend you.

If you make more than your partner there are ways you can equal things out without spending the money on a gesture that carries the implication that your wife is a purchasable commodity. For instance, you can pay a higher percentage of the bills--a private decision that much more effectively conveys the belief that marriage is a partnership, not a transaction.

Of course, my hard stance that the engagement ring is a symbol of female subservience is challenged strongly by the fact that so many women push so hard for them. And as such, I feel sorry for the woman who writes this letter, because it's a pain in the ass to explain why just because it's a woman who wants something doesn't make it a feminist thing. But basically, pushing for an expensive ring from a man, even a man who makes a lot of money and pays for more of the bills, seems wrong-headed to me. The ring seems like a transaction whereas divvying up the bills is just partnership.

Weekend show recommendations

Let me start off by plugging a brand new radio show by a friend of mine called The Catbird Seat with Alex on WPGU in Illinois. You can listen to it streaming here. It's on Sunday night at 9PM. On the show, he brings on guests who know a thing or two about music and has them play their influences and talk about it. I'm enthusiastic about the idea because if there's anything more fun that listening to music, it's bullshitting about it.

The big event of the weekend is the Yuppie Pricks' CD Release Party at Emo's on Saturday night. The Put Downs and Young Heart Attack are opening. This release from the Pricks is their intro to the big time, at least by cruddy indie standards--they are releasing it on Alternative Tentacles. Hopefully I'll have a decent picture or two to share.

Tonight, as usual, is Mr. Lewis and the Funeral Five at Beerland. Yes, I intend to keep plugging them. They deserve more fans, dammit. They'll go on between 8 and 8:30, for early types. It also looks like there will be a Go-Go-A-Rama later that night, which better mean that the go-go dancers will be there. It's worth going to see go-go dancing in the year 2005.

Porn again

I'm so going to make up T-shirts that say that.

Anyway, there's an article on Alternet today about "revisiting" the porn debates, trying to find a middle ground between the right-wingers, who view banning porn as a larger part of creating a hostile enviroment to sexuality, women's in particular and criticizing the porn industry as it stands for its rampant misogyny. Okay, I'm game. After all, as the article points out, there is some really upsetting and vile porn out there, and a lot of it is really popular.

One of the most popular booths at the expo was for the BangBus, which consistently drew large crowds of almost entirely male fans. What's the BangBus concept? One of the producers explained that the videos show men in a large van, picking up what appear to be women on the streets, talking them into having sex, and then degrading them in some way – dropping them off in desolate places, not giving them money promised, or throwing their belongings out the door.

Yeah, those videos are awful. I saw one once and I was pretty upset at the glee the actors took in degrading the actress. I thought it was particularly stupid, too, because the whole point of the fantasy to most of the people who like these videos is the idea of anonymous, no-strings sex. There's nothing inherently degrading to women about the fantasy of anonymous sex, but the producers seem to think that they might as well toss the degradation in, probably because the average porn consumer will tolerate it.

But in the end, I was just as frustrated with this article as I am with nearly every feminist critique of porn that I read. I just don't buy that sexual explicitness somehow creates a favorable atmosphere to misogyny. Yes, women in much of porn are portrayed as mere objects to be bent to men's will, and yes the only emotion they show is their delight in being put through whatever rigors fulfill the male fantasy, even if it's actually painful or unpleasant for women. But so do many movies of any genre.

Action films are particularly repulsive in their misogyny, and I would say that a far greater percentage of them have misogynistic themes than porn. For instance, take the popular scene in many an action film where a woman with some position of authority is challenged by our hero in front of a large group of people that she's speaking to. It's not enough, generally, to offer his opinion. No, there's a large dollop of humiliation and ridicule involved. Her reaction? Yep, she fucks him. Top Gun is the prime example of this fantasy played out in a movie and offered up to children as entertainment.

And don't get me started on the huge numbers of Michael Douglas movies that make me want to barf. How many movies has that man been in that demonstrated that women really are predators looking to suck the lifeblood out of innocent men? One could even argue that regular movies with sexist themes have more of an impact, because the audience of regular movies tends to read them as a whole whereas the porn-viewing audience is remarkably good at pulling out what they like and ignoring the rest. (Yea, fast-forward button!)

My concern is this--by singling out misogyny in porn without basing it in a larger context where misogynist themes are coming at us from all angles, it seems like, especially to average readers not well-versed in feminist thought, that the writer is saying that somehow sex and sexual explicitness are inherently degrading to women. I always feel that way when I read articles like this one, and I'm personally very insulted. The writer, Chyng Sun, says that she wants an avenue where porn is singled out for criticism without joining the ranks of those who would squelch ordinary people's sexual rights, but how exactly would that work?

I think that the only solution is to create sexually explicit work that portrays female sexual agency and desire. Which of course lots of people are doing. (Go Trish!) Simply criticizing porn without offering alternatives is pretty much going to be interpreted by a larger audience, including myself, as censorship of people's fantasies and desires. Maybe I come from this from a different angle--I keep thinking of how women in rock music when I was a young teenager rebelled against the stifling sexism of the punk scene and, instead of just writing off rock as inherently sexist, created their own product. There was a genuine ripple effect from that and now there is significantly less resistance to women in music than there was when I was a teenager.

Update: After finishing this, I saw that Lauren at Feministe wrote about the subject, too.

Friday Random Ten--The Joe Meek Edition

I almost named it the "We Ain't Kathleen Hanna, but we are Alanis Morissette Edition", but despite Lauren's attempts to claim we aren't cool, I think Lauren is so cool. And so, the all-Joe-Meek edition of the random ten, to best remind everyone that some of us insufferable hipsters keep on keeping on. Also, I got a bunch of Joe Meek compiliations loaded into my library and I thought it would be funny.

1. "Who's the Girl"--Diane and the Javelins
2. "Cyclone"--The Tornados
3. "We'll Remember You"--Houston Wells and the Outlaws
4. "Love Can't Wait"--Kim Wells
5. "A Fool in Love"--Chad Carson
6. "Hobbies"--Jenny Moss
7. "Let's Go See Grandma"--Joy & Dave
8. "Baby It Hurts"--Glenda Collins
9. "Dumb Head"--The Sharades
10. "Listen to Me"--Flip & The Dateliners

Thursday, January 27, 2005

We've got a sighting!

For those who have your basket of eggs ready, we have a determination on where The Real World Austin's house is. It's a warehouse close to the warehouse district. It's on 3rd and San Jacinto. Which is closer to 6th St. than I usually park my car. Sons of bitches--they'll be downtown every night. Just so long as they stay out of the Red River area, we're gold.

Football games for dummies, I mean, women

A friend sent me this article at Fox Sports that's aimed at women who don't like football and addresses a presumably common problem for women who don't like football: How to handle Superbowl parties that you go to only to please your boyfriend and still avoid become the object of derision due to your lack of knowledge of the game and/or the etiquette of football parties? My suggestion is not to go. There are plenty of activities that people don't like that they have to endure in the name of love--a six hour crashingly boring party where you are strenously avoiding becoming an object of mockery for the men to bond over is not one of them. (For any potential whiners--I don't think that people who hate shopping should be dragged along on 4-hour shoe-shopping excursions, either. However, one-hour excursions to purchase things everyone in the house will use are another story entirely.)

As much as we would love to believe that everyone shares our passion and hunger for football knowledge, we realize that some folks simply want enough ammunition to survive the big game without total humiliation. So here are a few tips on how to look the part and talk the talk as you head to your Super Bowl bash.

God forbid you should snap at a bunch of men who are trying to humiliate you for not caring about the Superbowl. You don't want your wittle wuvey-dovey to get a reputation for not being able to control his bitch, do you?

If you do not want to look like a football-watching rookie, you must first focus your attention on your attire. Now read carefully, ladies, because a fashion faux pas as minor as a crystal broach can mess up your entire football ensemble. Real football fans do not show up to a game in Jimmy Choo heels or cashmere ponchos. Nor do they sport leather pants or micro-mini skirts.

Yep, most women who spend money on Jimmy Choo heels are aching to waste them on a party with beer, guacamole and bullshit contests as the main attractions.

If you pick your NFL hat based on which team best matches your outfit, you may find yourself sporting a very attractive, yet unpopular Cardinals cap (a dead giveaway that you are a football faker since no one is a Cardinals fan these days!).

Picking your favorite Super Bowl contender is always a safe bet, but there is nothing wrong with being a "homer" and suiting up with your local team's cap. But just keep in mind that no Eagles fan wants to see a Cowboys cap at their party. You may get obscenities (or even worse, food) thrown at you. And we can guarantee that anyone you're trying to impress will pretend they don't even know you!

So your duty after reading this article is to bone up for hours upon hours on football ephemera to figure out obscure rivalries and the newest trends only to select a hat to impress someone who probably already knows you don't give a fuck about football. Maybe sticking with the micro-mini is a better idea.

One must never arrive at a football gathering empty handed. But what is a girl to bring? The answer is munchies. Save the cake and candy for your "girlie" parties (Tupperware, Mary Kay, etc.).

How we would poor women ever make friends if their weren't household products and cosmetics to bond over?

You also need to be careful not to bring the wrong beverage. It is not the time to share your prized Pinot Noir from last weekend's getaway to the vineyards.

Once again, they are addressing a race of space aliens with stereotypically feminine concerns that no actual person has on this planet. There is not a wine-lover alive who would waste a bottle purchased at the vineyard itself on a football party. Period. Yes, even us nimrod females know better than that.

Now here is a clincher — if you really want to be the hero, call before you leave to see who wants a Starbucks coffee (or Dunkin' Donuts for our pals back in Boston!). It is not always easy to stay perky for eight hours of pregame hype and a drawn-out game, no matter how captivating the sport may be.

With all the work you're putting into feeding and fetching coffee, maybe the best fashion choice is a French's maid outfit. You know, if popularity is such a big concern.

Now that we have covered the easy task of getting dressed and picking up a snack, it is time to bite into the tough stuff. You can only fool them for so long by looking the part — eventually you will need to open your mouth.

Translation: Alright, we admit it. Women know how to look cute and dish out food. But when asked their opinions, that's when they need help.

By the way, I've found that it's entirely untrue that the best strategy for dealing with hostile social circumstances is to fake your way through it. The best strategy is to be quiet with your back to the wall until you can find your chance to escape. At football parties, there are lots of opportunities for escape, too. Like pretty much any time the game is on.

This part can get tricky because the appropriate comment is usually dictated by what is happening in the game. But do not fret — some situations tend to come up frequently and we will arm you with the necessary football lingo to glide through the game.

It's a foolproof plan! We all know that if you startle a roomful of people by making an astute comment on a subject they thought you knew nothing about, there are never, ever any curious follow-up questions.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Suffering Olympics, just for the fun of it

I love it. Hugo's appearance on the wacky men's rights show has led the wingnuts over to Ampersand's blog to complain about Amp's wonderful work "The Male Privilege Checklist". One particular goober decided that he was going to write a counter-list of male complaints. Apparently, he wants me to fisk him and hard. (Jake Squid did, too, but I'm not reading his until I'm done with my mockery.) The goober's name is Bike A Lot.

1.)I get the privilege to die in a war.

Phew. Thank god feminists worked so hard at getting women out of the military ranks so that only men die in wars now.

2.)I get the privilege to die six years earlier than a female.

And here we were all along making you think that we were ordering a salad to your steak in order to please you. Ha ha! It's all a plot to live longer and gain....well, there's the opportunity to be a widow for a long time.

3.)I must make more money than my female mate otherwise I’m not enough.

Women and our infernal plots! It's true--we use our magical cunts to drive men to make a bunch of money they don't want to have while we laugh away, making less.

4.)I must pay for any divorce for any reason.

I'm going to get married and divorced and bill it to Bike A Lot immediately. Poor guy is so put upon that he has to pay for anyone's divorce whenever they ask.

5.)I must pay for child support even when I don’t get to see the kids.

That's so that you can't avoid paying child support by refusing to see the kids, dumbass.

6.)I must have an athletic body and must excell in all sports.

That is an impossible standard. No man has ever actually reached it, unlike the all-too-possible standard of anorexia that women reach all the time. Even the greatest athletes ever did not excel in all sports. We all saw what happened to Michael Jordan when he tried to play baseball. If Jordan isn't good enough, who is? It's amazing that the human race has survived this long with women's requirement that men be brillant at all sports to get laid.

7.)I get the privilege of getting more of : strokes, heart disease and cancer than my female equivalent.

Thank god for the feminist conspiracy to make men die earlier.

8.)I get the privilege of being more likely to commit suicide tens time more than a female.

Dude, you committed suicide ten times over? How did you write this?

In all sincerity, this statistic is one that anti-feminists like to trot out because it obscures the painful fact that in our sexist society, women suffer from mental illness in far greater numbers, and that they attempt suicide more but succeed less. It is also worth noting that most men's rights groups make the male suicide situation worse by contributing enthusiastically to one of the larger causes of young men committing suicide--homophobia.

9.)I get the privilege of suffering from depression six times more than a female, and I also get the privilege of not being able to tell anybody about it.

He made that stat up. I don't even have to look it up to tell you that. Know why? If men don't tell anyone, there's no way to know how many sufferers there are.

10.)I now get the privilege to get fewer educational degrees than a female.

Damn, women fill up classroom slots in proportion to our numbers and nothing but whining. Needless to say, it demonstrates a real firm sense of entitlement to say that men deserve more degrees just because. Note that if making more money is a burden, then women taking steps to close the wage gap should be a cause for celebration.

11.)I get the privilege of having to be strong at all times in any condition.

Except of course when you're whining that a bunch of feminists won't recognize you deserve your male entitlements.

12.)I get the privilege of not being able to cry at any and all times.

For fear, of course, of being called feminine. Which should be a compliment, if women have so much more social approval than men.

13.)I get the privilege of being suspected of being homosexual if not married.

Enthusiastic homophobia. But he's right. People like Bill Maher and Hugh Hefner are suspected of homosexuality all the time because they won't settle down and start families. And no woman ever has had her family anxiously ask when she was getting married.

14.)I get the privilege of being a Mr. Fix It when I’m at home.

Nothing is worse than occasionally having to do something around the house when it breaks. Far better to be responsible for the unending chores that women are expected to do.

15.)I must date models at all times.

Um, if that's your preference that might be why you find that your beer gut is causing you to be rejected by your preferred dating partners. If you attempt to date women that aren't models, you will be surprised to learn that no one will stop you.

16.)I get the privilege of having tougher standard in sports (tennis, golf).

I have no idea what that means. Sounds like more whining that he's expected to pull his load.

17.)I must stand up for my manhood at all times and risk bodily harm.

If you choose to hang out with people who question it all the time, sure. Most men don't hang out in redneck bars all the time having dick-swing contests that lead to fights, though.

18.)I have the privilege of having the laws and courts back women in any accusatory domestic violence case.

Need I say it? Sorry that your privilege to beat your wife without punishment was taken away.

19.)I get to pay to go to a club while my date gets in free.

Oh, in those clubs that have to bribe women to show up? That has nothing whatsoever to do with trying to compensate for the privilege men enjoy of being able to go to bars without getting harassed all damn night, does it?

20.)I get to pay for all her drinks and her dinner if we have another date.

That's a big if after she hears you complain all night that she needs to pay the same price you do despite the ass-grabbing. I guess you also get the privilege of making a stink if she doesn't offer up her body after you spent $50 on dinner and drinks.

21.)I get the privilege of having her decide when, where and how we have sex.

No man has ever said, "Not tonight", of course. And of course, I'm sure Bike A Lot would just have to give in if she wanted to fuck him up the ass with a dildo in the middle of the street since women get to decide the where and the how.

22.)I get the privilege of going through sensitivity training when I’m too young to even know what it is.

I didn't know that they gathered pre-lingual baby boys, and only boys, to tell them not to bully others. I agree, that sounds ineffective.

23.)I get the privilege of accepting homosexuality even when I don’t.

Damn, not only do women get to demand whatever sex they want from Bike, so do men! He does have a disturbing existence.

24.)I get the privilege of going up against affirmative actions policies when I try to get a job or a promotion.

After interviewing with another white man in a situation that didn't have the social discomfort that the female applicants or applicants in racial minorities got the pleasure of experiencing. Luckily, this is just one more place where the system is working for you, Bike! You hate making more money than women, so there is affirmative action working to close the wage gap and make your life better.

25.)I get the privilege of having the role model of Homer Simpson.

If you look up to Homer Simpson, then that might be why you have trouble getting 18-year-old models, male and female, to consent to fucking you up the ass in the middle of the street.

26.)I must drive a nice car and live in a model home.

And you have the disadvantage of having a wife who is responsible for keeping all that clean for you.

27.)I must now share the housework even though I already do the yardwork and work more hours per week than my mate.

You made me pick my socks off the floor, you bitch! How dare you! I mow the lawn for one hour a week and tonight I worked 8 1/2 hours while you worked 8. And my dinner still wasn't ready until I'd been home 15 minutes.

28.)I get the privilege of getting called “misogynist” when I compain about anything-female.

That's like the guy who complains about being called a racist just because he likes to use the word "nigger". Can't a man get any peace?

I feel sorry for these men's rights activists. They so clearly want to be in women's station in life. It occurs to me that it's considered a compliment for women to be called masculine names, like to be told that you "have balls" or that you're "one of the guys". I think the least we can do is the same for these guys. Start telling them they have a lot of ovaries to show up at feminist boards and complain that they make too much money. Call them "one of the girls" if they do good. Since they envy women so damn much, surely it will make their day.

Of course, this whole list reveals what seems to be the entire philosophy behind the MRA movement, which is that women's problems deserve no attention until men have no problems at all. In other words, we can't deal with rape until we standardize the Dutch treat on dates.

Quit pushing your luck

Looks like the Christian right isn't going to be as successful in running over the country as they thought. First James Dobson, who sees homosexuals lurking in every corner, decides that Spongebob Squarepants is the perfect character to use in a coded attack on anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, pro-religious tolerance groups. There are many amusing theories as to why Spongebob drew Dobson's ire. My personal theory is that cheery little Spongebob insults Dobson's sense that everything he sees should be spiritless and dour. After all, the mere sight of a dachsund cheerfully sitting where it pleased has been known to drive Dobson into a rage; a sponge who lives cheerfully in a pineapple must make him bonkers with the desire to extinguish joy.

And now even the newly paranoid FCC has decided that people who see depravity everywhere on their tubes but just can't make themselves change the channel or throw it out have gone too far. Thirty-six indecency complaints against various network programs have been tossed.

"In what community in America are graphic terms for genitalia decent?" said Lara Mahaney, a spokeswoman for the council. "The commission's ruling added no clarification and added more confusion."

Mine, for one of millions. I agree that shows like "Friends" are not for children (and not for adults, either), but I guess I do feel sorry for the wingnut patrol. I mean, if your kid can't watch Spongebob without learning Satanic lessons like not to kick the shit out of gay kids for no reason, where will you go for your entertainment needs? You clearly have no choice but to plop them in front of a tedious sitcom about a bunch of bed-hopping morons in NYC who spend too much money on coffee.

Of course, we know this has nothing to do with protecting children and everything to do with not offending the sensibilities of adults, who, being adults, should be able to know when to turn the channel when something offends. But I do have to wonder at some of the programs these groups decided were so bad that they had to be blocked from those of us who don't turn into thumb-suckers at the very idea that our neighbors might be engaging in sodomy this very minute.

One complaint involved an episode of NBC's "Friends" that aired in May 2003. In it, a female character, her husband and the husband's ex-girlfriend talk about a fertility treatment at a medical office.

Why is that so offensive to the people that David Brooks praises for being "natalists"? They wanted a baby so badly they were willing to go through these sort of medical humiliations to get it. Considering the pro-life stance that most "pro-family" groups take, one would think they would stand up an applaud a positive depiction of embarrassing medical procedures that result in adorable babies. Unless of course the real problem is depicting women taking charge of their fertility through medical science, that is.

A complaint over "The Simpsons," which airs on Fox, included a scene from a November 2003 episode in which students carried picket signs with the phrases "What would Jesus glue?" and "Don't cut off my pianissimo."

I saw that episode! The school cut off funding for the arts to save money, something that is genuinely happening under stingy Republican policies. Not that defending the bankrupting of our public education system would have anything to do with the conservative outcry against the lurid depiction of children holding signs outside of a school. What other depraved things will liberals think of next? Children sitting down outside of a school? Boarding a bus? Playing with their friends?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Representing your gender

My boyfriend's stepmother is a caterer. She is really good, and to boot, she has no problem with taking busmen's holidays. Which meant that we got her to cook us one really good dinner while they were here this weekend. Since I like to cook and like to eat, I was only too happy to linger in the kitchen and "help". (Okay, I made salsa and my boyfriend made guacamole, but neither is especially hard.) My boyfriend wandered off into the living room to watch the Eagles game with his dad, leaving me and his stepmom alone in the kitchen.

After a few minutes, I joked, "Who'da thunk it? Never in my house did I think I'd see the women in the kitchen and the men watching football."

Naturally, everyone got all defensive and pointed out that there were overriding circumstances, which there were. For one thing, the women were cooking because they loved it and the men were watching football because it was the playoffs and because I only have a two-butt kitchen. Most importantly, you can't judge people by one action or one moment in time.

This is important because one of the weapons of the arsenal of sexists is to hyper-focus on a single woman behaving in a stereotypically female way in a moment in time, if it's negative all the better, and extrapolate male superiority due to it. That's the basic premise of this offensive commercial that feministing links to, that a single woman's inability to work a power drill makes her incapable of driving a car.

Watching that commercial, I cringed twice. Once because of how sexist it is, and a second time because I remembered all the times I did something clumsy and thereby inadvertantly proved the sexists "right". While in rhetoric it's easy to agree that flexibility in gender roles is the goal, in practice the pressure to prove a sexist society wrong about women can be overwhelming. There's this constant push to be a credit to your sex, and it can be quite taxing.

This has been a huge problem for me for a long time. I'm really clumsy, always have been. I can knock over a drink from across the room. I am also not so good with tools and I won't mow the lawn because my allergies make me bananas. These things taken together make me feel guilty, like I'm disproving my own theories that women aren't constrained by stereotypically feminine behavior.

Then I think of all the times that I haven't been what was expected and what a struggle that has been for me. Being good at math. Being aggressive. All the ways that I trespass on traditionally male territory in every small way from the fact that I'll look a man in the eye to my willingness to play DJ. It is hard so much of the time, when people treat you like you've overstepped a boundary.

The way we'll know that we have finally achieved our goals is when women don't feel like we have to stand in as a symbol of our sex as a whole, that our personal failings are a detriment to all women and that our personal successes are a credit to our sex.

Jumping on the bandwagon

I think it's pretty funny, so I'll join in. I got an email from NARAL this morning about Give Us Real Choices and their campaign to order chastity belts from the Pennsylvania State Legislature as a clever protest to "Chastity Awareness Week", which sounds to me like a cruel joke to play on people are currently not getting any and are definitely aware of it. Send them a letter, tell them to kiss your ass, and make sure there aren't any young women in your life who are sexually active but aren't up to speed on how to protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy.

More from the weird world of products to "fix" the multitude of things that are wrong with women

Who knew from all the lube they sold in the store that vaginal wetness was a problem? I forget where I first got this, but it's been lurking in my files for awhile, and now is as good a time as any, I suppose.

Yes, it's a product to dry up women's natural lubrication for god only knows what reason. Actually, the reason is right there.

Your man will say he feels bigger - you could feel that, too!

It's not size that matters, after all. It's women's repulsive sliminess!

What causes excess vaginal lubrication?
The most common cause of excess vaginal moisture is due to high levels of estrogen in your body.

You're just too damn girly.

Many people say it's impossible to have too much lubrication, is that true?
Vaginal lubrication is like oil in a car engine.

I whipped out my handy mirror after reading that and I can assure you that there are no gears down there. Maybe something's wrong with me....?

What are the ingredients of AbsorbShun natural powder (Anp)?
Anp is made from the finely pulverized cells of an unmodified, naturally occurring maize plant.

Fancy way of saying that they are charging you out the ass for something you can buy for a dollar at the grocery store. That is, you are rubbing cornstarch in your cunt. I guess we should all be grateful they aren't repacking Preparation H for its puckering abilities.

How long does AbsorbShun take to work?
AbsorbShun starts working instantly - NO WAITING.

If you doubt this, I suggest you take a mouthful of cornstarch. Yep, pleasant. The downside is that it's harder to take a swig of Diet Coke to wash it out of your pussy.

How can I be sure that AbsorbShun works?
It is physically impossible for AbsorbShun not too work. Consider sprinkling a dry powder on a wet spot. The powder naturally absorbs the moisture. The more powder you apply, the more moisture you absorb.

Yeah, and you end up with a big pile of paste. Maybe they can call this stuff Love Glue.

Can I use AbsorbShun with a condom?
No. Condom integrity may be compromised.

However, this does give me an idea. Can you imagine someone trying to sell cornstarch to men to put inside condoms? I don't care how many disclaimers you put about it being natural and using words like "maize", I guarantee you that it would not go over well.

How long will 1 bottle last?
Approximately 24 "special evenings". AbsorbShun is the most affordable way to greater sexual pleasure and intimacy.

I imagine if you reduce the amount of lube so that you're all raw and sore for a couple of days after, having sex probably is a rare, "special" occasion indeed.

If I use AbsorbShun natural powder, is it safe to have oral sex?
Yes, your partner may notice a powder taste, however it is not harmful since AbsorbShun is 100% natural. AbsorbShun is NOT dangerous or harmful if consumed.

For fuck's sake. If you have to bribe a man to go down on you by drying it out with cornstarch, just dump him already. Or at least try the hairdryer first.

My vagina is feeling very tender after using AbsorbShun, is there anything I can do?
Although we are not physicians, what I personally use is a protein moisturizer (ie. Mane 'n Tail – Original Hoofmaker). I apply a thin layer to the external area of the vagina avoiding the clitoris. This particular product works very will in reducing most of the tenderness by the next morning.

After you dry it out and then remoisturize it, it's all ready to be tanned and you can make a nice pair of boots out of it.

Edited to add: Thanks for the link, Anne! And for those who want a more positive spin, Jake sent me this link to a Vulva museum.

An apology

Sorry I haven't been posting much. And super-sorry I forgot the funny lately. I've been really busy and just hadn't had the time to think of funny stuff.

Also, Blogger keeps kicking me off and it's making me crazy.

More information on Texas mothers who murder

Here's a good article in the Dallas Observer about the recent spate of mothers who murdered their children in midst of religious and/or magical paranoid delusions. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I follow these cases with interest--the public's reactions are rather telling of our general values.

I think one of the reasons that people were reluctant in the first Yates case to admit that she acted out of an onslaught of paranoid delusions and her own mental breakdown is due to a combination of two very powerful beliefs that are hard to shake. One is the belief that "crazy" is just something you are and that other people can perceive it easily. The other belief is that staying at home with your children in helpful, not hurtful, to the health of women who have problems or mental illnesses.

On TV or in the movies, having children is a sure sign of mental health for female characters, especially those who stay at home. And while out and out insanity is rarely tied to childless female characters, they are invariably neurotic, especially in comedies. Only recently in a post-Yates world can I think of any depictions of stay-at-home mothers that struggle with loneliness or frustration that are the natural result of being locked up with kids all day. "Desperate Housewives" has a character who struggles with her four children. But they also have a childless character who is shown to be somewhat empty-hearted as a direct result, for "balance" I guess.

I think the worst indicator of a prevalent belief that child-bearing stabilizes women's mental health is the movement to convince people that abortion drives women crazy. Story after story after story you read in literature from the pro-life movement that puports to be "sympathetic" to women who've had abortions imply that these women who have mental problems would have been much better off with a baby to raise. It's routinely ignored that child-bearing can exacerbate present mental illnesses.

By no means am I saying that child-bearing makes women crazy. I think it's clear across the board that women who deteriorate after having children, such as the women described in the Observer article, usually have serious unchecked mental problems beforehand. But it's common sense to me that few things could be worse for someone who is struggling with mental illness to isolate her at home with minors in her charge and expect everything to turn out peachy.

Monday, January 24, 2005

An eternal debate

Mythago has a post on the eternal question, "Does size matter?"

Every time someone talks about this, I remember hanging out with my mom and her friends one day. One woman was talking about her ex-husband, and this is what she said on the subject.

"Oh yeah, he had a huge cock." A beat. "Bless his heart, he had no idea what to do with it."

Frankly, I think she had the last word on the subject.

Childless by choice

I found this interesting article about childlessness by Amy Leask through Philobiblon, and it got me to thinking about my own experience of choosing not to have children and how it really differs from Leask's account, which seems more in line with how most women experience social disapproval for not having children.

I am, you see, childless, not because of any misadventure or ailment, but because I simply haven’t had any children. Nonetheless, I’m confronted with this fact on a fairly regular basis, at the most inopportune times, in the strangest places. I am faced with a steady stream of “Why not?”

I've had people grill me on why I'm not married sometimes, and occasionally about whether or not I intend to have children. But it would be dishonest to say that I'm the victim of constant hectoring on the subject, and this got me to thinking about why it might be that I'm mostly spared. A few things occured to me. For one thing, I'm officially The Weird One in my family, so they don't bug me about shit anymore because they don't really want to know what kind of odd answer they're going to get to their inquiries. Also, I'm not in my 30's yet. In most of Texas, being 27 and childless is still cause for alarm, but in liberal Austin, it's pretty much the norm for women to put off child-bearing. I imagine in a few years I'll get a few more nosy questions.

But then another possibility loomed in my head as I read this part:

Perhaps it’s a matter of politics. My partner, although he does what he can to defend my honour, is never subjected to the same scrutiny. It isn’t us who should be thinking about babies, it’s me. In the estimation of others, life will go on as usual for him, while I consign myself to diaper duty. My career, my ambitions, my interests, and hell, even my sanity seem to be worth less than his.

Ah yes, the man factor. I had never considered it much before, but my man is quite opinionated on the subject of children, and his opinion is that he dislikes them and will never have any, thank you very much. He tolerates our friends' children, but that's it. And most people I know accept his anti-child attitude without question, and certainly I've never heard anyone suggest that it's un-manly somehow to dislike children.

Which makes me wonder--do people leave me alone because they think that the decision to have children has been made for me and therefore there's no reason to question it any further? It makes me distinctly uncomfortable to think about that, and I'm sure no one consciously thinks it through like that, but there is the lingering possibility that this is, in fact, the case. People feel free to pester women about these things when they wouldn't feel comfortable pestering a man. In other words, am I inadvertantly using a man's authority to justify my own decisions?

Well, even if this is the case, there's really nothing I can do about it. It's not like I'm telling people who ask me, "Oh, he doesn't want children so I can't." It doesn't even get to that point, since I'm rarely asked. But could people be leaving me alone because they think that's the answer they are going to get anyway?

Things I learned from paper dolls

Sorry about the lack of posting this weekend. My boyfriend's parents are down from New Jersey and we've been running around with them.

One thing we decided to do this weekend was check out the new exhibit on the 60s at the LBJ Presidential library. (The only one with an animatronic version of the President telling jokes, I'm sure.) After looking at the exhibit, we went into the gift shop and found paper dolls of bunch of recent Presidents and their family members. I shit you not. It was a gold mine of humor for people like me that are a little too interested in history and politics.

Things I learned from the Presidential paper dolls:

  • If you try to draw a smile on Pat Nixon's face, it will look weird and scary anyway, so don't even bother.
  • Only two First Ladies were fashion queens enough to deserve their own paper doll books--Jackie Kennedy and Nancy Reagan. Only Jackie was shown in her wedding dress, of course.
  • Ronald Reagan was the only President that had his own book. His wedding to Jane Wyman is pictured, but not to Nancy.
  • The Reagans are the only Presidential couple that didn't have a book of themselves and their family. This is understandable.
  • We all know that Clinton is a boxers man. But did you know that W. is a briefs man? Sad thing is, I guessed it.
  • It's apparently pretty hard to draw JFK without a lecherous look on his face.
  • For some reason, the artist who put together the W. book felt like it was necessary to draw him and Laura when the twins were babies, both of them holding a baby and a bottle, but only W. with a rag thrown over his shoulder. Yeah right.
  • And yes, the Ronald Reagan book had a section of all his movie costumes, including a picture of him in his pajamas holding a chimpanzee. I cannot wait for the post-Presidential W. book with all the costumes he wore in office, though I imagine it will have a frustrating lack of chimpanzees.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Bonus cat blogging

Post-coronation message from the bathroom wall at The Parlor. Posted by Hello

Weekend show recommendations

Where I plug bands I like and mostly bands that are my friends, this week extended to recommend a friend's band playing a show on Saturday night in Fredericksburg at the Auslander. Good family fun. It's Ben Bell and the Stardust Boys, an upbeat and extremely talented roots-style country band. They are also known to do wacky covers. We're trying to get them to cover "Ace of Spades".

Tonight, as usual, Mr. Lewis and the Funeral Five will be doing an 8:00 happy hour at Beerland. I won't be there tonight, but that is all the more reason to go. Peelander Z, an extremely screwy and very fun Japanese band that currently lives in New York will be at Beerland on Saturday night. There will be human bowling, definitely worth the cheap Beerland cover charge.

The Thermals are playing Emo's tomorrow. They're cool, if you're not in the mood for human bowling. But I'm in the mood for human bowling. At Room 710 on Saturday is my ever-favorites, Amplified Heat, a must-see if you haven't seen them before.

Wrong question

Random thing that bugs. The question to Cary Tennis today is: Is cheating ever justified? The letter-writer asks it more poetically, of course.

Passion, desire, frantic groping in the dark, warm lips pressed against each other, this is a huge part of why we live. Do we need to abandon this simply because we made a vow -- a vow we meant very sincerely at the time -- but now find ourselves with someone who simply does not have the romantic spark that we crave?

Obviously, my question is not hypothetical. I'm married to a good person, a kind person, but one who isn't very interested in sex, and whose idea of passion does not match mine. Avoiding details, from everything to kissing to oral sex we have different approaches and different wants. This reality was made excessively real to me when I had a recent fling -- the only one of my marriage -- with someone else.

Well, if you put it that way, you almost sympathize with the guy. Cary navel-gazes and figures that his belief that you at least try to work on your marriage must be an eccentricity of his. But I think this guy is being a coward.

I agree, it's too much to ask someone to give up on sex and passion forever because his/her spouse suddenly withdraws, especially if the withdrawal seems to be a permanent thing. But by no means does that give people license to sneak around behind their spouse's back, no questions asked. To my mind, you at least owe the person you live with a chance to make his/her case before you betray them. I'm sure it's a lot harder to ask for an explanation for the lack of sex than to just go elsewhere, but talking to someone is the baseline amount of courage you need in order to make things work.

I have no doubt in my mind it's hard to just ask someone up front why they don't want to have sex with you. But it's probably a lot more miserable to have to explain why you cheated to someone. This guy's looking for an excuse for his cowardice.

Friday cat blogging

Max was napping and Katy tried to bite him. He would have none of it, so they snuggled instead. Posted by Hello

Katy in her Snoopy pose. Posted by Hello

Friday Random Ten--Who Let the Phish Fans in Here Edition?

Roxanne is hanging up her hat. We will still forge on, under the leadership of Lauren but with our hearts heavy as we realize that the big bloggers have stolen our favorite meme and will probably not get the irony next time they ask where all the female bloggers are. The title also is for the nameless fiend who has filled up the MP3 file with a bunch of Ween, thereby ensuring that songs by that band will show up frequently on my list, such as at #1 today. And confound it if I don't listen to it....

1) "Buckingham Green"--Ween
2) "Pacific"--808 State
3) "One Way Street"--The Saints
4) "Funky for You"--The Deadbeats
5) "Arms Race"--Weirdos
6) "Not Even Stevie Nicks"--Calexico (A band I discovered through this meme. *sob*)
7) "Call Me"--Blondie
8) "Feel Like Home"--Basement Jaxx
9) "Bridge Over Troubled Water"--Johnny Cash
10) "Ort"--The Cows

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The mix-up of money and beauty

In the discussion at Alas, a Blog about these ridiculous studies about how men cannot tolerate a spouse who is equal to them, Jake Squid made a comment that really struck me as simple and astute.

Studies have shown that people tend to wind up with partners who are roughly equal in intelligence and roughly equal in attractiveness (as determined by the society in which they live). How come none of these articles ever mentions that?

Hear hear! It's such a simple truth and one that gets overlooked, probably willfully, in the quest to find evidence of the comforting stereotype that men trade on their money and women trade on their looks. But as Jake says, both men and women end up with people who are roughly "equal" to them in these categories, and especially in socioeconomic class.

Why is the belief that women attract mostly with looks and men mostly with money (and in some cases, personality) so appealing? The first thought that popped into my head was the John Berger quote, "Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at."

This is one of the cases where the simple frame of men-active/women-passive is spinning out stereotypes and cultural beliefs in complex ways. In this case, money is active and active is masculine, therefore we ascribe the money motivation to men. And of course, the same with women, beauty and passivity. And we love to reinforce this stereotype--talk to true believers and they will point to all sorts of celebrity marriages from Donald Trump/Marla Maples to Tommy Lee/Pamela Anderson. Ugly, wealthy men married to beautiful, useless women.

Money is a symbol of activity in our culture. In films and tv shows, the flurry of activity on Wall Street is a favorite cliche. Money as a masculine-active symbol is always Earned Through Hard Work. This is such a given that you can convey the idea that someone is a hard worker simply by showing that person in masculine attire. Even though the hard worker of the two candidates was clearly John Kerry, the right's noise machine managed to make him look "lazy" and Bush look "hard-working" by simply tossing a cowboy hat on Bush and showing Kerry wind-surfing. Money, work, and man.

I don't really need to elaborate, I think, on why beauty is a passive attribute.

The thing that interests me is that our conception of money as masculine-active and of beauty as feminine-passive is how captialism destabilizes these categories. For instance, showy displays of money are considered the best way to let others know you have it, and if a man wants to attract women with his money, that's what he's going to do. But that means that he's going to be putting himself on display as a passive creature surrounded by his things to be judged by women. (A bit of role-playing that can be really uncomfortable. I remember when a young man I knew tried wooing a young woman I knew by dragging her outside at a party to see his BMW. It didn't go well.)

On the flip side, beauty is also considered a sign of money. It always has been of course, thus the rebellious nature of images of pure beauties born to the lower classes, like Tess Durbeyfield. But in the past, it could be assumed that the money was a man's money, so the categories of men as owners and women as objects held firm. Now we have women who have their own money and the market is trying to commodify beauty to sell it to women directly. In this sense, I can see why women contextualize things like plastic surgery in terms of empowerment, because, dammit, they bought their own damn breasts.

Anyway, plenty of smarter people than me have done great analysis on how beauty is being reimagined as an active pursuit for women, much like the pursuit of money, all to make more money for the beauty companies. But my point is that it has destabilized the stereotypical understanding of the idea that men have money and buy women who have beauty to trade. Of course, now that men are embracing the idea of buying products that make them beautiful to advertise both their money and their beauty to women, who have their own money now and can be pickier on looks, people are getting even more confused.

Where would we be without you, MST3K?

Okay, I'll bite. Movies from the bottom 100 I've actually seen.

Manos, the Hands of Fate (filmed in my hometown!)
Girl in Gold Boots Eegah
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Leonard 6
It's Pat (rented and watched only because Ween is in it--true story)
Jaws: The Revenge
Shanghai Surprise
Mannequin: On the Move
Bride of the Monster
The Brain That Wouldn't Die
Mr. Nanny
Mac and Me
Superman IV

Half of these I've seen on MST3K. The other half, well, there's no excuse for me. Damn, I could have read The Red and the Black or something else with all that time lost. To be fair, I have not sat all the way through most of these movies.

Inaugural day questionaire

Via News 8 Austin, to test how much you wuuuuv the Liar-in-Chief. I'm not sure if my answers are funnier than the actual ones, but I'll try.

1. What is Bush's nickname?

The Shrub. The Smirking Chimp. Actual answer:

1. Bush's nickname is Bushie, the same nickname he has given his wife.


2. What does the W. stand for?

Wimp. And also War-mongerer.

3. What kind of vehicle does Bush drive on his ranch in Crawford, Texas?

To show his solidarity with the soliders in Iraq, he drives a gas-guzzler so that they will not have died in vain.

4. If you hooked up headphones to Bush's iPod, what music would you hear?

The Imperial Death March. And the Village People.

5. What trait does Bush hate?

Toss-up between honesty and compassion for the poor.

6. What has Bush banned from the Oval Office?

Nay-sayers. People who have the nerve to speak truth to him.

11. What was Bush's favorite movie of 2004? Top flick in 2000?
11. His favorite movie was “Friday Night Lights,'' a look at high school football in Texas. In 2000, Bush's top pick was “Saving Private Ryan,'' Steven Spielberg's World War II epic.

Watching movies about football players and war heroes is an acceptable substitute for being a football player or a war hero.

12. If stranded on a desert island, what would be his must-haves?

Karen Hughes, or he wouldn't know to rub two sticks together to make a fire. Also, some brush to clear. And whatever makes that lump in his jacket.

14. What was his first job?

Real job? Probably Governor of Texas, though that's debateable as a "real" job. They make some shit up about him being a runner at a law firm. Jobs you have because your dad is paying off the boss don't count.

15. What's his favorite junk food?

Pretzels. Yes, I know, but his memory is shot to hell.

19. George and Laura Bush were the same age when they got married. How old were they?

Are they not the same age now? Huh. Anyway, they were apparently 31, which is really old to be virgins, as we all know our Christian President and his virtuous wife surely were on their wedding day.

20. What is Bush's favorite participatory sport now that a bad knee has limited his running?

Falling on his face, apparently.

21. Seated in the family quarters to watch a game on television, what sport does the president prefer?

Watching political pundits scramble to excuse his latest atrocity would be my guess.

22. Hours before the second presidential debate in St. Louis last October, Bush went fishing to relax. What is the biggest fish the president has caught?

Watch this answer be the only truth he's spoken since he got into politics. Nah, that's asking too much.

23. A healthy 58-year-old, what is Bush's resting heart rate?

Beats me. We can't get close enough to that device he wears to read it.

24. What does the president consider one of his hidden talents?

Seeing the face of Jesus in imaginary weapons of mass destruction.

Hate to say I told you so

Nah, I love it. As I figured, the ad for Plan B in Tuesday's Daily Texan would generate at least one outraged letter from a male conservo-virgin. He didn't go so far as accuse the Texan of trying to screw his chances at marriage, but he does come very, very close.

I expect to find advertisements in the paper; even more than usual considering the budget cuts. But the flyer found inside my Texan as I opened it flabbergasted me: a flyer that advertised not just a day-after pill, but a THREE day-after pill!

Who knew that the sperm could slosh around in there for three days? You ruined this young man's masturbation fantasies for at least a week, oral contraceptive manufacturers.

Putting aside my Catholic upbringing and my hokey religious beliefs that my secular generation ignores, what does this publication tell the students?

If I remember correctly, it said that if your condom breaks, you can use this pill for back-up. But apparently, I misread the words, "I used a condom, but it broke."

That if, in the "heat of the moment," you forget to practice safe sex, it's OK because you have a "second chance?"

His idea of what people do in bed is vastly different from mine. I can see it now--a nubile co-ed in the arms of a hunky frat boy on a Friday night.

"Oh honey, let's forget the condom tonight. On Monday, I can go just wait in line for 3 hours at Planned Parenthood to get a prescription for Plan B, drive over to Walgreen's and get it filled and then significantly reduce my chances of getting pregnant, even though I still may."

Or, if you and your partner have the forethought to be cautious but it fails, there is still a way out?

How else do you get sexy co-eds to marry you?! The Daily Texan is cruel, I tell you, cruel!

The allure of unprotected sex has increased because now a lady can wait three whole days before she takes her "second chance."

You only have one chance to escape! (Someone please tell him that it's just as likely, if not more, than the end result is a child support payment and not a wedding band.)

A woman can be careless, take her time for two days, take care of her important tasks and then receive her "second chance" at her convenience.

If you're going to weasel out of a lifetime of regret, you should at least feel sorry about it, selfish bitches. That and quit rolling your eyes when you turn down my offer to buy you a drink.

It is not appropriate for the largest written media on a college campus (where STDs run rampant) to align itself with something that causes the rise in unprotected sex and thus STDs. Where is the handout publicizing the extremely simple birth control method (abstinence) that also protects against STDs and is 100-percent guaranteed?

God, it's like fish in a barrel. I mean, he might as well write, "If I'm not getting any, no one is getting any!"

I am glad that my parents, as I am sure you are about your parents, chose not to take their "second chance."

They got their second chance when they divorced when I was 9, and no, I don't particularly resent them for it. Sorry.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Rape between women

It does happen, of course. This one is particularly upsetting since it is so violent.

Assistant District Attorney Susan J. Loehn said the 20-year-old victim, who is a Smith College student as is Kendall, met the two defendants in downtown Northampton and went to their 104 South St. apartment.

The woman went there voluntarily, despite the fact she had obtained a restraining order against Klobertanz in August, according to Loehn and police reports. The incidents took place Friday night into Saturday morning, police said.

The three had "several bottles of champagne" and then went to a bedroom where the three engaged in consensual sex, according to Loehn and police reports. During the encounter, the victim was placed in handcuffs, although she did not remember how, police reports state. After Kendall slapped her face, the victim told the two she wanted to stop, police said.

They refused, and Kendall cut her abdomen and other areas of her body with a knife and raped her while Klobertanz held her legs, police said.

Kendall has no criminal record, while Klobertanz has a pending assault and battery charge in Rhode Island, Loehn said.

I know I've written before on here about how rape is easy enough to understand if we understand how dominance and aggressiveness is eroticized for men to an unholy degree. But I want it to be clear that I know these things are complex. Women are fully capable of getting off on violence, and that women tend to do so much, much less often means mostly that we are disempowered to such a degree that women rarely see themselves as violently aggressive sexual subjects. But of course there are a few who will.

There is no easy solution to the problem of rape. Still, I tend to think that deconstructing gender roles is an important step. Male-aggressive vs. female-passive forms of understanding make violent power plays in sex inevitable. That women will wear the mantle of aggression at times does not change this, since it's the end result of the eroticization of fear and violence.

I have a hard time really articulating this, because I don't really have a problem with consensual power plays in bed like BDSM, though I don't actually find that stuff really erotic. But I don't think consent is really that hard a concept for anyone to figure out. I strongly disagree with the notion that all that happens is that people take the same fantasies of dominance out of the consent realm and into actual violence. I think people know very damn well where the boundary is.

Why do I think this? Board games, video games, and card games. People have no problem distinguishing between the fake but fun aggression behind a game of Monopoly or Spades or whatever. Sure, there are occasional times when people cross the line, but that's usually because they are hiding their very real aggression behind the game. I think you are seeing the same thing with people who pretend not to know where sex games end and rape begins.

Via Steve Gilliard.

It's not just child-care, it's husband-care

Echidne is doing a wonderful job refuting the argument that women aren't in the hard sciences 'cause we're dumb and wuv the babies too much to get into math. Anyway, she discusses how time issues are an impediment to women joining the ranks, as they are for men.

Second, why would women react differently to a long workweek than men? This is the hidden agenda in this suggestion: it has to do with who is going to take care of the children. So it's very simple, really: according to this hypothesis, women are not in the hard sciences because they need to have more time for family life. Men appear not to want to have a family life to the same extent. Why would this be the case? Here, once again, opinions differ. Some argue that women have a biological imperative to spend more time chauffeuring their children to hockey meets than men do. Others argue that the upbringing we are all subjected to convinces both girls and boys of the necessity for such tasks to belong to women. Or perhaps both of these reasons apply at the same time....

Talking about the "eighty-hour week" is a shorthand way of pointing out that so many things in the academia assume that the scholars have a well-equipped home base to which they return only to sleep. The scholars are certainly not expected to give birth to children, for example, though change in this has taken place in the last few decades. But hard sciences may not look like very hospitable places to a lot of women for reasons of this sort.

I think it's true that women have less time than men, as a general rule. But it's not just because women take on the lion's share of child-rearing. Lots of women who are always really pinched for time don't have small children to raise, so they should have as much free time as men. But, speaking anecdotally of course, it seems to me that this just isn't the case. A good number of childless women and women whose children are grown that I know are still run ragged. And for the reason that Echidne touches on in the 2nd paragraph I quote from her. That would be the well-equipped home base for the working man.

Caring for the working man is still the job of women. Housework, shopping, laundry, and dinner still fall primarily for women to do. After all, a working man should have a nice home to come home to relax to. And he should, he really should. But unfortunately, the women who do so much of this work usually hold down full-time jobs themselves.

It's my personal theory that many women still do the "second shift" mostly by themselves in large part due to the wage gap. I know that I have many guilt pangs about the fact that my boyfriend pays more into the bills than I do because he makes more than I do. Practically speaking, it's the best way for us to do things. Emotionally speaking, it makes it really hard for me to ask him to do the shopping once in awhile. I feel like I can compensate for what I don't make at work by working extra hours at home. Luckily, he doesn't take advantage of this muddle of feelings, so I do manage to squeeze in plenty of free time. But I'm guessing that lots of people, especially those who are raised believing in "women's work" and "men's work" are perfectly fine having women compensate for making 25% less by working 40% harder.

Whether people think it through that hard or not, I know lots and lots of couples who live with the notion that a woman should take care of her man's needs, and if that means she has no downtime because she has a fulltime job herself, well that's too bad. And of course, if challenged, the genetic, traditional and/or Biblical arguments will come out. Women's work and men's work and all that. If women's work is harder, then that's too bad. Take it up with god and/or nature.

I have no trouble believing that some women are simply worn out by life and can't get ahead because of it. For lots of women I know, their only options to lighten their load are to ask their husbands to take on more housework or just cut back on the amount of housework that is done. And neither seems like a real option, since to take #1 is to be a nag and to take #2 is to be a slob. Very unfeminine. God knows I watched my mother struggle with this conundrum my entire childhood.