Sunday, January 16, 2005

Night Thoughts, Sunday

Sunday is prep day.

Collect the week's story rejections and send out new stuff, water the plants, get the groceries, cook up the week's chicken and broccoli lunches, clean the bathroom, pack for Monday's MA class, read the Tribune, hit Borders and coffee with Jenn, recover from a hangover if neccessary, roll over the week's goals, go jogging or put in my government-recommended 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, chat with my brother, bid Jenn off to her SO's, catch up on e-mail, grind coffee, slump off to bed, exhausted...

And then you roll it all over, and you've got your week again - and you bust through it on the way to wherever it is you're going, recoup on Sunday, and do it all over again.

I've got a novel that needs to be finished this year, another one that needs to do the "straight to publishers" gamble. I need to contact my recruiter sometime this summer and start looking for other jobs. I need to get to Glasgow in August. In autumn, I'm signing up for that French class, come hell or high water. By year's end I need to have done some serious thought as to what I'm doing after Chicago - Jenn will finish her Ph.D. next summer, and we'll likely be parting ways as she heads out to teach and I figure out what the next crazy leap is going to be. As much as I like Chicago and as cozy as I am, I won't stay here.

I'm incredibly lucky to have so many roads open to me, and I know it. Yea, there's stress in choosing what you want: go for a Ph.D., law school, give it up and go make a living on a fishing boat in Alaska? Work at a bookstore in Canada? Transfer to the company office in London? Backpack around New Zealand doing odd jobs and running from student loan debt?

For the last seven years, choice has never frightened me: what's concerned me is how I'm going to fit everything I want to do into one far-too-short lifetime. And, more recently - how am I going to fit all this in while allowing myself to enjoy it? When you spend seven years running, seven years piling it all on, trying to live up to your potential, trying to be somebody you want to be, you get to the end of that and you have to take a deep breath and go: yea. I did it. I'm doing it. It's OK.

Because at some point, you're going to get breathless, the scenery blurs, and though you'll still hit the water, you'll miss the view during the long drop, and anybody who's gone bridge-jumping into dark water knows that the "oh fuck" moment's the best part.

Chatting with Jenn over coffee today about books, life, job. She asked me if I had a copy of Herland, I said I had no idea, I might have given it away during one of my book purges. I had to ditch a lot of books in my move from South Africa to Chicago because I didn't have the money to ship them, and I had to ditch pretty much every book I owned back in Bellingham when I was 18, cause I needed the money. I sold the books when I pawned the VCR and the TV so I could pay my electric bill.


And I let myself have one of my moments tonight, thinking about my suit jacket, and Denver, and New York, and story sales, and book manuscripts, and I thought - yea. I did it it. Look at that. Look how far I've come from batshit nowhere, from the white trash path, from being able to look out over my whole life and know exactly where it would go, exactly who I would be.

Now I look out and there's this vast landscape, this incredible open sea of possibility.

It's gorgeous. It's fucking beautiful.

And then the moment's done, and you gotta get back up again, find another road, another bridge, another way through, on the way to where you're going.

Cause on the road to where you're going, toilets need to be cleaned, stuff needs to be packed, beds made and stories written and read, and that doesn't happen if you spend too long loitering at the crossroads.

It's a wacky life.

Bullshit, Bullshit, Bullshit: Here's What You're Missing, Dumbass - Historical Context and Social Pressure

Man, I keep trying to ignore these dumbfucks, but then the other feminist bloggers jump on board, and I have to bitch.

Here's the panic - I would say "latest panic" but they've been preaching "smart, successful women won't get married and have kids, and they'll regret it and spend their nights sobbing into their empty nest and eating bonbons, so you should get barefoot and pregnant straight out of highschool to a Big, Successful Guy who can tell you who you should be, since you won't have enough time on your own to figure out who you are and want you want," for thirty years:

Over the past 30 years, the fraction of women over 40 who have no children has nearly doubled, to about a fifth. According to the Gallup Organization, 70 percent of these women regret that they have no kids.

Uh, hold on there, buddy. First of all, we don't have a population crises in this country. Fewer kids from well-to-do whites (or well-to-do Romans, yea, I've read this argument before) is the real issue. Let's not pretend otherwise. He's really talking about well-educated white women. The Roman state used the same sorts of arguments to try and get upper-class women to have more children.

But these women were smart, knew what contraception was, and knew that pregnancy killed 1 in 4 of them. So they kept their kid-cap to two. The Roman state started offering tax breaks to men who convinced their wives to have more children, and husbands were told to keep an eye on her use of contraception. Keep out the people providing knowledge, get rid of the ingredients for pessiaries, and above all, keep marrying women when they're very, very young so they have as little knowledge as possible coming into a relationship.

Sounds fun.

Yet more women in the US today have children than did a hundred years ago - they just have fewer of them. How can this be?

Well, it's social math: having sex before marriage, being an "unwed" mother, was the Absolute Worst Thing that could happen to a woman. It was far more discouraged a hundred years ago than now. Do I need to say this? Some women were still able to get away with this - and of course most marriages were "the baby's due in 6 months" sorts of marriages. However, it was expected that a certain percentage of women would be "old maids" without spouse or children, due to an imbalance of men and women (a hell of a lot of men died in those world wars, the civil war, etc. There have been long periods of lots-of-women-who-don't-have-kids). Keeping that pool of childless women out there was a good way to cut down fertility rates, too. Nice way to curb female agency and sexuality, as well.

Women today, however, have more options. You can choose (oh, thank all your feminist orgs for that) when to have children and how many you want. You don't have to be married. Hell, you don't even need a steady male partner, just a sperm bank. This is a great thing. This is not Evil. This does not lead to Sobbing Over Bonbons, though a lot of guys sure seem to wish it would.

But there is also one big problem that stretches across these possibilities: Women now have more choices over what kind of lives they want to lead, but they do not have more choices over how they want to sequence their lives.

WTF? This guy seems to think that a woman has to stay home with her kids for the first ten years of the kids' lives, so she's only got a couple of ten-year windows: either she's gotta be married and punching out babies by 25 or 35. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

I'm not sure what planet he lives on. He's really obsessed with this idea of a woman's "most fertile years." Like if these women don't have kids, the world will implode and we'll all die (read Joanna Russ's We Who Are About To).

I've never been especially concerned about my fertility or having children or getting married. I'm one of those, "If I meet a cool partner who's in it for the long haul and have a kid sometime, that'd be cool. If not, even better: more retirement money for me."

The women in my family are incredibly fertile, just the sorts this columnist would love. We're the wagon train women who signed up to marry some random guy so we could go populate the west and dig out a sod hut and drive cattle. My maternal grandmother recently told me about her mother's mother, who was purported to have been married five times - once to an Indian - and spent most of her evenings in the local pub playing the piano and singing baudy songs. Rumor has it both my grandmothers did the "hell, we're practically engaged, let's get it on - hey, oops" thing and were nice and rosy for their weddings, and it wasn't thirty days after going off the Pill that my mom was pregnant with me. My brother was the famous "oops" baby - my mom was trying to wean herself off Pill hormones, and my brother was conceived despite the use of spermicide and a diaphragm (needless to say, I don't use either of these forms of birth control. Learn from the women in your family. This is important). And then there's my sister and my "oops" nephew, of course.

All we have to do is roll out of bed, and hey, hot damn, look at that.

There's really no need to stress about babies.

I don't know about everybody else's parents, but mine have always worked. They were lucky in that they had a great babysitter in my French grandmother, who took care of me, my brother and sister, and my cousin during work hours for the first twelve years of my life. Either my mom or my dad picked us up after work, we always ate dinner at home, watched a lot of movies, and having a two-income household gave us the opportunity to go on some great roadtrips.

Once I was twelve, I stayed home with my younger brother and sister and looked after them, and my mom finished up her MBA. Our job was housecleaning, which took some of the load off my mom (my dad just isn't big on the housework, it's true - their deal was that when my mom made more money than my dad, he'd take over cleaning the house. This has happened only once, because for 20 years my parents worked for a company that consistently paid my father $100 more a paycheck than they paid my mother, even though they had the same job. Why did they do this? Because, apparently, their boss thought that paying them equally would somehow disrupt my parents' marriage. So he got paid more and promoted first, all the way up the line: he'd become a manager, then her, then he was an area manager, then her, then he was VP Operations, then she got VP Human Resources. Yea. Fucked up. My mom still remembers the days when they'd pay the male burger flippers more than than female ones because "men are the breadwinners. They have to support a family on their salary. Women are just earning money on the side." :;snort:: My mom said that when she was 16, this made a lot of sense, until she actually stopped and thought about it. "Hey, but, wait a minute, we're doing the same work! And I'm doing it better than him!").

This guy's seriously suffering from a lack of imagination about the way the world can work. He's got a very small box.

So there are women now who, like my sister, can have kids and not be married or attached to anybody in particular and can live on their own with limited social stigma (depending on the circles). Mainly, they can do this because it's not only so incredibly common, but incredibly visible: you're allowed to talk about being a woman who has a kid and not a husband. Yea, you still get flack for it, but it's a serious option, as is buddying up with another woman, picking a friend or going to a clinic, and having and raising a kid together.

Options aren't bad things, and I don't believe that women who are over 40 and haven't had kids are really all that broken up about it: anybody who really, really wants kids is going to have them at the right time in their lives. You find a way to do it. What you're hearing from the Famous Over 40 women is them interrogating their lives based on studies like this, on panic-hysteria about how you're more likely to get killed by a terrorist than get married after 40 (total bunkum. Completely disproved. Read Backlash), and how you should be feeling guilty for not having kids, and you must be some kind of selfish bitch to have this free life, and don't you feel Hollow and Empty? Ask people this enough times, and they're going to start thinking they're weird for saying they're not.

They'll start questioning themselves, and feel bad or not-normal for their perfectly valid life choices.

I'm a woman. That doesn't mean it's my biological duty to have children. It doesn't mean that that's my ultimate purpose. Not everybody's here to have kids. That's a good thing.

Having and raising children is too fucking difficult a thing to do because you felt pressured into it, because you felt you had some sort of biological duty that you thought you were weird not to feel.

And I resent these studies that don't take the issue of women's social pressures to have children into account. The day we're given positive images of childless, single, Over 40 women who have lots of great friends, a great job, and perhaps the occasional lover in Paris or Milan, is the day when we might be able to ask women for real how they feel about being Over 40 and free of children.

He Was Asking For It, Your Honor. I Was Ovulating, and He Wasn't Wearing a Shirt. Biological Imperatives, and All That

I'm sorry, what was that? You mean if I find a guy sexy I can't beat him up, molest him, and go home? Dude, he was totally asking for it! He was wandering around after dark, looking drunk, and wearing a damn fine pair of ass-hugging jeans! I couldn't control myself!

I'm sorry, you said, I have to be able to control myself because I'm a woman? I can't just bash somebody around and take them home? WTF?

I wasn't going to link to this discussion about the well-trod "she was asking for it" argument about rape, because it's the same old story [oh, come on, you guys, most rape and abuse is actually from somebody you know, it's not about sex, it's about power, blah blah, I should have a standard post for this] until I read this bit, which I had to share:


"Actually, I'm sorry to say that it's very likely that you DID hurt some people. Some guys no doubt looked at you and lusted after you. That brought them down a sinful path. What if some 21 year old guy looked at you lustfully? Encouraging a 21 year old guy to lust after a 13 year old is bad for the 21 year old guy.

Oh, and I really don't want to get into an argument about what is harmful or not harmful. I just want to let you know that some people feel that scantily clad women make their lives more difficult. The younger the scantily clad woman is, the worse (more illegal) the temptation could be."


"So, to review, ladies... once we hit puberty, and probably before then, we are responsible for the thoughts that men have when they look at us. It's our responsiblity to dress appropriately so that men are not troubled with lustful thoughts.

Now why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah, because it is what is generally taught in psycho misogynistic religious cults!

In short, prisoner6655321, kiss my feminist ass.

You know, I'm very good at dealing with my lustful thoughts. If said lustful thoughts get too intense, I can always get off the train, or stop looking. Thinking a guy is hot doesn't entitle me to force him to come home with me (yea, I know, rape isn't about "hotness" - but let's pretend, OK? Makes the psychos feel better).

If there were fewer scantily-clad men in the world, it would be a sad, sad, place. But I understand the dangers: women just can't control themselves. They're ravenous hormonal beasts. So if we need to put men in burkas in order to protect them from their own inherent hotness, well, you gotta do what you gotta do.

I'm sorry, who wants to live in that world?

via Ginmar

Women & Sport

Much thanks to Davina for sending me this link -

The Observer's got a piece about encouragining girls in school to enjoy PE and physical sport, as:

Health experts are now warning that the trend [girls shunning sport] has profound health implications for women in later life because people who do not get into the habit of being physically active as teenagers usually take little or no exercise as adults, and run a much higher risk of obesity, heart disease, infertility and joint pains.

I touched on some of this in my old sport post over at Alas. If men and women aren't encouraged to be physically active in equal numbers [in everyday life, in sport, in PE, etc], if women feel socially awkward participating, then you can't make accurate comparisons or assumptions about the differences in male and female strength - you've never got an equal playing field.

They found that 30 per cent of the girls surveyed did not like their PE kit, and 40 per cent were self-conscious about their bodies. One in five said they only took part in PE because they had to, 15 per cent did not enjoy it and 3 per cent rarely took part. One in five believed that being good at sport was not important for girls and that it was not 'cool' to display sporting prowess.

Worryingly, the researchers found that 30 per cent of girls did not think they would be physically active once they left school. They also discovered that girls become progressively more negative towards sport after the onset of puberty.

Completely unsurprising. Ah, puberty, that magic age when women suddenly, desperately realize they have to fit their minds and bodies into weird social boxes. No pretending anymore.

The great thing about this article is that they did a study, reacted to their findings, and got results:

However, the academics also found that girls' participation has risen steadily at schools which have made PE more female-friendly. Girls-only sports lessons, the introduction of aerobics, pilates and dance classes, and changing gym kit rules so girls can wear less revealing clothing such as tracksuit bottoms and hooded tops have boosted involvement...

Since the school introduced the changes in 2001, the number of girls aged 11-14 doing extra-curricular sport has risen from 35 per cent to 75 per cent, the number of female sports teams it puts out has increased from four to 25, and the proportion of girls pleading sickness or injury to avoid PE has fallen.

Very cool.

Shaolin Soccer

After 4 martinis and a black russian, Shaolin Soccer isn't a bad movie.

Saved! however, is fuckin' awesome. Get a copy. Share it with friends. I am moving drunkenly to bed.