sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

November 13, 2014

An Abortion Barbie Is Still A Barbie

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:33 am

Being a uterati Democrat, Wendy Davis was destined to lose her bid for TX governorship.  I’ve read quite a bit about her losing TX women, doing dismally with the married ones, which some interpreted as women voting with their brains, not loins.  I have a bit of a problem with this conclusion.

We women are good at a lot of things.  We are nurturing and not exceedingly stupid (not exceedingly smart either, just average).  But we do come with one unfortunate defect, namely jealousy.

Sarah Palin wasn’t too popular with women either, often to the point of obsession, mainly because she’s a former beauty queen with good-looking, if imperfect, family and, back in 2008, a stellar career.  There is a certain class of women who will be made to feel better about themselves by Hillary Clinton because she’s a miserable wrench, and will vote for her for that reason, but cannot stand the sight of Palin.

And sure, Davis didn’t get the kind of vitriolic press that Palin had to deal with, and I’m sure she’ll be more or less left alone after the election because a) conservative women are busy moms, b) conservative women are more likely to be religious and those are warned in some shape or form that jealousy is a deadly sin and c) liberal women are technically on the same team as Davis.

BUT I is it a surprise that women didn’t vote for a noted gold-digger with a Barbie mug?

Do you see a team player? I see a queen bee

And sure, there are many beautiful women who got elected this time around — Elise Stephanic, Mia Love, Joni Ernst — but they are very different kind of beautiful.  One can almost feel the callouses on their hands by looking at their smiles.  Plus, they were elected by conservatives (see above).

May 30, 2014

Sauce on The Tablecloth

Filed under: feminism, Soviet Union — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:50 pm

A lady who once wrote that “it has taken me 32 years to understand how to take care of myself” penned an essay calling for a national conversation on 3rd-wave-feminism-compliance of feminine hygiene products.  She proposed the thesis that the use of tampons alienates women from the natural power bestowed on them by menstruation.  (Question: why do menses stand for female power but childbearing is scoffed at?)  The revelation was all inspired by a rap video, titled “Tampons and Tylenol” (what else?) because to really understand where we are as a society, look no further than popular culture, especially black popular culture as it’s more authentic.  (Actually I kind of agree about pop culture being a mirror of society, but, gosh, it’s such a feminist cliche!)

The onset of menses is a huge event for girls, who talk about it quite a bit among themselves –so I’m not surprised that in our let-it-all-hang-out culture the topic finds its way into a song here or there or a sitcom features a joke about it.  More interesting is that the contemporary Western grown ups are so uninhibited about the whole monthly trouble thing.

In my early teens in the Soviet Union, which happened to be in the 1980′s, I had to deal with pretty heavy logistics.  Our only option was a special rubber “belt”, panties really, and inside of the “belt” we laid a runner of cotton which had to be removed and replaced once soaked.  On a heavy day, we’d carry around a spool of cotton.  Once the “monthly” was over, we cleaned and stored the device.  The “belt” was purchased at pharmacies, where, once there was no men around, we whispered the name into the ear of a woman behind the counter who then discreetly slid it into the shopper’s purse.

My “belt’s” edge rubbed against my hip, and by the time I left USSR at the age of 16, I developed a scar that did not heal until a few years later.  I suppose as far as the scars of socialism go, that one was rather superficial.

Once we crossed the border, I could choose from a variety of products, all more convenient and humane than the ones I had before.  But what if some peeping Tom was watching me shop?  To my astonishment, Western women dragged colorful plastic bags of tampons to the check out counters of supermarkets where they were often rang up by men, and the men seemed to pay little or no attention to what went down the conveyer belt.  Heck, no-one at the supermarket expressed any interest in what was rolled in the shopping cards in the plain view of the customers.  What, no sex maniacs of capitalism?

And Western women, have they no shame?  Or maybe that’s what civilization is like because, to quote Chekhov: “A good upbringing means not that you won’t spill sauce on the tablecloth, but that you won’t notice it when someone else does.”

Somewhere on the way to motherhood periods ceased providing endless fodder for girl talk.  Then childbirth and nursing became preferred subjects of powder room conversations.  Mostly I’m happy that consumer society makes it easy for a woman to go on with her life, even when bleeding and in pain.  I don’t believe a feminist needs to take any position on feminine hygiene products other than to promote economic system that eases inconvenience and perhaps celebrate the society that does not make a big deal out of it.  Then again, I don’t believe that personal is political.

April 23, 2013

Ill-Mannered Women Seldom Make History

Filed under: feminism, politics, Soviet Union — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:34 am

I came out of my parenting funk last week to learn that Margaret Thatcher, one of the greatest champions of freedom in our era, had passed away. Chihuahuas were barking mad, of course, but as Mark Steyn tells us, Lady Thatcher was the kind who’d savor the fury:

Mrs. Thatcher would have enjoyed all this. Her former speechwriter John O’Sullivan recalls how, some years after leaving office, she arrived to address a small group at an English seaside resort to be greeted by enraged lefties chanting “Thatcher Thatcher Thatcher! Fascist fascist fascist!” She turned to her aide and cooed, “Oh, doesn’t it make you feel nostalgic?” She was said to be delighted to hear that a concession stand at last year’s Trades Union Congress was doing a brisk business in “Thatcher Death Party Packs,” almost a quarter-century after her departure from office.

The finger!  The finger!

The whiniest of all chihuahuas Morrissey opposes Thatcher on animal welfare grounds or some such. He certainly aged… but the good news is that he’s still alive. Who knew?  Morrissey was one of those entertainers who were big in the West, but gained virtually no traction in the Soviet Union.  We preferred classic rock and heavy metal.

And here is another quote from the infinitely quotable late Prime Minister:

“I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding,” she once said, “Because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”

“They” certainly lost a lot of arguments.  Steyn summed up the legacy of Lady Thatcher’s domestic policies:

Thatcherite denationalization was the first thing Eastern Europe did after throwing off its Communist shackles — although the fact that recovering Soviet client states found such a natural twelve-step program at Westminster testifies to how far gone Britain was. She was the most consequential woman on the world stage since Catherine the Great, and Britain’s most important peacetime prime minister. In 1979, Britain was not at war, but as much as in 1940 faced an existential threat.

Mrs. Thatcher saved her country — and then went on to save a shriveling “free world,” and what was left of its credibility. The Falklands were an itsy bitsy colonial afterthought on the fringe of the map, costly to win and hold, easy to shrug off — as so much had already been shrugged off. After Vietnam, the Shah, Cuban troops in Africa, Communist annexation of real estate from Cambodia to Afghanistan to Grenada, nobody in Moscow or anywhere else expected a Western nation to go to war and wage it to win. Jimmy Carter, a ditherer who belatedly dispatched the helicopters to Iran only to have them crash in the desert and sit by as cocky mullahs poked the corpses of U.S. servicemen on TV, embodied the “leader of the free world” as a smiling eunuch. Why in 1983 should the toothless arthritic British lion prove any more formidable? [Emphasis mine, -- ed.]

My grade school years coincided with Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister and Ronald Reagan’s Presidency.  The Soviet media vilified both of them ferociously, but to our family they were friends.  We had family members who were trying to leave the Soviet Union, and we appreciated the unwavering support both Thatcher and Reagan expressed for Soviet dissidents and refusniks.

Regardless of family background, my generation loved action flicks and coveted blue jeans and bootleg rock music.  But it was up to the political leaders to explain the value of freedom.  Back in the 80s, Western leaderships projected optimism and confidence.  They showed us why capitalism was successful, and why it was worth imitating.  Maggie, Ronny and rock-n-roll were the picture of the West that I grew up with.

Maggie’s opinion was valued.  My grandma, who always got her news from the Russian Services of the BBC and the Voice of America, was heartened when the BBC broadcasted the Iron Lady’s opinion of Gorbachev: he was the man she can do business with.  That was the seal of approval Eastern Europe craved.

The Iron Lady is greeted by Moscowites in 1987 at the beginning of Gorbachev’s short tenure

Here is Oleg Atbashian — who is a couple of years older than me and has a more mature recollection of that period — on listening to Maggie on shortwave radio (click on the link for a cool poster).  He tuned in for rock-n-roll and stayed for politics:

 One night — it had to be late 1982, when Margaret Thatcher was running for her first re-election — my shortwave radio caught a BBC broadcast of the Iron Lady’s campaign speech.

[...]
Listening to Thatcher speak confirmed everything the Soviet media was reporting about her, and more. In a deep, powerful voice, she accused her socialist opponents of destroying the British economy through nationalization and presented the proof of how privatizing it again was bringing the economy back to life. The free markets worked as expected, making Britain strong again. The diseased socialist welfare state had to go, to be replaced by a healthy competitive society.

To the average consumer of the Soviet state-run media, that didn’t make any sense. When exactly had Britain become a socialist welfare state? That part never passed the Soviet media filter.

[...]

The next logical question would be this: if Great Britain wasn’t yet as socialist as the Soviet Union, then didn’t it mean that whatever freedom, prosperity, and working economy it had left were directly related to having less socialism? And if less socialism meant a freer, more productive, and more prosperous nation, then wouldn’t it be beneficial to have as little socialism as possible? Or perhaps — here’s a scary thought — to just get rid of socialism altogether? [Emphasis mine, --ed.]

My readers are welcome to dispute me, but I prefer Maggie to Ronny.  For one, the Iron Lady’s task of privatization was infinitely greater than anything Ronald Reagan had to face.  For another, I’m absolutely in awe of her speaking style.  Reagan was a great orator, full of passion, insights and spontaneity.  But Thatcher, ooow, her zingers were deadly.

I think it’s instructive that while the left talks incessantly about female empowerment, the actual great female leaders are conservative.  In part it’s because feminism is a false idol.  A non-Y-chromosomed Western politician too attached to the sisterhood is limiting herself.  The work of female emancipation now entails such all-important projects like providing already cheap birth control for free.  A woman with a vision, like Margaret Thatcher, has to have greater goals in mind.  Plus, if the story of Sarah Palin teaches us anything about the women’s movement, it’s that we, women, can be nasty and envious.

Since the second wave feminists taught women that personal is political, which really means that nothing is personal.  One’s choice of occupation, of clothing, of, notoriously, coital position, belongs to the sisterhood.  Feminism is a way of life, and as far as lifestyle advise goes, this one is highly questionable.  Per feminist bumper sticker wisdom, “Well-behaved women seldom make history”.  A now middle-aged death rocker we know has that one on her car.  There are plenty of obediently ridiculous women in the feminist movement, from raging grannies in pink to slut walks.  Is it worth it?

I’m sure it’s all very convenient in short term given how young ladies have all the rationale to party, but I pity the “girls” who will not, in a matter of year or two, grow to regret their participation.  The Ukrainian group Femen is selective high-end international version of slut walks.  I have to give it to them, they know how to get their egos massaged.  Occasionally, their protests have a kind of logic to it.  If one has to remove her bra for a cause, flash islamists.  Ultimately, though, they are dead-enders (via Leslie Lofties) destined to be a footnote to history.  If they get an honorable mention in history books, students struggling to figure out the narrative will wonder if they really need to know about partially naked women who once grabbed headlines.

Margaret Thatcher will get an entire chapter. I’m not sure she was “well-behaved”, certainly not by the standards of the socialist Left, but she was a lady, and as such she commanded attention and respect.  When the Meryl Streep film came out in 2011, Margaret Thatcher’s personal style became a popular topic of discussion, which is a bit silly.  It’s the women’s movement that’s about style, and the more outrageous, the better.  Morrissey is about style.  The Iron Lady was about substance.

Iconic Maggie, cheerful on the day she was elected, 4 May 1979.  Power, optimism, substance

A side note:  Margaret Thatcher had her twins when she was 28 — early by today’s standards.  She slowly developed her career and went on to be the most powerful woman in the world.  Had she waited another ten years to start her family, she’d spent her 40s carrying for young children, not moving up the Tory political ladder.  There is a lesson there.

And, oh, look how slender this mother of twins was — because she gave birth in her 20s?

March 6, 2013

War on Women: SF

In decades past San Francisco sent Nancy Pelosi to the Lower House and nurtured Dainne Feinstein.  The local electorate keeps dutifully reelecting Barbara Boxer, the other incumbent California Senator.  And yet the current political culture of this two-party (Democrat and Green) municipality smacks of misogyny.

Only 12 out of 31 elected office-holders are women.  No big deal, you say, perhaps the gals around here have better things to do with their time.  But against the background of Pelosi bragging about the number of Democratic women on the Hill, the low representation of women in politics in her hometown looks embarrassing.  And so the Democrat establishment of the City demanded that mayor Ed Lee appoint not merely an outwardly female double-X barer, but a mother to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors because, it turned out, there is not a single mother among the 11 board members.  Perhaps Mayor Lee could had done one better and appoint a transsexual “mother” who was once a father or something like that, but, I guess, he didn’t know any.  So he found a 29-year-old “girl” to be the 4th double exer on the Board.

That there are no mothers on the SF Board of Supervisors is only natural.  It’s not just that we, mothers, live on tight schedules; the City is notorious for its adult ambiance.  Parents and kids are fleeing to the suburbs, the Pacific North-West and just about anywhere else, really.  San Francisco can not remain both a party mecca and a family hub, and it seems to be committed to being a party mecca.  Although this situation says something about the City, I don’t view it as a problem: hipsters are people too, and they need a place to party.  One group that sees it as a problem are the teachers unions who see the family flight and anticipate lay-offs.  The politicians beholden to the union go out of their way to make the City family-friendly, but have little to show for their efforts.  It’s a topic for a different post.

I wonder if the Dems are feeling the pressure from the likes of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.  I heard a rumor that they want to tap into the demographic of women getting a “second wind”, former stay at home moms with grown children.  That should be interesting.  Married women are generally a Republican demographic.  We are zealous about good economic outlook, worried about national security and understand the value of human life.  I’m not sure what liberal mommies are going to bring to the table besides their peculiar brand of environmentalist neurosis.

Mommie issues aside, the political culture and social life in the City by the Bay is not exactly pro-woman, and this is immediately obvious.  Walk down the streets of the Lower Mission, for instance, and watch “girls”, many of them potentially attractive, going out of their way to look ironic.  Those who partake in the prestigious hobby of biking in the hilly city streets often grow thighs.

If the “girls” get involved in grass roots politics, it’s usually through outfits like Code Pink or with that septuagenarian (what’s her face?) who can’t shut up about her reproductive organs.  Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers have a revealing picture of the former.  I hate to bring it to Code Pink, but they fall more than a little short of Inna Shevchenko.  Zombie documented some interesting vagina/abortion dances and an anti-rape rally attended by mayor Lee (and possibly the entire Board of Supervisors, though not sheriff Mirkarimi, more of which later).  This kind of assemblies are bound to repel anyone with a semblance of self-esteem, no matter how sympathetic they are to leftie causes.  And besides, grass root politics around here is a domain of dead end narcissists; it’s a lifestyle, not a way of getting ahead.

Some local women do get ahead.  A case in point is Kamala Harris, Bay Area’s most recent gift to state politics.  Kamala, a spinster in her late 40s who now occupies the office of Attorney General of California, launched her career by sleeping with then-Speaker of California State Assembly and later mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown.  In addition to appointing her to positions on several Committees, Speaker Brown bought Kamala a Mercedes.  Then he helped her launch her successful District Attorney bid.

In the nearby Alameda county, Nadiya Lockyer, the young wife of the State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, became County Supervisor in 2010.  She was considered one of the rising stars in California Democratic politics until she resigned last year after a scandal involving substance abuse and a sex tape.  Sleeping one’s way to the top hardly raises an eyebrow in the post-third wave feminist Bay Area.  We are very sophisticated here, and we don’t judge.  Still, it’s one of those things that are bound to give pause to a number of women with political ambitions, particularly those who are married and especially the ones with children.

Harris and her ex laugh

Look who else is active in San Francisco politics.  Why, the co-founder of the California Green Party Ross Mirkarimi.  In November 2011, Mirkarimi, who had no prior law enforcement experience, was elected San Francisco sheriff.  He started off 2012 with a bang, literally.  The sheriff’s wife ran off to a neighbor’s house, and the neighbor videotaped her sobbing and showing the bruises inflicted by her husband.  Unlike Lockyer, Mirkarimi managed to survive the ensuring political storm.  (The interesting thing about Mirkarimi is that, while virulently anti-2nd Amendment, the man owned three pistols.)

Don’t lose track of what matters: San Francisco sheriff Ross Mirkarimi gives away what appears to be washable grocery bags on the steps of the City Hall

There is a lot of feminist rah-rah in San Francisco, but the optics are gross.  The feminist rhetoric, sometimes goofy, sometimes over the top, covers up a culture of indifference to issues that are supposed to excite a feminist, issues like family violence or an opportunity to make an honest living.  Underlying it all is a culture alien to the women who are not single — or at least childless.  No wonder there are no mothers on San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

…And on the right we have the Tea Party, a successful grass roots organization driven to a large extent by women, many of whom are mothers, many of whom embarked on a career in electoral politics.

August 2, 2012

Muslim Women Want To Go Topless

Filed under: feminism, politics — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:16 pm

Does the UK not issue tourist visas to Ukrainians?  Because I’m sure the original FEMEN girls wouldn’t miss their chance to shine at London Olympics, but all I see is the French Femen.  The French FEMEN are not not overweight, and, get this, they have Islamic names.  Judging by the video available on The Telegraph, they have the potential.  But the original FEMEN, who are known for their ability to produce memorable pictures, need to watch out.  Don’t let some well-meaning but poorly produced ladies to water down your brand.

Femone Olympics

Femen France were protesting participation of countries governed by Sharia law:

“The regimes are fascists of our time, they treat women like third-class citizens,” said protester Reza Moradi, without specifying any countries. “This is what we object to, this is what they are protesting against.”

And here is their facebook statement:

“Femen demands that the International Olympic Committee condemns violence towards women from Islamist states,” they said on Facebook.

“Femen requires the states that apply the laws of Sharia be shut out of the Olympic Games because of the inhumanity of these laws, which are in total contradiction with Olympic principles of peace and philanthropy.

“Femen accuses these states of simulating democratic changes regarding the position of women,” Femen continued. “With the support of the IOC, these Islamist governments use the participation of women in the Olympic Games to hide thousands of victims and dead.”

Femen can make occupiers think.  Now about the commemoration of the Munich massacre…

Femen protest

And exist question, does this qualify for anti-Jihad blogging?

June 5, 2012

Stay at Home Moms

Filed under: feminism, parenting, politics — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:19 pm

When I re-read my old posts about politics, it feels like the events I wrote about happened a decade ago.  If, however, I look at my posts about parenting, it all seems current. it doesn’t mean that I’m going to be blogging more about parenting because I rarely have much to say on that subject.  But a few days ago Dr. Sarah gave me an idea for another parenting post.  She was kind enough to read my entry on Bryan Kaplan’s book “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids” and leave a response.  Dr. Sarah objected to the idea that women and women alone should expect to take some time off work to care for young families:

Why, of course *she* [is]. After all, the other parent involved, what with being male and all, couldn’t possibly be expected to split the job when it comes to taking time off work for young children. Why is it universally assumed that parental leave for small children should be exclusively a woman’s job?

I responded:

It doesn’t have to be a woman’s job, and often times it’s not, but it just makes more sense when it is. And in many middle class families it starts early on. In most cases breastfeeding is cheaper and easier than formula, and it is, unless you are a freakazoid, a woman’s job. Expressing milk is annoying and creates additional tasks (freezing, warming up, cleaning containers) for the whole family. Most stay at home parents are moms, so it’s not unusual for dads to feel out of place when everyone sits in a circle nursing contemplating their episiotomies. And so on. Not to mention that nurturing hormones do kick in.
Beyond that, the father’s role in socializing children is different from that of mothers.

To which Dr. Sarah said:

I agree that breastfeeding becomes a lot more difficult when the woman is the one who continues work, but that’s only one of the many factors to be considered. In our situation, I had a job I loved while my husband had a job he hated – and had a chance to take voluntary redundancy from. The advantages of us doing it that way round well outweighed the inconvenience of expressing milk and washing bottles.

Alternatively, for many couples it could potentially work out well to alternate time off. So, for example, if a couple are planning to space their children three years apart, she could take the first 18 months of each stretch while he takes the next 18 months. Obviously, this would only work if they had careers from which it was easy to take multiple breaks. But, even if they don’t do it 50:50, he could still consider being the one who stays home after the youngest child hits one and the mother no longer needs to be around full-time to breastfeed.

There are all sorts of possible permutations, none of which would be a one-size-fits-all rule for any family but any of which would work better for many families than either leaving it all up to the woman or opting for early childcare. I find it a great shame that more couples don’t consider them.

While it’s none of my business how people decide to run their families, I’m going to tell my daughter not to expect her husband to take paternity leaves, and I’m going to prepare my son to be the sole provider for his wife and kids.  Why should they assume otherwise?

The example cited by Dr. Sarah (“I had a job I loved while my husband had a job he hated”) is one of those exceptions that proves the rule.  Sure, the way she described her situation, it makes sense that her husband became a stay at home dad.  This example doesn’t render the stay at home mom model insufficient.

Dr. Sarah family is unusual because in most cases both parents have pleanty unpleasant experiences at work.  Even when the mother loved her job before she had the baby, it is not at all clear that she will love to return.  At some point in pregnancy, the hormones do kick in and her priorities may shift.  While I keep hearing from moms who cry when they drop off their kids at daycare and head to work, dads never divulge.  It could be that they are just as devastated, but, being being stoic and all, don’t let on.  Or else it’s just different with women. I’m sure there are some isolated examples of families where fathers are far more nurturing than moms, but they are just that — isolated examples.

Aside from woman’s wishes, as a practical matter it makes sense for a nursing mother to stay at home.  As I mentioned in my initial response to Dr. Sarah, it’s easier on the family unit and on mom and dad’s social life –whatever the latter amounts to shortly after the birth of the baby.  Of course, the challenges to stay at home dads are not insurmountable, but they are challenges, and they do add up, particularly considering that men have their own unique needs.

So, yes, if mother loves her job and can’t wait to return and the dad hates his and wants to nurture, the family might decide that dad will stay with the baby.  In this particular case.  I suspect that in this Great Recession dads care for children because they lost their job while mothers managed to remain employed.  Such an arrangement is nothing to celebrate.

Then there is the question of what the family unit is all about.  The way we think about it, me and DH are a team.  We help each other, minimize work for each other and maximize our income.  It’s not girls against boys, not “I took some time off, so now is your turn”.  We most certainly don’t compete with each other, as I hear some couples do, over who makes more money.  If there is a lull in my career, doesn’t mean that he has to interrupt his.

I admit in our case it was a no-brainer that I would be the one staying at home not only because I’m the mother, but also because his salary was so much higher.  I pity today’s young women who are making more money than their male counterparts, which means, in the event they decide to marry the man whom they outearn, they will have to return to full time employment post partum.

Men and women are not interchangeable, and a father’s role in his children’s upbringing is different from that of the mother.  Father has to set the example of stoic masculinity, to teach his sons to be men, and to show his daughters what men are like.  This doesn’t mean that they are not allowed to help around the house or give a bottle (or that mothers can’t pack heat), but that on the whole a father’s obligations transcend nurturing, and that perhaps we shouldn’t ask them to be mother surrogates.

I don’t think decisions like who gets to stay at home should be guided by considerations of equality of condition.  What I mean by “equality of condition” here is making sure that both the husband and the wife work equal amount of time outside the home.  I find this “equality of condition” approach a little geeky because it ignores what men and women want.  More importantly, decisions about family should be made based on what is good for the family unit, not how to advance the feminist movement.

I am going to tell my daughter to reasonably expect to take a decade off work to be with her children.  I’m also going to encourage her to chose her career wisely.  My grandmother used to talk of occupations that are good for women — the ones that allow flexible hours.  Thankfully there is more and more of them now, not to mention that many employers allow work from home.  If she must become a stock broker or a physics professor, then be it, but she needs to have a clear idea about what she’s choosing.

May 12, 2012

Not Sure This Qualifies for Offend a Feminist Week, But I’ll Try

Filed under: education, feminism, politics — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 5:41 pm

I’m chasing the last week’s news here.  Naomi Schaefer Riley thinks that Black Studies PhDs are out of touch.  I think she’s the one out of touch and most certainly deserves to be fired.  Just look at the opening of her offending post at The Chronicle of Higher Ed:

That’s what I would say about Ruth Hayes’ dissertation, “‘So I Could Be Easeful’: Black Women’s Authoritative Knowledge on Childbirth.” It began because she “noticed that nonwhite women’s experiences were largely absent from natural-birth literature, which led me to look into historical black midwifery.” How could we overlook the nonwhite experience in “natural birth literature,” whatever the heck that is? It’s scandalous and clearly a sign that racism is alive and well in America, not to mention academia.

Why is Riley picking on Black Studies?  I doubt there is a Women’s Studies Department in this great country of ours that is not green with envy on the account of this brilliant dissertation not written on its premisses.  Or Anthropology, or English, or History, or anything “interdisciplinary” which really includes everything “humanities”.  I mean, seriously, we have a black feminist here; not just a woman, a black woman, marginalized by racism, patriarchy, classism (why not classism?) and, as she so ably shows us, by the women’s movement.  Whatever she writes, they’d eat it up with the placenta!  If Riley wants to criticize the quality of Hayes’ scholarship, she has to take it up with the whole academia.

Ms.Hayes is not the only one who noticed that “natural birth literature” is primarily an upper middle class neurotic white women’s playground, in other words a late 20th-early 21st century feminist shtick. Christian Lander found “natural” childbirth to be very Caucasian, and put it in “Stuff White People Like”.  How are the black women supposed to make it into American middle class if not by imitating the silliness of the white college grads, I ask.  (Sure they can follow the example of everyone else who made it — study, work hard, marry and stay married — but that would be no fun.)

Of course, when white homebirth midwives reject modern Western obstetric care and everything capitalism, they also embrace the exotic other’s way of “birthing” and parenting.  Hence the interest in “natural” 3rd world practices, like cloth baby carriers or homeopathy.  Some midwives do internships abroad where they intend to pick up the authoritative ways of traditional midwives.  The whole culture might smack of condescension, neurosis and patchouli, but it’s disproportionally influential, considering that it’s often out of sync with science.  It is pretty much  impossible to pass through the doors of the Labor and Deliver Department of a hospital without coming across the “natural” childbirth propaganda and related topics.

Riley says of Hayes and other Black Studies PhDs:

[T]here are legitimate debates about the problems that plague the black community from high incarceration rates to low graduation rates to high out-of-wedlock birth rates. But it’s clear that they’re not happening in black-studies departments. If these young scholars are the future of the discipline, I think they can just as well leave their calendars at 1963 and let some legitimate scholars find solutions to the problems of blacks in America.

But in reality, she doesn’t seem to know or care about the kind of female empowerment entertainment white women invent for themselves. Clearly, she’s the one out of touch.

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