sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

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.

March 26, 2012

The VAWA Extention Battle (PARTIAL NUDITY)

Filed under: feminism, politics — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 2:23 pm

This one should be a no-brainier, but it’s not.  Here is Jenny Erikson on re-authorization of Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA which the Senate Democrats are trying to speed thorough, but Republicans stalling:

Republicans trying to stall VAWA are bound to come off looking like jerks. Why do you hate womyn, Mitch McConnell? Why won’t you help these poor battered ladies escape their abusers, Chuck Grassley? What is wrong with you guys?

There’s nothing wrong with Republican Senators that don’t support VAWA, there’s something wrong with the legislation. Originally passed in 1994, the act has had bipartisan support through two 6-year reauthorizations, but this time around it contains new provisions and fails to protect against potential fraud and abuse.

The new legislation, sponsored by Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, would create 5,000 additional “U-visas,” which are awarded to both legal and illegal immigrants who aid in criminal investigations. Except that people who apply for these visas don’t actually have to ever assist law enforcement. So an immigrant facing deportation could just apply for a U-visa. What does that have to do with helping battered women?

Another section of the bill invites marriage fraud. Most everyone knows that the quickest route to American citizenship is to marry an American citizen … heck, they’ve made movies based on this “marriage of convenience” premise. Normally, the foreign spouse has to rely on their American partner to file the paperwork, but in cases of abuse, the petitioner may file for themselves with a VAWA Self-Petition. I’d like to think that no one would ever falsely claim to be abused in order to get a visa, but it’s a well-documented fact that sometimes people suck.

VAWA is an example, albeit a small one, of the irrationality of our immigration policy.  When women who marry American citizens are admitted to this country and processed for residency, they are given interviews and asked to prove that their relationship is real.  In other words, we already suspect that some of the women are here for the green cards, and we want to make sure they are not.

American citizenship is part of the appeal in great many of the cases.  Still, most women, including the notorious mail order brides, enjoy good relationships with their American spouses.  They make home and start families in this country, and even if their marriage did not begin with earth-shattering romance, they live happy, fulfilling lives together with their American husbands and children.

Unfortunately, things can go South, as they often do, whether or not the American man is married to a foreign woman.  VAWA assumes that it’s the promise of American citizenship is what keeps the woman in an abusive relationship, but real life is more complicated.

Take, for instance, the recent high profile case of Ross Mirkarimi and Eliana Lopez.  It turned out that Mirkarimi, a California Green Party co-founder, who for some reason was elected San Francisco sheriff, was violent with his Venezuela-born wife on at least one occasion.  Eliana refused to cooperate with authorities, blaming dirty politics and — imagine that! — comparing America to Venezuela.  In the video recorded by her neighbor, however, Eliana showed her bruised arm.  The two are no longer together — because judge barred Mirkarimi from visiting his wife.

family violence SF

Eliana Lopez shows off her bruised arm in a video recorded by her neighbor

When I worked in immigration, I heard some very liberal attorneys opine against VAWA not only because of the possibilities of abuse (fraud and abuse was our major concern) but also because they disagree with the underlying presumption that a foreign woman is entitled to American citizenship simply for marrying a rotten man.  Yes, she hoped for a better life, but sometimes when things just don’t work out it’s time to move back.  Work with asylum seekers who, unlike the battered foreign women, have nowhere to go tends to put things in perspective.

It’s interesting that VAWA is such a feminist issue, considering that some of the women in question entered the United States in arranged marriages, which some feminists oppose.  I have to command American feminist establishment for welcoming foreign competition.  Presumably, there is a demographic of men look for foreign wives precisely because they are not feminists.

femen protest

Ukrainian feminists protest arranged marriages -- in this case through a reality TV show

Snark aside, it’s not surprising that VAWA enjoys bi-partisan support.  It’s a highly charged political matter, and that’s the end of it.  Or it should be the end, anyways.  I don’t think Senate Republicans should pick this battle.  When it comes to immigration reform, they should take on bigger issues, like border security.  What’s another 5000 U-visas when we have 12 million illegal immigrants in this country?

March 19, 2012

The Feminist War on Obstetrics

Filed under: feminism, parenting, politics — Tags: , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 2:42 pm

I first heard the feminist narrative about midwifery from my History of Science professor, a tall, gaunt gentlemen in his late fifties-early sixties.  It went as follows: in the 18th century or thereabout, male obstetricians displaced female midwives as service providers to bourgeois and upper class families.  Although the physicians were believed to be safer, the death rate among laboring women attended to by doctors was higher because at that time medical professionals often came from straight cadaver theaters into the women’s bedrooms — without washing their hands.  That was before the germ theory of disease was formulated.  Despite the poor results, men usurped the power of women in a traditionally female-dominated field.

I always thought it was a bit problematic to treat this story of early modern childbirth as anything other than an illustration of sorry state of nascent obstetrics.  Because the modern practice of medicine is grounded in scientific method, it eventually reduced maternal and infant mortality dramatically.  In part it has to do with improvements in hygiene, but our advanced understanding of anatomy and physiology as well as technological breakthroughs played a considerable role.

Midwifery, on the other hand, is based in superstition.  Sure, the method employed by traditional healers can not be so counterproductive as to completely wipe out a population.  Midwives might know a few tricks that help to verse the baby or induce labor (or not), but midwifery was but folk healing.  Historically, midwives performed such important medical functions as closing all doors and windows and opening the stove upon entering the house of laboring woman and blowing tobacco into a woman’s face during protracted labor.  One might appreciate the wicked humor and folk poetry on display, but has to admit that neither prescription will offer much help with, say, an umbilical cord problem.  And how about such necessary course of action as putting a string around the father’s penis and tightening it with every contraction?

Although most feminists choose the safety of a hospital birth, the second and the third waves embraced midwifery as a re-emerging social phenomena and made “natural” childbirth an article of female empowerment.  See, for instance, Our Bodies Our Selves , and Feministing celebrating Ina May Gaskin, pioneering feminist midwife who urged women to “take our birth back”.  Gaskin authored “Spiritual Midwifery”, a book that must had seemed dated by the time it came out in 1977.  When traditional midwives ran around the house opening and closing orifices, the late 20th century brought psychedelia.  “Spiritual Midwifery”  describes life on a hippie commune (some say cult) called the Farm, and before then on a caravan of buses, where women delivered each other’s babies.  Gaskin’s female acquaintances and their male partners smoked pot and enjoy sex while in labor.  Some ladies claimed to have orgasmic births, which would be disturbing if true.  Gaskin was an inspiration to Direct Entry Midwives and founded the Midwives Alliance of North America, which claims that home birth is safe but won’t release it’s statistics.  We do know, however, that home birth, as practiced in the United States, is 3 times more dangerous for babies.

The Farm

Stephen Gaskin, Ina May's husband, talks to the followers on the Farm in 1970. Second on the left in the front row looks like Ina May. The Gaskins were once in "six marriage"

I don’t think there exists a Mills College student who doesn’t want to be a midwife, or at least a doula.  Again, not saying that every feminist is a homebirther or all homebirthers are feminists, but there is this particular branch of feminist nuttiness.  Well organized proponents of “natural” childbirth penetrated our best hospitals.  Women attend childbirth prep classes and assigned books that teach us that vaginal unmedicated birth is empowering, and is an achievement.  Even those arranging to give birth in hospitals are advised to refuse continuous fetal monitoring and pain relief in favor of the old feminist favorite — to get off our backs.  Stirrups are viewed as a symbol of oppression.   To make sure that we stick with feminist agenda we compose utterly useless birth plans.  A woman supposing is not very different from the proverbial man supposing.  I must add that “natural” childbirth types bring along various other sketchy individuals, like anti-vaxers and militant breastfeeding activists.

Radical feminists are known for general vilification of OBs, especially male OBs; their profession equated to rape.  The latest outburst of medical rape accusations was in relation to Virginia trans-vaginal ultrasound requirement for abortions.  A few months ago The Other McCain had a thread about liberal women ignoring indisputable scientific evidence that female fertility declines with age.  Rejection of modern obstetrical help in labor, prenatal care and beyond is another way many liberal women are not on good footing when it comes to lady parts and science.

The Debt still

Your male obstetrician is probably not Josef Mengele

Somehow somewhere in a Women’s Studies Department it was decided that men use their tools and cold reasons to subjugate women, but we, women, have the inner wisdom of our bodies as revealed in birth.  What misogynist wouldn’t agree?  Unfortunately women’s bodies are frequently wrong, and historically childbirth was the leading cause of death of young women and children.  Women’s Studies Departments also decided that female bodies are an arena on which power struggles are played out.  (As a side note, feminists borrowed many ideas about power from Michel Foucault who in his late middle age became a cheerleader of the ayatollahs.  We know how that worked out for Iranian women.)  Women’s movement’s obsession with power and the body tells us more about the feminists than the history they attempt to interpret.

Midwife toolbox

Late 19th century English midwife's toolbox. I suspect some of the instruments were invented and improved by male physicians

So when Nancy Pelosi dragged Sandra Fluke to spin tall tales about contraception at Georgetown in front of the federal legislature, the ladies were consolidating power over the bodies of American women.  Pelosi, of course, is working to strengthen government’s grip of the health industry, and Fluke is buffing up her feminist credentials.  She is laughing all the way to the Target pharmacy where she pays $5 to buy a month’s worth of contraception.  And you thought it was about women’s health.

While modern obstetrics are excellent, and perinatal death in the US is the lowest in the world, the c-section rate might be high.  We can probably benefit from tort reform and other market-driven solutions that would turn childbirth into a more honest business.  If it were up to me, I’d shop for a policy with high deductibles, one that would allow me to pay upfront for my stay in the hospital while taking insurance against complications.  Hospitals should be able to sell additional amenities and services (bigger rooms, professional photographers, bottles of campaign).  And why not?  If a woman wants a home-like suite, she should have an opportunity to rent one.  Instead of throwing freebies like that in a prepaid plan, which we already do by the way, make her pay for it directly.  It will lower premiums for everyone while enabling families to have the ambiance they want — if they are willing to pay, that is.  On the other hand, I hear that there is no reason why a Certified Nurse Midwife cannot deliver a baby when no intervention is indicated.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I gave birth twice lying comfortably on my back.  Like other women in my family I had an easy time coping with labor pain.  I actually hired a doula for my first birth.  When I was in transition and moaning gently every now and then, she turned to DH and said: “This is not what 9-10 usually looks like.”  The second time around I did request Demerol to deal with a potentially lethal post-partum complication.  I can’t say I was empowered by childbirth sans anesthetics, I was tired, happy to be safe and hold a healthy baby in my arms.  The nurses at Kaiser, however, were acting like me giving birth was some sort of act of Gaia worship. But enough about my uterus.

I had a lactation consultant scream at me a few hours after giving birth to my first, which lead me to briefly consider giving up the whole ready-made milk idea.  I didn’t.  I breastfed both of my children to 11 and 10 months until I dried up and I highly recommend it.

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