sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

November 24, 2010

Dawn of a New Age in Stock Photography?

Filed under: society — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 3:45 pm

A few days ago I noticed a picture that accompanied a headlining MSN story.  The picture was that of a pretty Muslim woman in a headscarf holding a credit card.  The story was about credit.  How odd.  It’s not just that we never see a Hasidic man running errands or a Catholic nun taking public transportation in a stock picture.  We never see a black person in Afro-centric garb or an Indian woman in a sari.  Pictures of deadheads or a goths are not used to illustrate stories that are not specifically about deadheads or goths.  Stock pictures feature neatly groomed people of all colors donning the last three seasons of Gap and J Crew.

Are MSN editors trying to say that Islam is a race, and for that reason alongside the pictures of those perfect people of various pigmentation we need a picture of an identifiably Muslim woman?  But Islam is a religion, and a universalizing one at that.  A universalizing religion attempts to appeal to all people regardless of culture or place of residence.  By contrast, an ethnic religion, like Judaism or Shintoism, is a practice carried on by a single group of people.  So no, Islam is not a race, in fact, there are Muslims of all colors out there.

What I like about generic pictures of good-looking people in the media is that they are generic.  We don’t know what religion the models practice or what music they listen to.  We don’t know if they live in Tupelo, Providence or Salt Lake City.  The most we can deduce from the images is that the models have some sort of an urban/suburban background, but even that is not self-evident.  They are anonymous Americans, and every one of us can imagine himself to be one of them.  And yet, nobody is like them.  Nobody dresses this way, nobody has their picture-perfect hair.  People in the ads are idealized and kind of boring.  They are mainstream.  Subcultures define themselves against people in ads, and get attitudish when the mainstream picks up their sartorial inventions.

The ads are generically American.  I find it comforting for several reasons.  First, at the age when our society is so fractured, generic good-looking Americans in the media are a unifying factor.  Second, if I were to recognize my private choices in pictures available to everyone, I’d feel a bit naked.  A nice yuppie woman with similar color hair, on the other hand, is a good stand-in.


November 16, 2010

Not My Kind of Feminism

Filed under: society — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:27 pm

Is ‘nice” an opposite of “direct”? Gloria Steinem thins so:

“We were too nice,” she said. “We’re women. We were trained to be nice. We weren’t direct enough.”

That’s a comment made in reference to some unspecified failures of the 1970s feminism to achieve its goals.  Somehow much of the Second Wave feminism seems neither “nice” nor “direct” to me.  A better word to use would be “laud” or “obnoxious”.  The relevant definition of direct is “straightforward; frank; candid.”  “Direct” is not very different from “nice”.  Good people are direct.  Men are usually more direct then women, btw, American men in particular.  Stereotypically, women achieve their goals by being indirect and manipulative.

1970s feminists voiced their demands loudly, but did it make them direct?  More importantly, can frankness account for their successes? Not really, because much of their strategy was annoyance and demands of undue attention.  It’s not really a case where one gets what she wants by being honest.  She gets what she wants by out-screaming (and out-maneuvering) her opponents.  And in any case, what were the goals of the Second Wave feminists?  How did they envision the future?  American public will falling in love with women’s basketball?  Government taking woman’s earnings and then returning them, in biweekly pensions, once she has a child?

Steinem, who is noted for saying that a woman needs a marriage like a fish needs a bicycle, did marry a boyfriend of hers — at the tender age of sixty six.  Perhaps Gloria Steinem wasn’t direct with herself.

November 10, 2010

There Is a Third Way

Bitching… What else is a mom to do? Katie Allison Ganju and Jillian St. Charles wrote in New York Times:

And as for Jong’s assertion that mothers today don’t tell each other the truth about the difficult, challenging and even dark parts of the world’s toughest job, well she obviously hasn’t read any momblogs or any of the wave of “momoirs” that have been released in the last decade. In fact, I am proud to say that the current generation of mothers is perhaps the first in history to proactively openly  and freely discuss the fact that on some days, parenting our kids is demanding, exhausting, heartbreaking and even boring beyond belief.

So, yes, bitching is what we do.  It’s called “mommy wars”, and it constitutes a significant portion of mommy blogs.

I sympathize with Erica Jong in as much as she disses Attachment Parenting, but not with her conclusion that in parenting anything goes.  It’s not that there is no right and wrong in parenting.  Yes, it’s true that in some cultures infanticide is normal or normative, but it doesn’t mean that murdering an infant is the right thing to do.  Ever.  So there are parenting wrongs.  There is more then one right, true, and what works for one child will fail another.  Still, there are wrongs.

On the other extreme there are Dr. Sears and his faithful.  My experience with this cohort is that of bewilderment.  Sure, there are parents out there who do a little Baby Bjorn here, a little co-sleeping there, hopefully figuring out sooner rather then later how to get the baby out of master bedroom.  But the Sears faithful in the Bay Area are usually New Agish types (I hear there are also Christian attachment parents, but they are not found around here) many of whom had successful careers before embarking on the parenting adventure.  They approach motherhood as a profession, an assignment, and Sears gave them a checklist against which to work.  They do “green” parenting for a bonus, and high achievers always go for the bonus.  But motherhood is not a profession; it’s merely the most important job in the world.

Yes, there are rules in parenting, it’s just that they are not Dr. Sears’ rules.  After all, William Sears is the man who proclaimed that a mother must tie her baby around her neck or else the kid will grow up all crooked and stupid.  Seriously, he suggested that babies “worn” by their mothers are smarter then the stroller-raised cohort (observation based on what exactly? — watching the babies in his practice — LOL!) because they see things from an adult’s point of view.  Sure, if a mother wants to “wear” her baby, why not?  Just understand that her style of parenting is just that — a style.  Do it if you like it, leave it alone if you don’t.  But look at the New York Times essay: Ganju and St. Charles sound rather defensive, but they did managed to call all of us who don’t parent by The Baby Book “detached”.  Because we are wrong-wrong-wrong for not obeying the Sears’ guide to the baby minutia.

I mean, really, what is there to celebrate?

Never mind that sleeping with your child, “wearing” your child, making your own organic baby food, using cloth diapers and generally getting into your baby’s face 24/7 with baby signing and other “developmental” activities, and going at it alone is certainly burdensome.  And more then most mothers in this world do, just as Jong says.  And none of it is necessary.  I agree with Ganju and St. Charles, this observation is certainly not new (well, the green aspect of it is).  I disagree with Ganju and St. Charles — there is nothing outrageous about this observation.

I agree with Ganju and St. Charles — motherhood is political.  I’m going to teach my children what I know, and I hope they will carry on my believes and values.  This is what I wanted to do before I started my family.  What I find strange is this observation:

Jong says that our hyperfocusing on our parenting choices allows us to avoid facing our broader, outward-facing  duties as citizens of the country and the world. In fact, however, she’s got it backwards. Progressive politics begin at home, with the way we raise our children, and many women will tell you that becoming a mother was the most politically radicalizing experience of their lives. Suddenly, the personal really is political, in a very tangible way.

I didn’t become “radicaliz[ed]” when I became a mother.  If anything I mellowed out.  I understood that it’s absolutely necessary to get along with people who are not at all like me.  And believe me, very few people around here are like me. I see new challenges ahead.  I also see a new post.

Jong on one hand and Ganju and St. Charles on the other are fighting for the soul of the liberal mother.  Ganju and St. Charles again:

Perhaps the most irksome assertion that Jong makes in her essay is that we mothers today are so trapped and burdened by the way we’re choosing to parent our kids that we’ve become “perfect tools of the right” and thus, are prevented from working for progressive political change.

But women are trending Republican these days.  Which should not be construed as a threat to feminism, but a change in feminism.  Most women in this country, I’m sure, will abhor the Jong’s idea of do as you wilt motherhood.  But they will also find Sears’ by The Baby Book parenting ridiculous.  That’s OK.  There is a third way when it comes to parenting.  Many third ways, in fact.

November 8, 2010

How to Make a Compliment in 2010

Filed under: society — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:08 pm

From my latest American Express offer:

Based on your exceptional record of financial responsibility, American Express would like you to consider Cardmembership.

Financial responsibility, eh?  A silver-tongued writer at the American Express New Members Department might understand something that our President does not: Fiscal responsibility is the first thing on the minds of the American people these days.

November 3, 2010

California: Suicide by the Ballot Box

California sucks!  East Bay sucks beyond belief.

It might be the largest mid-term power shift since the Great Depression, but here in California Moonbeam is elected to the second round of governorship.  The rest of the country is voting for fresh faces, and we elect a consummate politician.  I guess one moral of gubernatorial race is never hire a foreign-born house help.  Oh, but at least you can annoy Jello Biafra who disowned the Jerry Brown version of California Uber Alles:

Boxer is re-elected Senator.  Again, the rest of the country votes for fiscal solvency and restoration of Constitutional principals and freedom, we chose a true blue lefty airhead who in her 18 years in Senate sponsored a couple of Bills that made it into law.  Her legislative record was so illustrious that even San Francisco Chronicle refused to endorse her.  Way to go, California!

We overwhelmingly favor a Proposition that would make it easier for politicians to waste our money.  We overwhelmingly reject a proposition that would at least temporarily delays further wreckage of California economy.  We are hopeless.  Save a few “Greater California” states, like Nevada, where Californians flee after finding their environment unlivable, and which they summarily proceed to destroy, the country is going in opposite direction.  Actually, I don’t know how Reid managed to get himself reelected.  But NV is largely a toss-up because of the CA expatriates who dutifully check the “D” column when they find themselves in the voting booth.  It used to  be that the way California goes, so does the nation.  Now it’s more like the way the nation goes, so California doesn’t.

East Bay is, no doubt, the lamest place in California.  The good people of the 13th Congressional District re-elected Pete Stark (D, MD/CA) with over 70% of the vote.  Because we are smarter then He, in whom we do not believe, and smarter then the Founding fathers who certainly did not intend it that way, poor bumpkins.  Yeah, we are smart, and we are also civicly engaged.  Everyone should follow our lead, then they’d live as well as we do, minus the scenery… and the cuisine.

November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween, Statist Moms!

Filed under: society — Tags: , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 12:35 am

I keep hearing that women, many of them mothers, dominate the Tea Party movement.   That women, concerned for the future of their children, rally for liberty (and fiscal responsibility, and security).  It must be happening somewhere.  In the galaxy far far away.

Meanwhile here on Earth I read Parenting magazine.   According to their October issue poll, 78% of moms favor laws that would prohibit smoking in a house or in a car with children.  Only 22% of responders oppose such laws.  This poll is in no way scientific, of course, but it does show that there exists a constellation of statist mothers ready to police your personal habits.  Because they are better moms then you.

We already had some Brazilian model with a German surname opining that there should be a planetary law making breastfeeding mandatory.  Half-joking, I suppose. Yes,  yes, Fascism is sooo funny!

Breastfeeding mom Salma Hayek

Anyhow, I looked through the reasons Parenting moms gave to justify their opinions.  Nothing of interest in the “for” column: We don’t like it — ban it!  Reasons against?  Well, privacy, liberty, of course.  Amazingly, nobody was quoted pointed out that the evidence behind the ill effects of second-hand smoke is overblown.  How frustrating that this fact is so obscure!  And how scary that is it obscure.

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