Archive for the 'Essays' Category

Appreciating Michael Jackson

Monday, July 6th, 2009

On the one hand, I feel I have no right to write a tribute to  Michael Jackson. On the other hand, I feel compelled to.

Until his death, I had really never paid much attention to him.  I have never been especially interested in popular music, and I was in my forties when he was really coming into his own. I knew about the white glove – and I would sometimes glance at his videos when my children were watching MTV, but that pretty much sums up my exposure to him – except for the periodic and vitriolic media attacks which were hard to avoid. So, when I heard of his death, my only thought was, “He’s still so young; how sad.” But that was  pretty much  it.

The Friday evening  after his death, I was watching Charlie Rose and to my surprise I discovered that he was devoting part of his program to Michael Jackson. I learned that Michael Jackson was possibly the most famous person in the world, that news of his death had brought the internet to its knees. What was this global outpouring of grief all about?

That night, I got on my computer and went in search of Michael Jackson videos. And I found them! I watched well into the early morning – and found myself, like millions of other fans before me, mesmerized by the magic and power of this incredibly gifted man. Although a great deal of tv time and printed matter has been devoted to the brilliance of his performances, what interests me the most are the powerful feelings he expressed and inspired in others – including me, watching him, all alone, the day after his death.

The video, and song, which I love the most is the hauntingly lyrical “Earth Song” with its  deliberately jarring segue into the angry and accusatory refrain “What About Us?”. In “Earth Song,” Michael connected with  and called forth the terribly deep pain and anguish  — the anger and frustration — we all would feel all the time if we would — or could — allow ourselves to internalize the terrible things we, and those who act in our name, are doing to all Life, including human life,  on our planet.  In “Earth Song,” Michael Jackson, his whole being filled with love and compassion,  arrows his powerful message straight into our hearts.  In “Earth Song,” he makes us feel earth’s pain  – which apparently was his intent when he wrote it.

Although I applaud Al Gore’s environmental efforts and commitment,  “An Inconvenient Truth” is addressed to our heads, not our hearts. To put a stop to the multitude of human and environmental tragedies playing out globally on an hourly basis, we need to feel them, experience them, at the level of our deepest, most powerful, emotions – those having to do with our survival and the survival of others. But we don’t. Because we can’t. We are too busy erecting defenses precisely to keep ourselves from feeling, because we can’t face the pain and the guilt.

Michael Jackson in “Earth Song” cuts through all those defenses and brings us face to face with  the consequences of our destructive  acts. He gives voice to the planet and to the planet’s most vulnerable  inhabitants.  And death cannot still his voice.

This is a Test: Are You a Patriarch?

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Intrinsic Value/Utilitarian  Value

Rocket Scientist/Street Cleaner
Lawyer/Child Care Worker
Housing Development/Wilderness

Does the fact that the items on the left fall in the category of high or intrinsic value while the items on the right have no or merely utilitarian value feel right to you? Does this sorting out seem to be the natural order of things?  Or an arbitrary assignment of value?

Feminism and the Domestic Sphere

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

I love home and family and good friends and good food and warmth and comfort and the leisure to enjoy them.  My greatest pleasure is not traveling to exotic lands or attending cultural events (although I enjoy both) – but sitting at a table surrounded by friends and family enjoying good food and good conversation.  And, as I grow older and children and friends scatter, to my sorrow, this is a pleasure which seems harder and harder to come by. But that is another topic for another day. In this essay, I want to focus on the fact that , as a woman who considers herself to be a feminist, it has always pained me that feminism appears to devalue the domestic sphere by assuming the patriarchal position that only paid work (done by males) has real value;  therefore, only by getting women out of the home and into traditionally male jobs can women achieve value.  This line of reasoning seems to reinforce the idea that women’s work is, indeed, worthless.  When most of us know by personal experience that women’s work enriches life immensely.

I have always valued the domestic sphere.  As a child, I loved coming home to a loving mother and a comfortable home. For a few years, I even had the pleasure of an extended family, with a great aunt and uncle who lived down the street. I practiced the piano at their house and shared my school experiences with them – and felt loved and cared for. Later, when our family fell on hard times and my mother went to work outside our home (much against her will), I hated coming home to a cold, empty house, still smelling of the breakfast we had all wolfed down on our way out the door to work and school.

Years later, when I was a mother, I treasured the few years I had at home with my children. But all too soon, economic pressures also forced me to go to work outside the home and enter the world of the frazzled mother, trying to find reliable, trustworthy childcare so I could concentrate on my work without worrying every minute about my children. But just being separated from my youngest, who at four still required a lot of lap time, was wrenching.

The creation of a comfortable haven which provides both physical and emotional security seems to me to be a very worthwhile  endeavor.  But our society and our economy are doing everything they can to ensure that a stable domestic environment is a luxury which few can afford.  And this is primarily the result of women being forced to work one and sometimes two jobs outside the home because none of the work they do inside the home is deemed to have any economic worth or cultural value.  And before you think I am on a right-wing, kirche, kuche, kinder rant, let me quickly say that I am not recommending that women should be imprisoned in the home, tending the home fires; I am not recommending “a return” to traditional roles. I am merely pointing out that in the loss of the domestic sphere – in the diminishing hours that anyone has available to spend at home – we have lost a lot.

Toward a Woman-Friendly Feminism, II

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

On one feminist blog I visit regularly,  a discussion of the inauguration has devolved into a criticism of Michelle Obama’s self-designation as “Mom-in-Chief” and has further disintegrated into an attack on stay-at-home moms – as if they are lazy do nothings.  I am soooooo tired of feminists who are so hostile to everything women are and everything women have traditionally done. Having had the great good fortune of mothering two little boys many years ago, and having done both men’s work and women’s work, I can truthfully say that the job of looking after infant humans is probably the most exhausting and demanding work I have ever done;  I can also say it was the most pleasurable and the most rewarding.

Providing  tender loving caring to children is probably the most important work any person will ever do. It is critical to the continuation of the species. It is critical to the development of socially responsible human beings. And, in most cases, it is better for both the mother and the child if the child’s mother  is available to look after her child. But she doesn’t have to do it in a traditional marriage; she doesn’t have to do it at home; and she doesn’t have to do it all the time.

If we had paid maternity leave of up to two years,  mother-friendly work places, and more flex time, we could create a world where  women would truly be free to choose to have — as well as not to have — children.  I am for a feminism which recognizes the problems facing the majority of women and which is devoted to helping us all. I am tired  of a feminism made up of and focused primarily on women who aspire to enter professions traditionally associated with men.

The feminist concept of choice should not be limited to the choice not to have children (although, admittedly, the ability to avoid unwanted pregnancies is a fundamental freedom for women), but should be expanded to improve and enrich the lives of all women, all the time,  even mothers .

Toward a Woman-Friendly Feminism

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

I read a lot of feminist blogs and comment occasionally; often there are differing opinions as to what feminism means and what sorts of positions feminists should take. So, as a result I have been feeling the need to define for myself, if for no one else, what being a feminist means to me.

To be a feminist means never to forget that I live in a patriarchal society. To live in a patriarchal society is to live in a society which assigns value based on gender, using the male sex as the standard. In patriarchal societies, men and men’s work are viewed as vastly more valuable than women and women’s work (think of the difference between the incomes of a hedge-fund manager and a stay-at-home mom).

This assignment of value is a result of cultural beliefs rather than a reflection of “real” social value. Unfortunately, less conscious members of patriarchal societies (both men and women) do not recognize the arbitrary nature of patriarchal values, but take it as a given — as the natural order of things — that men and men’s work are more valuable than women and women’s work (i.e., that hedge fund managers deserve to be paid billions, while stay-at-home moms deserve to be paid nothing). Members of patriarchal societies unquestioningly accept patriarchal values as “real” values because they have been programmed to believe that patriarchy itself is “reality.”

Note: When I use the terms “men’s work” and “women’s work,” I mean work traditionally associated with men or women – not work which should be done by men or women.

As a feminist, I no longer view patriarchy as “reality”. I take the post-modern position that cultures create their own realities ; therefore, I recognize patriarchy as a construct of culture rather than a fact of nature – and a very unjust one at that, especially as it pertains to women. Consequently, I do not feel that I must accept patriarchy’s value system as representative of a reality which, like it or not, I must put up with.

If we created patriarchy, we can uncreate it and construct a more just society. Recognizing that patriarchy systematically and arbitrarily devalues women while systematically overvaluing men, feminism’s primary task, as I see it, is to make more people conscious of the injustice of the patriarchal value system in order to right the wrongs which patriarchy systematically inflicts on women.

But patriarchal programming is so powerful and so insidious that even women who call themselves feminists have a difficult time fighting clear of it. For the feminist movement appears to have unconsciously bought into the idea that men’s work is more valuable than women’s. Working from this mistaken assumption, feminists believe that the only way women can achieve full social value is to be accepted as an equal in the male world, which means denying that there are any differences between men and women, totally ignoring the demands of domestic life which the majority of women have to deal with.

Instead of working to create a workplace which can accommodate the needs of most women who are attempting to juggle the roles of wife, mother, and breadwinner, the feminist movement has more or less joined the patriarchal bandwagon that requires women to become ersatz males – regardless of the realities of their lives as women. Feminists have bought into the patriarchal line which says, “Ladies, if you want to play in our world, you have to play by our rules. This is a feminist movement which has sought not to overthrow patriarchy but to join it. There is no feminist questioning of the overvaluing of work traditionally done by males. They just want to jump on the bandwagon so they, too, can reap the rewards from an unjust system.

In addition, there is no questioning of the devaluation of women’s work. Nowhere have I encountered in mainstream feminist rhetoric any serious argument for a boost in wages for day-care workers, or waitresses, or cooks, or cleaners. Most of these jobs today do not even pay a living wage. And a woman who chooses to stay at home with her chidren is frequently looked on as a traitor. In fact, I can find no group more contemptuous of women’s work in general and motherhood in particular than feminists themselves. The end result is that feminists are reinforcing the patriarchal value system.

I believe that feminists want to achieve a more just society, but I think they are going about it the wrong way. A feminism seeking a more just society would question the ridiculous amounts money in the form of salaries and bonuses men (and some women) receive for doing work the social value of which is extremely questionable. A feminism seeking a more just society would also question the ridiculously low pay – in many cases no pay – women receive for doing work which has enormous social value – such as childcare, eldercare and care of the sick.

Instead of trying to sell the idea that there are no differences between men and women (as if we were all disembodied genderless minds floating in space), feminists need to recognize that, regardless of whether or not there are innate differences in male and female brains, there are actual differences in male and female bodies and, consequently, the way men and women experience life – especially reproductive life. And in spite of the few far-out feminists who have such contempt for childbearing they envision a perfect world where women eschew motherhood altogether, most women are going to continue to have children, for the simple reason that motherhood is one of the greatest joys available to a human being – and it is an experience which is uniquely available to the female of the species – no matter how difficult patriarchy (and the feminist movement) tries to make it.

To really help women, feminists should stop trying to pressure women into becoming men; they should stop promulgating the myth that there are no differences between men and women, when it is clear to any fool that there are. Instead, they should recognize the differences and point out the inequities in the values assigned these differences. They should put their energies toward creating a work environment that accommodates itself to the exigencies of women’s lives, rather than joining forces with the male world in requiring that women accommodate the very real demands of their lives to the arbitrary demands of the workplace. They should work toward a more equitable society where work traditionally associated with women is paid at the very least a living wage – regardless of where it is done. They should work to better women’s lives, no matter whether a woman chooses the business/professional world or the domestic sphere. Bottom line, feminists should stop trying to turn women into men.

The Shattered Image, A Personal Journey

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

I was an environmentalist from an early age, before the term had even come into use. I had always loved nature and been especially sensitive to nature’s beauty. In fact, I felt most at home, most safe and secure, out in the countryside or hiking in the woods. When I was eleven or twelve, I would take the family dogs for long walks alone in Alsop Park – a nature preserve behind our apartment house right in the middle of Little Rock – and I was never afraid. I think growing up in the south and being raised by a father who claimed the woods as his church had something to do with it. Even if one grows up in the suburban south, as I did, the wilderness was never far away – was always accessible for country drives and afternoon walks. My childhood dream after seeing Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger in “King Solomon’s Mines” was to go on an African safari. I longed to experience nature at its wildest. That was far more appealing to me than a Roman Holiday.

Many years later, I was able to realize the dream of going to a rainforest, but it was not on the continent of Africa, but in Central America – in the Quaker community of Monteverde, Costa Rica. In August, 1972, I finished a graduate degree in English one week and left for Costa Rica to get married the next. It was quite a jolt, going from the Barsetshire of Anthony Trollope’s novels, which had been the subject of my thesis, to the world of Joseph Conrad’s “Nostromo.” Like most North Americans of that era, I knew something about Europe, but almost nothing about Central or South America. I had never even heard of Costa Rica. So, when I boarded LACSA, the national airline of Costa Rica, I felt like I was stepping off into the void. I had no idea what an impact this tiny beautiful country was going to have on my life. I was going to Costa Rica to join my husband to be; I was focused on my marriage, not the locale. (more…)

Shattering the Image, Part II

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

This website focuses on the negative role Christian values, derived from the image of God, currently play in determining, not only the fate of western civilization, but, as the result of a western-dominated globalization, the fate of the whole world. I have felt compelled to write these essays because, not to be overly dramatic, I truly believe that the future of the human species is at risk. And it is at risk because our system of values has become totally corrupt – to be Biblical, it’s become as a “whited sepulchre.”

From CDS’s to WMD’s, nothing is as it seems, and it seems to matter very much what “the meaning of is” is. Our literal financial bankruptcy is a metaphor for our moral bankruptcy. No matter what venue one might be talking about, value given does not result in value received, but in value lost. We value that which no longer has any value and devalue that which is valuable. We do those things we ought not do and do not do those things we ought to do, to paraphrase the book of common prayer, and there is no health in us.

But just because I am out to expose the problems inherent in the image of the Christian God, it is not my purpose to deny the value of religion altogether. (more…)

Shattering the Image

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

The survival of the human species demands that we do nothing less than recreate  human nature.  Luckily, because we are humans and humans are adaptable, we can.  But in order for us to recreate ourselves,  we must first recall the image in which we,  western man, were famously created – the image of God.  To reconstruct human being, we must first deconstruct God. For, regardless of whether or not you are a believer,   the image of God as presented in Genesis – and throughout the Hebrew and Christian Bibles – permeates western culture and has had a profound effect on how Western Man sees himself, and consequently on how we relate to our social and physical world.

If you are wondering why I am using the politically incorrect term “man” for humanity or why I am  using the masculine pronoun to refer to all humanity,   I do it because the image we were created in is a male image (He is after all Jesus’ father, not his mother, and the pronoun He is universally used to refer to Him throughout the English-speaking world).  Consequently, we live in a society which is based on the idea that only those who are male are truly made in the image of God; therefore, only those who are male can be understood as fully human. Females are merely a subset,  as Eve’s secondary creation makes manifest,  their single purpose being to act as vessels to incubate the next generation. To be made in God’s image is to be not only male, but also a dominant male,  as Eve’s mandated submission to Adam represents.  In short, we live in a patriarchal society,  the hallmark of which is a dominant male deity – such as God or Zeus.  And it is this “patriarchal bent” which is causing all the trouble – both socially and environmentally.

Hockey Moms, Soccer Moms (WTF)

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

My son played soccer. At age 32, he still does. He was very good. Was team captain and MVP in both high school and college – in spite of tearing his ACL on both knees. Although no sports fan, I used to attend his games. (His younger brother was a runner, but I haven’t yet heard women being disparaged as “track moms.”) Anyway, back to my older son. Since he was my son; I wanted to show him my support and my interest. I spent many a Saturday hanging out at the soccer field complex in Huntsville, Alabama. I guess that made me a “soccer mom.” His dad showed up too, but I hear very little about “soccer dads.” So, because I cared about my child and devoted Saturdays to his soccer games, that makes me some sort of creature to be derided and condescended to and patronized. And that’s just the “soccer” part. The mom is even worse.

To be called a “Mom” (except by one’s children) is the greatest putdown our society can dish out. As is well known, especially among liberal pundits and intellectuals, from the moment that seed is planted in her womb and that little embryo starts to grow, female mental capacities simultaneously begin to diminish. At the end of nine months, with the birth of the baby, the infantilization of the Mom is complete. And as her child grows and matures both mentally and physically, Mom’s brain atrophies and turns to mush – so that by the time her child reaches adulthood, Mom has turned into that most worthless of creatures – an ageing female whose body is a mere husk and whose mind is non-existent – and who is strangely unresponsive to Barack Obama.

Sarah Palin, self-described hockey mom, rehabilitates the image of a human female who has committed the cultural sin of caring enough about her children to attend their games. She juxtaposes the image of Mom with the image of Governor and the image of a candidate for Vice President of the United States. This may not be enough to persuade me to vote for her, but it is enough for me to cheer her on.

Are Women Human? Do We Want To Be?

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

This essay is written from the radical or ecofeminist point of view.

As has been pointed out since feminism stepped forth onto the cultural stage, Western civilization is fundamentally patriarchal. A patriarchal society is founded on the idea that the male of the species represents the standard –the ideal–for what it means to be human. Women, being by definition different from men, have been considered to be substandard, as any difference from the standard implies inferiority. Women have therefore been constructed — both physically and mentally– as inferior to male humans, their brains and their bodies, like the brains and bodies of other female mammals, understood as serving one purpose only – reproduction. Women have been viewed as less well developed, less evolved, than men, with the logical consequence that to be a woman in Western civilization has been to be something less than fully human.

This outdated cultural assumption has been lodged so deeply in the collective unconscious of western civilization, that most of us don’t even know that it is still there until a political campaign like the one we are currently experiencing comes along, where both parties have put forth candidates for high office who are not male – unleashing a shocking level of sexism in a society which thought it had said “goodbye to all that.” It is to be hoped that the psychological meltdown exhibited specifically in the liberal visceral rage which has met the candidacies of both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin will bring to consciousness the original sin of misogyny on which our culture is based. We really need to move on.

The “Western” definition of what it means to be human originated approximately 2500-3000 years ago. It arose from a weaving together of ideas from Greek philosophy and Hebrew religion. According to the Hebraic/Hellenic narrative, Man is possessed of free will and the reason to exercise it. Man’s transcendent reason frees him from the biological constraints of lesser creatures. Man identifies with mind – rather than the lowly physical body. Where non-human animals depend on “instinct” for survival and are ruled by these instincts, Man’s key to survival is his reason, which lifts him out of nature’s prison and puts him in control of himself and his environment. For Man, alone, biology is not destiny. Nobly exercising his free will, Man can chart his own course, determine his own fate. As Shakespeare put it (with some irony) –

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals…

Admittedly, this is an attractive and seductive cultural construct – even godlike (In fact, one might say that the JudeoChristian idea of God is a symbolic projection of this ideal). It has served Western humanity (especially the white male part of it) well, providing us with the collective self-esteem to go forth and conquer the world – and the earth — militarily, economically, culturally, and technologically. But, today, the world and the earth are fighting back. This cultural construct is “out of joint,” causing a world of pain and demonstrating that it has outlived its usefulness. And, it is precisely this overrated, inaccurate, and inflated definition of male humanity which has made life in patriarchy so difficult for women – especially women in their reproductive capacity. And this is why –


Angry Hillary Supporters

Friday, August 29th, 2008

The day following Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Democratic Convention, Diane Rehm, on her show, wondered why Clinton supporters just couldn’t “get over it” — why they still felt so angry and betrayed.  I couldn’t respond at the time, I was trying to thread my way through flooded roads in North Florida, but when I got home, I sat down and wrote her this letter — which I’m sure never reached her. So, I will post it here:
Dear Diane,

I listened to your show today (on WFSU) with great interest — as I do most of your shows — but I couldn’t understand why you can’t understand the sense of anger and betrayal felt by so many supporters of HRC.  It’s not so much that she lost, but how she lost.

Just to put my remarks in context, I have been a Democrat for many years.  Like many Democrats, I was very pleased with the Democratic  lineup at the beginning of the primary season.  I wasn’t leaning toward any particular candidate, but did send some money to the Obama campaign.

I have always believed that “my” Democratic party was friendly to feminists and would, therefore, be hostile to misogyny directed against one of their candidates, just as they would — and did — readily condemn racism, even where it didn’t exist.

Therefore, when the deluge of incredibly destructive and ugly misogynistic invective directed at Hillary Clinton began to pour fourth from every media outlet (including NPR — e.g., Ken Rudin), I expected both the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party to quickly step forward and point it out.  Instead, there was a deafening silence, which I found almost incomprehensible.

The Clinton campaign was certainly on notice on racism — even though no one has worked harder to overcome it; and I fully expected the high-minded Obama to step forward and say something or do something when his opponent was being so unfairly and disgustingly attacked.  But, he did nothing.  And, I suspect he did nothing because he knew without the sexism directed against his opponent he would not win. So, he sat back and let the media do his dirty work for him — and they did.

Political candidates have to be able to “take it,” but white male candidates are attacked on their policies or their personal lives, they are not attacked because they are either white or male.  Hillary Clinton was relentlessly attacked over and over because she was female, thus all women were being attacked. However, sexism is so much a part of our culture, that it is still invisible to many — even women.  But it is there and it is ugly — and it does — and did — a great deal of harm.  I understand that an organization called WomenCount has gotten language inserted into the Democratic platform to ensure that the party will no longer tolerate sexist language.  Too bad this didn’t happen before the primary. But, who knew?

Ask yourself if the DNC or the Clinton campaign could have survived if they had stood by and done nothing if similar racial garbage had been aimed at Obama.

As to Hillary’s speech, I thought it was great. She just gets better and better.  She has the passion Obama lacks. We had our chance –  but we blew it.  If the party and the Obama campaign had done the right thing and condemned the misogyny (as they expected the Clinton campaign to condemn racism) and Obama had won fair and square, there would be much less rancor. But that didn’t happen.

Anyway, that’s my take on why HRC supporters are so hurt and angry and feel so betrayed. And Obama still has said nothing.  I think if he would at least acknowledge the fact that sexism exists, that it was a factor in the campaign, and that something needs to be done about it, it would go a long way toward healing the wounds.

Katha Pollitt on PUMAs

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Today, Katha Pollitt was on C-SPAN’s Book TV, and a caller asked her why she and other MSM types responded to popular/populist movements they didn’t agree with by putting them down as somehow not legitimate (a paraphrase).  Although the caller (a man) did not mention PUMA, Pollitt responded by saying that it was a fact that movements like PUMA were not what they appeared to be, that PUMA was a Republican-sponsored movement and she cited the blog “Pandagon” as her source for that information.

It is a shame that Pollitt can go on Book TV and say things which many will believe because of who she is; after all Book TV was devoting a whole afternoon to her.  Why is it so hard for people like Pollitt to believe that real men and women who really are/were Democrats and are supporters of Hillary Clinton are so outraged that they might refuse to vote for Obama — and that refusing to vote for Obama has nothing to do with any Republican agenda?

Some Inconvenient and Uncomfortable Truths

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

The immodest goal of this blog is to save the human species from self destruction by exposing the hidden (and not so hidden) values which drive western civilization — especially the values which form the foundation of cultural attitudes toward women and the earth.  But, along the way, I have come to some very uncomfortable realizations which I would like to share with you.

To save the human species from self destruction, we must learn to value both women and the earth. Hatred of women in addition to being wrong in itself is poisoning society. By continuing to construct obstacles to women’s (especially single mom’s) access to resources we are creating an undereducated, impoverished underclass which threatens the social stability of all humans. In much the same way, trashing the earth is poisoning our air, water, and soil, and therefore poisoning all humans who live on this earth. But learning to value women and the earth is such a radical notion that it threatens western civilization as we know it. Of course, you might say, that’s the point. But we must understand that to fully embrace both feminism and environmentalism is to remake our cultural value system, and that includes remaking our image of ourselves and redefining our relationship to nature, the earth, and each other. This is a tall order.

Feminism and environmentalism possibly are incompatible with capitalism. Capitalist profits have depended on the untrammeled trashing of the earth, which is why conservatives have been so opposed to environmentalism. Capitalist profits also may be dependent on a large segment of the population (e.g., women) either donating their work to society by working for nothing in the home or working for less than adequate wages in the workplace. No matter how you look at it, it is clear that capitalism has been dependent on the existence of an underclass – and women make up a big part of it. Where would the profits go if all workers were paid a living wage or industry cleaned up its act? I am not saying that it is a sure thing that capitalism is incompatible with feminism and environmentalism; I am saying that capitalism as we know it, the capitalism which assumes as its right and depends upon the exploitation of the earth and women’s bodies and minds, is.

Feminism which seeks to see women as equal to men also is incompatible with traditional marriage, the basic building block of western society. Feminism, itself, then could be seen as a threat to social stability. Feminism completely rewrites the relationship between the sexes. Many women as well as men are not ready to write off traditional marriage and the dominant independent male/dependent submissive female roles. These husband/wife roles are deeply embedded in our cultural and individual psyches and when they work, we can derive great emotional and erotic satisfaction from them. (But, more and more, they don’t work.) In addition, from a practical standpoint, society still assumes these roles and has made little or no accommodation for women raising children outside of a traditional marriage – making it extremely difficult for women to raise children on their own.

Feminism and environmentalism are also incompatible with any one of the transcendent patriarchal, Abrahamic religions – whether Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Transcendent patriarchal religions, especially Christianity, are essentially anti earth and anti woman as they are centered around a transcendent male deity. Maleness and transcendence are sacred. And if maleness and transcendence are sacred, it follows that both earthly immanence and woman are profane.

So, all you feminists and environmentalists, are you ready for a complete overhaul of yourselves and the culture you live in? Are you ready to come up with some sort of alternative economic system? Are you ready to abandon traditional marriage? Are you ready to leave the religion you grew up in? But what is the alternative? Continuing down a path to self destruction. Folks, this is not going to be easy.

“Monster”: A Case of Misdirected Outrage

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

When Samantha Power called Hillary Clinton a monster, it was a very embarrassing Freudian slip — revealing the deeply rooted anti-woman emotions which were fueling the Obama campaign. Power’s terminology was frequently echoed in the media – Dowd, Ruden, to name a few — although it is patently clear that Hillary Clinton is not a monster.  She is merely a smart, accomplished, and successful woman.  It was as if all the anger and hatred people had for George Bush was redirected at Clinton. Strange. After all, Bush really is a monster, having been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands as well as the imprisonment and torture of innocents. But although Bush has low approval ratings, there doesn’t seem to be any real outrage directed at him, e.g., no one is calling him a monster.  Crowds are not demonstrating in the streets demanding his impeachment.  In fact, Dennis Kucinich’s repeated calls for impeachment are ridiculed and find no support among his fellow representatives.  Is it because something in our patriarchal culture restrains us from going after the patriarch in chief, so long as his sins are “patriarchal” sins – sins having to do with an excess of patriarchal action? Who knows?  At any rate, it appears that Obama and the media just cleverly tapped into and redirected the outrage to Clinton. But why was it so easy to redirect the rage to Clinton? Was it because to be a smart, strong, ambitious woman in America is in and of itself to be a monstrous freak of nature? If so, what does that say about America?  Instead of joining in the pile-on, a la Maureen Dowd and Samantha Power, all women need to wake up and take notice of the sexist atrocities committed by the media — and by default the Obama campaign and the DNC — during the 2008 primary.  With all this anti-woman emotion stirred up, you could be next.

Puerile Nation

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Many other countries have elected female heads of state. Did these women have to endure the puerile sexist ridicule which was directed at HRC? I would guess not. It makes me wonder what’s wrong with our culture — why it collectively behaves like an adolescent male. Are we suffering from a case of arrested development.

Reflections on the 2008 Democratic Primary

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

You’ve heard it/read it everywhere.  How at first,  we all felt so proud of the outstanding lineup of Democratic Candidates.  They were all so good that I couldn’t make up my mind which one to vote for – even when the field narrowed to two.  Having donated to Obama’s campaign,  I felt more and more drawn to Hillary.  On the way to vote in my state’s (Georgia) primary,  I still didn’t hadn’t decided.  And then, the moment was upon me and I touched the screen for Hillary and almost burst into tears at the significance of being able to vote for a woman to be a candidate for president.  And a woman who seemed to understand and take seriously women’s issues – from childcare to healthcare to eldercare.

At that time I didn’t “get” Obamamania.  I thought Obama was OK.  No big deal.  He seemed like a nice enough guy, well meaning and smart. But as the campaign progressed, I began to actively  dislike him.  My cognitive dissonance meter began to go off almost every time I heard him speak.  I didn’t like his smug, pompous delivery of empty slogans of hope and change.  I was unimpressed by his debate performances and his weak grasp of the issues.  I didn’t like the fact that Obama, who was claiming to run a different sort of campaign, was doing nothing/saying nothing to condemn the relentless media barrage of Hillaryhate.  I didn’t like his fake “son of a single-mom on foodstamps” narrative.  I didn’t like the fact that he wrote a book about his father who had abandoned him shortly after birth, but said little about the mother and grandparents who had raised him – except to misrepresent them. But,  I soon learned it was best to keep these feelings to myself if I wanted to keep my friends – who would brook no criticism of Obama – and who acted as if there were an unpleasant odor in the room if a kind word was said for Hillary.

One day, I tried to explain my doubts about Obama to a longtime friend,  I tried to tell her how deeply injured I felt by his sins of omission in the sexism department, only to be told that supporting Obama was a “sacred cause,” – that if I couldn’t respond to his rhetoric I clearly had no aesthetic sense, and furthermore she was shocked and surprised at my support of Clinton,  her opinion of me had “lowered.”  She hung up.  Just like that.  A 30 year friendship had ended.  Just because I dared support Hillary Clinton.  Just because I wanted to explain my support.  It’s enough to make one doubt one’s perception of reality.  But,  I know it’s not my perception that’s flawed.  And I know those of us who supported Hillary did not treat the Obama supporters this way.  Which is a commentary on the Obama campaign all by itself.

Now that the campaign has ended, I look back on the last few months and wonder what on earth got into these Obama supporters.  And I think a couple of things were going on.  For one thing,  Obama with his vague  rhetoric about hope and change was more or less like a blank screen that people could project their hopes and dreams on.  Secondly, the media loved him  (remember, this is the same irresponsible media that brought you George Bush and the Iraq War): he was elegant,  he was graceful, he wore his suits well,  he was handsome, he was smart, and he had such a romantic – “only in America” — narrative – black candidate for president, son of single mom on foodstamps – only she wasn’t.  And, there was that great picture in the NYT with his Kenyan grandma – only she wasn’t. And he was very lucky in his opponent – as he has been in past campaigns.   He recognized and was able to leverage  the vast reservoir of misogyny out here in America in his favor.  In addition,  all the disappointment and animosity which should have been reserved for George Bush, which should have been motivating a vote in Congress for Bush’s impeachment, was redirected at Hillary Clinton, who to hear the Obama supporters tell it, was singlehandedly responsible for the war – and every other problem the country is having.  And to top it all off, just as Bush supporters had swiftboated the true war hero Kerry, the Obama campaign used race baiting to damn one of the best friends civil rights ever had.  The Obama campaign: A tour de force, a virtuoso performance,  and a  real tragedy for the American  people who in 2008 are left with two really bad candidates for president.  We had our chance and we blew it.

What Went Wrong?

Friday, June 13th, 2008

In a word, sexism. In spite of the 24/7 tsunami of media sexist hate and trumped up charges of sexism directed at Senator Hillary Clinton and spread far and wide by the Obama campaign; in spite of a media smitten with a schoolboy crush on Senator Obama whose minions wrapped the Senator in cotton wool and laid down their collective cloaks to usher him across the rough spots, Senator Clinton won the popular vote if you count Michigan (and why wouldn’t you?). What would it have been like if the campaign had been waged in a fair media environment? Well, if Clinton did as well as she did in spite of the sexism, then I think we can be sure that without the sexism she would have won by a large margin. So, sexism put Obama over the top. And because he needed the ugly boost, he couldn’t very well condemn it, could he? Unless of course he was running a different kind of campaign.

I had always believed that the fourth estate was a necessary component of democracy; after all they are our representatives at the events which shape our national and economic existence – all those events we cannot attend personally so we could make up our own minds. So we are utterly dependent on them to act responsibly, for our country’s (and our) well being depend on it. But, hold on, this is the media that beat the drums for the Gulf War and invited us all to come along and have a (non-alcoholic) beer with that oh so likable George Bush. This is the media that sneered at the sighing Al Gore and jeered the wind surfing John Kerry. And now they are bringing us our new personal savior Barack Obama! And folks are buying it!!??

Obamanation: Swanning Around in the Sea Called Womanhate

Friday, June 13th, 2008

As many have noted, with the glaring and shameful exceptions of Barack Obama and the DNC, the mainstream media and the blogosphere have been awash in a tidal wave of sexist vitriol directed at Hillary Clinton. As a result, I have had to narrow my viewing choices and internet surfing considerably – especially while dining. No more CNN or MiSogyNyBC. No more Huffington Post. I’ve even had to cancel my subscription to “The Nation.” Everywhere I went it was hate hate hate – all directed at possibly the best leader this country has to offer at a time when we really need her leadership. And there was plenty of hate left over to smear some of her supporters – e.g., us worthless old white women. While the spewing of Hillary Hate was going on, Obama, the presumptive beneficiary and shining one (or perhaps the flash in the pan) never said a word. He, who was going to run a different kind of campaign, had risen so far above it all, I’m sure he never knew it was going on. So, he remained silent and let the good times roll and the votes roll in. (So inspiring! What a leader!) (more…)

Take That, Richard Dawkins!

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

Like Richard Dawkins, I don’t “believe in” the JudeoChristian God. Unlike Richard Dawkins, however, I do recognize the JudeoChristian God as a powerful psychological reality – for 2000 years, the most potent shaper of the worldview we have come to know as “western.” Like Richard Dawkins, I am no longer a devotee of any religion as conventionally understood; but unlike Richard Dawkins, I recognize religion, too, as a reality, as a real behavior performed by real human beings. Unlike Richard Dawkins, I have taken the time to study God the Symbol and the religion which has grown up around him. Not surprisingly, I have come to very different conclusions about religion – beginning with its definition. (more…)


Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Nature is essentially and unapologetically pro-life. It “wants” life to live. From dandelion beings to human beings, Nature equips all its creatures with the tools they need to survive. These tools consist of biological drives, such as hunger and thirst, plus the means to satisfy these drives. In non-human animals the means to satisfy these needs comes in the form of a full set of survival behaviors — installed. Humans, on the other hand, come with a full set of needs, but must look to culture to provide strategies to satisfy these needs. In other words, human needs are biologically determined; but how we satisfy them must be culturally constructed. In order to survive, human nature is biologically determined to construct and be constructed by culture. It is this single characteristic which distinguishes the human animal from the non-human animal.


The Abortion Debate

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

When I had my first child one week before turning 35, it was the happiest day of my life. Only to be matched by the birth of my second child two and one-half years later. I was supremely lucky in my experience of motherhood; I was physically, psychologically, emotionally, and financially ready and able to care for my children and I got two of the greatest kids anyone could ever want. I was relaxed and happy and in a marriage which was relatively stable at the time. Which meant that I had the time and energy to enjoy my children. And enjoy them I did.

But I don’t want to think about — much less to go into — what I went through to avoid pregnancy all those years leading up to those happy days. I came of age pre-pill and pre-Roe, and for a middle class girl of my generation to get pregnant was the shame and tragedy of a lifetime – and provided the plot for many potboilers. Of course, the tragedy both fictional and real usually revolved around the damage done to the career prospects of the accidental young father; the girl –“damaged goods”– was usually tossed aside on the trash heap of life. In fiction , it seemed a fitting fate that the fallen woman conveniently die in childbirth — or as a result of a “back alley, coat-hanger abortion.” In real life, it was off to the Florence Crittenden Home with the hopes that friends and family would buy the “six-month visit to Aunt Kate’s” story.

Let’s just say it’s a miracle that I wasn’t permanently psychologically scarred by the fear and loathing my family instilled in me at the very prospect of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Or permanently scarred physically by my contraception of choice. For, like hundreds of thousands of clueless women, I risked permanent sterility when I opted for the Dalkon Shield to delay pregnancy. Of course, who knew back then what damage those little plastic thingies with the sharp points were doing inside a woman’s uterus? And, who really cared? All I knew was that I bled like a stuck pig every month – so much so that I couldn’t leave the house — and when it came time to think about getting pregnant, well, the Dalkon shield had done its damnedest to make me sterile. But finally the babies came – and how I have loved being a mother.

This is the experience of motherhood I would wish for all women who want to have children. But it is increasingly rare. For a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, we live in the only mammalian society I know anything about which deliberately sabotages the whole process of motherhood. (more…)

The Perils of Transcendent Patriarachal Monotheism

Monday, April 30th, 2007

This essay was delivered as a talk to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee on April 29, 2007.

Not to be too Henny Pennyish, but I think the end times are upon us – not the end of all times, but the end of western civilization as we have come to know and love it – and, from my point of view, it’s about time. If we don’t accept and promote this end – and look for a new beginning, a radically new way of being in the world, we or our grandchildren may be facing the end of the human species altogether.

From my point of view, the place to start in changing our ways is with the way we think about religion in general and Christianity in particular. One of the ways we liberals think about Christianity is that it is a collection of silly stories and superstitious beliefs which only complete fools could believe in. Another way we think about religion is that the stories are not meant to be taken literally, for it is the morals of the stories, not the stories themselves, which form the kernel of religious belief.

Perversely, I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with both approaches: I do not dismiss the Bible or Christian doctrine as being fundamentally silly or superstitious; but, along with the Richard Dawkins’s of this world, I do believe that anyone who takes the stories literally is more than a little off base. Like the liberal Christians of this world, I do believe it is the moral of the story, not the story itself which is where the message is; however, I no longer believe in the message, having come to the conclusion that, due to unintended consequences, the moral itself has become immoral – promoting death and destruction rather than life and the well being of all.

So if I believe in neither the story nor the moral, why don’t I just get on with my life and abandon religion altogether? Because I believe that Christianity is too powerful and dangerous a force in our culture to be cavalierly dismissed. To me, religion is not just one aspect of culture, it is the essential shaper of culture and cultural institutions. Religions, when they are functioning properly, have an evolutionary purpose: religious symbols are the carriers of cultural value systems which in turn generate cultural worldviews which ultimately promote social stability and individual survival.

The JudeoChristian God is the symbol which carries the value system of western culture. From my perspective, Genesis is not the story of the creation of the world, but the story of the creation of our worldview. God The Symbol is the creator of our psychological reality, the shaper of human consciousness within JC society, signaling what is important, what is not important, what is good and what is bad, what has value and what has no value.

Hope and the Natural Order of Things, Or Why I Jumped on the Post-Modern Bandwagon (which seems to have broken an axle, but which will be up and running again soon)

Monday, March 5th, 2007

This short essay is an attempt to show that post modernism, post structuralism, and the process of deconstructing is not necessarily nihilistic or destructive, but rather a means of offering hope and providing a way out of our current cultural quagmire.

According to folks of a conservative bent (and many others who have not given the subject much thought), there is a natural order of things, and this natural order is reflected in the way things are – that is, the way things are is the natural order of things.  Therefore, if you are critic of the way things are – e.g., if you are an environmentalist, or a feminist, or a pacifist, or in any way not happy with the way things are, you are in conflict with the natural order of things. You are out of touch with reality. Get with the program and stop whining. This is the “modern” position.  That is, there is a single reality about which enlightened humans know – or can know — almost everything, which enables them to make such absurd pronouncements.

As a woman, if I accept that the way things are is the way things ought to be, it puts me in an awkward spot. Because I have to face the fact that I am, by virtue of my sex, truly inferior to men.  I have to believe that any attempt to “rise above my biological station” is as futile as a redbird trying to be brown (Oh, they are?  You mean the females.  Does that count?) I would have to accept as fact that anyone who is gay is against nature. I would have to accept that the human greed which results in the exploitation and degradation of nature and the militarism which results in the needless slaughter of a whole lot of folks are true attributes of an immutable human nature.  In short, I would have to lose all hope.

Or, I can choose to believe that the way things are is NOT the natural order of things. I can believe, instead, that we live in a culturally constructed reality, which – because it is constructed – can be changed.  I can be a postmodern.

It’s not that I abjure all universals. I don’t. In fact, it is my belief in one universal which  — in conjunction with my belief in constructed realities — raises my spirits.  I believe that the one drive which unites all life forms, including humans, is the drive to survive.  I believe that the number of people who are beginning to realize that tripping down the current primrose path is leading us to self-destruction and species extinction is reaching the critical mass necessary to blow the current paradigm sky high, where it belongs.  I believe that the drive to survive coupled with the realization that the reality we live in is dooming us to destruction will motivate us to construct a new reality – which hopefully will be Pro-Life.

On Reason and Emotion

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

I am no great lover of reason. It seems a bit overblown  to me. And, as a woman, it seems that I have always been put on the defensive where reason is concerned.  Women, you know, are “emotional” and, in our enlightened,  reasonable culture,  to be called emotional is no compliment.  But,  I don’t want to be defensive about emotion,  I want to be realistic about emotion – about the benefits of emotion acknowledged and felt and the pitfalls of emotion covered over and disguised as reason.

Many years ago,  during the Viet Nam war,  I took a brief excursion into the world of the Defense Department – for no better reason than a job was offered to me that gave me the opportunity to experience life in the big city — in our nation’s capital to be exact.  One day, as part of my work,  I was invited to a briefing which  was conducted by an admiral and had something to do with weapons.

Up there in front of the room with his pointer and white board,  the admiral was the very soul of cool reason, talking about kill ratios and numbers and percentages.  And there I was,  the only woman in the room,  acting – or thinking – just like a woman,  busily converting these numbers into people and these weapons into wounds . And, I kept thinking how cold and calculating and deliberately murderous this military man was being. And  I kept thinking, what if he came right out and used the words which would have more accurately  reflected  what he was really saying?  Could the meeting even have continued if we had had visual aids, showing us graphically the bodies of men, women, and children being burned to a crisp or blown to smithereens? At that moment, I thought a little emotion was in order and that the world would be a better place  if we were all forced to feel the impact of our actions – instead of converting children and injuries to numbers and percentages and then performing logical, reasonable, actions on them.

Over the years,  as I have returned again and again to this scene in my mind, I have come to see that although he never raised his voice, never shed a tear, never broke into laughter or song, never did any of the things which we associate with the expression of emotion, the admiral in his logical, reasonable delivery was doing just that – expressing emotion.  The logic and reason he was displaying were mere servants of the national emotions of fear and anger and the drive to power.  These emotions are so prevalent and have made themselves so at home in the psyche of western culture that we no longer are aware of them.The emotions I was feeling were  compassion and empathy and anger at the abuse of language which was leading in a direct line to the abuse of the Vietnamese.  I don’t think I should apologize for the emotions I felt. I think the world would be a better place if we all were encouraged to feel compassion and empathy.  Logic and reason are always tools of our emotions. We need to understand that and recognize the power of emotion.  But there are good emotions and bad emotions.  If we followed the trail of our logical and reasonable actions back to the originating emotion, we might be appalled at ourselves; we might even be able to make some significant changes.