Saturday, October 03, 2009

Losers (by Phila)

In response to the survey that Echidne discussed a few days ago, Mona Charen says it's not surprising that stay at home moms tend to have lower incomes and fewer opportunities:
We knew that women with lower levels of education and skills make the decision to raise their own children rather than seek a low-paying job that would barely cover the cost of childcare. That's not news, and it's not stupid either.
These women aren't "stupid" for staying at home once they realize that they can't break even by working full-time, let alone get ahead? Good to know. Hooray for the land of opportunity.

As if that weren't diabolical enough, Charen cites survey results that suggest many working mothers would like to spend more time with their children, but can't afford to, as evidence that women's throbbing biological urges are trumping the false consciousness of feminism:
Only 28 percent of full-time working mothers rated their parenting as a 9 or 10 on a 1-10 scale, compared with 41 percent of part-time workers, and 43 percent of at-home moms. A strong majority of working mothers (60 percent) say they would prefer part-time work, but only 24 percent achieve this....

Is it so threatening to acknowledge that when women have small children at home, they are less likely to want an 80-hour-a-week job?
It's not threatening at all; it's logical. What's threatening is the idea that this says something about the essential nature of women, as opposed to people who have to work themselves half to death in order to get by.

I love the part about asking overworked mothers to rate their's a bit like breaking people's ankles, and then asking them to rate their ability to dance the Charleston. It'd be interesting to see how stringently fathers who work full-time assess their own abilities; my guess is that they might not be quite so hard on themselves. (As always, what's ignored in this argument is the extent to which fathers are at liberty to "opt out" of basic household responsibilities women's work.)

Tellingly, Charen objects to focusing on the working poor because it suggests that "only losers stay home with the little ones." Since these "losers" have no real choice in the matter, their so-called decisions can't really be presented as opting out. Therefore, to understand what the statistics are really saying, we need to ignore these outliers, and refocus our attention on the wealthier, more educated women whose choices actually matter.

The reason they matter is not just that they have money, though that certainly helps. In wingnut-speak, "educated" tends to mean "indoctrinated with unnatural ideas like feminism." If your goal is to detect the rejection of cartoon "feminist" values among uppity career women, it doesn't make much sense to look for it among the disadvantaged.

The best part is, the fact that some women can afford to stay home magically becomes an argument against childcare programs that might enable "losers" to acquire more education or additional skills, and possibly even escape poverty.
Perhaps the true source of anxiety about so-called "opt out" moms is that they tend to undermine a key liberal shibboleth; that the state must provide "quality" childcare in order to do justice to women. If even well-educated, high-earning moms who can afford the best daycare choose to stay at home instead, it rattles.
Sure. If some high-earning moms choose to stay home, even though they can afford the best available childcare, why on earth would anyone want to provide affordable childcare to women who are working 80 hours a week? Let alone to losers who are below the poverty line? If our best and brightest have no need for childcare, what possible use could it be to their social inferiors? Having chosen the "traditional" option from an untraditionally wide range of possibilities, their lives instantly become an object lesson to the underclasses: biology is destiny, and you can't "do justice to women" by expanding their access to childcare, or paying them a living wage, any more than you can do justice to goldfish by housing them in a birdcage.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Hunting my rapist, Part 1 (by Suzie)

I was raped 29 years ago, and I got the most comfort from hunting the guy down. I’ve been thinking about that this week, as I read quotes criticizing the pursuit of Roman Polanski. When I read that his victim wanted charges dropped, I thought about how time influenced my own attitude in the opposite direction.

At 21, I didn’t understand that what happened to me was rape. It was 1980, and “date rape” would be coined later that year, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, although the phrase would take a while to catch on.

He was 32, a handsome professional in the mental-health field. How could I have gotten so drunk on a couple of drinks that he had to carry me into his bedroom? I had cried so hard that my body shook; I cried so hard that he finally stopped without coming. What a baby I had been!

I told few people what happened. Apparently, I did write a former college roommate because I still have her response: “That psychologist gives me the creeps! Can’t he be disboarded or something. What a jerkass, taking such advantages!” Her reaction was common at the time: There were creeps and jerks who took advantage of women. But few used the word “rape” if there was no physical force.

I never thought of going to the police. Even now, very few men get convicted of the rape of an acquaintance, especially when there are no injuries. It’s not surprising that prosecutors dropped charges of forcible rape and sodomy, and let Polanski plead guilty to statutory rape in 1978. I doubt he would have been prosecuted if his victim had been 18. After all, if a psychiatrist who examined Polanski could blame a 13-year-old for being provocative, what chance would a woman have in similar circumstances?

Years passed, and I put my “incident” – as the media might call it – out of my mind. I wrote about the issue of date rape, and I felt sad for friends who didn’t consider their rapes to be real rapes for one reason or another.

Eventually, I began to examine my attitude toward my own rape. I had interviewed the man when I was a newspaper intern, and he worked in a hospital psychiatric unit. He asked me out on a date and suggested we meet first at his apartment, where he offered me drinks. If I drink too much, I feel sick to my stomach – not like that night, where I felt good at first, and then distant. Much later, I would experience that feeling again before surgery.

My rapist would have had access to drugs. But what if he didn’t drug me? What if I said yes? I can’t remember what I did or didn’t say. Then the avenging angel on my shoulder reminds me that his unit dealt with people who were impaired by alcohol or drugs, as well as those who were mentally ill. Surely, he would have recognized when a woman was impaired. Surely, he had been trained in the concept of informed consent. If he meant well, why didn’t he stop as soon as I started to cry? When I was still clearly intoxicated, why did he put me in my car and let me drive home to another city? Why did he not call to make sure I got home safely or to see if I was OK?

Because he was a rapist.

I can only imagine what Polanski’s victim thought all these years, as people questioned her honesty. In 2006, when a therapist suggested I come to terms with the rape, I did what any good (former) journalist would do. I decided to investigate.

Next Friday: Let the hunt begin!

ETA: Some people think I'm defending Polanski. I'm not defending him or any rapists. Nor am I under the delusion that the attitudes of the 1970s have disappeared. For those interested in what I've written previously about Polanski, go here and here, and wait for the pages to load.

Friday bird blogging (by Suzie)

Sometimes I wish I could fly away.

(This is a great blue heron, by my friend Peter.)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Grow A Pair

I heard someone urging someone else to do just that, and that made me wonder what I should grow if I ever were similarly urged. A pair of horns? Bigger divine breasts? A pair of auxiliary eyes in the back of my head? Long corner teeth? Legs instead of a snake tail?

That saying has to do with testicles, of course, and the assumption that testicles equal courage and bravery. Some people use ovaries the same way, such as "that takes ovaries!" or talk about brass ovaries when a woman comes across as daring. But those sayings are slow to change, alas.

Speaking of acts of courage, bravery and possibly foolhardiness, you may have followed the fuss over Representative Alan Grayson's comments on the Republican health care plan. If not, here's a quick catch-up course:

The initial move:

Grayson apologizes (not):

Grayson on CNN:

Hmm. I wonder if he would care to have my children? They're easy as they come out in egg form.

More generally, of course, I'm not sure that rudeness ultimately works. But the Republicans were the ones who suggested the Democratic proposal included death panels and such.

On Opting Out, Again...

The opt-out revolution is what the New York Times invented some years ago, or so I recall. The idea is that highly educated women with wealthy partners opt out of careers in order to stay at home with their children. Note that we are not talking about poor women, or women who have to work to feed those children, or about Any. Kind. Of. Men.. Only about uppity women who have decided no longer to be so uppity.

Here's why this particular trend-making matters to feminism. Let me provide you with the extreme version of what a real opt-out revolution by educated women would mean, one which would truly reverse the trend so far:

If that revolution applied, colleges and universities might ultimately reinstall gender quotas in the sense of a maximum number of women allowed in law schools, medical schools and veterinary schools. After all, those are occupational degrees, and degrees which are today subsidized by the general society in various ways. If women are less likely to ever use their degrees, would they be allowed to be the majority of the students? What about all those poor men they exclude from the education which the women will never even use?

And how many middle-income parents would really consider re-mortgaging their houses just to pay for their daughter's Mrs. degrees? This is an argument that was not at all rare in the past. Indeed, I know a woman in her forties whose parents told her that they would not pay for her college degree as she'd just get married. The money would be wasted, yanno.

Likewise, once potentially powerful women were no longer interested in paid child-care and such, women who really, really need subsidized and good childcare will have fewer advocates, and all those powerful decision-making positions in the society would have far fewer qualified female applicants.

We'd probably also get back all those housewife jokes.

Those are the reasons why the invented trend is about the wealthiest of women, by the way, and not about mothers in general. It is the most educated and wealthiest who, after all, are closest to the top rungs of the societal ladders. If they can be kept away from the top ladder, so can all women and all women's issues. Besides, "opting out" is an incredibly clever way to make childcare once again something that only women do and something that really should be done by a woman alone at home for her own children. Since many women can't afford that option, they can then hate on the women who can and we can have mommy wars and the rest of the society can just chug along without worrying about any of that female crap.

So much for explaining the wider framework of all these weirdly breathless trendlets that the New York Times likes to stuff down our female throats. The widest framework of all is of course the one which assumes that it's up to mothers to take care of their children and of course they have a choice in how they do it but every choice is also wrong.

But they really should have more children and that shouldn't cost the society any money and they really should be at home taking care of those children. On the other hand, that we have so few Nobel Prize winning women is because women are more interested in their children and their families and that's really very admirable but don't come to us complaining about where all the woman award-winners are. If women make the choice of staying at home, they have only themselves to blame for not making the big bucks or the great inventions!

So I'm ranting here. It does a goddess good sometimes. I'm ranting, because we refuse to see that bringing up children is a time-consuming and necessary task, and at the same time we also demand that this nonexistent task (!) be done silently, quietly and without much money by mothers, and they are the ones to bear almost all the costs of this. If these mothers then point out that they can't be in two places at the same time we ask them to make a Sophie's Choice and to chuck out one part of themselves altogether. With very little empathy for those making that choice because they are rich enough to afford it.

Anyway. Here's the impetus for this rant:

A first census snapshot of married women who stay home to raise their children shows that the popular obsession with high-achieving professional mothers sidelining careers for family life is largely beside the point.

Instead, census statistics released Thursday show that stay-at-home mothers tend to be younger and less educated, with lower family incomes. They are more likely than other mothers to be Hispanic or foreign-born.

Census researchers said the new report is the first of its kind and was spurred by interest in the so-called "opt-out revolution" among well-educated women said to be leaving the workforce to care for children at home.

Too bad that they didn't design the sampling frame so that they could answer that question, by the way. To find out the characteristics of SAHMs doesn't tell us the reverse: What percentage of the women with children in each social class are SAHMs. It could be that the original Census data does that answer, but they are not telling us what it might be here.

Gah. I really, really hate this topic. It's classist, essentialist and a major example of how we reverse everything about a topic so that we can bash on one group of women (usually either wealthier SAHMS or wealthier mothers in the labor force) while ignoring vast groups of women altogether. And all men, most naturally.
To understand my irritation a little better, read, say, the comments attached to this post. Then multiply reading comments like those by a thousand and you might get where I sit. The topic disintegrates into woman-blaming and anger and then turns into mummy wars.

Echidne, All Sand-Papered

That's what happens when you read rough shit every day. You get a sore skin, even under all these snake scales. That's what happened to me concerning the Roman Polanski case and that was one reason I didn't want to write more about it. The other reason was that I already did write about it, and what I wrote was very fine, indeed. Even rather path-breaking. Honest.

But it took enormous amounts of intellectual and emotional energy out of me and so I'm exhausted and my eyes ain't shining the way snake eyes should and my goddess tiara is askew on my poor bald head. And what I wrote will have exactly zero impact on the general conversation about Roman Polanski.

That will remain the same old merry-go-round where the same arguments pass by and have zero impact on the next argument passing by:

Was the mummy the real guilty party? Was poor Polanski trapped? Think of his horrible life before: his wife murdered his parents lost in the Holocaust! The lawyers made a deal and reneged! He was right to flee! But he fled and broke the law! He admitted guilt! But was the mummy the real guilty party? Was poor Polanski trapped...

I have followed so many of those in the recent days.

But of course child rape is never acceptable. Here is the statement I have supported:

The Women's Media Center (WMC) calls on the media to focus their coverage of Roman Polanski's recent arrest where it belongs: on the crime he committed, the rape of a child. Originally indicted in 1977 on six felony counts, including rape and child molesting, Polanski and his attorneys reached a deal in which he pled guilty to having "unlawful sexual intercourse" with a 13 year old girl. He fled the country when it was reported that the judge in the case was going to give him more time than the 42 days served which had been agreed to in the plea bargain.

Because the Grand Jury minutes are unsealed and publicly available, there is ample information for anyone wishing to investigate the facts. Despite this, numerous mainstream media outlets have chosen to depict the Polanski case as somewhat unresolved, hinging on a "murky" issue of consent. These outlets represent the case as clouded by the victim's forgiveness, prosecutorial misconduct, the family's alleged opportunism, and other elements of the story which have no bearing on the key fact that the case is about the rape of a child.

Too often, the media is complicit in misrepresenting or silencing the victims of sexual assault. The Women's Media Center calls on the media to report the unfolding story of the Polanski arrest and possible extradition with clarity and specificity. The rape of a child is at the heart of the case. That is not disputed, and should not be represented as subjective.

Carol Jenkins,
President, Women's Media Center

None of this rant is to be taken as a blog policy, by the way. I'm eagerly looking forward to Suzie's writings on the topic and people are naturally free to discuss it as much as they wish.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I've Got Nothing

Just some old bad poems. Sorry that they aren't funnier. I promised a cheerful post today and now I'm blocked. Heh:


Your right foot on the right side
of the abyss
Your left foot on the left side
of the abyss
The abyss looks up your dress.


Like a red woolen cloak
Around your neck
You shall choke

Writer's Block?

Loquacious. The word for the day, meaning what I'm not much in person and what I'm very much in writing. Except today, perhaps, given that I don't want to write about the Polanski case and yet I feel I should. A teaching opportunity lost? Well, my readers don't need it, being smart and erudite already, and some others won't learn in any case. Is that depressing or what?

To return to the Word Of The Day, I wonder if using like a thousand words over and over counts as loquacious? Because that's what I do, pretty much.

What I'm Listening To Right Now


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

So Much For Democracy

A conservative rag is now discussing a what-if? non-violent military coup as a way to solve the "Obama problem:"

America isn't the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn't mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it.

Then the author goes on to describe it in great degree, including all sorts of reasons why it might be a Very Good Thing (in a deranged world, natch) for the military to take over the government of this country.

Nuttery of the nth degree, of course. But that's no reason to ignore it.

More on Senator Ensign's Comments

For preliminaries, read the post below. Essentially, Senator John Ensign (R-NV) argues that the United States health care system works better than those of any other comparable nations if we first take out car accidents and violent deaths.

There's some method to his madness, and it goes like this:

What is it that health care "produces"? If we can't give the output some measure, how do we know if the costs of a particular system are too high or not? Indeed, the whole discussion of high health care costs is always juxtaposed with the idea that the system isn't somehow producing what those high costs would make us expect.

Here's the deep-level problem: It's very, very difficult to measure the output of the health care system. Ideally we'd like to do that by measuring the health improvements or the prevention of worse health, for every single patient, and for both physical and mental health. Researchers do try to do this, but mostly they resort to something much cruder and ruder. Often this has to do with measures of mortality or morbidity. The reverse of these would of course be good things, and to the extent we can tie them to what the health care system does, we get a rough performance measure, right?

That's where Senator Ensign steps in. His point is that average life expectancy measures (which capture mortality in reverse) are very sensitive to anything that kills people at young ages. All such deaths cut off all those extra life years the average person would expect to have.

Because the United States has an excess death rate at young ages, when compared to other economically similar countries, the U.S. life expectancy figures look worse. That this excess death rate is due to factors (driving and violence) which are not something physicians and nurses can easily influence might mean that the system here isn't functioning too badly at all! Indeed, according to Senator Ensign, it functions just great (though uninsured Americans might disagree).

What he fails to state is that other mortality figures also show the United States in a bad light, and these are measures which cannot be explained away in the same way. The most important of these is the infant mortality rate (deaths of children up to the first year of life), and this rate has been shown to be fairly easily influenced by health care.

The whole topic of how to measure the output of health care is a large and cumbersome one, and soundbite-type discussions do it a disservice, sigh. At the same time, it's so very easy to draw a few pieces of data out of a political top hat and to come across as convincing. You do that by setting up straw-people left, right and center, and then you set them on fire.

The source of Ensign's ideas appears to be a study which controlled for traffic accidents and violent deaths but did not control for average incomes in a country. You get partial results with partial controls.

Ensign on Gun Accidents And U.S. Health Care

This video really is quite hilarious:

I'm going to talk about Senator (R) Ensign's intended point later on, but let me first clarify what "gun accidents" are: Homicide. Of course gun accidents might also be included, but what he really talks about is violent deaths caused by guns of all types. It's not that Americans are somehow so clumsy when cleaning their rifles that they die like flies out of that. We are talking about intentional killing of people with firearms.

Ensign doesn't want to say that, because it would make the U.S. sound bad. Neither does he draw the obvious conclusion from the car accident death rates, which would be to have more public transportation. Fighting for something like that is not a Republican Thing.

Hence my guffaws when I watched the video. The topic itself is a serious one, but I'm rolling on the floor laughing when I hear a Republican defend the current health care system by saying that it works real well in a country where people drive recklessly and kill each other anyway.

Four Women

Nina Simone, one of the geniuses of this world. There's much to think about in this song.

Monday, September 28, 2009

And Where Was The Mother? Hmh?

I got an "aha!" experience last night while reading various stuff about Roman Polanski, to acquaint myself with the story about the drugging and rape of a thirteen-year old which lies behind the topic du jour in the American popular media. You want to go AHA!, too, you do, and I will show you how we can all do it.

But first I have to step back a little, to the previous case du jour, that one about the lead singer of the old band The Mamas&The Papas, John Phillips, whose daughter, MacKenzie Phillips, recently argued that her father had raped her one night when she was nineteen, and that they had later commenced a "consensual" adult incest relationship which lasted almost a decade.

I first learned about the whole story on Eschaton comments threads. It didn't take very long for someone to ask: "And where was Michelle when all this supposedly happened?"

Someone else then helpfully explained that Michelle Gilliam, one of John Phillip's four consecutive wives, was not the wife du jour when the presumed rape took place, nor the biological mother of Mackenzie. That let her off the hook!

So who should be strung on that hook instead? MacKenzie's mother, Susan Adams, who was John's first wife? Or Geneviève Waïte, his third wife, the one who was actually married to him at the time the presumed rape happened? Where did MacKenzie actually live? In short, which of the many available mother-figures is the one we should really hold accountable for the rape she accuses her father of?

I'm not certain if I had gotten enlightened without a case like that one, where there are so many possible mummies to choose from! Because the case showed me how women are always partially responsible for crimes committed against their children by others. Even when the child is already legally an adult! Miraculous, really.

That this happens a lot is pretty clear to me. If it's not clear to you, let me give you two recent quotes from articles discussing whether Roman Polanski should be extradited to the U.S. to face charges on "having sex" with a thirteen-year old girl many years ago. This one:

But there is more to this story. The 13-year old model "seduced" by Polanski had been thrust onto him by her mother, who wanted her in the movies. The girl was just a few weeks short of her 14th birthday, which was the age of consent in California. (It's probably 13 by now!) Polanski was demonized by the press, convicted, and managed to flee, fearing a heavy sentence.

And this one:

And it ought not to matter that Polanski is a gifted artist. In fact, it ought to be held against him. He seduced -- if that can possibly be the word -- the 13-year-old Samantha Geimer with all the power and authority of a 44-year-old movie director who could make her famous. If this did not impress the girl, it must have impressed her mother. She permitted what was supposed to be a photo shoot.

Bolds are mine.

This is all fascinating. Note that I'm not arguing that children shouldn't be kept safe. They certainly should. Indeed, we should only dole out good parents to all children, if it only were possible.

But I can't help seeing a very odd pattern in these stories: It's as if the accused rapist is just like a fox who was allowed into the chicken coop because a very careless and bad farmer left the door open! Nobody expects anything better from the fox, but the farmer should have known better!

So we look at all those mummy-figures who should have protected young women from the natural assaults of fox-like men, and we blame them for leaving the chicken coop door ajar.

Did you get any AHA!s yet? If not, here is the one I got. From the Wikipedia page on Nastassja Kinski :

At 15 Kinski began a romantic relationship with director Roman Polanski

This is a different young woman but the same Roman Polanski, note. Is it now Kinski's mother whom we should blame if fifteen is deemed a bit young for such a romantic relationship?

It goes like this: A fox goes around, raiding a chicken coop after a chicken coop, and we go on blaming the keepers for forgetting to close the doors. If you focus on each case separately it sort of makes sense. But once you see the overall pattern it does not make sense. At all.

Thanks to kmareka for links to the Kinski Wikipedia page and the HuffPO piece.

And Now : A Message From Your Friendly Religionist

Pope Benedict has given a speech about Europe's need to stick to "her" Christian roots. Some snippets:

"Man needs to be liberated from material oppressions, but more profoundly, he must be saved from the evils that afflict the spirit," Benedict told the crowd from under a white canopy beside a 40-foot-high stainless steel cross. The German-born pope spoke in Italian, and his words were translated into Czech.


In his traditional Sunday Angelus blessing, Benedict urged the crowd not to forget their "rich heritage of faith."

"Maintain the spiritual patrimony inherited from your forebears ... guard it and make it answer to the needs of the present day," he said.

All that smell of manly aftershave might be the fault of the translation? Nope. I've stopped being so damn nice and always giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. Pope Ratzi doesn't even see the other half of humankind. I bet he secretly thinks of "Christians and their wives," for example.

Still, those red shoes are cute.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

No clemency for Roman Polanski (by Suzie)

Roman Polanski was arrested yesterday in Switzerland, which plans to extradite him to the United States. He fled in 1978 to avoid prison, after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, a 13-year-old whom he had drugged, who said she told him no. He had pleaded guilty to avoid a rape charge.

The Associated Press and other media seem sympathetic to him. As Elizabeth Switaj writes:
To read the news reports, ... you would think that his arrest was the injustice, rather than his crime ... As usual, when a wealthy man is held accountable for such crimes, rape apologism comes to the fore.
Foreign ministers for France and Poland say they will ask for clemency. But why should we give a pass to a child rapist, just because he has remained a fugitive for decades, thanks to rich and influential supporters. He has never taken full responsibility for what he did.

I've written about his case before.

ETA to take out the incorrect stuff.

The Need for Critical Mass (by Liz)

There's a great body of research showing the need for a critical mass of women, at least 30 percent, in leadership. The data exists for Wall Street, academia and politics. There is strength in numbers. Critical mass shifts a group's influence from "special interest" to representative. It gives a voice to the underrepresented. It is the point at which groups can move from survival to growth. And yet, despite this data, women make up just 17 percent of the U.S. Congress.

People ignore data all the time. I understand that. But how can you ignore this?

Senator Debbie Stabenow's response to Republican Whip, Senator Kyle of Arizona, last Friday is a perfect example of why we need more women in politics. Apparently Senator Kyl doesn't understand that maternity care is not a women issue. Prenatal care, ultrasounds, safe deliveries and postnatal care benefit all human beings, not just the females. Yes maternity care is critical for mothers. But it's also critical for fathers and babies -- both little girls and little boys. Sure, many men get that. But for those who don't, we need more women like Senator Stabenow to enlighten them.

On a related note: With permission from the Goddess, I want to invite you to visit starting Oct.1. I will be posting a story on maternity leave there this Thursday.