Saturday, June 17, 2006

Some Plans for This Blog

First, I'm going to update my blogroll in the near future, I swear. Have already started, in fact. If I do only five a day it's not so painful. Why am I such a poor housekeeper? Isn't that supposed to lie deep in my female genes?

Second, I'm always happy to receive donations from those who have more money than they need, especially any wingnuts I have converted to the Way of Light. But there is no guilt in reading me for free. After all, I don't get paid, either. Heh. But more seriously, I'm still breaking even which is good, because I'm having fun most days.

Third, a new series is in the planning stages. It's about the world of Wingnuttia, and this time a serious investigation into what fundamentalists and others on the right lack in their lives which makes them so mad at us. My research so far has included going to a lot of Christian Lady blogs, only to find out that I can sew at least as well and probably cook better, and that this might be why they hate us feminists. Not really. But the idea is to see what their actual arguments are.

Another post will be about the divorce rates in the Bible Belt. I was shocked to find that seventy percent of Oklahoma marriages end up in divorce. Somehow it's very odd to blame us in the far-distant Massachusetts for this, especially us we tend to get divorced a lot less. But this is a very important topic and I hope to get somewhere with it.

Then I'm planning a post on the shallow and decadent culture, and how that has become something the liberals are blamed for when in reality I see almost as much frustration with it from the left as from the right.

You could propose other posts in the series. But I warn you about one of the consequences of not getting paid: I might never do the series if something else crops up. In any case, it won't happen in the next few days.

You can use the comments to make any other requests or scolding or whatever.

Just Possibly A Most Important Theory In The Universe

I fell asleep after reading the Michelle Goldberg interview on the sneaky ways we are all skipping towards an American Taliban, and when I woke up this observation was lying on the very top of all my thought layers, like a newly made egg in a nest. This must mean something, so I will tell you what it is:

Did you ever read books or articles on how the Islamists became so popular in muslim countries over time? What their real attractions to the ordinary people were? If you did, you know that they worked largely through "faith-based initiatives", by offering the health care and the food aid and the schools that the corrupt governments of those countries didn't bother with.

Well, we have gone a step better here in the good ole U.S. of A. We pay the religious extremists from tax money so that they can then look as good to the ordinary Americans as the extremists did in those muslim countries. Don't have enough to eat? Go and ask the church for help! A cousin with drug-addiction? The Christian dominionists will help you! Not the government, note, even though the tax money comes from all sorts of people, including secularists. No, it's the religions that are doing good while the government can't even cope with the aftermaths of hurricanes.

So the possibly most important theory in the universe is that we are in the early stages of Christianization, just as Egypt was in the early stages if Islamization a few decades ago. To see how the future will look just check what's happening in Egypt right now. There are differences, of course, and those differences will make the extreme radical Christians' task harder. But not impossible.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Evening Reading

Please go and read this interview where Michelle Goldberg talks about her book Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. It's important.

Friday Lip Blogging

An ad promises to make your lips like this by stuffing them with silicone. I'm sure that you can discuss the feminist, health and other political implications of this, and how it relates to the fellatio post (two posts down). In other words, I'm too knackered to write a longer post on the topic. Or too pooped to pucker, as Americans used to say.

Danger! Blogs Ahead

This opinion piece warns politicians of falling too much in love with blogs. Just look at what happened to Howard Dean! The yell, oh the yell. Had he just gone to the blogs for money and then stayed away with the moderates and other sane people he would not have yelled.

Well, that's my version of the message, but it doesn't veer very much from the real one:

Memo to aspiring Democratic candidates: The blogs can be a good first martini. Don't let them be your second.

As a first martini, left-wing sites like and can lift the spirits of a new candidate. They boost confidence and raise some quick campaign cash. These blogs are good for democracy and Democrats, because they force the party to open its primaries to promising outsiders.

As a second martini, though, the blog can be a real problem. All that enthusiasm and love can cloud a candidate's political judgment. The contender starts thinking that these kids represent more voters than they do — and is sucked into left-wing dogma that doesn't play well in the bigger-than-Berkeley world. Even good liberal stances get dressed in a rhetoric that's unbecoming.

After the second martini, a blog-besotted candidate can get sloppy. The hopeful spends too much time around the blogosphere regaling the congregation with what it wants to hear. The Republican foe makes sure that America's bus drivers, janitors and data processors hear the vaguely (or at times overtly) anti-American tone that emerges from some of the radical "critiques."

Anti-American radicals. It's not just our name; it's what we do, to quote a recent recurring commercial on my local Air America station. There's something a little flattering about this; I never thought that I'd be called a radical by anyone ever. I'm the Goddess of Milquetoast. And don't tell me that the author didn't mean me but the powerful lefty blogs. She didn't make that distinction in the piece, and I take whatever excitement I can these days.

But really. To call the blogs anti-American if they criticize George Bush's war lies and the other policies of his administration! How exactly should such criticisms be presented for them not to be labeled anti-American by the Republicans? We might as well just shut up already.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

When It Blows It Rains

My meager attempt to tell you that this post is about blowjobs. As Interrobang noted in my comments, blow jobs are suddenly the big conversation topic on feminist blogs. Twisty told us that she doesn't like giving them at all and Amanda shredded Christopher Hitchens's paean to the American blowjob.

I'm going to hang on to Amanda's pigtails and borrow a little from Twisty, too. Hitchens is going to be the dinner tonight. So sit down and enjoy. No, you don't have to kneel, my dear reader.

This might be a good time to get the children out of the room, as I'm going to define a blowjob for you, gentle reader. It consists of one person taking another (male) person's penis in her or his mouth, and then sucking on it and such. If you want to talk about blowjobs without seeming to do so, you call it fellatio. In either case, it's something where the receiver can only be someone with a penis. There is a corresponding form of oral sex where the woman is the receiver of another person's tonguework on her clitoris and labia. Fancy people call it cunnilingus.

The reason for that long explanation is not that any of you would need it. But it delayed getting to the actual topic a little, and I had more time to think what I might dare to write next. Let's start with Hitchens's article.

He begins saying the most astonishing thing about Nabokov's Lolita: that the farewell scene between the protagonists Humbert and "his very own Lolita" is the most tragic thing he can think of (after all, Humbert kidnapped Lolita). He then goes on with the homily to the homely blowjob:

"The magic and might of her own soft mouth … " Erotic poets have hymned it down the ages, though often substituting the word "his." The menu of brothel offerings in ancient Pompeii, preserved through centuries of volcanic burial, features it in the frescoes. It was considered, as poor Humbert well knew, to be worth paying for.

Well worth paying for. Shown in brothel paintings, where women got paid for sex. Hmmm. And note that the American term for fellatio contains the word "job". Something you might not want to do unless you get paid for it.

Hitchens's take on this "job" aspect of fellatio is a very odd one:

Stay with me. I've been doing the hard thinking for you. The three-letter "job," with its can-do implications, also makes the term especially American. Perhaps forgotten as the London of Jack the Ripper receded into the past, the idea of an oral swiftie was re-exported to Europe and far beyond by a massive arrival of American soldiers. For these hearty guys, as many a French and English and German and Italian madam has testified, the blowjob was the beau ideal. It was a good and simple idea in itself. It was valued—not always correctly—as an insurance against the pox. And—this is my speculation—it put the occupied and the allied populations in their place. "You do some work for a change, sister. I've had a hard time getting here."

Dominance and contempt enter the story here, sneaking quietly into the article and settling in a corner, unnoticed, and dominance and contempt have entered the blogosphere with the blowjob, too. Every day I read about politicians "who need kneepads", every day I read irate commenters urging others "to blow them" and "cocksucker" is up there with "motherfucker" as the worst possible insult. Note that all the insults are aimed at the imagined giver of the blowjob,not its (grateful?) receiver.

How can you write as well as Hitchens does and never notice that the Great American Sex Act he lauds is very one-sided? How can he not notice that one party is serviced by the other, that there are men who find the idea of someone kneeling in front of them and sucking on their wee-wee (icky, because pee comes out of it) empowering because they secretly think that giving blowjobs humiliates the giver? It's possible that there are women and men who can orgasm while giving blowjobs, but most people, I suspect, expect something in return for this favor. Hitchens is totally silent about what this something might be. Because sex for him is something that is done to men, for their pleasure? I don't know. But he clearly assumes that the blowjob is a full and complete act of sex in itself, and this would mean that only one person comes.

This is the reason it's called a job, I think, even though it can also be pleasurable to the giver.

There is a difference between the pornographic images of sex and the actual sex people have. What I'm discussing here is really the former, and especially the myths that have grown around blowjobs in recent years, the idea that "servicing" men orally is what all women get off on, so that a quick blowjob in the school bathrooms is regarded as a full sexual act, every bit as fulfilling to the giver as to the receiver.

It's interesting to notice that Hitchens's article on the Great American Sex Act doesn't even mention cunnilingus. The closest he comes to this is a quick reference to sixty-nine (a couple simultaneously engaged in fellatio and cunnilingus). Alas, cunnilingus doesn't qualify as American as apple pie, Nabokov didn't rhapsodize over it and neither did any of the other guy authors Hitchens likes to quote. It's really quite an odd thing: that something as mutual as sex can be converted into an experience not that different from getting the car washed.

Health and Morality

Health and morality are closely linked in the American society. It has something to do with the Puritan roots, I wager. Every few years the sin aspect of poor health habits crops up, and because of that Puritan smell in the air the solutions offered are always fairly punitive. We don't give people carrots (or chocolate) to live healthier lives, we whip their butts sore.

One of the underreported aspects of all the health warnings we get is that they are often taken as licence to interfere in the lives of total strangers. I remember reading a story about a pregnant woman in a bar who was refused the glass of white wine she ordered, because of the Government Health Warning about drinking while pregnant. Never mind that the French and the Italians and the Spaniards have been drinking wine for centuries and don't have countries inhabited by people with the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and never mind that it's actually legal for pregnant women to drink an occasional glass of wine. The health warnings about alcohol and drinking have morphed into something much bigger: the right to morally judge pregnant women's behavior and to even interfere.

Then there is the recent article about breastfeeding in the New York Times, an article which talks about a new campaign urging women to breastfeed, a campaign which seems to turn breastfeeding into yet another moral question. Not a health question, but a moral question. Mothers who don't breastfeed, for whatever reason, even a good medical reason, are bad mothers. They are risking their children's health. There will be helpful bypassers now with wise words of advice to give to every mother who feeds a baby from a bottle, you know, even if the milk in the bottle was pumped from the mother's very own breasts.

The same article doesn't tell us what mothers should do about nonexistent maternity leaves or the problems caused by many people not liking women who lactate in public (one of the reasons for putting breastmilk into a bottle). Presumably "good" mothers just burrow in for four years, never leaving their homes and letting the rest of their families starve for lack of earnings. And these "good" mothers will not complain that they have lost retirement benefits and money and promotion chances on behalf of their children. No. As one commenter on another blog stated, it is the children that were breastfed who should take care of their mothers in later life. So take notice, all you breastfed people out there.

Then there is the guilt of those mothers who can't breastfeed however hard they try. Not only are they failures, compared to all those valiantly suckling women out there, but now it's also ok to judge them as bad people. All whip and no carrot.

I'm sensitive to insensitive health policing because of that morality angle and the angle of offering all busybodies a chance to go around judging other people and feeling smug and helpful about it. I realized just how sensitive I am when I reacted to today's articles about the American Medical Association (AMA) urging large warning labels on high-salt food by feeling unable to breathe. And I don't eat salt at all, really.

Neither do I drink soft drinks or even alcohol (never mind what Echidne might do with her nectar bottles). So where does that reaction come from? I was breastfed, so it couldn't be because of the sins of my mother? No, I think the reason is that buttwhipping again. No carrots for as peons: Firms are not told to make fast food with less salt, firms are not told to find better alternatives for soft drinks. Instead we, the consumers, are told that the foods we can afford and enjoy are bad for us and that we just need to search harder, grow our own produce, make bread from scratch and take a few decades off while doing all this and breastfeeding. And if we don't feel that we can do all this, well, then we deserve the disapproval we get and the illnesses, too.

Morality and health really are mixed in all this. This bothers me, because the same society that gives us mostly negative incentives towards a healthier life also thinks that Rush Limbaugh's hatemongering is a valid form of political discourse and that Anne Coulter's urgings towards violence are "just jokes". Something has gone quite wrong in how we define "bad behavior", when advocating hate is ok but giving your baby a bottle is bad. Hate also has health consequences. Ask those who died in the Rwandan genocide.

Perhaps we should get AMA to supervise the political media in this country. Instead of a large red exclamation mark as a warning on salt containers we'd get a large red exclamation mark all across Rush Limbaugh's face, with a statement about how bad hatred can be for your health.
It's important to point out that I'm not arguing against the health advice here but against the methods used in its delivery.

Some Recommended Reading

For any early risers. This Kos diary is frightening and all too possible. It's about what might grow from our current hate-infatuated politics.

If you don't want to be scared you could check out the links I stole from BitchPhD, and her relevant comments on the breast feeding story, in particular.

Then there is this post by twisty on the desirability of some current sexual practices.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A New And Improved Version Of An Older Post

Spocko sent this to me:

It's a better and more informative version of this post. Because of the nice frame.

Meanwhile, in Iran

Participants who were demonstrating for women's rights got beaten for their effort in Tehran:

About 100 women had gathered in central Tehran on Monday to protest against what they called the Islamic Republic's discriminatory laws against women. Some men joined them at the gathering which the judiciary said was "illegal".

A Reuters correspondent at the protest saw women and men being put into buses and others being beaten back with batons.


Some women had protested about the difficulties in getting a divorce and securing guardianship for their children after divorce.

Others decried unjust inheritance laws and the fact that their court testimony is only worth half that of a man's. Some women said men were abusing with impunity their right to polygamy, which allows up to four wives.

"I want to know why the blood money for a murdered woman is half that for a man," said a woman who wanted to be identified only as Leila. "I am against laws that openly discriminate against women."

"Blood money" is compensation paid to the family of slain person.

Most women at the demonstration were reluctant to speak to journalists because of the heavy police presence.

The Revealer (via Hecate) has an interesting post about the way this event was reported in various newspapers and why the different approaches to reporting matter. I think this is particularly important when a report is about a country we don't know very well.

Take the fairly small number of demonstrators, a hundred or so. Does this mean that most people in Iran have no opinion on women's rights? I doubt it. A more likely reason for the lack of numbers is what has historically happened to demonstrators in Iran. These are some courageous women, these protesters.

Wingnut Framing

Haloscan has gone nuts, by the way. The time stamp might or might not match reality, so you have the chance of inserting your comments somewhere quite different than the end of a thread. Think of the creative opportunities this offers! You can go backwards in time and change the discussion that already happened.

Wouldn't the Republican wordsmiths love this. They love framing in a way which makes a topic almost impossible to dissect without giving a long speech (see random liberal 581 in my comments for an admirable example of what is needed). This, from yahoo on Bill Clinton's recent speech, is another example of the problem:

"It is now generally recognized that while
Al Gore and I were ridiculed, we were right about global warming," Clinton said at a fundraiser for the Florida Democratic Party. "It's a serious problem. It's going to lead to more hurricanes."


In his critique of the GOP, Clinton also touched on the war in
Iraq, the rising federal deficit and high health care costs. The crowd of about 500 greeted him with loud applause and shouts of "We love you, Bill!" and "Four more years!"

That's what Clinton is reported as having said. And what was the Republican response? Heh:

Jeff Sadosky, spokesman for the state Republican Party, decried Clinton's rhetoric.
"Bill Clinton's class warfare and race-baiting message gets us no closer to solutions for the issues he brings up," he said.

Sadosky referred in part to Clinton's comments earlier this month in Arizona. At that event, Clinton characterized Republican Party leaders as right-wing, white Southerners.

Class warfare. Race baiting. Class warfare. Race baiting. Class warfare. Race baiting.

And so it goes, what is called public debate these days.

Who Can Pass The Tweety Test?

Ann Coulter doesn't. She's not hawt enough:

But over on MSNBC, the news anchors debated an issue much more pressing: Coulter's Hot or Not factor. From June 9th's Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Do you find her physically attractive, Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON: I'm not going to answer that, because the answer, I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. That's not the point.


RITA COSBY: Don't ask me that question.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Mike, do you want to weigh in here as an older fellow. Do you find her to be a physically attractive woman?

MIKE BARNICLE: I'm too old to be doing that. I had enough fights in my life.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: OK, Rita, do you find her to be a physically attractive woman?

RITA COSBY: I'll throw it back to you, Chris, do you find her attractive?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You guys are all afraid to answer. No, I find her—I wouldn't put her—well, she doesn't pass the Chris Matthews test.

Let's reverse the test: Do you think that Tweety (Chris Matthews) is an attractive man? Do you get off on large, yellow heads?

Didn't that sound a little sexist, hmh? Well, the same applies to judging Ann Coulter's looks. There's plenty of really nasty stuff to talk about when Ann Coulter is the topic, without deciding to judge her feminine worth quotient.

I bet you anticipated this feminist commentary by now...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

One Picture Worth A Thousand Framings?

We should have this picture quickly and handsomely framed. It's the heart of the Bush administration and tells us more than we ever need to know about the men who run our lives. And it's very funny.

The actual text goes like this:

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, left, and White House Counselor Dan Barlett, ride in a military helicopter wearing helmets and flak jackets for a trip from Baghdad International Airport to U.S. Embassy in the Greenzone.

Do these flak jackets cover their butts? I would think that any attack would come from below.

Then there is the expression of Mr. Barlett.

Really needed this one today. Thanks, gods and goddesses of ridicule.
Link via linda on Eschaton threads.

Meet Mr. Spinmeister

His real name is Karl Zinsmeister, and he is Bush's new chief domestic policy adviser. An interesting guy, full of nice things to say about all his enemies, including us feminists:

For a dozen years until his appointment, Zinsmeister held forth on all manner of issues and personalities as editor in chief of the American Enterprise Institute's magazine. With a sharp pen, he skewered the left, taking special aim at environmentalists, anti-globalists, feminists, contemporary artists, university faculties, Hollywood, Broadway and particularly the media, composed mainly of "left-wing, cynical, wiseguy Ivy League types, with a high prima donna quotient."

A review of years of articles reveals a formidable thinker with a powerful sense of what he considers right and wrong. As Zinsmeister sees it, racial profiling by the police makes sense; the military, if anything, treats terrorist suspects too gently; and casual sex has led to wrecked cities, violence and "endless human misery." In a "soft, often amoral, and self-indulgent age," he warned, some children "will be ruined without a whip hand," and he assured that "things generally go better with God."


Foreign policy won't fall under his new portfolio, but he has written extensively on social issues that will, such as race, class and culture. He has condemned "feminist absolutism," "Green irrationality," "limousine leftists" and "the dreary left-wing, homophilic P.C. propaganda that has dominated Broadway."

Zinsmeister lamented a "forced diversity crusade" that fuels more alienation than it solves and argued that "Americans should jettison affirmative action and all racial preferences." He dismissed reparations for slavery as "a clear absurdity" because "the U.S. already made a mighty payment for the sin of slavery. It was called the Civil War." He traces wrongheaded political correctness to colleges that have become "virtual one-party states, ideological monopolies, badly unbalanced ecosystems."

The Clintons in particular are anathema. He is "a chronic liar, an out-of-control adulterer, an obstructer of justice, a draft dodger, an all-round morally challenged sleazeball." She has shown "a disturbing pattern of reflexive truth-stretching and reality-doctoring."

And so on. There are many more examples of the calm and collected good manners of this wingnut in the article I linked to, and also a little explanation for the hiring of Mr. Spinmeister. He got the job because he is to be the animal handler that takes care of the wingnut zoo, and we, my dear friend, are going to be the raw meat that will be thrown over the fence at mealtimes. We and our human rights and such absurd stuff.

Now we know the next step in the domestic political plans of the Republican party. It consists of pissing on anyone who is not white, fundamentalist Christian and male, though naturally the enriching of the rich will go on unabated. This is what I would call a badly balanced ecosystem, and this is what Mr. Spinmeister is hired to give all of us.

He is bad news. And people wonder why I dislike the policies of this administration. If they had their way this country would consist of two layers: the ultra-rich in their guarded compounds, jetting here and there as the whim takes them, and the rest of us, dirt-poor, but morally living in an American Taliban society, working our asses off for minimum pay. The blacks and the Latinos would be treated kindly but kept to their place and the womenfolk would take care of the cooking and the breeding but otherwise obey and ponder things only inside their hearts.

That was the rant part, to remind all of you, my dear readers, that politics is not just a game for overgrown wingnut boys but our lives. The analysis part consists of pointing out the obvious: that Bush is servicing his base, and also the interesting fact that lefty bloggers are supposed to be the ones who say nasty things about politicians and journalists. Not Bush administration insiders. Because wingnuts never suffer from irrational hate.

Some Sad News

It seems that Karl Rove will not be indicted in the Plame case:

The prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case on Monday advised Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, that he would not be charged with any wrongdoing, effectively ending the nearly three-year criminal investigation that had at times focused intensely on Mr. Rove.

The decision by the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, announced in a letter to Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, lifted a pall that had hung over Mr. Rove who testified on five occasions to a federal grand jury about his involvement in the disclosure of an intelligence officer's identity.

In a statement, Mr. Luskin said, "On June 12, 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald formally advised us that he does not anticipate seeking charges against Karl Rove."

Mr. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, said he would not comment on Mr. Rove's status.

If I were a mean-spirited blogger I'd insert here something about how the devil takes care of its own.

On Euphemisms

A nonpolitical post, this time, as a way of getting warmed up. One on euphemisms, or weasel words, and especially on the way "resting" is used. We hear that a patient not likely to die right away is "resting comfortably", when the truth might be that the poor patient is in absolute agony. And then there is the "final resting place" and "being laid to rest" when one kicks the bucket. That's another euphemism though rather different in its connotations, by the way.

I doubt that being dead can be called "resting", but neither are "rest-rooms" places where we take a nice break from the day's activities. Or not just a nice break, ahem. Do tourists find this term difficult? Imagine standing there with your legs crossed and seeing signs only for boudoirs where it's easy to imagine that you might lie down for a bit.

"Resting" might be the most common euphemism of all. Actors "rest" when they can't find a job, and I let an article "rest" when it's bogged down and not going anywhere, even if it gets up all refreshed and ready to do battle.

"Resting" covers up things we'd rather not mention: illness and death, the need to pee, unemployment, failure. It really is too bad, because real resting is a wonderful activity, and one for which we have no far found no good euphemism.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Scary, Scary Bloggers

Mainstream coverage of the Yearly Kos has been interesting for me. On the one hand, it seems to try to hold on to the myth of bloggers as nerdy maggots who have no life outside the internet, who are young men with pocket-protectors and who are scary. On the other hand, the pieces point out that the participants of the Yearly Kos were predominantly gray-haired and perhaps boring. And scary. Here is the Time magazine article commenting on Markos's speech:

By the time Moulitsas makes his first official appearance, it's after those cordial conferencees have been milling around at a buffet reception for an hour or so, drinking from the cash bar and getting glittery-eyed. The cartoonist Tom Tomorrow warms up the crowd, reading his cartoons aloud as they are projected on giant screens behind him. It doesn't seem that vital to pay attention, but halfway through the act, a Yearly Kos volunteer stops by the conversational knot I'm in and shushes us. It's the first sign of militancy and while they may not be reaching for the bayonets, the audience stomps and hoots when Moulitsas takes the stage. He smiles benignly and begins: "My name is Markos and I run a site called Daily Kos — maybe you've heard of it."

They greet his sardonic understatement with appreciative howls. The speech starts with a warm celebration of the site's achievements (including the somewhat dubious claim that Jon Tester owes his primary Senate victory in Montana to them and not to his opponent's zipper problem) and then becomes self-congratulatory, boasting about the insurgent primary challenge to Joe Lieberman, where the incumbent now leads by only 55-40. The message of these triumphs? That the "riff- raff" has triumphed over the elite. It's all very empowering, though the speech's crescendo is about how the liberal blogosphere propelled Stephen Colbert's White House Correspondents' dinner speech into the No. 1 spot on iTunes. As wins go, it seems symbolic at best. But what a symbol! The mainstream media is obsolete! "We don't need them!" "We can now choose for ourselves the media we consume!" The air, which had been merely charged, positively crackles. A gaggle of mainstream media reporters in the back grows nervous. "Are you worried they're going to blog us?" I ask someone. He replies, "I'm worried they're going to lynch us."

The smell of sweaty fear.

Then there is Maureen Dowd's piece on the Yearly Kos, where she decides that the bloggers don't want to devour the mainstream journalists but want to join them:

I tracked down the cult leader, wading through a sea of Kossacks, who were sitting on the floor in the hall with their laptops or at tables where they blogged, BlackBerried, texted and cellphoned — sometimes contacting someone only a few feet away. They were paler and more earnest than your typical Vegas visitors, but the mood was like a masquerade. This was the first time many of the bloggers had met, and they delighted in discovering whether their online companions were, as one woman told me, male, female, black, white, old, young or "in a wheelchair."

Mr. Moulitsas assured me he didn't see himself as a journalist, only a Democratic activist. "I don't plan on doing any original reporting — screw that. I need people like you," he said, agreeing that since he still often had to pivot off the reporting of the inadequate mainstream media to form his inflammatory opinions, our relationship was, by necessity, "symbiotic."

As I wandered around workshops, I began to wonder if the outsiders just wanted to get in. One was devoted to training bloggers, who had heretofore not given much thought to grooming and glossy presentation, on how to be TV pundits and avoid the stereotype of nutty radical kids.

Mr. Moulitsas said he had a media coach who taught him how to stand, dress, speak, breathe and even get up from his chair. Another workshop coached Kossacks on how to talk back to Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. "One of my favorite points," the workshop leader said, "is that the French were right."

Even as Old Media is cowed by New Media, New Media is trying to become, rather than upend, Old Media. Ms. Cox has left her Wonkette gig to be a novelist and Time essayist. Mr. Moulitsas and Mr. Armstrong wrote a book called "Crashing the Gate," and hit "Meet the Press" and the book tour circuit. Mr. Armstrong left his liberal blog to become a senior adviser to Mr. Warner. What could be more mainstream than that?

Which is it? Nobody seems to know.

All this is weird to me, including the focus on the few famous bloggers, rather than the vast number of us minor bloggers who keep on hammering away on our keyboards, and the selling of the concept that the people who read and write blogs are some kind of a new breed, never observed before, rather than just the same sort of folks who always used to exist, but only now with new toys. Then there is the whole labeling enterprise: Liberal and progressive bloggers need to be labeled, quick! What is it going to be? Extreme fringe element? Nerdy maggots? Tired 1960s hippies? Ravenous monsters who want to take over journalism without either the objectivity or the training needed? Ravenous monsters who want to gobble up all the journalists?

None of this sounds like me. No category for semi-crazy goddesses who dress impeccably and who just want to run this planet with a B-list blog (notice the self-promotion here?).

How To Write A Wingnut Opinion Column

David Brooks's new column offers such a good example of this. He writes about the conservative angle on boys' poorer school performance. Because his is a conservative angle, the causes of the problem must be innate differences in girls and boys. The solutions he advocates are, astonishingly, quite different from the usual solution winguts offer when they base something on brain differences between the sexes, which is to do nothing. But in this case it is the male sex that appears to be at a disadvantage, so action is needed, and action, which changes the environment. The horror! I thought that the environment never mattered for the wingnuts. Whatever.

Here are the rules for writing a wingnut column, as learned from David Brooks. And if you dare to note in the comments that I do any of the same things I shall smite you with my divine anger:

1. You will begin by stating that your opinion is common wisdom, nay, truth:

There are three gender-segregated sections in any airport: the restrooms, the security pat-down area and the bookstore. In the men's sections of the bookstore, there are books describing masterly men conquering evil. In the women's sections there are novels about ... well, I guess feelings and stuff.

I shop in what Brooks calls the "men's section" of the bookstore, and I have never been chased away from there because of my sex. And notice how he is defining emotions as something...embarrassing...something he knows nothing about. Has David never felt anger, then? Those masterly men conquering evil, are they robots?

See how cleverly the picture is painted? We already know that men and women are really, really different. And if you still doubt that you are told that rather extreme wingnut books on the question are "lucid guides" and that anyone who has questions of the wingnut interpretations of gender science is putting "intense social pressure" on those who just want to talk about neutral science.

2. You will pick studies to prove your point, even if they are not very good studies.

The same separation occurs in the home. Researchers in Britain asked 400 accomplished women and 500 accomplished men to name their favorite novels. The men preferred novels written by men, often revolving around loneliness and alienation. Camus's "The Stranger," Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" and Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" topped the male list.

The women leaned toward books written by women. The women's books described relationships and are a lot better than the books the men chose. The top six women's books were "Jane Eyre," "Wuthering Heights," "The Handmaid's Tale," "Middlemarch," "Pride and Prejudice" and "Beloved."

Note that these are not a random selection of men and women. These are "accomplished" women and men, women and men largely drawn from the fields of books, cinema and theater. And the study wasn't really about the "favorite" novels of these people but about novels that were life-changing for them. Why do you think women in those fields might have mentioned books by women, even if they actually liked some book written by a guy just as much? I liked Camus a lot as a teenager, by the way, but hated Catcher in the Rye because the protagonist in it muses about wanting to learn to play women like a guitar or something similar. I have no desire to read about me as a musical instrument, and I don't want my life changed in that direction.

3. You will condense and insert older arguments into the story so gently that they slip past your conscious brain straight into that "we all know" part where the emotions (which men don't have, natch) then work on them to make them part of our worldview:

Young boys are compelled to sit still in schools that have sacrificed recess for test prep...

Maybe. But is the bit about "sitting still" any different from the past decades or centuries? Remember how schools got started? Remember that girls weren't allowed in at all, so that the way schools decided to make students sit still was all intended for boys. This is not a new phenomenom, not a part of the "war against boys" that the conservative propaganda machine feeds us.

And so on.

What Did You Read At School?

David Brooks thinks that if only boys were given less gushy and emotional books to read they'd soon start doing so well at school:

Young boys are compelled to sit still in schools that have sacrificed recess for test prep. Many are told in a thousand subtle ways they are not really good students. They are sent home with these new-wave young adult problem novels, which all seem to be about introspectively morose young women whose parents are either suicidal drug addicts or fatally ill manic depressives.

It shouldn't be any surprise that according to a National Endowment for the Arts study, the percentage of young men who read has plummeted over the past 14 years. Reading rates are falling three times as fast among young men as among young women. Nor should it be a surprise that men are drifting away from occupations that involve reading and school. Men now make up a smaller share of teachers than at any time in the past 40 years.

Linda Hirshman has a good take on Brooks's article here, so let me just point out that it's not correct to assume that the small number of men in teaching is caused by the books boys read at school. I might as well argue that the small number of men in teaching is caused by the new red BMW the neighborhood stockbroker drives, and I'd be closer to the mark.

So Brooks argues that the books assigned at school are gooey yucky girl stuff. What were you assigned to read at school?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Bleeding Hearts

These are the flowers of a bleeding heart. Pick one of them and turn it upside down. Then pull the right and left tips at the top of the flower outwards. A little naked lady in a bathtub appears. This is sure to fascinate all children amongst us, including our inner children.

Mother Theresa for President!

Now wouldn't that be fun? I can't think of any other woman who'd be closer to the female ideal than Mother Theresa, and if she ran for the president of the United States surely she would win hands down (assuming she wasn't dead, of course)? Nah. Not gonna happen. She's too wimpy, and she would let the terrorist trample all over us.

Well, how about Ann Coulter then? She's not wimpy. She advocates violence most of the time. If she wasn't such a nutcase surely she could run this country? Nah. She's too bitchy, too mean, too vicious.

It reminds me a little of the old fairy tale about Goldilocks and the three bears. The first porridge is too hot, the second porridge is too cold, but the third porridge is just right and so on. The third porridge was probably man-porridge.

These ruminations, delightful as they are, didn't grow out of emptiness. An article in the New York Times entitled "The Ascent of A Woman" by Anne E. Kornblut was the impetus for them. She writes:

Those who study the larger trend, however, say there are concrete reasons no woman has ever come close to winning the American presidency. There are fewer political dynasties here of the sort that have given women the stamp of authority elsewhere, like the Bhuttos in Pakistan or the Ghandis in India. (Mrs. Clinton, of course, is a product of a mini-dynasty).

The electoral system here is more challenging than a parliamentary one, in which a woman (Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Golda Meir in Israel) is elected only by members of her own party, not the entire electorate.

Then there is the political pipeline in the United States, which now, with 8 female governors out of 50, and 14 female senators of 100, still offers a limited number of experienced candidates for the presidency.

"There are very few women in the pool when you think about it," said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. "The pool that candidates tend to come from in this country are U.S. senators and governors, and until recently we've had very few women in those positions. That's something that's really held us back. It's the whole pipeline that's been problematic, and frankly, our pipeline hasn't been doing that well lately."

Yet such statistics, long the foundation for conventional wisdom about the plight of women in politics, may not fully explain the resistance. Experts who scratch their heads over how many women are elected as chief executives elsewhere — including Ms. Bachelet, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia and Angela Merkel in Germany — point to sociological and cultural reasons why Mrs. Clinton is one of only a few women to have been viewed seriously as a presidential candidate. Ms. Walsh said American society has "not yet raised a generation of girls growing up and thinking, 'I can be president of the United States someday.' "

Do you know in what section of the Times this article appeared? The Style Section! That says a lot more about the whole question than anything else I can say in just one sentence. In the Style Section!

I'm going to write a long and erudite post on the topic of the absent female president of the United States in the near future, because I know much of the relevant literature and because I have wonderful and incisive theories about this, as I have on everything else in this world. And that's one of the reasons, by the way, why I'm not the president of any country. Nothing is as horrifying as a woman-know-it-all, said Tom deLay. But a goddess-know-it-all beats even that in horridness.

If you can't wait for my long post, check out this take on the Daily Kos and this one by archy. They both offer fodder for thought. What I'd like to write about this very minute is something I found in the comments of the Daily Kos post, something, that I've heard many, many times before, and something that deserves to be taken apart right now. This comment is a good example:

In any case, I'd love to vote for a female if she had the best qualifications.

Some other comments give long lists of all the qualifications a female candidate for presidency should have. Very long lists.

You might ask what is wrong with this statement. Doesn't everybody want to vote for the candidate who has the best qualifications? Well, if that were true, how did George Bush get in, assuming that he was elected? Surely he lacks almost all of the qualifications that the long lists tell a woman candidate must have, perhaps even all of them. Clearly we don't always vote for the candidate for the best qualifications. The history of politics makes that absolutely clear.

But what I really mean when I want to analyze this comment is the way "best qualifications" really means that the woman in question must be a superwoman, about ten times better than any other candidate we have ever heard about. She must be a perfect woman, with children, yet somehow never neglecting them while learning about politics. She must be happily married, yet somehow the husband must not look henpecked when she goes out and runs for the presidency. She must be bold and ready to attack any country that bothers us, yet somehow she must not let any of her female hormones swamp her cool and level head, and she should have been a fighter pilot at the same time as she was bringing up her children while staying at home.

She must not be attractive as it would distract from her presidentialness, but she must be the president everybody would like to fuck, too. She must not be shrill. She must not be weak and meek. And so on.

I made up that list, not the commenters on the Daily Kos, but I made it because it pretty much reflects reality. The standards to which women are held are not only higher but impossible, if we are to find "the best qualified" candidate.

Then there is the fact that saying something like this can also serve to hide the real reasons why a person might never want to vote for a woman: It's not sexism, it's just that there are no well-qualified women out there. Too sad, but that's how it is. And all the time we have George Bush running this country to ground.

Note that I'm not saying the Daily Kos comment I quoted was by someone who is a sexist, probably far from it, and it's also true that there is a pipeline problem for women in American politics. But these kinds of comments are exactly what a sexist would use in a public debate, and it behooves us to be wary of them for the reasons I mentioned. Just think of all the male politicians we have and how many of them have "the best qualifications" for the job.