In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

I am not my reproductive organs.

I don’t want to have kids. I don’t need or want to be defined by a biological process and a couple of organs that I don’t even need. Reproductive organs don’t define womanhood, and I am not my ladyregion, and conflating them doesn’t do anyone any good.

Ivanka Trump says that motherhood is “the most important job any woman can have”

Ivanka Trump, trotted out of late as proof that obviously Donald can’t possibly be a misogynist because some of his sperm has X chromosomes in it, has taken to video to tell us all about Donald’s policy proposals for working moms. (It’s the one he only developed because Ivanka herself pushed him to it, saying, “Daddy, daddy, we have to do this!” because nothing says “I respect women” like making your adult daughter sound like Veruca Salt at a campaign stop.) And because we can’t have woman- and family-friendly policies in place just because they’re the right thing to do in our current economy and societal structure, Ivanka had to come right out of the gate telling us that the most important job that any woman can have is mother.

She, her inherited real estate job, her clothing company, and her nanny speak directly from the heart.

So I, my freelance job, my sporadic blog writing, and my two largely self-sufficient dogs will do the same.

Kids in Public: And Thus Have I Provided You a Definitive List of Rules

[Content note: a topic that’s been discussed to hell and back and yet is being discussed back to hell again because this is my blog and I get to]

It’s happened again. Again. It’s always going to happen, and it’s always going to spur debate: A couple brought a kid to a restaurant, the kid was noisy, there was an exchange of some level of vehemence between the restaurant owner and the parents, and everyone has flipped out.

Quick hit: We Bought a Huge Effing House, and Now We Can’t Afford More Kids

An Elle Decor essayist has come out with a horrible confession: She and her husband sacrificed a child to buy their dream home.

(How awesome would it be if that were the actual story? “Our realtor didn’t mention the fiery, bottomless hellpit in the basement into which we have to throw a small child at the peak of the new moon to keep our mortgage rate low. She said it was a walk-in wine closet.”)

Kids, consent, and hugging Grandma whether you want to or not

When it comes to kids and hugs, I fall strongly, strongly on the side of “only if they want to.” I’m a hugger under many circumstances, and the U.S. Deep South certainly encourages it. That said, I’m not an indiscriminate hugger, and even as an adult woman I resent being expected to submit to hugs when I don’t want to as a condition of friendliness, or because the hugger is old/”harmless”/etc.

Apologies, Explanations, and Temporary Sign-Off

Trigger warning: pregnancy-related health emergencies

Hello all,

I’m really, really sorry I dropped off the face of the earth. I didn’t mean to. At first it was just an unfortunate concatenation of events (somebody should organize an F/SF con called CONcatenation, don’t you think?)–the site went down for a few days, I went away to a conference, etc. This happened right around the time I hit the third trimester, and the third trimester of pregnancy was really kicking my ass: I was going to sleep at 8 or 9 in the evening, even after taking a two-hour nap in the afternoon (I know, tough life, your hearts go out to me). I was starting to re-organize my routine and had hopes of getting on top of shit when this week just blew the legs out from under me.

On Monday, I experienced a very frightening placental abruption–it was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever gone through, there was so much blood. I had to go straight to the hospital, and while I and the baby are all right and eventually the bleeding subsided, they’re keeping me here until I deliver the baby. We’re hoping I make it to early June, which will be 37 weeks, so that the baby will be full-term. That’s not so far away, after all, so I have hopes that there will be no further incident. You’d think that being here would give me all the time in the world to catch up on stuff, but what I’m finding is that I’m so emotionally exhausted and changeable day by day (one day I’m fine and perky; the next I’m literally shaking as I think about how frightening Monday was; then I’m fine again; then I’m weeping and homesick) that I just can’t focus well enough even to read the news and essays I need to read to write a decent post, let alone write one. So I’m capitulating. I will try to start posting again in mid-July or so, provided all goes well (knock wood).

I am grateful for any number of things–there’s sheer luck: I wasn’t taking care of my godchildren when the bleeding started, so I could get directly into a cab without having to worry about childcare; it was 11 in the morning, so there was literally no traffic. I have an amazing doctor who’s affiliated with an excellent hospital, so I am very grateful to be here, and I’m very grateful that they’re keeping me here, because I’m in Brooklyn and the hospital is quite far away, and of course the fear about going home would be what if it happens again and I can’t get there in time? The person I was with when it started and the taxi driver who came to pick me up were both wonderful. And of course, I am in a good position vis-a-vis insurance, which is a sick and barbaric feature of this country that anybody should have to think about it during an emergency, but there it is, we do, and I didn’t have to think about it–I could just go straight to the hospital. I have family and friends coming to see me every day.

People talk about how bored I must be in the hospital for weeks, but I am welcoming the boredom: it is infinitely preferable to the fear.

Another thing I’m grateful for is that I was rejected by the Brooklyn Birthing Center. I volunteered at a birthing center about fifteen years ago, and have always been intrigued by feminist ideas of “reclaiming” childbirth. When I found out I was pregnant, I called the Brooklyn Birthing Center, told them a little about the pregnancy, my age, and the medications I was on and asked if they would take me on, and they said, with barely a pause “Absolutely not.” I was irritated at the time, but clearly they were taking my health much more seriously than I was, and because they stuck to the straight and narrow in their protocols, I’m at a world-class hospital with a doctor I know and like and have a good relationship with. I kind of want to send them a thank-you note. My best friend says this is why she doesn’t trust birthing centers; I said it makes me trust that one even more, because they knew to say no to me. Just an anecdote.

Anyway, I’m sorry for my absence, I miss the convos here very much. I hope to see you all again, so to speak, in a couple months.

Alternative Family Structures: The Baby Book Edition

If you’re part of an non-conventional family and about to welcome a new child, finding a baby book is…probably the last thing on your mind, actually, as you have a million and one other things to think about.

But it was really preying on my mother’s mind. She didn’t want me to have to get a baby book with a traditional family tree, one side of which would be left blank, and no spaces to write down the baby’s real family, i.e. the friends with whom I live. So she went searching, and she found me this:

Welcome to the World Baby Memory Book: Celebrating All Families

It seems to be out of print, but it is a sweet book. It does not ask you to specify your baby’s (presumed) gender, and the family page is perfect for a family like mine. Instead of a tree, there are two pages with spaces to list the baby’s family members’ names, their relationship to the baby, and to add notes of anything you want about them, arranged in a column. With that set-up, there’s not even enough room for all of the baby’s family–never mind about an entirely blank page where the father’s side of the family might be.

So I thought I’d give the book a little love here. It’s not without a problem–while most of the illustrations are of cute little animals, there are a few of babies, and I would have preferred that those illustrations not be of only white babies–so it’s not going work comfortably for everybody by far. But it’s something.

You can’t possibly be crying?

Guest Post by Malinda: “It wasn’t long into my adult life when I lost my daughter to Spina Bifida, very unexpectedly. Not only was the pregnancy unexpected, but so was her death. And I found myself thrust into a completely different part of life, in uncharted waters. At 20-years-old I had an immense amount of grief to learn to cope with; but at the same time I needed to find my way back to “normal” life, whatever that may be.”

MRAs: Pretty Much What You’ve Always Thought

Trigger warning: MRA nonsense, physical abuse

Edited with clarifications because apparently my writing is not conveying what I want it to here.

Seriously. Seriously.

I cannot stop laughing.

Look, I know that MRAs are terrible people who do terrible things and have made many women’s lives utter miseries. But have you read this Buzzfeed article on Paul Elam that Angel H. quoted and linked for us the most recent open thread? (Thank you, Angel H. You are the best!)

He is obviously a terrible person, comparing child support payments to Jim Crow, to say nothing of treatment of his daughter, a braver and kinder person than he’ll ever be. But look at this:

Men’s rights activists often cite the first time they realized it’s a woman’s world. They call these “red pill” moments, after the scene in The Matrix when the main character is faced with the decision to swallow a red pill and recognize the true nature of the world or take a blue pill and continue living a lie. For Elam, that revelation came at age 13, when his mother tried to force him to take his diarrhea medicine.

Elam’s brothers held him down on the kitchen floor while his mother screamed and hit him with a wooden spoon until a concerned neighbor knocked on the door. “I felt like I was engaged in the battle of my life,” Elam said. “I was a rebel from that moment on … I’m still that 13-year-old kid on the floor that won’t take the medicine.”

When Elam was 17, his mother grabbed a photo of his high school crush out of his hands without asking him first. When Elam took it back from her, his father belted him. Elam’s analysis of the incident was that his father’s life was solely about serving his mother — “and nothing else.”

[New paragraph: This is the evidence Elam adduces to show, the moment he realizes that women run the world. His mother had power over him when he was a kid–so did his father and his elder brothers, but never mind that–and uses it to abuse him in one example and, well, just be kind of rude in the second example, and this–this–is the proof that men–grown men, mind you, grown men with agency, who apparently hit their kids of their own free will (Elam goes on to spank his grandson for opening a fridge door, and his mother isn’t around to blame for that one)–are being shafted in this society of ours.]

Lo, truly, the oppressed peoples of the world are throwing their arms open to welcome their beleaguered brother–police murder of black people, sexual violence, institutionalized transphobia, gay-bashing–all pale in comparison to what men suffer when they can’t get over their mommy issues. Truly Elam is under the bootheel of the female oppressor if anybody is. [Edited to add: This is what the MRA view of the world comes down to: it’s good old-fashioned mommy-blaming. Father did wrong? Elder brothers did wrong? It’s Mom’s fault. You can add it to the list of things mothers have been blamed for over the past 150 years, everything from schizophrenia to “inability to deal with color blindness” (I am not kidding). It’s not even new or innovative misogyny. It’s just mommy-blaming.]

I realize that child abuse is no laughing matter, though I have to say that what Elam suffers here is significantly less than what I went through. But…dude, really? Your mother, your brothers, and your father physically abuse you, but somehow it’s all your mom’s fault even though most of your abusers were older males? Um, OK, Elam. You…keep telling yourself that.

Elam, my misguided flower, that’s not a gender dynamic. That’s a parent-child dynamic. You want to do something about that? Advocate for children’s rights. (But seriously? I went through worse for worse reasons and…I’m finding it hard to see you as a poster-child for abuse survivors. Both my parents went through far worse and neither one is a misogynist asshole.)

What do you think he imagines adolescence is like for girls? [Added: Does he think we don’t get hit?] That we don’t have to take medicine when we’re sick and our teenage crushes are treated with respect and delicacy? Lo, his mother grabbed a photo from him without asking first! How can he bear up under the strain? My mother made fun of how the boy I had a crush on looked and my father laughed with her! My scars, let me show you them.

“I followed in many ways in my father’s footsteps,” Elam said. “If I was attracted to a girl … it was my job to please her, and to be and do anything to please her….”

OK, dude? Again, that’s not oppression. Wanting to please the person who turns you on? That’s just…being human. What do you think your reaction to being into someone should be?

This confirms everything I’ve always thought about MRAs: they’re fainting flowers who can’t actually handle the exigencies of normal life, or in other words, wimps. Dude. Try navigating through life when you have an actual problem to handle and then get back to me.

And I can’t. stop. laughing at them.

I swear I have a long, thoughtful post coming up. I just…dude. Diarrhea medicine? Your mommy? Paging Dr. Freud, here, I think.

Edited a la Kitty’s point in comments. What I had wanted to convey was that child abuse was clearly no excuse for misogyny, but as I said in comments, clearly my own issues came into play instead. And then edited once more because if Fashionably Evil, a regular, thought it was the abuse itself that I was finding funny rather than the inept reasoning based on it, then the writing needed clearing up.

The past was a terrible place–don’t let anti-vaxxers take us back there

I want to maintain Feministe’s proud tradition of attacking anti-vaxers, because these people are the scum of the earth. These are the people who have benefitted most from modern medical advances, but who not only refuse to protect their own children from diseases that used to kill and disable huge numbers of children (and adults, for that matter), who want the benefit of the common good (herd immunity) without contributing to the common good, who fundamentally don’t care if children and adults who can’t get vaccines because their immune systems are compromised die. They are scum.

I fundamentally think that anti-vaxers won’t listen to reason or to evidence, any more than any other kind of science-deniers will. Despite the fact that hundreds of years of organic food and no industrial waste coincided with mass child death and epidemics, they believe that feeding their kids the purest food and water will keep them healthy. They believe that good hygiene wiped out disease (yeah, you know what? By the early 1950s, when polio was still scourging the industrial world, hygiene was well understood. Washing your hands doesn’t prevent polio. You know what prevents polio? The fucking polio vaccine, that’s what.).

Well, fuck them. I strongly believe that we need to ostracize them completely. I already know some pediatricians will not allow children who are not vaccinated into their practice, because they don’t want to put their pre-vaccinated and immuno-compromised patients at risk, and good on them. Schools need to not admit them. We need to make them social lepers. It is fucking criminal that it is the children of anti-vaxers, who have no control over the assholishness of their parents who will bear the brunt of this, just as they will bear the brunt of preventable contagious illness, and we need to ostracize the parents as well, in every way possible.

I mean, look at this asshole:

It’s not my responsibility to inject my child with chemicals in order for [a child who has leukemia] to be supposedly healthy,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s very likely that her leukemia is from vaccinations in the first place.”

“I’m not going to sacrifice the well-being of my child. My child is pure,” he added. “It’s not my responsibility to be protecting their child.”

CNN asked Wolfson if he could live with himself if his unvaccinated child got another child gravely ill.

“I could live with myself easily,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I’m not going to put my child at risk to save another child.”

He blamed the Jacks family for taking Maggie to the clinic for care.

“If a child is so vulnerable like that, they shouldn’t be going out into society,” he said.

You know what? It fucking well is all of our responsibility to keep each other’s children healthy. That’s what it means to live in a fucking society. And it is not fucking “unfortunate” when children die. It’s a trauma and tragedy from which the family–to say nothing of the child–never recovers. A preventable trauma and tragedy. And you shouldn’t take your child for fucking medical care when she’s sick? Does this asshole, who is a doctor, even hear himself? He is scum. He is evil. And he should lose his medical license for spouting this bilge. I can’t emphasize this enough, no matter what his beliefs may be, VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE LEUKEMIA.

He could live with himself if he got someone else’s kid killed? Could he live with the lawsuit? Or–and I was just talking about this with my father–could he live with that kid’s parents coming after him with guns? My father and I were talking about a news story he’d read years ago about a father who stepped calmly and openly up to the man who had murdered his child and shot to death him as he was being walked into the courthouse for his trial. My dad told me that he completely understood, because as far as he was concerned, if you outlived your children, your life was over. That nothing else mattered anymore, life would just be ashes, and that that was why he wouldn’t care about losing his freedom at that point. Does this asshole think he’s immune to that? That a parent who loses their kid thanks to his bullshit won’t come after him? And I tell you what, I would raise money for that parent’s legal defense.

In better news, here’s a news story about heroic parents suing to keep unvaccinated kids out of his child’s school. Good on him. I hope he wins.

I fucking hate these people. Vaccines and antibiotics are two most important and effective medical advances we have ever made. In the 1940s, mortality for children 1-4 was 250 deaths per 100,000 children, and for children 5-14 it was 100. Now it’s around 25 in the first category and around 15 in the second. Infant mortality was around 50 per 1000 live births and is now around 6. There are pretty horrifying disparities by race and class, but the pattern of decline has actually been the same. Why? Fucking vaccinations and antibiotics are why. Maybe anti-vaxxers find the prospect of learning disabilities and autism more upsetting than that of dead children, but that says far more about them than anything else.

Where are the forced-birthers on this issue? They’re so eager to destroy reproductive choice for women in the name of saving babies–why are they silent when it comes to parental choice regarding vaccines? Surely if “it’s not a choice, it’s a child” were ever an appropriate slogan, it is here.