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


It appears that WordPress is immediately throwing some comments into the moderation queue and not others.

Thus, try not to double-post, as your comment is not lost but waiting for me to come along and approve it.

I haven’t figured out what the triggers are, but I’ll try to fix it.

I Was a Teen Mom

I was a teen mom. I suppose it’s a label I’ll carry around for awhile, watching people do the mental math when they discern my son’e age minus my own. I’ve written about this many times before. I got pregnant within days before my eighteenth birthday and Ethan was born before I turned nineteen. I barely finished high school, but continued with my education and now I’m this close to finishing my undergraduate degree. If you’ve been with me for awhile, you know that I plan to go on to graduate school and gain the idependence and self-reliance that I so want.

I did all this without going on welfare, without succumbing to homelessness, avoiding abusive relationships, and not letting the surprise of pregnancy remove me from my goals. How? I have a whole lot of help from people who absolutely adore me and Ethan. Because we’re so adorable.

A paired book and movie have come out in recent years that I intend to get my hands on, “Growing Up Fast” by documentarian Joanna Lipper. One thing about the Alternet article that profiles Lipper and covers this book/movie and the teen parenthood phenomenon irritates the hell out of me:

Growing up in Manhattan, Lipper was both “very focused academically” and athletic, playing on basketball, softball, and volleyball teams. “I loved to read, definitely as a teenager and throughout my whole childhood. I lived vicariously through stories and I always loved storytelling.” After high school, she attended Harvard, where she studied under esteemed professors like film-theory philosopher Stanley Cavell and literary theorist and cultural critic Elaine Scarry – an experience that, she gushes, “changed my life. I just really, really, really loved it.”

This quote in itself isn’t inherently bad, but considering the context of the article and the content of the movie, it seems to juxtapose the successful Lipper against her unsuccessful teen parent interviewees. After all, teen parents don’t read, lose all professional opportunities, and only come to teen parenthood through poverty, ignorance, and naivety. Further, the image of teen parenthood is so stereotypically hopeless that I nearly sprained an eyeball from rolling my eyes so often.

In the film version of “Growing Up Fast,” Lipper introduces six young women: Shayla, a doe-faced beauty; angry MaryAnn; Colleen, a chunky Christian with a junkie boyfriend in the clink; Jessica, a model student whose reckless rendezvous with an older man who has already fathered three kids results in her own; Sheri, a wounded-looking teen abandoned by her boyfriend during her pregnancy; and Amy, a rebellious, stubborn party girl who got pregnant twice, by two different men.

Further, whenever anything about teen parenthood is compiled, there is always a mom who says something like this:

In the film, 16-year-old Shayla explains her mind-boggling motivation: “I thought it would make my life a lot better, not only in my relationship with C.J., but with my friends. I thought it would bring my popularity up because people would be like, ‘Hey, she’s got a baby, and that’s cool.’ “

Lipper’s “research” was conducted in one solitary city, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a factory town treading loss of industry and jobs. While this might serve as an interesting case study, it isn’t anything near a norm for most of the teen parents I know. I grew up in a fairly affluent community, not Manhattan of course, in an affluent family. I took to reading like a fish takes to water, wasn’t particularly interested in children unless you count teaching my nieces and nephews how to armpit fart, and I obviously too enjoy storytelling. And I made some questionable choices, got pregnant, made the choice to have Ethan (but not without some incredible soul-searching and back-and-forth as I imagine many unplanned pregnancies entail), and when I had Baby E, things changed.

Sure, I grew up quickly and had a long bout of crippling depression, but there were plenty of helping hands along the way. My family came in just as I needed them most, a family friend counseled me through the pregnancy, and my many friends decided to swoop in and regard the little one as, not tragedy, but my destiny. This made all the difference.

The only teen parents I know who could perhaps be considered “unsuccessful” are those who have or had no help at all. They had abusive authority figures that labelled them failures before they even started parenting; intermittent help that was given and rescinded with no way to predict which day would bring what; unhelpful, contrary, or absent parenting partners; little education and no hope for upward movement; and poor parenting models on which to operate their own parenting styles.

I have long been an advocate for a mentoring program for single parents, some sort of public funded project that aligns members with other single parents and former teen parents, people who have been there and can guide floundering or nervous newbies into success. That’s what I had and so desperately needed, and this is to what I contribute 90% of my success, the other 9% being my tenacity and sheer will. Add 1% of inertia and you have the perfect equation.

Somewhere we fell short, allowing pro-life groups to take over teen parenting mentorship and support, where I presume a more liberal or feminist approach to early parenthood would provide the knowledge necessary to guarantee success — information on birth control, advice on navigating public services, legal rights, expectations, but with a healthy dose of personal choice. Young parents need the scaffolding of outside hands, knowledge, and yes, sometimes money, to ensure that they and their children can succeed and not be derailed by this enormous life change. In addition, young parents need contacts with peers who share similar circumstances, and with whom they can collaborate.

Being a single, teen mom is not the best arrangement, but it need not be disastrous. Shaming, blaming, and proselytizing teen parents is useless because it operates only in hindsight and doesn’t allow for a potential healthy, happy future for either parent or child.

Rather than enforcing and reenforcing stereotypes about teen sex, teen pregnancy and teen parenthood, we have to be willing to embrace the parents we tend to shame to ensure that their progeny have a chance. Treat us like we’re naive, irresponsible, and incapable people and don’t be surprised if you end up with naive, irresponsible, and incapable parents. Or even better, ignore those of us who don’t have babies to climb the ladder of high school popularity and ignore those of us who do just fine regardless.

We’ll be here, plugging along despite you.

Required Reading:
Girl Mom Dot Com – “Girl-Mom is about empowerment. Girl-Mom is about defying social stereotypes, and fighting for our rights as mothers.”
One Young Parent – For teen parents (both moms and dads), their families and friends, and for those interested in helping them.

Neither site glamorizes teen pregnancy or parenting, but provide a supportive online community for young people having children.

And one more myth-buster: Teen motherhood has little impact on welfare costs, a study by professors at the Heinz Graduate School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University.

Songs to Sing To Yourself, Or Perhaps, To Someone Else

Right-click, Save As. You know the deal.

Donovan – Hurdy Gurdy Man
I’ll admit I had no idea about this song until this weekend, but I fell asleep with it in my head last night and woke up with the chorus on repeat, wishing for something else to occupy my mental server.

Gay Pimp – You Picked the Wrong Fag To Fuck With
This is one of the most awful, ridiculous songs I have ever come across, but my god it’s entertaining. You’ll find yourself reciting lines without meaning to.

John Legend – Used To Love You
I don’t have cable anymore so I have no idea what’s going on in the current musical world, but a friend stopped by last week and insisted I find him this song. There’s nothing quite like a break-up empowerment song, one of my favorite themes in music, especially one so easy to dance to.

Mohammed Rafi – Jaan Pehechaan Ho (Let’s Get Acquainted)
I dare you to listen to this and not wiggle in your computer chair. This is rock ‘n roll Bollywood style. And yes, this is also the opening track in “Ghost World.”

Vashti Bunyan – I’d Like To Walk Around In Your Mind
This sweet folk song is quietly catchy, the kind that sticks with you throughout your day. And I imagine your beloved wouldn’t mind hearing this, and probably at the expense of hearing Gay Pimp.

Speaking of singing to oneself and others, I think my next list of downloads should be Ethan’s favorite songs. The kid can sing.

ALSO: is back online. This is the most comprehensive listing of women in this genre, so if you like to rock and don’t mind rollin’ either, check out the site.

A Long Rambling Post On Snobbery and Slumming

I was struck by this post by Amanda, reflecting on Roxanne’s New Year’s resolution, snobbery, and intelligence:

I had a conversation a few months ago with a friend who drunkenly told me that I am sort of amusing because I apparently make like I’m some punk rock chick but deep down inside I’m really bright and educated and I just told him that I didn’t really think the two were opposites or anything. He was mildly humbled and corrected himself, but I knew what he meant.

I told him I disapprove of the division between high and low art. But obviously, the distinction still stings or I wouldn’t have a post like this. But I did quote the Ramones to make my point, and it was pretty funny. So it’s very confusing.

I’m stung by snobbiness. By no means do I think Rox is a snob, because true rejection of snobbiness would mean embracing high and low art without double-checking it or anything. I am acutely aware that many aspiring and educated people I know have sneered at me for having my rock music habits. And many of my good friends who didn’t study what I did in college or didn’t go at all sometimes worry that I think I’m better or something lame like that. The worst is people who come from the snotty, educated background but like to hang out with a sort of wide-eyed wonder at how cool they are being by being near the rock and roll, what they perceive as thuggish types that are many of my friends. Or, to put it more succiently, they’re slumming.

I’ve always viewed my open snobbery as a fun digression into playful competition. Almost a year ago I wrote on this very subject:

…things I am snobbish about include celebrity worship and fansites (trash), materialism (stupid), misplaced wealth (I might be jealous), video games (waste of time, unless it’s a game I like and play myself), music (the more obscure the better), fashion (“classic” looks only, please), and snobbishness.

Even as I look down on snobbery, which suspiciously seems like snobbery, I know that I am a snob. I don’t know of any of us that aren’t.

The commenters on this post were asked to list their snobbish habits and which forms of snobbery are unacceptable — a very interesting thread. But over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about elitism of another sort, the same sort that Amanda references.

Earlier today I went on my biyearly trip to the hair salon. I was musing on a potential writing project aimed at young single parents, born from my ruminations on the weird ways I save money and the weirder ways I spend it. My hairdresser and I were talking about antiques, high school, Nikki Sixx, and dating.

“You and I are alike,” she said. “Kind of weird, unwilling to accept the standard.” She was referring to men.

Agreed. I’ve never been one attracted to the guys in crew cuts and polo shirts, or those whose interests don’t go beyond football, Victoria’s Secret catalogs and Smallville. And in my experience, in this town, that leaves me with a select few, a population who must be combed of those whose hobbies include a never-ending ingestion of illegal drugs and those who engage in LARP. One of my sisters suggested that what I need is a nice graduate student, but even these are a chaparral of football-loving, Victoria’s Secret-gazing, Smallville-watching, pot-smoking, live action role playing kind of crew. Or for that matter, unforgivably snobbish. In the bad way.

Finding women my age with whom I’d like to spend time is just as frustrating. I find myself navigating a sea of competition and infighting for male attention not worth having, the arrangement of an unspoken pecking order, or for some reason, younger women all too eager to pander to my feminism and just as willing to degrade themselves for the attention of football-loving, Victoria’s Secret-gazing, Smallville-watching, pot-smoking, live action role playing men. This is why I was pleased when my hairdresser gave me her phone number and encouraged me to come out with her sometime. And why I was also pleased when another two women I have long admired invited me out to play over the holidays. I’m shy enough to have trouble approaching people for anything more than a pen or a stick of gum. I don’t make new friends very well and I hold on tight to the ones I have.

This is something my mother, and the many people I know who believe as she does, has never understood, how I could be a reasonably successful, intelligent, (on my way to) well-educated person and surround myself with people Mom might describe as “tacky.” Where she sees someone’s lack of formal education or perhaps a few past digressions, I see whole people. When I have pointed out to her that if someone judged me on my past, my language, or my easily shifting demeanor, I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere, she dismisses that as somehow different. When she laments their tattoos, I remind her that I have tattoos. Weird hair? I have weird hair. Spurious circumstances? I have spurious circumstances in some circles. And when she suggests that I am somehow a wide-eyed voyeur in a “thuggish” world, I want to take her hand and show her that the lives of blue-collar workers, gays and lesbians, people of other colors and cultures, aren’t that much different from ours except in the most meaningless ways. But usually I remind her that in many realities, my reality is less than desirable.

Sometimes I wish Mom had met Tammy. Hell, I wish everyone could meet Tammy.

What it really comes down to, as Amanda put it, is offense at the taste of others. I’ll never understand my poor mother (who I have apparently decided to pick on in this post) and her penchant for manufactured pottery, and I imagine she’ll never understand my thing for red wine (a maybe once per week thing she has deemed “too much”) and obscure music (“the drums are so loud! it’s just so noisy”). She’ll never understand my compulsion toward male-centered homoerotic novels or why I use the F-word far too much in adult company. So be it. She has to love me. It’s practically a law.

The incongruities between perception and reality are difficult to reconcile to someone who remains and will choose to remain an outsider of different realities, why Amanda and I sting at the assertion that being “some punk rock chick but deep down inside I’m really bright and educated and I just told him that I didn’t really think the two were opposites or anything” because they aren’t opposites or anything. And this is why, to pick on the parental units again, that I continuously feel the need to defend my choice of friends and mates across the four-decade generation gap between me and my parents. A lack of formal education does not equal a lack of intelligence or a lack of worth.

And believe you me, when I find someone worth my time I drink it in. Intelligent people don’t waste good company on faulty preconceptions.

[To anyone interested in football, Victoria’s Secret catalogues, Smallville, marijuana, or LARP: Present company always excluded. I swear.]

Because Lists are Fantastic and I Can’t Sleep

If Trish and Amanda jumped off a bridge, would I?

Pet Peeves

  1. Repetitive clicking of ballpoint pens or fingernails.
  2. False sincerity.
  3. People who try too hard. Painfully hard. Embarassingly hard.

Favorite Sounds

  1. A clear, open voice in song.
  2. Ethan’s belly laugh.
  3. A soft breeze at night.

Least Favorite Sounds

  1. The alarm clock.
  2. My other alarm clock, Pablo, who goes off every morning at 7am.
  3. Other people’s cell phones.

All these things are so damned startling and disruptive to my pseudo-peace.

Favorite Flavors of Candy

  1. Cherry suckers.
  2. Chocolate.
  3. Mint.

Not a big candy fan — I prefer icing in a jar.

Biggest Fears

  1. Fish.
  2. Anything that deals with the Achilles’ tendon, or for that matter, anything that involves pain or breakage of the phalanges.
  3. Falling on my head.

Biggest Challenges

  1. Overcoming procrastination.
  2. Laundry.
  3. Sad attempts at optimism.

Favorite Department Stores
We’re avoiding department stores, so I’m filling in my own.

  1. Von’s Bookstore, a local joint that sells beads, books, jewelry, candles, gifts, cards, and has the best CD store that I’ve ever visited (even though I could kick any of their empolyees’ asses on music trivia).
  2. River Knits Yarns, my favorite place for S.E.X. (Stash Enchancing eXcursions).
  3. Sunspot Grocery, a local healthfood store that carries anything crunchy-granola-hippie one could ever want including organic produce in the dead of winter.

Most Often Used Words

  1. Dude.
  2. Fuck (in it’s many incarnations).
  3. Nebulous.

Favorite Pizza Toppings

  1. Fresh basil.
  2. Whole tomato slices.
  3. Olive oil.

I’m about to reveal myself as a food snob.

Favorite Cartoon Characters

  1. Betty Boop.
  2. Nermal.
  3. Ren and Stimpy.

Um, I don’t really like cartoons at all.

Recently Viewed Movies

  1. L.I.E.
  2. Chuck & Buck.
  3. Monster.

If you haven’t seen “Chuck & Buck” go out and find it immediately. It’s disturbing and endearing, homoerotic and innocently virginal, funny and sad all at the same time.

Favorite Fruits

  1. Fresh cantaloupe, the kind so juicy it runs down your chin.
  2. Pear (on a basalmic vinegar-dipped roast beef sandwich with Swiss cheese).
  3. Warm strawberries.

Favorite Vegetables

  1. Asparagus.
  2. Spaghetti squash.
  3. Crisp, uncut green beans.

Sometime in the next year I will cut back on the fluff and get back to more serious and/or editorial material, but hell, it’s vacation and I’ll blather if I want to.

Where’s My Survey?

Yahoo News reports that Blog Creation, Readership Rises in 2004:

Readership of online journals known as blogs grew significantly in 2004, driven by increased awareness of them during the presidential campaign and other major news events, according to a study released Sunday.

Twenty-seven percent of online adults in the United States said in November they read blogs, compared with 17 percent in a February survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

I can’t wait until blogs are known as “blogs” instead of “online journal” or some other such crap.

And then after a lengthy explanation about the use of blogs in Dean’s presidential campaign, and blogging the tsunami, and the obligatory mention of Power Line,

Blog creators tend to be male, affluent, well-educated and young; 70 percent of them have high-speed connections at home, and 82 percent have been online at least six years.

Of six qualifiers mentioned here, I meet three. I am young, have had a personal realm on the internet for eight years, and am reasonably well-educated. Apparently they polled Matt Yglesias and the boys at Pandagon for this survey. WATW?: At least Time magazine remembered us.

And as reading things like this always causes me to do, I wonder why the hell I never get polled.

PHP is Hard

Yes, I’m trying to pass test posts as content.

I have aready accidentally rewritten the index file with the old MT index, and had to recover it. Thankfully my trusty backup files came through. But not without losing some things. Of course. Because this can’t be easy. No.

WordPress runs on completely different tags and structure than MT and it’s a daunting switch. I don’t understand the PHP calls in the pesky plug-ins and have been emailing Shelley at an alarming rate for help, cruising through the WordPress support forums in search of answers, mostly to no avail. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what I’m looking for.

I have already taken on another web project that is thankfully within my grasp. In the meantime, arranging my own web space just may have to wait.