Monthly Archives: September 2010

Everything is linked

Been a while since we’ve had a good ol’ fashioned link post, hasn’t it?1

Anyway, have some links. If you’re a Liker2 of Raising My Boychick on Facebook, you might’ve seen some of these, but fear not! for I have fresh content for you as well.3

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I had the privilege of hearing Liz read a fabulous post about knitting, geekery, and feminism at BlogHer in August. In Kids and wheelchair manners she writes about curious kids, clueless adults, and her light-up chair.

I also don’t like it when grownups yell at kids not to stare or ask questions. I’m in a giant cool exoskeleton with light-up wheels. I have purple hair. Kids get to stare. They should be curious! If they ask me why I’m in a wheelchair, I can answer them however I like. The parent doesn’t have to step in and act all embarrassed. I might say that I use the chair to help me get around, or because my legs hurt if I walk very far. If we’re in a social situation or a playground I get out of the chair, sit on a bench, and teach random children how to push themselves around in my wheelchair. It’s fun and it demystifies disability for the kids and teaches them that mobility equipment is just another tool.

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The right to bear at Spilt Milk is one close to my heart, as I still, happily, sleep with the bear my grandparents gave me for Christmas when I was eight. And yes, I take him on planes with me. Can I sleep without him, fly without him? Sure, but why should I want to? Why is my bear less socially acceptable than another person’s nightcap, gin-and-tonic, night light, Xanax? As Elizabeth says:

It’s not ‘babyish’ to find ways to self-soothe and to cultivate feelings of security: it’s human, and it’s smart. It’s not wrong to form attachments and dependencies and when it’s people and things that do not harm us, it’s actually desirable to do so.

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The more I learn about Babble, the less I like them. Reason number three: Breastfeeding, Babble, and Business at Marf Mom. Prompted by PhD in Parenting’s post about the unethical advertisement of a formula company-run “Feeding Experts” hotline on Babble’s breastfeeding guide page (reason number two!), she wrote to Babble’s CEO. And he replied — but not terribly politely.

What was upsetting to me was how he characterized me.  …because I disagreed with the objectivity of his website, I must be looking for a mandate that every woman breastfeed?! Finally, what does La Leche League have to do with my email? I’m not a member. All I did was suggest their site as a better resource than a formula company!

It’s not great marketing to answer complaints by telling your consumers that THEY are the ones with the problem.

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I adore equally the title, substance, and footnote to muslin: a threat to the fabric of society at a shiny new coin, so go, soak it all in.

You want to know about hypocrisy?

Hypocrisy is a country of immigrants, who continue to perpetrate a genocide on the original inhabitants, running around with stickers on their vehicles manufactured from natural resources that came from stolen land that proclaim “Fuck Off: We’re Full”.

Hypocrisy is a country where the banning of an item of dress is regularly recommended, saying no Australian has any right to dictate the standard of dress of another. Really? Can I have that in writing?

Hypocrisy is the complete lack of perspective, the total cognitive dissonance, that the 7000 people who voted that a Muslim function, in a room used after hours at a community facility, having dress code is fundamentally wrong. A dress code. You know, like the one bigots would impose when they say burqas should be outlawed.

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Penultimately, I offer a trio of posts on rape culture — but it’s not as bad as it sounds. I’ve put them in order of painful, hopeful, and fabulous.

On Birth Rape, Definitions, and Language Policing at The Curvature carries a strong trigger warning, and is about rape denial in circles who should best know better.

I’m used to seeing this sort of thing — discussions about whether or not an event that is admittedly horrible really deserves to have the title “rape” attached to it, accompanied by convoluted reasons as to why calling it rape would just mess everything up for real rape victims. What I’m not quite as used to is seeing it being done in the name of feminism and/or anti-rape activism.

The Boiling Frog Principle of Boundary Violation at the Yes Means Yes blog should also come with a trigger warning, and goes through some pretty scary truths, but ends up, I feel, in a place of hope:

We need to look for the places where boundaries can’t and won’t be enforced … and fix them.  We can’t start when and where the rapes happen.  We have to start at the beginning.  We have to believe that bodily autonomy is a human right, and that the little violations matter.  If the whole culture believed that, it might not end all rape, but it would end a culture where rape is normalized and generally unpunished.

I wrote in reply4:

I take hope from this that yes, what we do as parents5 matter. We can be a part of the solution, by respecting our children’s bodily autonomy as much as we are able, and avoiding “the little violations” as much as possible.

Not to say that if we are not able, we are necessarily raising rapists, or rape victims — but rather that we CAN make a difference, here, now. Any step toward honoring our children’s boundaries and giving them the tools to recognize others’ and enforce their own is a step toward dismantling rape culture.

Will you take a step with me?

As your reward for making it through those, we have The Suffering Ween: An Important Social Essay over at Fatshionista:

When described in such terms, the frustration, resentment, and even violent rages of heterosexual men railing against the forced witnessing of women’s bodies that fail to give them hard-ons becomes a perfectly understandable and even sympathetic response to a world that has failed to identify how deeply (even irreparably, as some things can never be unseen) it has damaged them. We are, after all, describing the single most sensitive and vital organ in a man’s body, from which fully nine-tenths of their motivation to do anything in life is derived.

Clearly, these are young men suffering from a heartbreaking deficiency of boners.

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And finally, if you missed it (embedded as it was in one of my gazillion-word-long self-important posts) I put up a new Glossary entry, to a word I hope catches on:

Emovtypical is a new word1, meaning those with emotions and moods which fall into the range which society expects. It is based on the use, largely in Autism circles but in other “mental disability” circles as well, of “neurotypical”, to contrast with the neurodivergent or neuroatypical, that is, those whose brains do not conform to society’s expectations.2

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In other news, I just realized I could link straight to footnotes from other pages, and this might be the single coolest discovery since fire, ice, or the vibrating motor.

What say you, readers? Any interesting links or world-shaking discoveries to share? Self-promotion, frivolity, and non sequiturs always welcome.6

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  1. In part because I’ve been reading these things that are kind of like bloggy link round ups, but when I go to click on “more” I can’t find it? Also they smell like pulp and intelligence. I think they’re called “books”?
  2. What? Have you come up with a better idea since Facebook decided to stop using “fans”?
  3. Plus copious footnotes. Because. Wait, you want a reason? Fine, because kittens.
  4. On Facebook — see? You really should follow me, if you’ve succumbed to that particular internet evil.
  5. There are many things about this post I would change now, having heard many more stories of rape being committed by women and other non-men, but I think the basic points still stand.
  6. This footnote exists solely so that the last footnote won’t be all serious and some junk. You’re welcome.

International Hambeast Day

WHEREAS the author of the web-log site known as Raising My Boychick and located on the World Wide Web at http://www.raisingmyboychick.com (henceforth known as “The Author”) WAS KNOWN TO RECEIVE for the anniversary of the commencement of her extrauterine dwelling ONE (1) infestation (consisting of TWO [2] or more of said beings) of the sub-human being known on the World Wide Web as “trolls” (henceforth known as “Infestation” in the collective and “Douchebag” in the singular) and

WHEREAS said infestation included ONE (1) Douchebag calling The Author and the reader or readers of the web-log site Raising My Boychick “hambeasts” and

WHEREAS users of the micro-web-log site Twitter (henceforth known as “Followers” or “Tweeps”) declared to The Author — despite The Author’s assertions that the definition of “hambeast” that said Douchebag was using equaled “too fat to fuck” — that “hambeasts” sounds exceptionally delicious and

WHEREAS The Author was presented with ONE (1) gluten-free Hambeast Cake for The Author’s Hambirthday by ONE (1) of The Author’s Tweeps (see Appendix A) and

WHEREAS it is never prudent to indulge in pity when one can engage in levity and

WHEREAS it seemed like a damn good idea at the time

LET IT BE RESOLVED that henceforth the TWENTIETH (20th) day of the NINTH (9th) month of the Julian Gregorian calendar, also known as September 20th or 20 September, shall be known as

~~~INTERNATIONAL HAMBEAST DAY~~~

Cake for everyone!
Gluten free!
Kosher!
Vegan!
Tastes of ham!
But yummier!

Hambeast Cake

Yummy!

All blame and/or thanks for the above picture and the idea for IHD go to Lisa Hoang. Many additional thanks go to all of The Author’s Tweeps who made getting called a hambeast the best part of this year’s anniversary of extrauterine habitation. Y’all made my day.

Privileged protestations

The Set Up

A Privileged Person Who Likes Marginalized Person and Wants To Be a Good Example of a Person with Privilege (aka Good Ally) and a Marginalized Person are talking — or Marginalized Person is relating this story on Twitter or hir blog or Tumblr — about how Marginalized Person had to deal with an Oppressive Douchebag. Below I will outline two scenarios I have seen (and been a part of) enough times to have each part memorized.

Note: any one of us might move from one role to another, often in the same day. I started to recognize this as a Thing when watching it play out between two other people, but I was able to because I had experienced it from all sides, yes, including being the Oppressive Douchebag. There is not a Bad Guy and a Good Guy in here, nor is it my intent to shame anyone. If you recognize yourself in an uncomfortable way in what follows, know that I do too, and that admitting it doesn’t make you a bad person. It does, however, mean you have an opportunity, and an obligation, to do better.

Scenario Number 1:

Marginalized Person: “Aw crap, this Oppressive Douchebag just said Annoying -ist Trope #58.”

Privileged Person Who Likes Marginalized Person and Wants To Be a Good Example of a Person with Privilege: “What? How could they possibly say that? I can’t believe people still say things like that! I would never! That’s so outrageous to me I can’t hardly believe it, but I do because I accept what you say, but still, golly, how awful and unbelievable!”

Marginalized Person: “…”

Us Good Allies enact this scenario a lot. A lot. I have done it more times than I care to remember, and did it so damn much when first really learning about privilege and oppression and really listening to marginalized people that it’s a wonder no one strangled me out of abject annoyance. And I still find myself doing it on occasion, despite knowing how obnoxious it is.

Because it is irritating. It is, in fact, really annoying, and it’s sign number 80-gazillion-something of privilege. Having been on the other end of it as well (such as when Person With Thin Privilege goes off when I mention an entirely-too-familiar aspect of my life as a fat woman, or someone who is emovtypical reacts with shock at one of the many things oft-repeated about us crazy folk), what I am thinking as Marginalized Person in that “…” up there is “Where the fuck have you been this whole time?” Because Annoying -ist Trope #58 is a trope because it’s absolutely everywhere. And it would be easily predicted if one knew about even just a few of Annoying -ist Trope #s 1-57 (or 59-100,000+).

So what we privileged folk are really saying when we protest “What?? I can’t believe it! I would never!” is “I’m still completely stuck in my privilege and haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on around me but I want to be a Good Ally to you and so I am going to express my possibly-even-legitimate outrage about this so that you will know I am On Your Side.” It is, essentially, a form of cookie-begging.

And, y’know, it’s understandable to some extent. Privilege means we really haven’t been aware of all the awful crap going on, because we’ve been on the other end of it. Either we’ve been actively engaging in it, often without knowing that’s what we’re doing, or we simply haven’t been a part of it; unlike those marginalized, we haven’t had the consequences of that marginalization shoved in our faces every damn day. So when we have our consciousness expanded, our minds opened, our souls made aware of the pain other souls are experiencing, of course we’re outraged. And of course we want to distinguish ourselves from the people who perpetuate that pain. And of course we want to offer what solace we can to those who are hurt.

But that isn’t what these overblown protestations actually do. They rather serve to remind that the daily pain marginalized bodies experience is invisible, that most privileged people don’t know and don’t care, and that we are still just A Representation of a Marginalized Person to the protester. We are still Other, even if we are now a sympathetic other, and furthermore, our experience doesn’t matter nearly as much as their reaction to our experience.

Scenario Number 2:

This is for the more advanced Good Ally, who has been around the block a time or two and knows better than to protest in outrage as in Scenario Number 1.

Marginalized Person: “Aw crap, this Oppressive Douchebag just said Annoying -ist Trope #58.”

Privileged Person Who Likes Marginalized Person and Wants To Be a Good Example of a Person with Privilege: “Well, what do you expect, it’s an Oppressive Douchebag, we all know they’re like that, why, the other day I hear Annoying -ist Trope #72, and I went off on the douche, boy howdy!”

Marginalized Person: “…”

This seems to be a more reasonable response; after all, no longer is it expressing surprise at the douchebaggery of Oppressive Douchebag. But it’s still centering the reaction of the Good Ally, and it’s still basically cookie-begging.

So if not Scenario Number 1 or Scenario Number 2, how should we privileged folk react to Marginalized Person in this situation?

The Secret to a Perfect Scenario

There is no secret. There is no perfect scenario. And there really is no script.

Because “doing it right” means that we’ve stopped trying to Do It Right and are relating to this person in front of us as a person. Not as a Black Person or a Person With Disabilities or a Trans Person a Fat Person, but a person, who is also one or more of those things. And they’ve just experienced or witnessed something crappy — that happens all too often if not to them then to people like them, people they know, people in their community — and the goal ought to be to get past all the bullshit around How We’re Supposed To Act and just be with them, in compassion and friendship, while still acknowledging that there are things we will never experience but that we can strive to understand. We don’t ignore power differentials or skin color or relative place in society, but neither do we act out these scripts, playing the roles we’ve been assigned. The goal of privilege awareness and oppression politics isn’t to change the roles we’re playing — from Oppressive Douchebag to Good Ally — but to ultimately get rid of roles altogether, and just be together in shared humanity. We don’t get there by pretending power differentials don’t exist, but neither do we by centralizing them to the exclusion of honoring the person in front of us.

The problem with scenarios 1 and 2 above isn’t so much that the Good Ally has Done Harm to a Marginalized Person and gotten a Big Red F on hir Good Ally Report Card, but that ze has hurt someone, if only by being a reminder of all the ways in which Marginalized Person can’t be simply a person. No, whether to Oppressive Douchebags or Good Allies, they are a role, first and foremost.

The Moral

Sometimes I think Scenarios 1 and 2 are stages we have to move through when confronting our privilege for the first time. I think we scramble for any script we can to replace the one we know is flawed, handed to us by kyriarchy — anything seems better than that. And maybe it is. But we cannot rely on a New Script to let us finally Not Be an Asshole, because script-using — seeing each other as roles rather than persons — is, really, the problem.

It’s terrifying, letting go of the scripts, breaking out of the scenarios. It also takes a lot of practice. And we’re going to fuck it up. Frequently. And no one has the obligation to be our practice while we figure out how not to be a douche of any flavor, not even Good Ally, but we do have an obligation to keep trying to shed the constrictions kyriarchy has clapped on us. We have a responsibility to do this work, to not be assholes, whether we want to or not. But when we realize the result — being able to connect, really connect, with other people — we will know how worth it it is.

emovtypical/emovatypical

Emovtypical is a new word1, meaning those with emotions and moods which fall into the range which society expects. It is based on the use, largely in Autism circles but in other “mental disability” circles as well, of “neurotypical”, to contrast with the neurodivergent or neuroatypical, that is, those whose brains do not conform to society’s expectations.2

Emovatypical is the opposite: those with emotions and moods which exist outside the range society expects. As someone with bipolar disorder, I am emovatypical, whether or not I am stable (that is, exhibiting emotions within a societally expected and acceptable range) at any given time. The Man is emovtypical, even when he is exhibiting emotions society discourages in men, because while they are supposed to be prohibited to him, they are still a part of the range society generally expects.

In other words, it’s a way of talking about those with and without “mood disorders” in such a way that does not rely on the insulting concept of “disorder”. (Someone emovatypical may indeed identify as having a mood disorder; the point is not to prohibit that identity, but rather to not force it upon anyone.)

  1. I.e. one I made up.
  2. I have and will call myself neuroatypical at times, because mood and migraines originate in neurology, but as useful as I find that solidarity at times, I also think it helps to make the distinction at others.

“Drive away now, Mommy.” On first days and split hearts

I am sitting in a cafe, less than a mile from where my child plays, legs curled underneath me, foot wedged between the threadbare cushion and the underpadded arm to keep me from slipping down, reading a book on attached parenting.

This seems somehow profound; my life in a microcosm.

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Today, at almost exactly 3.5 years of age, the Boychick went to preschool/playschool for the first time. To say I’m ambivalent might be something of an understatement. A friend sent me this quote:

“I’m not sure it’s good to think back to my childhood memories, because I end up feeling happy and sad at the same time, and that gives me a weird ‘neutral’ feeling.” – Jack Handey

and although it’s meant to be funny, I find it simply and starkly true, and as apt for some of this parenting-now moments as it is for those parented-then memories.

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I am ambivalent because if I were to pick a school-related philosophy that I most agreed with, it would be unschooling — and here he is going to school. (Although as the name suggests, it’s far less “school” and far more “play”, with a daily rhythm but no strict schedules, and “enriching” activities — which is to say, all the crafty playful stuff I’m not particularly good at — but no academic goals.)

I am ambivalent because in the more just, humane world I am working toward, he’d have abundant free gently-supervised time with other children, of an even greater age mix than the 2-4 year olds he will get here — but we don’t live in that world now, and I know it, and I also work toward finding next-best solutions in our far-from-best society.

I am ambivalent because I write so much about his autonomy, how he is his own complete person and never merely an extension of me (even as I also tell of him being a part of me), but when faced with the truth that he will have experiences beyond me, without me, I want to clutch him close and never let go.

I am ambivalent because I feel the longing for my absent baby as a deep ache gripping my heart, and yet the lightness in my feet as I walk down the street betwixt diner and cafe at my own pace makes me feel I could walk a hundred miles without tiring.

And I am ambivalent about so much as talking about my ambivalence, because I fear attracting anti-homeschooling “well it’ll be so good for him to socialize” bullshit and anti-schooling tsking and community rejection.

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People keep asking me how the Boychick liked it, and I really don’t know how to answer. He said he had fun? And his teacher said there were a few Incidents (him on the receiving end, surprisingly), but he recovered well and played a lot? And he was the first of the eight kids to tell a parent to go away and drive off? And he says he wants to go back?

But also he didn’t talk to me for nearly five minutes after I came to pick him up. He didn’t want hugs, didn’t look me in the eye after I first came in the door, didn’t really connect with me until I’d sat next to him and ate grapes with him in silence for a seeming-endless two minutes. But then it was let’s-go-find-my-water-bottle, and the-driveway-is-lava-will-you-carry-me, and we-need-to-go-to-New-York-to-buy-a-plane-to-find-the-bunnies-because-they-escaped, and tearless farewells to the teachers, and easy transition into the car, and hugs and kisses and more hugs and more kisses before I can close his door.

I can feel the tsking and the blame and the judgment from some of you reading this even as I write it (“you should never have left your child there!” “you should have done this ages ago!”), and I cringe, and I want to delete this whole thing, and only write in the very-far-past-tense — five years ought to do it. Perhaps it’s my imagination. Perhaps it’s a lifetime immersed in a mother-blaming culture. Perhaps it’s my own voices using yours as a way out. Probably it’s all three.

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I find myself wanting to justify this decision, to explain and excuse and exculpate. I want to make you agree, to nod your head and say “Of course, of course, this is perfect, and you are perfectly right”, and through your affirmations secure the all-good future I desire. I want you to say it so I can believe it will be true.

I have so many fears. But I have hopes, too. And as always, the truth will likely be somewhere between, or encompassing both.

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Dear child, I promise you this: whatever the future holds for you, as you move ever further away from us, your father and I will be here to return to. If one path we try doesn’t work for you, will we try another — and if needed, another, and another still. I will never cease believing that all our needs can be met, even when I can’t see how; I will never place my good and your good in opposition to each other, even when it would be so easy. And though I’ll leave when you tell me to drive away, I will always, always come back. Yours, Arwyn

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