The Cliteratti’s Digressions

{April 4, 2008}   This just in from Babeland

Thanks for getting in touch.  I have heard of the Cliteratti before – 
are Teri and Allena in it?

I’m not really sure what you are asking for in your email below though.

Are you suggesting Babeland donate t-shirts for you to wear out to 
events?  if so, how many, what sizes and where would they be worn?

Are you asking for toys that you can review on your website or maybe 
to be a guest reviewer on  If so can you tell me how 
many unique hits you have a month on your site and how many page view 
you get – or how many people are on your mailing list?  if you are 
interested in being a guest reviewer for I’ll have to 
hook you up with someone else who runs that and i believe they will 
want to see a writing sample, but i’m not sure on that.

We do have an affiliate program where when folks click through from 
your website to ours and then purchase something then you get a 
percent of what they bought.  again, if this option is something you 
are interested in i will have to hook you up with another person who 
runs the affiliate program.

If you are ever doing a fund raiser, Babeland would be happy to donate 
an auction item or a raffle prize – so please let me know at least 3 
weeks before you would need a donation.

Please let me know if you had any other suggestions.

I’ll check my schedule when I’m back from vacation to see if i can 
make the April 19th meeting.

Audrey McManus
Seattle Education/Marketing Coordinator


{January 31, 2008}   Cliteratti in Arizona

 Speaking of strong women – take a look at this story about Gorm’s mom.

    Women have strengths that amaze men.
    They bear hardships and they carry burdens,
    but they hold happiness, love and joy.
    They smile when they want to scream.
    They sing when they want to cry.
    They cry when they are happy
    and laugh when they are nervous.
    They fight for what they believe in.
    They stand up to injustice.
    They don’t take “no” for an answer
    when they believe there is a better solution.
    They go without so their family can have.
    They go to the doctor with a frightened friend.
    They love unconditionally.
    They cry when their children excel
    and cheer when their friends get awards.
    They are happy when they hear about
    a birth or a wedding.
    Their hearts break when a friend dies.
    They grieve at the loss of a family member,
    yet they are strong when they think there is no strength left.
    They know that a hug and a kiss
    can heal a broken heart.
    Women come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
    They’ll drive, fly, walk, run or e-mail you
    to show how much they care about you.
    The heart of a woman is what makes the world keep turning.
    They bring joy, hope and love.
    They have compassion and ideals.
    They give moral support to their family and friends.
    Women have vital things to say and everything to give.


{December 29, 2007}   Womanifesto for 2008

So, I’m almost finished with Cunt. And it seems appropriate to come up with womanifesto’s for the new year.

What are yours?

Passed on by the lovely Ms. Fox 
 by Greg Palast
 December 24th, 2007

 [Quito] I don’t know what the hell seized me. In the
 middle of an hour-long interview with the President of
 Ecuador, I asked him about his father.

 I’m not Barbara Walters. It’s not the kind of question
 I ask.

 He hesitated. Then said, “My father was unemployed.”

 He paused. Then added, “He took a little drugs to the
 States… This is called in Spanish a mula [mule]. He
 passed four years in the states- in a jail.”

 He continued. “I’d never talked about my father

 Apparently he hadn’t. His staff stood stone silent,
 eyes widened.

 Correa’s dad took that frightening chance in the
 1960s, a time when his family, like almost all
 families in Ecuador, was destitute. Ecuador was the
 original “banana republic” – and the price of bananas
 had hit the floor. A million desperate Ecuadorans,
 probably a tenth of the entire adult population, fled
 to the USA anyway they could.

 “My mother told us he was working in the States.”

 His father, released from prison, was deported back to
 Ecuador. Humiliated, poor, broken, his father, I
 learned later, committed suicide.

 At the end of our formal interview, through a doorway
 surrounded by paintings of the pale plutocrats who
 once ruled this difficult land, he took me into his
 own Oval Office. I asked him about an odd-looking
 framed note he had on the wall. It was, he said, from
 his daughter and her grade school class at Christmas
 time. He translated for me.

 “We are writing to remind you that in Ecuador there
 are a lot of very poor children in the streets and we
 ask you please to help these children who are cold
 almost every night.”

 It was kind of corny. And kind of sweet. A smart
 display for a politician.

 Or maybe there was something else to it.

 Correa is one of the first dark-skinned men to win
 election to this Quechua and mixed-race nation.
 Certainly, one of the first from the streets. He’d won
 a surprise victory over the richest man in Ecuador,
 the owner of the biggest banana plantation.

 Doctor Correa, I should say, with a Ph.D in economics
 earned in Europe. Professor Correa as he is officially
 called – who, until not long ago, taught at the
 University of Illinois.

 And Professor Doctor Correa is one tough character. He
 told George Bush to take the US military base and
 stick it where the equatorial sun don’t shine. He told
 the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank,
 which held Ecuador’s finances by the throat, to go to
 hell. He ripped up the “agreements” which his
 predecessors had signed at financial gun point. He
 told the Miami bond vultures that were charging
 Ecuador usurious interest, to eat their bonds. He said
 ‘We are not going to pay off this debt with the hunger
 of our people. ” Food first, interest later. Much
 later. And he meant it.

 It was a stunning performance. I’d met two years ago
 with his predecessor, President Alfredo Palacio, a man
 of good heart, who told me, looking at the secret IMF
 agreements I showed him, “We cannot pay this level of
 debt. If we do, we are DEAD. And if we are dead, how
 can we pay?” Palacio told me that he would explain
 this to George Bush and Condoleezza Rice and the World
 Bank, then headed by Paul Wolfowitz. He was sure they
 would understand. They didn’t. They cut off Ecuador at
 the knees.

 But Ecuador didn’t fall to the floor. Correa, then
 Economics Minister, secretly went to Hugo Chavez
 Venezuela’s president and obtained emergency
 financing. Ecuador survived.

 And thrived. But Correa was not done.

 Elected President, one of his first acts was to
 establish a fund for the Ecuadoran refugees in America
 – to give them loans to return to Ecuador with a
 little cash and lot of dignity. And there were other
 dragons to slay. He and Palacio kicked US oil giant
 Occidental Petroleum out of the country.

 Correa STILL wasn’t done.

 I’d returned from a very wet visit to the rainforest –
 by canoe to a Cofan Indian village in the Amazon where
 there was an epidemic of childhood cancers. The
 indigenous folk related this to the hundreds of open
 pits of oil sludge left to them by Texaco Oil, now
 part of Chevron, and its partners. I met the Cofan’s
 chief. His three year old son swam in what appeared to
 be contaminated water then came out vomiting blood and

 Correa had gone there too, to the rainforest, though
 probably in something sturdier than a canoe. And
 President Correa announced that the company that left
 these filthy pits would pay to clean them up.

 But it’s not just any company he was challenging.
 Chevron’s largest oil tanker was named after a
 long-serving member of its Board of Directors, the
 Condoleezza. Our Secretary of State.

 The Cofan have sued Condi’s corporation, demanding the
 oil company clean up the crap it left in the jungle.
 The cost would be roughly $12 billion. Correa won’t
 comment on the suit itself, a private legal action.
 But if there’s a verdict in favor of Ecuador’s
 citizens, Correa told me, he will make sure Chevron
 pays up.

 Is he kidding? No one has ever made an oil company pay
 for their slop. Even in the USA, the Exxon Valdez case
 drags on to its 18th year. Correa is not deterred.

 He told me he would create an international tribunal
 to collect, if necessary. In retaliation, he could
 hold up payments to US companies who sue Ecuador in US

 This is hard core. No one – NO ONE – has made such a
 threat to Bush and Big Oil and lived to carry it out.

 And, in an office tower looking down on Quito, the
 lawyers for Chevron were not amused. I met with them.

 “And it’s the only case of cancer in the world? How
 many cases of children with cancer do you have in the
 States?” Rodrigo Perez, Texaco’s top lawyer in Ecuador
 was chuckling over the legal difficulties the Indians
 would have in proving their case that Chevron-Texaco
 caused their kids’ deaths. “If there is somebody with
 cancer there, [the Cofan parents] must prove [the
 deaths were] caused by crude or by petroleum industry.
 And, second, they have to prove that it is OUR crude –
 which is absolutely impossible.” He laughed again. You
 have to see this on film to believe it.

 The oil company lawyer added, “No one has ever proved
 scientifically the connection between cancer and crude
 oil.” Really? You could swim in the stuff and you’d be
 just fine.

 The Cofan had heard this before. When Chevron’s Texaco
 unit came to their land the the oil men said they
 could rub the crude oil on their arms and it would
 cure their ailments. Now Condi’s men had told me that
 crude oil doesn’t cause cancer. But maybe they are
 right. I’m no expert. So I called one. Robert F
 Kennedy Jr., professor of Environmental Law at Pace
 University, told me that elements of crude oil
 production – benzene, toluene, and xylene, “are
 well-known carcinogens.” Kennedy told me he’s seen
 Chevron-Texaco’s ugly open pits in the Amazon and said
 that this toxic dumping would mean jail time in the

 But it wasn’t as much what the Chevron-Texaco lawyers
 said that shook me. It was the way they said it.
 Childhood cancer answered with a chuckle. The Chevron
 lawyer, a wealthy guy, Jaime Varela, with a blond
 bouffant hairdo, in the kind of yellow chinos you’d
 see on country club links, was beside himself with
 delight at the impossibility of the legal hurdles the
 Cofan would face. Especially this one: Chevron had
 pulled all its assets out of Ecuador. The Indians
 could win, but they wouldn’t get a dime. “What about
 the chairs in this office?” I asked. Couldn’t the
 Cofan at least get those? “No,” they laughed, the
 chairs were held in the name of the law firm.

 Well, now they might not be laughing. Correa’s threat
 to use the power of his Presidency to protect the
 Indians, should they win, is a shocker. No one could
 have expected that. And Correa, no fool, knows that
 confronting Chevron means confronting the full power
 of the Bush Administration. But to this President,
 it’s all about justice, fairness. “You [Americans]
 wouldn’t do this to your own people,” he told me. Oh
 yes we would, I was thinking to myself, remembering
 Alaska’s Natives.

 Correa’s not unique. He’s the latest of a new breed in
 Latin America. Lula, President of Brazil, Evo Morales,
 the first Indian ever elected President of Bolivia,
 Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. All “Leftists,” as the press
 tells us. But all have something else in common: they
 are dark-skinned working-class or poor kids who found
 themselves leaders of nations of dark-skinned people
 who had forever been ruled by an elite of bouffant

 When I was in Venezuela, the leaders of the old order
 liked to refer to Chavez as, “the monkey.” Chavez told
 me proudly, “I am negro e indio” – Black and Indian,
 like most Venezuelans. Chavez, as a kid rising in the
 ranks of the blond-controlled armed forces,
 undoubtedly had to endure many jeers of “monkey.” Now,
 all over Latin America, the “monkeys” are in charge.

 And they are unlocking the economic cages.

 Maybe the mood will drift north. Far above the
 equator, a nation is ruled by a blond oil company
 executive. He never made much in oil – but every time
 he lost his money or his investors’ money, his daddy,
 another oil man, would give him another oil well. And
 when, as a rich young man out of Philips Andover
 Academy, the wayward youth tooted a little blow off
 the bar, daddy took care of that too. Maybe young
 George got his powder from some guy up from Ecuador.

 I know this is an incredibly simple story. Indians in
 white hats with their dead kids and oil millionaires
 in black hats laughing at kiddy cancer and playing
 musical chairs with oil assets.

 But maybe it’s just that simple. Maybe in this world
 there really is Good and Evil.

 Maybe Santa will sort it out for us, tell us who’s
 been good and who’s been bad. Maybe Lawyer Yellow
 Pants will wake up on Christmas Eve staring at the
 ghost of Christmas Future and promise to get the oil
 sludge out of the Cofan’s drinking water.

 Or maybe we’ll have to figure it out ourselves. When I
 met Chief Emergildo, I was reminded of an evening
 years back, when I was way the hell in the middle of
 nowhere in the Prince William Sound, Alaska, in the
 Chugach Native village of Chenega. I was investigating
 the damage done by Exxon’s oil. There was oil sludge
 all over Chenega’s beaches. It was March 1991, and I
 was in the home of village elder Paul Kompkoff on the
 island’s shore, watching CNN. We stared in silence as
 “smart” bombs exploded in Baghdad and Basra.

 Then Paul said to me, in that slow, quiet way he had,
 “Well, I guess we’re all Natives now.”

 Well, maybe we are. But we don’t have to be, do we?

 Maybe we can take some guidance from this tiny nation
 at the center of the earth. I listened back through my
 talk with President Correa. And I can assure his
 daughter that she didn’t have to worry that her dad
 would forget about “the poor children who are cold” on
 the streets of Quito.

 Because the Professor Doctor is still one of them.

After Grom received 3 abusive long voicemail messages about something minor. She never responded to me, but told Gorm she did not appreciate it. I didn’t understand because I don;t even have a kid. Apparently she forgot that I’ve been helping raise her child for almost 7 years. So was this out of line ladies?

Give What You Long to Receive

 “What goes around, comes around,” or, in more biblical terms, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” All of the major wisdom traditions teach us to focus on giving respect before expecting it from others. Behaving with your ex-partner in the way that you long for your ex to behave toward you is the first step toward not only creating a more civil relationship with your child’s other parent, but also toward reclaiming your own personal power. Begin by looking in the mirror and asking the following question: “Am I consistently and regularly acting toward my ex in the way that I long for my ex to act toward me?” The dictate to “Do unto others” is not easily achieved and requires discipline and compassion. It is always sad to watch a divorced parent railing about the vindictiveness or insensitivity of their ex, when they themselves regularly behave in uncivil ways — the cycle of family pain is going to continue, often with little ones in between. Most importantly, remember that you and your ex are always modeling for your children behavior for their futures. You and your ex are always, in a sense, standing before a blackboard, holding pieces of chalk and writing life lessons on the board. Remind yourself that it is your children who are sitting in the classroom scribbling in their life notebooks. If they witness hurtful behavior between their parents, they will hurt others. If they witness civility and peace, they will be a resource of peace in an already angry world.

Trade Eyeballs

Longfellow, the renowned nineteenth century poet, once said the following: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find sorrow and suffering enough to dispel all hostility.” Rosy words? Maybe. Timeless truth — definitely. All of the injuries that the divorce process creates can cause parents to demonize their ex-partners, to deny their humanity and their vulnerability, or to forget that there was a time when spending the rest of their life with this person was the most important thing in the world. This means that in the middle of angry or frustrating exchanges, it is easy and understandable for a parent to forget that the person they are now viewing as foolish or rigid is actually another human being with needs and concerns of their own. On one level, choosing to view the world, or a particular problem, through your ex’s eyes is a path to compassion that can dampen some of your own suffering: Remember when Toto, in the Wizard of Oz, peeks behind the curtain to reveal a frightened insecure person behind the false image of the fuming, frightening wizard? Peeking behind that same curtain with your ex can help you to remember his or her humanity and to feel less distress. However, if the idea of seeking to understand your ex’s position or struggle feels distasteful, remember that it is the choice to view a problem through the other person’s eyes that is often the most practical and skillful step employed by the world’s greatest negotiators. Trading eyeballs is a critical step toward negotiating successful solutions with your child’s other parent. You can’t come up with “win-win” proposals about such matters as visitation times, support questions, etc. without thoroughly understanding the needs and desires that are behind your ex’s demands, even if these demands appear foolish.

Become Clear Which Problems Aren’t Yours

In the complex relationships between ex-partners that often ensue after a separation, it is all too easy to become confused about which problems are actually yours to solve — it’s all too easy to become confused about which balls you need to pick up and dribble and which need to be passed to your ex, to your children, or to someone else all together. Your ex may call you to complain about your child’s behavior, implying that somehow you need to do something about it. Or he may call and simply state that he won’t be taking the children for his appointed week because he is going on a vacation. Or your child may come to you complaining that her mom is refusing to pay for her prom dress — as she had promised. You may be accustomed to instinctively protect, defend, or speak for your children, or you may be accustomed to taking care of a dependent, complaining ex-spouse. All of these scenarios involve the same dilemma: A divorced parent is presented with a problem by someone else (“Mommy won’t buy my dress,” “I can’t take the kids — I’ll be away”), a problem that is not actually their responsibility to solve. You can help yourself gain clarity about which problems to become tangled in and which problems to detach from by learning to recognize “unnecessary burdens”: problems presented by others that are actually the responsibility of others to solve. If it is your ex who is expressing the concern or making the complaint, if it is your ex who is feeling the most emotion about the dilemma, and if it is your ex whose life would most improve if the problem were solved, you are likely being confronted with an unnecessary burden. This simply means that you can choose to gently pass the ball back to your ex, indicating that you trust he will be able to solve the dilemma on his own (after all, it was not your choice to schedule an adult vacation during your custodial week — it was your ex’s choice). You may still choose to help with an unnecessary burden (you might find it to be a joyful opportunity to have your children with you for an extra week), but by spotting the unnecessary burden, you have at least alerted yourself to the option of passing the problem back to your ex.

Use the Five Cs of Good Communication

Despite any fantasies that you may have to the contrary, having children means that your ex will never be excised from your life and that the two of you will have to talk to one another — again, and again. Details will have to be worked out. Problems will have to be negotiated. Report cards will have to be passed back and forth. The five Cs of good communication with ex-partners can go a long way to smoothing troubled waters between the two of you. Before a hot topic conversation with your ex become Centered. Know what you want to say, and rehearse it. Consider multiple solutions to the problem in advance. Create a “won’t-do list” of the plans that will be entirely unacceptable to you. Keep your expectations low for the conversation: don’t anticipate respect, and then you can be surprised if it comes your way. Becoming centered means becoming self-aware and focused before ever laying eyes on your ex. During the conversation, be Civil. Offer your proposals or your complaints without attacking language, without references to past history, and without character slams. Behave as you would with a frustrating, yet vital business partner. Seek Compassion. This doesn’t mean pretending that you agree with your ex. It simply means seeking to understand their dilemma, while expressing yours, and letting your ex know that you have an understanding of her perspective. It means listening attentively to what your ex is saying and making it clear that you have heard her. Surprising your ex with understanding (“Suzanne, this sounds difficultÉ I know you want more time with the kids on weekends”) can go a long way to disarming an angry ex. Remaining Calm during a hot topic conversation is critical to responding logically, creatively, and without creating a volcanic event. As you feel your emotions rise, stop yourself from responding defensively and concentrate on bringing yourself into more of a state of calm. Quietly practice deep breathing, count to ten before you speak, imagine your ex-partner’s angry words striking a protective shield you have visualized in front of you and imagine his words falling harmless to the ground — whatever works for you. Simply choosing a strategy that effectively helps you to lower your own emotional arousal will prevent you from saying things that you later regret. The simple choice to propose a time out (or to say you have to go to the bathroom!) can help rational minds prevail. Creative responses are often needed in the dance between two angry ex-partners. These include finding one or two things to agree with in what your ex is proposing and stating this out loud. Poke fun at yourself. Find things to express appreciation about while you stick to your position (“Jack, I wanted you to know that I really appreciate the way you do Suzie’s braids before you bring her back to my house. She really loves it! Now, about the Christmas holidayÉ”). If your conversation about the hot topic somehow fails or falls apart, remember that one failed conversation does not mean that all is lost. It sometimes takes divorced parents months, or even years, to develop a way of resolving problems. Consider finding a neutral professional to whom both of you can go for co-parenting counseling or mediation (e.g., a psychologist, clinical social worker, licensed counselor, or mediator). Consider writing business-like letters or e-mails. If talking directly is too difficult, consider using a “kids log” to write important notes about how the children are doing at each home. Most importantly, remember that working again and again to create civil exchanges is one of the best gifts you can give to children who are caught in the middle of an angry divorce. Honor Your Ex’s Role as Parent Children are born into this world the product of two imperfect human beings. I often say the following to parents, somewhat tongue-in-cheek: “Your children have a right to both of your imperfections.” Nice words, yet tough to live by if your ex is behaving in foolish, upsetting ways. However, you may need to remind yourself that, through your children’s eyes, that foolish, disrespectful parent is someone that they love. Remind yourself that there are many different parenting styles that create healthy, happy children. Remind yourself that you cannot entirely protect your children from discomfort or unhappiness in their relationship with their other parent. Most importantly, remind yourself that your children are now traveling a somewhat private, sacred path with their other parent that needs to run its own course. Communicate to your little ones that you expect them to respect their other parent and that you are happy when they have a chance to be with that parent (even if you have to fake this last part!).

Create Peace Between Your Ears

“If he would only act like less of a jerk, my life would be better.” “If she would stop being such a bitch, the kids and I would be better off.” Notice the catch: Life will only get better if the other person changes. However, full maturity and even inner peace can only occur once we have embraced the reality that it is our interpretation of events, and not the events themselves, that causes our distress. George’s ex greets him at her door by saying, “You’re late again — when will you grow up?” He grows fangs and sees red. Sam’s ex greets him at the door with the same angry words, and he stays calm, offers an excuse, and apologizes. The events are the same but what happens “between the ears” of these two fathers must be quite different. Finding peace with a difficult ex often involves doing basic mental hygiene on yourself by softening what is happening between your own ears: Accept your feelings about your ex as a step toward self-compassion while remembering that you are not your feelings and moods and that you always can choose how to respond to your emotions. Avoid extremist thinking: begin to redefine frustrations with your ex as problems to be solved, rather than as catastrophes. Remind yourself that there is more to your ex than his difficult behavior (something other than his foolishness must have urged you to marry him at one point). Count the blessings in your life because there is more to your life than your ex’s pain-in-the-neck behavior. Ask if you are somehow contributing to the problem between you and your ex and work on your contribution. Finally (get ready — this is a tough one), consider forgiveness. Remember that your ex is going to blow it on occasion, just as you will. And even if you have been hurt in a “big way” by your ex, forgiveness is often one of the only routes to finally and completely letting go of old suffering and ushering in personal peace.

Don’t Be a Wet Noodle

Peaceful does not equal passive. Yes, it is true that your own sense of personal peace will be increased commensurate with the degree to which you yourself embody a peaceful attitude with your ex. However, acting with respect and civility does not mean becoming docile or passive, nor does it mean surrendering your own needs and desires. The choice to be peace-oriented does not mean that you cannot set limits on intrusive behavior, demand that your boundaries be respected, refuse to tolerate verbal (and certainly physical) abuse, nor does it take away your responsibility to be sure that your children are not being abused or neglected. Embody self-respect and self-protection for your children. Make sure they’re safe, and involve the authorities if you have reason to believe they’re not safe with your ex.

Keep Your Ears Small

Because we love our children, because protecting them is as basic to being a parent as breathing is to being alive, we often become intensely emotional, interested, and wrapped up in our child’s tearful or angry complaints about the other parent. In short, our ears get very big. As our little girl complains that Daddy was mean, or as our son complains that Mommy was somehow unfair, our own spousal resentments can quickly get confused with our desire to protect our children and cause us to overreact. Our children quickly see our ears grow large as we seem intensely interested in their complaint, and we fail to exercise the kind of cautious pause used by most good parents as their child runs in the door complaining that they were kicked by someone on the soccer field: we don’t quickly run out to angrily confront the child or their parent — we pause, gather more information, and figure out the best response. Unfortunately, we respond viscerally to our child’s complaints about our ex-spouse. We forget that there is a child in the middle who is adding his interpretation to life events and that it is possible we are not getting the full story. When parents respond with emotion and drama, children quickly learn that their complaints are highly valued information and become little cub reporters about their other parent, with the cycle of hostility continuing as the parent with big ears races to the phone to bark at their adversary. Learning to keep our ears small, to respond with emotional detachment, quiet interest, and empathy can go a long way toward dampening hostility in a divorced family. Control the Tribe “When we divorce, we often return to our “tribe of origin,” and the tribal members beat their war sticks around us, preparing to attack on our behalf. Loving grandparents, your brothers and sisters, or your new partner can unknowingly contribute to your long-term suffering by further poisoning the waters between you and your ex or by letting the children hear their derogatory comments. They mean well. They are trying to help. But they can often make things worse, both for you and your children. Insist that in your home and theirs, the other parent is always to be spoken of with honor, or not spoken about at all. Make it clear that it does not help reduce your stress when your parents, your siblings, or your partner decide to angrily confront your ex. Tell them that they can help reduce your distress in life by communicating in civil, cooperative ways with your ex, when such communication is necessary, if for no other reason than to create a sense of peace for your children as they move back and forth between the homes.

Focus on What You Can Control

It makes perfect sense to wish that your ex would control his or her temper better with the children. It makes perfect sense to wish that your ex didn’t feed the children Twinkies and Happy Meals during his week with the kids. It makes perfect sense to wish that your ex would put the children to bed at a decent hour. Perfectly sensible — yet you have failed over and over and over again to get your ex to listen to your complaints. Your ex isn’t budging and thinks your concerns are foolish. In the end, many parents have to face the difficult reality that despite their best efforts, their ex-partner is refusing to change. They have hit the proverbial “brick wall” and sit fretting and frustrated on the couch as the children leave for their other parent’s home with nothing having improved. Unfortunately, for such parents, every bit of additional mental energy that is put into trying to change their ex-partner is a bit of mental energy that they have wasted and that they no longer have available to use for themselves. Make the empowerment shift: begin by accepting your ex for who he or she is. Recognize that each of you has chosen a certain path in life, that you have made reasonable efforts to change your ex, and that it is now time to move on and focus where you really have power: on the way you are parenting your kids. Every time you find yourself mentally focusing on an aspect of your ex that won’t budge, quickly refocus on your own parenting and the gifts that you bring to your children. What do you choose to feed your children? How do you choose to handle your temper when you are angry at them? What bedtime do you choose? Continually insisting that an intransigent ex change in the way that you desire is like standing in front of a custard pie and yelling at it to “be apple!” Ultimately, it is a custard pie. If you love apples, go and bake an apple pie with the children that you love.

{December 1, 2007}   Jane Austen Must Die!
By Jennifer Armstrong, Sirens Magazine
Posted on November 30, 2007, Printed on November 30, 2007

Want to sell your book or your screenplay? Of course you do! And lucky you — I’m going to tell you how, right now, free of charge: Put the words Jane Austen in the title.

In the past few years, in particular, we’ve been assaulted by the beloved 19th century British authoress’ name with startling regularity at the multiplex and the bookstore: The Jane Austen Book Club, a good, if chicklitty, novel, followed by a film version; Becoming Jane, a pretty much made-up, highly idealized look at the romantic life of the writer that was a book and then a movie; the novel Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict; pretty much annual movie adaptations and readaptations of her works (including an admittedly stunning Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley two years back). Oh, and don’t think we’re done yet: There are Clueless and Bridget Jones’ Diary, two modern masterpieces modeled on Austen works, all the way down to lazy how-to books that slap her name onto the cover to legitimize their existence — The Jane Austen Handbook, Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating, Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners.

We’re overwhelmed by versions of heroines who are a touch feisty but always, in the end, well-behaved, and, god knows, assuaged by the locating of The Right Man. I’m as much a sucker for Elizabeth Bennett as Mr. Darcy is, but centuries later, is this the best we can do as a model of womanhood to continue regurgitating?

The closest we’ve come to making her more “modern,” more human, is to add a few pounds and an amusing trifle of a drinking problem and call her Bridget Jones. Men have grown up reading about the exploits of fictionalized versions of Hemingway and Kerouac, drinkers and womanizers who didn’t always learn valuable lessons or warm people’s hearts but somehow still offered plenty of insights into what it means to be male. (Imagine a book called “Confessions of an Ernest Hemingway Addict” or Sal Paradise reinvented as a popular Beverly Hills high schooler. No one would dare.)

Those men’s seminal works, in fact, addressed, at their cores, what it’s like not just to be men, but to be human. And to be clear, that’s not because men are naturally better at writing universal characters — it’s because male characters are simply more freely allowed to be messed up. Thus they’re the ones who become the classics, the ones who show us what life really has to offer to the flawed among us (read: all of us). Try telling someone your favorite author of all time is Kerouac, then tell someone it’s Austen. See the different reactions you’ll get, even though, for all my carping here, Austen was supremely talented. It’s not her fault she became apparently the only female author worth worshipping as a lifestyle. (“Virginia Woolf’s Guide to Dating,” anyone?)

God knows we’ve progressed in so many ways, but even though women are the clear majority of readers, we still, apparently, allegedly, don’t like our female protagonists to have faults — any of real consequence, anyway. Honest memoirs about real women’s real sexual adventures (like Cindy Guidry’s forthcoming The Last Single Woman in America ) are dinged as “tawdry” in some reviews. Meanwhile zaftig-narrator-confronts-minor-problems books have pretty much formed their own subgenre of chicklit because, of course, overweight = relatable flaw that women can handle. If you’re wondering why Sex and the City continues its stranglehold on the entire female population of America — we have — it’s simply because it’s one of the few major pop-culture touchstones that come close to depicting stuff we’ve actually gone through, even though it still makes a lot of us squeamish to admit it. And if those still wildly unrealistic Manolo-wearing, movie star-dating, dirty-talking girls are the closest our culture can stand to get to our reality, we haven’t come very far at all, baby.

Even more interesting is the fact that while the chicklit craze has retreated demurely into piles of cheap, powder pink paperbacks, women have — thanks to Carrie Bradshaw, et al., perhaps — started coming into their own on TV. Summer brought us some delightfully devious female anti-heroes (most memorably, Glenn Close in Damages), and a slew of “Sex and the City” knockoffs are arriving later this season (or at least they’re slated to, though nothing’s sure now with TV writers striking). Yes, it can get grating to watch wealthy people whine about their love lives over endless martinis. But there is at least the whiff of truth to some of the women’s struggles — one of the hotties in ABC’s Cashmere Mafia even has a real, live relationship with a woman (not a one-off kiss for ratings or even a Samantha-style I’ve-tried-everything-else affair). ABC, in fact, seems to have decided straight men are a lost cause as an audience after its blockbuster success with TV’s girliest (Grey’s Anatomy), gayest (Ugly Betty), and girliest-and-gayest (Desperate Housewives) shows, and in marketing to us has actually stumbled upon some genuine, multidimensional chicks. “Housewives,” despite various missteps along the way, became a phenomenon by taking some of the most traditionally female archetypes, mixing them with Douglas Sirk-like subversiveness and making them wonderfully human. Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes is so adept at writing flawed women that even though the show’s message boards flame with (well-founded) hatred for the main female characters this season — I’ve blogged some of the complaints myself — yet clearly those bitching are still watching, rapt, every week.

And that’s just the point: Women are watching this slew of complicated female characters on television, which makes sense to me. I remember reveling in my absolute hatred for Carrie one whole “Sex and the City” season when she toyed with Aidan. Why? Because I’d done something similar myself. I wasn’t proud of it in the least, but I could watch and see reflected exactly where I’d gone wrong, why it was wrong and why it was also just my own dumb (ultimately forgivable) humanity getting in the way. I could analyze myself through her missteps in a way that was perhaps a little too painful to take head-on in my own life. I could, in a word, relate. Not because we shared a body type or a silly penchant for double-chocolate brownies or a dumb-girl trait like an inability to balance a checkbook. Because her genuinely painful journey paralleled — and enhanced — my own, and I came out the other end the better for it.

This, my friends, is exactly what books are supposed to do. They’re better equipped to handle the nuances, the inner thoughts you’d never dare verbalize. It’s literally why they exist and why the book is usually better than the movie. First-person narration doesn’t have to signify only “breezy, mildly self-deprecating observations ahead,” as it has in so many of those throwaway pink books. The problem with the debate that has raged over chicklit’s value in society is that it clumps together far too many, far too disparate books, like saying all women are pretty much the same because we all have vaginas. Why is TV kicking literature’s ass in depicting complex women? Because publishers really don’t get it. It’s tough to prove what doesn’t get published, but I’ve heard it over and over in writing workshops, from agents, in getting my own work critiqued and hearing stories from other female authors: Make your main character more likeable. Why is she such a bitch here? Why so sarcastic? Wouldn’t it help if she were less aware of her own attractiveness? Or maybe less attractive? Or maybe just, you know, nicer? Who, telling an uncomfortable truth that needs to be spoken, is nice? Or likeable? It’s the quintessential problem of the good girl, the people-pleaser, the overachiever, writ large, with sinister marketing implications to back it up: Do we have to be nice even in the literature we write for each other? Shouldn’t books be our one refuge?

The reason for this conundrum is simple: We, as female readers, are not demanding more. And we should be, as the struggling publishing industry’s still-most-fertile demographic. Now is, in fact, the perfect time, as your favorite primetime dramas start dropping off the schedule if this screenwriters’ strike wears on and fly-by-night reality shows start taking their places. (After all, we all know how reality shows treat women.) Pick up a book — one that has absolutely nothing to do with Jane Austen.

Jennifer Armstrong is the co-founder/editorial director of

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

You may have heard about a recent court ruling regarding pharmacists’ ability to refuse to dispense medications while a court case on the issue is being decided.  Here’s what Planned Parenthood had to say:

 Federal Court Blocks Rules

Pharmacies Can Reject Valid Prescriptions 

A federal court last Thursday put on hold two rules (WAC 246-869-010 and WAC 246-863-095) enacted in April by the Washington State Board of Pharmacy. The rules required pharmacies to dispense medications regardless of individual pharmacists’ personal feelings about a particular medicine. On July 26, 2007, the day the rules took effect, two individual pharmacists and a pharmacy owner (Stormans, Inc.) sued the State of Washington, challenging the new rules on constitutional grounds.


Planned Parenthood of Western Washington, the Northwest Women’s Law Center and the Washington chapter of the ACLU are working together on behalf of seven citizen-intervenors, who received permission to enter the case on the side of Washington State.


Judge Ronald B. Leighton of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a preliminary injunction yesterday blocking the Board of Pharmacy rules from taking effect until constitutional issues surrounding the rules are decided. The rules, if allowed to stand, would require pharmacies to fill valid prescriptions and provide medications without discrimination or delay.


The case is not over. We are confident the court will ultimately determine that these rules are valid and that they were passed for the purpose of increasing access to medications for all Washingtonians. We’re also in conversation with legislators about potential bills on this issue.

Stay tuned to this important issue – we’ll be in touch whenever there are opportunities to take action on ensuring access to health care for all, without discrimination or delay!  THIS MAKES ME LIVID!! If you’re a pacifist – don’t join the military. If you can’t dispense prescribed medication – don’t become a pharmacist. 

{November 7, 2007}   Possible future book idea…

The attempt to ban abortion completely in South Dakota was a wake-up call to a lot of people about how reproductive rights really, truly are under serious threat from a radical right that’s got an entire package of ideas for what they’d like to do to women that doesn’t just stop at the right to terminate pregnancies. From the pro-choice side, a call was put out to protect reproductive rights through the same way we gained them, by telling stories and reminding people what is sadly easy to forget, that women are full human beings and deserving of full rights and dignity. Karen Bender and Nina de Gramont stepped in and compiled the anthology Choice. It’s a series of stories of women making reproductive choices, and not just the choice to have abortion, though there are plenty of stories about plain old early trimester abortions.

I interviewed one of the contributers, Susan Ito, on last week’s podcast, and have plans with Karen Bender to get more of the authors on to do what Susan did, read a few minutes from their pieces and answer a couple of questions. Susan’s story is called “If”, and it’s about her own relationship with her birth mother, an abortion she had when young and single, and another she had when she was married and desperately wanting the baby. It was, as you can imagine, that most demonized of abortions, a later term one. I asked Susan to read the part about making that decision, because anti-choicers would have you believe that women take lightly the decision to terminate so late in a pregnancy. I recommend checking out the reading and sharing it with anyone you know who buys the hype about late term abortions. There is nothing “pro-life” about attempts to ban this procedure that saved Susan Ito’s life. And for those Justice Kennedy sorts who think that women are too fucking stupid to know if they want to die trying to bring forth babies that are probably also going to die, Susan’s story demonstrates that these decisions are rarely made in a vacuum and involve—who knew?!—men. Yes, husbands, fathers, doctors, all contribute advice and opinions when a woman is faced with keeping a pregnancy or dying/being crippled for life. I won’t give more away; just listen to Susan’s story. It’s a good demonstration as to why grieving a pregnancy lost this way isn’t the same thing as regret.

The entire anthology demonstrates how reproductive rights are the best example of the adage about not judging a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. This book has everything, from women who do in fact “foolishly” abandon contraception use (turns out they might have more complex reasons than you’d think) to women who adopt babies from foreign countries (both the pro and con sides in that debate make it sound black and white and it’s not) to women who feel grief when they abort to those who don’t invest any value in the embryo at all. There are single mothers, lesbian mothers, straight married women examining their privilege, women who gave up babies for adoption, and even a tale of surrogacy. Some of the stories will make you uneasy, because they fall out of your ethical boundaries. But all of them show how you can’t say for sure how you’d feel until you walked in someone’s shoes, and why then the right to choose should be honored and enshrined into law.

Another huge benefit from the project of defending reproductive rights through the use of personal stories is that you begin to see the shape and place of men in this debate. The editors warn the reader in the intro, but it’s still a slap to the face how one story after another about abortion ends up telling a tale of male entitlement and male cruelty to women, as do some of the stories about other choices that ended up leading to babies. Not all; there’s stories about women who have accidental pregnancies they need to abort and have their boyfriends stand by them without being big babies about it. But it’s an appalling minority of the men in the abortion stories. None of this is to say that all men are bad or anything, but privilege allows that a lot more men act like assholes than they would otherwise, and it really drives home the point that the right to choose is fundamental to women’s liberation. You see this parade of men who treat women like crap just because they can, and you see how trapping women into bearing these babies is about making these women even more subject to male control and male abuse. You get pregnant and he accuses you of infidelity?* Since you got an abortion, it’s just another story from your past, not an ongoing child support and paternity testing nightmare. He’s a dick who slips the condom off during sex or threatens to have sex with other women if you won’t do it without the condom? Well, it was a mistake to be with him, but thanks to abortion, you can leave him behind completely, instead of keeping him and his misogyny around in you and your child’s life. You start having painful complications from an incomplete abortion, and he jets out of there, unwilling to stick around now that you’re emotionally needy and not sexually available? Thank god you weren’t tied to him before you found out what a douchebag he is.

And then you begin to really see why a male dominated, misogynist culture wants to deny women their right to control their reproduction. No story in the anthology drove this home for me more than “Harrison: Battling For The Chance To Make A Choice” by Harriette Wimms. Wimms was diagnosed with PCOS during a marriage to an abusive drunk and found that, despite the fact that her home was not the best for children, she was greeted with nothing but kisses and roses at the infertility clinic and the insurance company, because she looked on paper like she was properly obedient to patriarchy. Luckily, she didn’t conceive with her ex-husband, but when she starts another, healthy relationship with a woman, she finds that all the kindness she met in seeking treatment for her infertility dries up. Her insurance won’t cover treatments. Various doctors refuse to see her for “moral” reasons. She gets the message loud and clear: It’s better to have a baby with an abusive man and raise that baby in a miserable home than be Teh Gay. In her story, you see the issues starkly, that the limits on reproductive choice are set with the maintenance of the patriarchy in mind. Most of the stories of struggles have this theme running through them, but that story made it the most blatant.

*That always amazes me, since it’s usually men who would otherwise bristle at the emasculating idea that they shoot blanks.

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37 Responses to “Choice is more than a menu at Burger King”  

  1. ginmar

    I just had a woman post at my blog that her boyfriend told her to get out of his apartment, leaving her high and dry with nowhere to go. This is just a continuum of controlling and abusive behavior that men pull on women all the time.

  2. Amanda Marcotte

    What struck me in this book is how abuse and control is less an obsession for a lot of men and more the natural result of thinking of women as functional objects in your life. Like if she starts behaving in ways that are inconvenient (like getting pregnant or trying to prevent pregnancy), then it’s appropriate to treat her like a malfunctioning appliance. My car won’t start and I’m in a hurry, well, I kick the tires in frustration and no one really blames me for it. It’s just a car, who cares if I use it as a punching bag? It’s mine anyway.

    Yeah. That’s how it comes across. Not that it’s always hitting, but this general disregard for women’s basic well-being. Anything outside of functional use is considered irrelevant at best, an infringement on functionality at worst. Not that all men are like this, by any stretch, but this way of viewing women as objects is endemic and honest men will admit that even if they resist it, they get messages that it’s an appropriate way to view women.

    Choice then is treated by some sexists like a pure assault on them. I would probably flip shit if you gave my car “rights”, including the right to drive around by itself or simply refuse to drive sometimes. Other sexists don’t necessarily want children right now, so they view abortion as an appropriate thing to exist, but if they did in fact want the children, you can guess they’re be squawking. In fact, there’s some of *that* in the book, too, men who cannot believe that their woman-property doesn’t immediately assent to the desired pregnancy. But yeah, even pro-choice sexists show themselves, by their almost straining to demonstrate to their girlfriends how little they care if she got pregnant or how uncomfortable the abortion was.

  3. Lisa KS

    Having a baby you want to have is cool.

    That is the only thing about pregnancy that is. In all other ways on every possible level there is at every single time point prior during and after, pregnancy sucks ass.

    I applaud the men who try to understand that. However, even they really can’t. It’s a common theme from many men that “women don’t understand what it is to be a slave to your body!!” (talking about their muchly-culturally-hyped sex drive)

    It’s they that don’t understand what it REALLY is to be a slave to your body, your biology. If I lived in a world where I was as fertile as I am now and without a form of contraception that I had absolute control over my access to, I would probably end up dead in one way or another.

  4. annejumps

    I’m reminded of years and years ago when I read about Margaret Sanger observing as a child her mother basically being pregnant so often that it killed her. I don’t remember the details and I can’t recall the title of the book, and I may be conflating her experience with the other ones she related, but the gist is the same and has been repeated many, many times: Another pregnancy would kill her, the family knew, but to the husband, it didn’t matter. So she died.

    Now, of course, after all my feminist blog-reading, I’m not shocked by that. But at the time, it really made an impression on me.

  5. Amanda Marcotte

    No, you remember right, anne. Sanger touted watching her mother nearly die from childbirth as one of the fundamental experiences of her life. That particular childbirth didn’t kill her, and she went on to have more and died very young, worn out from child-bearing.

    Again, you can feel deeply affectionate towards a car. But you’ll still drive it until it’s worn out. And you may be sad when your car finally kicks it. But in the end, it’s just an object to be used. We shouldn’t treat people that way.

  6. ginmar

    I just read a story at Shakesville about men assaulting women (yet again) and blaming it on the way the women were dressed (yet again). They seemed totally unable to grasp the notion that the women were not put there to be abused. If women are things, then they’re to be owned and controlled, and a woman-thing cannot be an independent operator.

    Anne, I remember reading more of the same kind of story, over and over again. Those men basically fucked those women to death, and everybody condoned it and said, “Oh, gee, too bad so sad.” The same thing is still happening in developing countries and countries without legal abortion.

    In a sense the abortion fight is putting the cart before the horse because we still haven’t defeated the notion that women are less than human. They’re still things.

    Antoher thing: how creepy is the male view of pregnancy? Women contribute nothing to the fetus, is the classic notion. It’s all male material, male seed, male potency; the woman is just the flowerpot. The woman is just a passive recepticle who does nothing, gives nothing. That view informs a lot of the way men think. It’s the male line of descent in a nutshell.

  7. Amanda Marcotte

    It’s funny, the discovery of DNA demonstrated on a fundamental level that the conception of babies as being made 100% by men (with women as just the ground) was wrong on every level. And the patriarchal reaction was then to redefine “life” as beginning at conception, i.e. to say, “Well, it’s still ABOUT MEN, in that men are the only ones who can REALLY make a life.” The life-begins-at-conception thing is really an updating of the old notion that only men can make babies. It’s a culture-wide delusion, a way to erase what we see before our very eyes, which is that new life comes from women. We cannot conceive that women, who are inferior, could do something so profound, so we use law and custom to deny the obvious.

  8. ginmar

    And it’s even more funny when you realize that for much of history the only parent one could be one hundred percent certain of was the mother. Mitochondrial DNA is the DNA strand that traces the maternal line. By all rights, we should follow the matrinlineal tradition.

  9. Godmonkey

    One of the things I’ve always strongly suspected about the ‘pro-life’ brigade is that it’s quite probably peopled with hypocrites, just as conservatives as a group are manifestly hypocritical wherever sexual mores are involved.

    I wonder how many anti-abortion congressmen have, at some point in their pasts, quite merrily made a pregnancy “go away” and never looked back?

  10. Mighty Ponygirl

    Well… it might have something to do with the fact that DNA has now proven that it’s not a woman’s fault if she births a girl instead a boy–it’s now the man’s fault for creating the hated sex. So they have to compensate for this by taking complete ownership of the child.

    Or they start in on studies about how women’s pussies can be hostile environments to ‘boy’ sperm and kill them off so that only ‘girl’ sperms get through.

    Or they could do both, I suppose. Any way to make the good things about the menz and the bad things the fault of the wimminz.

  11. Ailei

    Ginmar, that’s exactly why the ancient Celts traced lineage through the maternal line – because they very practically realized that while you never really know who a father is, you ALWAYS know who a mother is. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that women of the ancient Celts had rights still denied to many women even today – the right to keep control over wealth she brought into a marriage, the right to take that wealth right back out upon divorce (which she was free to initiate for any reason), the right to bear military arms in combat, and as many as 13 different flavors of recognized marriage. The important male relationships in Celtic society, and where boys were fostered, was mother’s brother-son. I bring this up because it’s worth noting that within a couple generations of Christianity, women in Celtic tribes were reduced to chattel, and by the turn of the 20th century up till very recently, the Irish had the highest rate of domestic abuse in the Western world. Coincidence? I’m thinking not.

  12. ginmar

    You mean, Ireland, one of the strongest bastions of the woman-hating,virgin-worshiping Catholic faiths in Europe? Yeah, big surprise. I still remember the various cases where teenaged rape victism weren’t allowed abortions by a bunch of men in dresses.

  13. MissPrism

    And when it’s shown that conception happens in the woman’s body hours or days after sex, they try to redefine it again so that emergency contraception can count as abortion.
    Life begins at the end of the cock.

  14. ginmar

    Now where did my comment go? Damned spam bot.

    The Victorians used to conceive of the sperm as containing a tiny whole baby, which was just emplanted in the mother’s body.

  15. Mighty Ponygirl

    ginmar: It plumps when you cook ‘em.

  16. Dr. Hermione Granger, PhD

    Mighty ponygirl:

    you just made my day…possibly my whole week.

    i’m crying at my desk trying to keep the laughter in…

  17. Joy

    I’m always astonished how anti-choicers can reduce all abortions aside from those performed for health reasons (and SOMETIMES rape/incest) down to “inconvenience.”

    I think it must be that when you’re a fairly wealthy middle-aged white male who hasn’t stretched his empathy muscles in a while, it seems that someone in my position would just be selfish to not make some babies. But from the perspective of a new college student with nothing to her name save a few textbooks and no higher education or career to speak of yet, the idea of getting pregnant is ABSOLUTELY PETRIFYING. So why are women like myself always the preferred posterchild for those undeserving of abortion care?

  18. ashley

    Ailei: Where did you read that the Celts were matrilineal? I’ve studied a lot about them, and have never seen anything like that. Sure, they were less misogynist than a lot of cultures, but women still were subjugated. Look at CuChulainn and Emer’s relationship, as an example. Emer was still expected to be a virgin, though CuCHulainn boinked and impregnated Aoife. Granted, that story’s told as “Aoife’s only son” but it’s made very clear that Connla’s birthright came from his 17 year old father (who was considered a boy in that society).

  19. Dana

    Ailei, the same thing happened with a LOT of Native American nations. This is not common knowledge in America today, that many (not all, but many) of the first people here had matrilineal cultures with strong women who had equal rights to men or very close to it. Europeans destroyed that, just about utterly.

    I think the Din’e (Navajo) still have remnants of that sort of culture; I know that women’s brothers are still the primary men in their lives in that culture.

  20. tyro

    I need to get ahold of this book for my mother.

    She’s staunchly pro-life, being a Christian and a registered Republican, but I don’t think she grasps the whole issue fully–especially since I’m pretty sure she’d never had sex until she married my father. I haven’t asked her much about her sex life (she doesn’t talk about it at all), so I wouldn’t know for sure. I love the woman dearly–she’s sweet and intelligent and puts up with way too much shit from me–but there are several things I disagree with her on that I can’t quite explain to her. I think this book would help drive it home a little.

    I’d love to get into a solid discussion with her about a few issues, reproductive choice and LGBT rights not the least of which. It’s hard to do these days, though–I’m in college for most of the week and I don’t see her much on the weekends. Maybe over Christmas?

  21. bekabot

    Like if she starts behaving in ways that are inconvenient (like getting pregnant or trying to prevent pregnancy), then it’s appropriate to treat her like a malfunctioning appliance.

    I think this “malfunctioning appliance” thing is very much on the mark, and I’ve said as much before. It’s interesting that at no other time is a woman’s biological, reproductive functionality as readily apparent as it is when she is pregnant—she is, at that point, at least in part, transformed into a machine for making babies.

    (If this sounds like an offensive comparison to anybody out there, remember that “humans as biological machines” is a familiar Pandagon trope. To me it’s a comforting trope: I only wish more blogs were as dismissive of brain-frippery. But I digress.)

    Given that a woman is never more visibly a baby-producing appliance than when she is pregnant, it’s no surprise that lots of people, not all of them male, are offended to the point of fury when she refuses or attempts to control her role qua reproductive device. What does a woman mean by claiming that she’s not a baby-baking gizmo, when that’s obviously exactly what she is? Lookee, there’s a baby bump right there to prove it! What does she mean by telling such a shameless untruth? Just when her body agrees that she’s an incubator, there she goes running her mouth maintaining otherwise. Wimmin just don’t learn, I tells ya.

    This is why access to abortion is important. If women can be understood as conveniences, even necessary conveniences, at specific points during our lives, there’s no reason why we can’t be understood in identical terms at every point during our lives. If a woman is to be secluded and hemmed-in when gravid on the basis that she might not do what’s right for her fetus, then there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be secluded and hemmed-in all the rest of the time too, because, in that case, there’s nothing about her that precludes such treatment. If a woman is to be solely evaluated in terms of her biological functionality at any time, there’s nothing to stand in the way of her being evaluated in terms of her biological functionality all the time.

    That’s what all the “but she might make the wrong decision” stuff is about. It speaks to the fear that the mechanism might not perform as programmed. Guys on late-night talk shows tend to like to talk about the quandary they’ll be in when computers get to be smart enough to talk back. There are some people (again, not all of them male) who react to any sign that a woman might not want simply to succumb to a pregnancy with the consternation and existential dread of an angsty Dave Bowman confronted with a rebellious Hal. In their terms their reaction makes perfect sense. The mechanism is not performing according to plan. Red alert, red alert, red alert.

  22. PhoenicianRomans

    Ginmar, that’s exactly why the ancient Celts traced lineage through the maternal line – because they very practically realized that while you never really know who a father is, you ALWAYS know who a mother is.

    Not quite that simple, I’m afraid. Harris presents the argument that matrilineal, and more specifically matrilocal societies vs patrilocal societies are economically based. Can’t recall if he references the Celts though.

  23. PhoenicianRomans

    Harris presents the argument that matrilineal, and more specifically matrilocal societies vs patrilocal societies are economically based.

    Hey, neat – his texts are available online.

  24. blondie

    South Dakota looks likely to be a battleground again in the near future. According to the newspaper for Rapid City (South Dakota’s 2nd largest town), the anti-choicers are going to try to pass another anti-abortion bill. This time they are apparently willing to allow for exceptions for the health of the woman, rape and incest; so they think they’ll get an easy win. They’re really stoked!

    If you want to read the story, you can do so online. But I warn you, you will be highly offended by some severely anti-woman comments (there’s a comments section where online readers can comment on stories).

  25. BlackBloc

    Guys on late-night talk shows tend to like to talk about the quandary they’ll be in when computers get to be smart enough to talk back.

    I already trademarked the name “P.E.T.A.I.” for my activist organisation when that happens, alright?

    Because you just know the first thing they’ll do with a self-aware computer is to use it as a slave for some purpose or other.

  26. kali

    18: Ashley, I have no idea if the Celts were matrilineal or not, but when you’re talking about The Tain it’s worth remembering that many scholars think it was written with a specifically misogynist agenda, by a Christian propagandist who wanted to satirise the goddess culture. So you can’t really take its stories as fully representative of that earlier culture.

  27. Amanda Marcotte

    So, HAL was in the right?

  28. PhoenicianRomans

    This depends on whether you consider what Clarke did to [him] and [his] motivations in the later books canon or a sad sign of senility in a once great writer.

  29. Mark Foxwell

    In the very first 2001 book Clarke makes it clear that the reason HAL began to murder the crew was that he (hey, this would be a good time for a gender-free pronoun that doesn’t imply subhumanity! But “they” would be very confusing here…) was in severe conflict. HAL was designed as a scientific experiment in artificial intelligence, by scientists, and was supposed to be on a scientific mission–and all the ethics of science supports the ideals of truthfulness and prompt, accurate sharing of information, at any rate with trusted members of the research enterprise–such as the Discovery crew. But after the TMA-1 incident, when the signal was blasted to Saturn (Jupiter in the movie and subsequent books) the US guvmint decided to incorporate clandestine elements into the mission, and so HAL was under orders to lie to Bowman and Poole. Clarke explains that HAL didn’t “get” ideas like “national security” and “need-to-know” and was driving himself crazy worrying about accounting for not leveling with the 2 waking crew members when they arrived and the hibernating crew (who were briefed for the alien scouting and possible contact mission) were awakened. Hence, the psychosis or perverse choices or whatever we want to call it of first of all attempting to sever communications with Earth (the “malfunctioning” antenna units) and only when caught in that deception, killing off the human crew thus resolving the conflict. Clarke made it clear that it wasn’t so much that HAL was in any way “subhuman” in reasoning or morality, as that human ethics are in fact perverse and illogical and pathological.

    Little or none of this is explained in the movie; if you know Clarke’s backstory and then watch the movie you can see clues.

    As for going senile in the later books–I dunno, 2010 is a very good story. The worst thing regarding HAL there is Dr Chandra being a bit overmystical–”all creatures dream.” Probably not; placental mammals all dream, and perhaps there are dream-analogues in most animal lineages with a fair amount of brain development; I doubt insects dream; I doubt slugs dream–but it wouldn’t surprise me if octopodes have developed a dream-analog. There is no reason why HAL should dream while switched off. However if one were designing a true AI one might discover it is a very good idea to let it have periods of downtime with minimal obligation to interact with the exterior world and freely process; such designed dreaming would probably emerge as an engineering requirement to prevent mental degradation.

    Certainly if you prevent a placental mammal from dreaming, even allowing every other kind of sleep, we die within weeks. It causes observable brain damage to be prevented from dreaming.

    Anyway–it was clear enough to me, reading the original 2001 back when I was in 3rd grade in 1974, that HAL had reasons for what HAL did, and I don’t recall Clarke ever going back on that version in later books either. He muddied many waters, but not those.

  30. Mark Foxwell

    “Matri” vs “Patri”–if we are going to be precise and fussy, there are lots of fine distinctions to make. “Matrilineal” doesn’t necessarily imply “matriarchial” at all. In fact I’m not aware of any documented or strongly supported inferences of a “matriarchial” society in the sense of some kind of mirror image of patriarchy, where women are privileged and men degraded, anywhere in world history. I think I could make a much stronger case for societies I might call “matriarchial” where there is a much more favorable balance of power between genders.

    But matrilineality just means that society concerns itself with descent from the mother rather than the father; such reckoning can work perfectly well with social mechanisms that oppress women quite ruthlessly. To be sure there is a bit of a logical conflict between the implied conclusions of patriarchy and paying attention to the maternal line. But it is very much cart before the horse to suppose that oppression of women is rooted in some primeval mistake about reproduction that attributes all genetics to the father. No one would entertain such a silly notion if there weren’t already strong social tendencies to downgrade women. Once a patriarchy is well-established then switching over to a patrilineal family structure does tend to reinforce patriarchial “logic.”

    In Sarah the Priestess Savina Tubal makes the case that the foundations Hebrew identity were actually in a very strongly female-oriented spiritual and social tradition. She relies on many strands of argument; one is that the kinship patterns of Genesis (from the beginning of the story of Abram through the end of the book with the story of Joseph) make a lot more sense if we suppose Sarah and her descendents were following a matrilineal, matrifocal, ultimogeniture pattern–the scripture pays no attention to the fate of daughters, and seeks to frame everything in patriarchial terms, but in fact Sarah has just one child, Isaac, whom she makes sure marries a woman from their home-region of Ur of the Chaldees, back in Iraq–a kinswoman of hers. She has to marry Isaac into the family, he isn’t automatically even part of it, let alone heir to lordship. Then there is the story of Esau–the oldest son of Isaac, and also a strong warrior–versus the younger, weaker Jacob/Israel–whose mother Rebecca instructs him to scheme against old blind Isaac to steal the birthright.

    The logic of a patriarchy, being founded in militarization, puts a premium on father-son descent (despite the obvious problems) and on raising up a new generation of warriors as soon as possible–hence authority should pass from a patriarch to his oldest, firstborn son. That would have been Esau, who fit the patriarchial role perfectly. But he also married local, Canaanite, women, and that Rebecca would not tolerate.

    If you have a less militarized people, it might make a lot more sense to pass what special authority might be necessary to the youngest child, because the older children have a chance to go seek a place in the world elsewhere, but the youngest is around to take care of the parents when they get old and frail, and has the least benefit of the parents as allies in getting ahead in life, and so perhaps should be compensated by getting the best share of the parents’ inheritance. If the society is focused on enabling production and sharing it more or less equitably rather than scheming to steal the labor of others, it makes little sense for fathers to worry about their lineages but much for women to worry about who their children are. Hence matriliniality, matrifocality (defining oneself by the community/place the mother belongs to and not the father) and ultimogeniture–inheritance favors the youngest.

    I can read the sequence of generations in Genesis as relating to the transition from “matriarchy”–the above-mentioned peaceful-cultivator norms, plus Goddess-centered spirituality–to full patriarchy. Already when Sarah and Abram emigrate to Canaan from Ur, they are slaveholders and merchants (well, Abram is) and there is a lot of ugly power politics going on. Joseph son of Jacob participates in court politics in Egypt; with his story the people of Israel seem to fully transition to patriarchial norms.

    But even today, Jewish identity is matrilineal–you are a Jew if your mother was a Jew. By that logic the Jews are not so much the people of Abraham as the people of Sarah. And so it is in Genesis–Abraham has another son after all, Ishmael–but he is excluded since his mother is an Egyptian slave woman–and instead is supposed to be the founding patriarch of the Arab people. Genesis and Hebrew tradition kind of work around by naming their people not “Abrahamites” but “Israelites”–they pick a later generation and attribute the patriarchial descent to him, otherwise they’d be stuck with all these non-Hebrew cousins as equal sons of Abraham. But it makes a lot more sense to just define Hebrew as descendent of Sarah, in the various maternal lines, assuming that the wives that Sarah and Rebecca directed their sons to marry, Rebecca and the sisters Leah and Rachael, were of the same matrilineage.

    But to acknowledge that straightforwardly would undermine the patriarchial authority so zealously pushed by the later priesthood and rabbis.

  31. Luckynkl

    Only a man could think that his 5 seconds worth (and I’m being generous here) of contribution to the creation of a human being should not only be noteworthy, but entitle him to half, if not all the credit.

    If women had any sense, they’d just stop producing the mutants, and their severely degenerated X chromosome (which they stubbornly insist on calling a Y) which obviously results in a stupid, narcissistic creature with an over-inflated ego.

    I mean, what does the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” have to do with pregnancy, abortion or the price of tea in China?

  32. Phoenician in a time of Romans

    But it is very much cart before the horse to suppose that oppression of women is rooted in some primeval mistake about reproduction that attributes all genetics to the father. No one would entertain such a silly notion if there weren’t already strong social tendencies to downgrade women.

    A bit of looking suggests that it can be traced back to that master of plucking things out of his ass, Aristotle, which would imply it was as much an “anti-female” idea as his theories on ballistics “anti-artillery”. Of course, it may have stuck around precisely because it appealed to misogynist agendas. Galen got it correct.

    This may be a lack in the Wikipedia or a matter of my own ignorance, but I was under the impression that the Hebrews had this idea. Of course, the Bible is a compilation of works from people with different agendas – cf Robin Lane Fox’s introduction on the subject “The Unauthorised Version”

    The logic of a patriarchy, being founded in militarization, puts a premium on father-son descent (despite the obvious problems) and on raising up a new generation of warriors as soon as possible–hence authority should pass from a patriarch to his oldest, firstborn son.

    Again, look at that Harris text I referenced above (or read ‘Our Kind” – it’s very entertaining). He’s a cultural materialist – with reference to PNG and Native American cultures, he traces patrilocal vs matrilocal organisation specifically to forms of warfare – matrilocality was a specific response to situations which required males to be away for weeks or months at a time.

    He also argues that all ancient societies were ultimately patriarchial precisely because of the male claim to weapons, but that they were more or less patriarchial depending on agriculture and the division of labour – some forms of agriculture require more raw strength than others. He cites West Africa as having developed some reasonably equal societies precisely because they used short-handled hoes rather than plows.

  33. murcielago

    Also, plows are super bad for everything else, not only society. That is, they fuck up the ground and uptimately reduce its fertility. I’ll bet the short-handled hoe helped those societies last a good bit longer, too.

    On that note, I’m going to give a Pandagon Book Club recommendation right now, actually. At the Geological Society meeting last weekend, I bought a book called “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations” by a geomorphologist, David Montgomery, who personally talked me into buying it. Anyhow, it’s a really excellent book, and I think it’s worth getting the word out about it. It’s here on Amazon.

  34. Deoridhe

    If women had any sense, they’d just stop producing the mutants, and their severely degenerated X chromosome (which they stubbornly insist on calling a Y) which obviously results in a stupid, narcissistic creature with an over-inflated ego.


    Just … ew.

    Half of humanity is not a mutant, and generalizations of 49% of the population is bad.


  35. PhoenicianRomans

    Half of humanity is not a mutant

    Correct – we all are.

  36. celyn

    tyro: I grew up in a conservative household where “real Christians” were opposed to abortion (just like “real Christians” voted Republican, but nobody ever actually came right out and said the latter).

    The following book was very helpful for me in moving away from the attitudes I’d been brought up with:

    Abortion: My Choice, God’s Grace : Christian Women Tell Their Stories
    by Anne Eggebroten
    Hope Publishing House; New Ed edition (April 1994)
    ISBN-10: 0932727697

    It might be something to read and pass along to your mom.

  37. unrelatedwaffle

    Re: Godmonkey

    I don’t remember whether I was linked to this article from here or feministe or some other unrelated site, but it’s marvelous, and yes, a LOT of the pro-lifers are just plain hypocrites.

    “The Only Moral Abotion is My Abortion”

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