Saturday, December 30, 2006

'Not an Oxymoron'

Such is the tagline to Christian Feminist, a blog I just found through my Sitemeter*. Not for everybody, perhaps, but me personally, I love it. This post on Biting Beaver's emergency contraception (and subsequent abortion) story may help you understand why.

*Yeah yeah yeah, like you never check yours. Please.

I Have No Great End-of-Year Reflections

Just a list of things. That's all I got.

Stupid Things I Can't Seem to Quit Doing:

Drinking three 12-ounce mugs of strong coffee, eating nothing for breakfast, and then, 2 hours later, wondering why I'm all shaky and hypoglycemic-feeling. This happens at least once a week and every time, I sit there going, "Huh! Why do I feel so weird?" for at least five minutes, and usually ten.

Things That Smell Awesome:

With apologies to my vegetarian and vegan readers, the beef bones and vegetables I'm roasting to make stock with. Holy crumb.

I'm using this recipe, if you're interested. Yes, I know Emeril is a total douche, we've been over that already, but for a total douche, he makes some remarkably tasty things, like this horrifically expensive and decadent macaroni and cheese recipe that I save for special occasions. One teaspoon of it is roughly 873 calories, I think, but my, is it tasty.

If this stock comes out half as good as it smells so far it is going to be King of Stocks. If this stock were my kid, I would have to get a bumper sticker for the car reading, "My Beef Stock Can Beat up Your Honor Student." That's how good it smells.

Things I Am Embarrassed to Admit:

That I still tear up at the end of The Sound of Music, even though come on, is Christopher Plummer an asshole or is Christopher Plummer an asshole in that? (Actually, wait: Are there any movies in which Plummer isn't an asshole? Hey, is he dead or alive? I just realized I don't know.) In a just world he'd have married the baroness and Julie Andrews would have found a non-asshole guy to fall in love with. Why I get teary-eyed at the whole wretched thing, I do not know.

Your turn. Tell me some things.

That BBC Brain Quiz

First: Read this. Echidne is no slouch on statistics, and she's right that the questions are worded badly:

Notice how the emotional questions are left mostly vague but the systematizing questions have very specific examples, examples which all have to do with male roles in the society? For example, we are gently steered to think about odds in the sense of BETTING (still largely a male hobby). Then we are told to think about the ability to remember large amounts of information and the examples are FLAGS OF THE WORLD, AIRLINE LOGOS. Then there is stuff about MOTORWAYS. And references to very specific games of risk.

It would be fairly astonishing not to find the answers biased by sex even if systematizing was an equally likely characteristic of both sexes. Now think about how those questions could be changed to make the test less biased. Why not add examples which apply to hobbies women have? For example, in the statement about remembering large amounts of information, why not add an example to collections of Barbi dolls or 1930s jewelry or embroideries? And in the empathizing questions, why not give some specific examples that might apply not only to women's traditional societal roles? Something about what a man might do when coaching children in sports, for example?

Because that wouldn't prove that women are the nurturers and men are the leaders? Anyway, my results:

Part 1a: Making spatial judgments

You correctly matched 19 line(s) out of 20.

On average, men generally outperform women at this task, although it is important to note that many women score extremely well.

The first time I took this test I was at my parents', that is, on another computer, and of course the BBC didn't recognize a cookie for this machine, so I am actually re-taking it. But!--I have had a few drinks, for one, and the spatio-visual judgment ability is supposed to be the first to go when you imbibe; either that, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving have been lying to me all these years.

For two, the first time I took this I scored 14 out of 20, stone cold sober. So there are two differences here: The difference in my mental state, and the difference in my attitude. That last one's key.

The first time I took the test I was anxious about this part, because this is something every woman who hangs around male engineers for even five minutes hears: Women suck at judging space. Guys say this the way you'd say "all fats and oils contain 100 calories per 1-tablespoon serving." Not that you'd really say that, because what are you, Ladies Home Journal? Is that you, Marie Claire?

So the first time I took this part of the test, it was with an attitude of dread and a complete lack of confidence (how can I possibly score well at this?--I have a vagina!). And, like I said: 14 out of 20. Still higher than the average they give for females, but not by much. I was over-thinking it, peering at the page, paying too much attention to the timer (you have 10 seconds to match each angle).

This time, I decided to just go with what looked right, because I've got a buzz on and hey fuck it. This time, I did not glance at the timer once. I went with my first impression and ignored the part of my brain that wanted to measure the exact angles of each line.

Hey, ho, what do you know: Being halfway confident--that is, not consumed with fear of failure and incompetence--about your ability to do a thing helps you to do it better. See also, the self-help section of every bookstore in these United States. People, especially me, make fun of those books, but it should say something that there's that much money to be made in just telling people, "Hey, maybe you DON'T actually suck. Maybe you're even okay."

Part 1b: Spot the Difference

Oh man, this test is my childhood. Let me try to explain it without cutting myself out of the will:

One of my very close relatives can tell if you have moved an object within millimeters. Relation to other objects, angle of the moved object, distance from the edge of the surface it's sitting on--this relative can take one glance and spot it all. One of my very close relatives also used to assign me the task of dusting. In the task of dusting, it was very important that all objects removed to dust the surface underneath be replaced in their exact positions, within millimeters.

Look, I know that sounds bad. But everyone has a thing and this was that relative's thing. So I learned to study positions really closely and really carefully, but, here's my thing--this never came naturally. It is a lot of work for me. At the risk of giving away something about this test, this is typically considered a female trait, but it is a female trait at which I have traditionally sucked.

All a long way of saying I'm going to bomb this--I certainly did last time. Well, let's see:

The spot the difference task tested your ability to recall objects' positions.

You correctly identified 12 out of 14.

You incorrectly identified 0 objects.

Did you know that women tend to outperform men on this task? Some scientists think that women's oestrogen levels make them much better at noticing details of their environment and spotting changes.

Yes, it is certainly the estrogen, and not the fact that we're trained from early on to pay attention to this shit.

I admit I am kind of pleased about that 12/14, but the first time I took this I got 8/14, or just over half. And they haven't varied this test at all, so part of the reason I got 12/14 this time was because the layout didn't change, and I remembered some of it. Take the test often enough, and you could score 14/14.

Bleah. In my version of heaven, you can set any object down on any surface that you like, and whether it's in position or facing a certain way doesn't matter, and there is no dust ever at all, amen.

Part 2: The stupid thumb thing

You said your left thumb is on top. This suggests the right side of your brain is dominant.

The left side of your brain is said to be more adept at language, logic and linear thinking.

The right side of your brain is said to control your visual, spatial and intuitive processes.

I guess I should be drawing you shit instead of writing you shit, then, because my thumb says I'm so good at the drawing. Whatever and NEXT.

And now we have the part Echidne was picking on: Do you empathize or do you systematize? Guess which pays better, and heaven forbid you do both! Not much variance in the scores on this one from the first time I took it until now:

We asked the questions you just answered to find out if you are more of an empathiser or a systemiser.

Your empathising score is 12 out of 20. This is an indication of your ability to read and respond to others' emotions.

Your systemising score is 17 out of 20. This indicates how much you enjoy exploring the intricacies of systems, for example playing strategy games and putting together flat pack furniture.

Originally that was 13/20 empathizing, 16/20 systematizing. Weird! I guess I'm a mean drunk who doesn't bond with people for shit.

And I don't know what "flat-pack furniture" is, either, but I feel safe assuming it is something the Europeans came up with to make themselves feel better about living in drafty 400-year-old houses.

Although, I am typing this at a desk I assembled myself from about 17,231 parts, so I guess there's that.

The eyes and the mood thing:

I was average at this the first time and I'll be average at it again this time, because I don't just look at eyes. I mean, I do look at eyes a lot, but the second thing I look at is the mouth. The eyes are not enough to reveal mood. You need to look at the mouth and most especially the corners of it. Anyway, I'm not going through this one again because it was boring the first time.

The finger-length thing: I am totally a woman, and in fact on my dominant hand, the ratio is like 1.1. I am a freak! But I am a womanly freak. NEXT.

The attractive-faces thing: I like girly-lookin' dudes, according to the BBC. Then again, I think what they define as "masculine" facial features we used to call "Neanderthal" facial features. Anyway, I blame Hollywood and Duran Duran for this. Especially that John Taylor.

Part 6: 3D Shapes

19 out of 20, bitches. Both times.

The weird part is, I always thought I was terrible at this. You know what I think helped? Don't laugh, but: The Sims. Yeah, the computer game. Because I got really into designing houses for the little pretend people (BUT I AM NOT GIRLY, don't you dare call me that), and in doing so I had to get beyond thinking about 2-D floor plans and into thinking about, how is this going to look all over? From the front yard, the back yard, from all angles? Is it really a very good house if it looks like hell from the neighborhood screen? And so on. Sure, it's fake 3-D, but it does get you to realize: A floor plan is not a home.

And all that experience told me is, it's possible: It is possible that maybe if you gave your daughter a set of Legos instead of the latest Barbie for her birthday, women wouldn't suck and/or get to thinking they suck (when perhaps they actually don't) at this 3-D shapes business. I think this may be a skill one can hone. I do not think it has nearly so much to do with estrogen or testosterone levels in the womb as it has to do with plain practice, but what do I know.

Overall rating: About 7 points above the dude average.

Well? What did you get? Or were you smart enough not to waste your time with it?

Why I Do Not Post a Blogroll

Because I am lazy, and because blogrolls bring out the high school in people, and because really, what I read or don't read isn't actually any of your business.

I recommend this policy to anyone else who shirks maintenance, hated high school, despises ineffective feel-good activism, and doesn't care if his or her inbound links go to hell or not. It is a sound policy that will save you much annoyance.

You can tell me what to read and what to link to when you sign my paychecks. Until then, don't spit in free ice cream.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My Kitten is Going to Hell

Losing_my_religion, originally uploaded by ilyka_damen.

Almost better than he loves batting around pistachios, Shane loves getting to know Jesus, getting to know all about Jesus.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Quick Links

It occurs to me that I am leaving this weekend to visit my parents and I have completely forgotten to make any arrangements for the cats. Frantic phone calls to pet-sitting services will now ensue, right after I clean out the ol' news reader.

* Larry Summers (remember him?) gets holla-backed in this article on women in science that does what Summers should have done before opening his mouth, but didn't: Asks actual women in science what they think the problem is:

“The reality is there are barriers that women face,” said Kathleen S. Matthews, the dean of natural sciences at Rice, who spoke at the meeting’s opening dinner. “There are circles and communities of engagement where women are by and large not included.”

Organizers of these events dismiss the idea voiced in 2005 by Lawrence H. Summers, then president of Harvard, that women over all are handicapped as scientists because as a group they are somehow innately deficient in mathematics. The organizers point to ample evidence that any performance gap between men and women is changeable and is shrinking to the vanishing point.

Instead, they talk about what they have to know and do to get ahead. They talk about unspoken, even unconscious sexism that means they must be better than men to be thought as good — that they must, as one Rice participant put it, literally and figuratively wear a suit and heels, while men can relax in jeans.

Refreshingly, no mention of little girls preferring Barbies to dump trucks is made.

* "Holiday Stress Pushes Women to Comfort Eating:" Isn't there some article like this every December? More than one usually, too. I'm 37 and I know I have been reading variants of this article for at least 20 years. They start in November in the rag mags with titles like, "Get fit NOW to avoid extra holiday pounds!" and continue into January with "Eight simple exercises to trim away holiday fat" and the like. Not that women ever get a break from hearing about their gross bodies, of course, because come March it's time to whip us into shape for swimsuit season, and as the summer progresses we're continually reminded that it's "never too late" to drop a size or two, and before you know it it's November again and, ladies! Watch out for those holiday pounds!

You know, I am almost tempted not to read this article at all, because I am pretty certain that no one mentioned therein is going to suggest having men handle more of the holiday chores, or simply opting out of the excesses of holiday planning, or anything that might be effective or make sense. I told you, I've been reading this same article for years. Well, let's see what we've got anyhow:

Even in families where fathers play a bigger role in parenting, child caring and household work, "women tend to often still do more of the planning, do more of the nurturing, do more of the social and family organization" for the holidays, said Gordetsky, an assistant professor at the Tufts-New England Medical Center's Comprehensive Family Evaluation Center.

. . .

Women have to take care of themselves if they are to be able to take care of others, Gordetsky said.

Among the healthier methods experts recommend to cope with the holiday stress are opting for less elaborate festivities and saying no to that serving of delicious roast beef, lasagna, chocolate or chilled glass of white wine.

Yeah, that's about how I called it. Options remaining unexplored, because they're not as much fun to prescribe to women as that old standby, "Deprive yourselves:"

1. Not really giving a shit and rolling with the seasonal weight fluctuation. Who wrote about this recently? Oh, right: Hugo Schwyzer. If you ask me, Hugo's got the right idea. But that wouldn't make much of an article, would it? "Women: Don't sweat the extra pounds; you can take 'em off later." BO-ring!

2. Not feeling obligated to keep up with the Joneses: One woman interviewed admits that she cares more about decorating and holiday preparations than her husband does, so despite her 70-hour-a-week job, she ends up doing the bulk of it. These articles always have to find at least one woman like this so that the fellas can say, "See? You do this to yourselves!" Ignored in this line of thinking: The pressure on women from the advertising, retailing, and entertainment industries to do it up right.

3. Encouraging men to pitch in: So you like getting ready for the holidays more than he does? Ask yourself: What activities does he like more than you do, that you nonetheless participate in with him equally? A partnership includes give and take. If you've done any giving this year, it's time to take.

* "Breast Cancer News Brings a Range of Reactions:" Mine, I think, would be along the lines of "take this Prempro and shove it," but I understand that for some women menopause is a violently rocky ride. Still, see if you can spot the invisible hand at work in this one. Does a doctor urge Prempro on a patient before she's even entered menopause? Does another doctor provide free samples to a patient who's already stated she does not want hormone replacement? Are either of these doctors women? I'm not telling! You'll have to read it yourself!

* "Policy on Morning-After Pill Upsets Chile:" Aw, poor Chile! Saying anything more about this will only raise my blood pressure. Next!

* I see I have saved my favorite for last: "Chick Lit, the Sequel: Yummy Mummy."

Hold on, I gotta write a letter real quick.

Dear The New York Times:

Please have the author of that headline shot.



Now where were we? Right: Same place we always were, with women being defined by motherhood. Turns out you're only playing grown-up if you don't have kids:

Now that even an avatar of youth [Bridget Jones] has reached this milestone of adulthood, it raises the question whether chick lit, the genre that Bridget’s creator, Helen Fielding, all but invented, will finally grow up.

The answer appears to be yes. In 2006, new books by a host of writers associated with chick lit — Laura Zigman, Jane Green, Emily Giffin and Sue Margolis, among others — featured heroines with babies, former 20-something singles who had settled down with Mr. Right and swapped their stilettos for Bugaboo strollers. Similar tales are scheduled to appear in 2007, including “Shopaholic and Baby” by Sophie Kinsella, “Momzillas” by Jill Kargman and “The Infidelity Pact” by Carrie Karasyov.

Although many female authors aren’t happy about it, the term “mom lit” is used in book reviews and on blogs to describe fiction in which the experience of motherhood, perceived with something of the same rueful spirit with which Bridget and her sisters regarded men, is the central drama.

I have to be honest: I have never read chick-lit. No, wait! I read one--I picked up this in the airport one day. But I don't think books you buy in airports should count. Desperate times call for desperate reading choices, you know?

Anyway, if you want to know my number-one thing I hate about the child-having/child-free debates that occur online, it's this: The assumption that women who are without children are less than adult, frozen in immaturity. And that assumption goes so deep you can even get it from other feminists. Here's one recent example from a discussion at Feministe. The commenter, Kate, is responding to a child-free woman who tried to explain the gulf that broke open between herself and her friends who became parents:

If you have no dramatic turning point in your life over the span of 10 years, then I’d say you need to get out and take some more risks. Also, just it might be healthy to just accept the fact that people grow apart as they grow older. Like momma told you every year on the first day of school, you’ll make new friends.

I’m sure you’ll find a whole posse of like minded anti-change agents hanging at the local pub, holding onto the illusion that they are entitled to live lives of unending fun and carefreeness, otherwise known as immaturity and irresponsibility.

Just to warn you though, as one gets older, substances usually are required to retain the illusion. Alcohol is widely popular and is famous for its properties of keeping people stuck in early adulthood for the rest of their lives.

Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, about this repulsive remark reminds me of the attitudes towards women expressed by several members a certain online women's group with which I clashed recently. And it's happening not there, but at a feminist blog.

So what have we learned? We've learned that if you don't have children and you have difficulty adjusting to the lifestyle changes of your newly be-childrened friends, you've earned yourself a lecture on growth.

And now to figure out what I'm gonna do with the damn cats. (The boyfriend's already up visiting his family, so just dumping them on him isn't an option.) Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I Have a New Celebrity Pretend-Husband

It's official: Justin Timberlake has made me love him. I did not ask for this; indeed I tried very hard to resist it. But there is no getting around it anymore. I love Justin Timberlake.

My goodness, I remember when my mother started doing this--pointing out dudes nearly half her age as "cute." I AM A DIRTY OLD LADY. Oh, no, no, no. This is terrible! How did this happen? How?

I first got worried a few years ago when "Cry Me a River" came out. "Damnit," I grumbled to myself, "I don't want to like this song. I can't like this song! Well, I'm not going to tell anyone I like this song. I mean, I don't really like this song. It's just that it's kind of catchy, is all. And it feeds my Britney-loathing. That's all it is. It's not like it's a great song or anything. No, I don't really think I like this song. I just like that he took a shot at Britney."

But just as I'd convinced myself of that, I saw his bit on SNL with Kermit the Frog and, and, it was funny. "This is not me liking no Justin Timberlake," I told myself. "This is only me liking the guy playing Kermit. It's the puppeteer I'm giving props to here. Not that child Timberlake. Stupid boy-band graduate! Not my type. Not my type at all. I'm pretty sure I'm only laughing at 'the lovers, the douchebags, and me,' anyway."

My denial was going so well, and then the motherfucker had to go and do this.

I HATE TO LOVE YOU, Justin Timberlake. Just stop it! Stop it right now. Asshole!


Happy Crappy

I haven't been to New York City since the summer of 2000. That's too long. I need, I mean NEED, to see things like this:

Up the escalator I went. This is a massive gleaming escalator - it takes you up two stories, just to give you an idea. You are encased in a long gleaming white-tile tube - and plastered on the walls are pictures of furry brown bears - and also repetitive (like cult-brainwashing repetitive) advertisements for Charmin, the company that obviously foot the bill for this G-rated poop magnet in Times Square. (Maybe parents with little kids think pooping is cute, and maybe they feel the need to make going to the bathroom akin to a trip to Disneyworld ... but I'm an adult and I was strictly creeped out by the potty-training YAY FOR YOUR BODILY FUNCTIONS ambience of this entire place.)

I vote we make "YAY FOR YOUR BODILY FUNCTIONS" the official December salutation in these United States, instead of "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" or whatever. That oughtta take the wind out of Bill O'Reilly's sails, huh? Every time he starts up with his War on Christmas babbling, people can just shout at him, "Bill! YAY FOR YOUR BODILY FUNCTIONS!"

I'm serious. If we need to get a Constitutional amendment to do this, let's do this. This would do wonders for my December and yours too, probably.

HUHO-ish? Or Just Dumb?

(Here's what HUHO stands for, and here's the first collection of tips.)

It's from, of all things, a woman who created a calendar of her son's messy diapers that I learned today of, a sort of Cafe Press for publishing--you can self-publish books, calendars, etc. using their software, then set a price and put it up for sale online. I'm sure I'm the last person on the internet to find out about this, because I'm always the last person on the internet to find out about useful tools, because I'm too busy checking celebrity gossip sites for new feats of adequicy from Lindsay Lohan. I don't know why that is. It just is.

But I'm thinking, in my fumbled way, that maybe the online feminist community could really do something with this--a collection of essays, maybe, the proceeds from the sale of which could be donated to a worthy feminist cause or, hell, some of our own who could use a little help, women with mounting medical bills, no insurance, and no income; women on welfare; women who are doing their damnedest in bad situations. I don't know, really.

Is this a stupid idea? Has this or something like it been proposed 17 times before already, only to get shot down as impractical, stupid, demeaning, or all three? That's what I don't know.

So I'm asking you. What do you think? Any possibilities?

Monday, December 18, 2006

More on Tolerance, Via the 'War on Christmas'

Meryl has a quiz for you.

Don't skip the comments, which are illuminating in a totally non-Christmas-tree-light, wholly secular way.

Head, Meet Desk

Oh, my.

A relative of mine keeps sending me emails that do nothing but perpetuate urban legends, but luckily, that relative has never sent me this one.

I keep writing this relative back with explicit instructions on how to bookmark, or how to Google your topic against ("hook car door"), and so on, and so on, but . . . gah! Still the emails arrive. Urban legends are the new fairy tales. Hans Christian Andersen, where are you when we need you?

Draino + urine = the sex of your baby. Mm-hmm. Okay, back to the skull versus desk fight now.

P.S. The desk is winning. Ow.


I've had an email or two from friends asking me about the backstory to the craziness going on in the comments at Zendo Deb's and, to a lesser extent, here.

The backstory is, I can't tell you much about the backstory, because the backstory occurs in a locked Google group and, as one of its former members, I agreed to keep all discussion occurring in the group confidential. That's an agreement I'm happy to respect. It's also an easy one for me to respect because I've long since deleted any messages I might have had from it.

I do, however, reserve the right to talk about two things:

1. My reactions to some of the things I saw go on in the group, and
2. Any email that was not explicitly contained in the group. It goes out of group and into my inbox? Then it's property of me, myself, and I, baby.

I don't think I'll actually need to reference either of the above items to discuss the title of today's post, however. There's this confusion--deliberate, I think, in many cases--on the right side of the blogosphere with regards to tolerance. You'll see conversations like this:

Person 1: I really liked Stanley Kurtz's response to Andrew Sullivan. Didja read that one? It was great!

Person 2: Sorry, I don't agree with Kurtz. I see no reason why same-sex marriage shouldn't be legal.

Person 1: Marriage is between a man and a woman only!

Person 2: That's discriminatory to gays and lesbians. Marriage should be an agreement between two consenting adults.

Person 1: It's not discriminatory! Why should homosexuals get special rights, huh?

Person 2: They're not special rights, they're the same rights heterosexuals have already.

Person 1: I can't believe this! You mean you'd be okay with two guys living next door to you? Doing things together? Kissing each other goodbye every morning, in front of your kids and everything?

Person 2: [backing away slowly] Okay, you know what? I never realized you were such a bigot before. I, uh, I gotta run.

Person 1: Oh, priceless! The liberal's running away from an honest debate! HOW VERY TOLERANT is The Left!

And that brings me to item one of what tolerance isn't:

1. "Tolerance" isn't according all opinions equal weight unreservedly.

I don't respect the opinions of September 11 conspiracy theorists. I don't respect the opinions expressed in The Protocols of the Elder Zion. I don't respect the opinions of the KKK Grand Wizard, whoever he is. I don't respect the opinions of bigots, crackpots, hucksters, TRex, or Sean Hannity.

Each of us making informed decisions about which opinions have merit, which opinions should or should not be considered and addressed respectfully, is not "intolerance." Which is why every time a righty whips out a line about The Intolerant Left, he looks like an imbecile--because he is being one.

It's not that your lefty opponent is intolerant of your opinion, imbecile. It's that your lefty opponent thinks your opinion is without merit.

See also piny, probably the best writer the blogosphere has on this subject:

It’s the ol’ “tolerance of intolerance” chestnut, in other words. If you complain when someone attempts to criminalize your life, you’re not allowed to point out that he’s secretly just like you.

The second thing I'm just going to leap into without preamble:

2. "Tolerance" isn't quite the virtue you may think it is.

I have got to learn to be better about bookmarking posts I may want to revisit later because AS USUAL, there's one I can't find for this that I wanted. Astonishingly enough, I think this one was also by piny.

I'll have to get by here on a few definitions from the dictionary, tiresome as that is:

Main Entry: tol·er·ance

Pronunciation: 'tä-l&-r&n(t)s, 'täl-r&n(t)s

Function: noun

2 a : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own b : the act of allowing something : TOLERATION

3 : the allowable deviation from a standard; especially : the range of variation permitted in maintaining a specified dimension in machining a piece

You don't, I don't, and nobody does get a cookie for showing "sympathy or indulgence" to homosexuals, people of color, Jews, Muslims, or any other persons against whom rank prejudice has traditionally been leveled. The concept of tolerating "beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own"* has a colloquial synonym: To put up with. Archaically it had another: To suffer. It implies me up here, putting up with you down there--hopefully only temporarily and not for long, because my goodness you're insufferable, and I am very busy today. "Tolerance" is patronizing at its root.

Definition 3 isn't any nobler: The allowable deviation from a standard. That's fine with regards to materials and engineering, of course. With regards to human beings, however, this is why I am glad I have read some Ayn Rand: Because doing so got me in the habit of looking at phrases like "the allowable deviation from a standard" and immediately asking, "Who decides? Allowable by whom? Who determines the standard? Who determines the allowable deviation?"

The answer from social conservatives to each and every one of those questions has been issued clearly over and over again: White male Christians will decide. White male Christians will allow (or not). White male Christians will determine the standard, and it is themselves. White male Christians will determine the deviation, and it will be very small indeed, composed only of those deviants who say things the white male Christians like to hear (mainly, how rotten all the other deviants are).

That's who will decide the allowable deviation from the standard. Observing this requires only that you open your eyes and listen with your ears, but you can depend that the mere act of observing this will be portrayed as attacking and being hateful to, yes, white male Christian. Pay no attention to that man behind, etc.

Defensiveness is so out of control on the right that merely pointing out what's out there in plain sight is now considered a hostile act. And when it absolutely can't be rendered an act of hostility, it's painted as an act born of paranoia--see also, "Oh, you feminists, always blaming that nebulous patriarchy for your problems," or, "Oh right, I forgot that white male Christians are trying to bring about a theocracy. Why aren't you in a reeducation camp then, huh? If there's such a raging thee-AWK-ra-see in this country, I mean."

On the wall outside the registration office at my university are portraits of all the former deans of the school. They are all white. They are all male, and while it would be crazy to assume they have all been Christians just based on their portraits, it would be downright fatuous to assume the majority of them weren't. And according to some on the right, it is a hostile, paranoid, victim-glorifying thing for me to tell you this, however true it is.

I think it's fair and not particularly paranoid for me to wonder at this point for how much longer we'll be allowed to point out that the sky is blue.

I don't really like the word "tolerance," or its cousin "toleration," for all the reasons pointed out above and then some. But these are the words we use, even when we really mean "acceptance" or "mutual respect" or simply "live and let live" and even, "not being a hate-filled pus bag." So for now, I'll stick with it.

Finally, thoughts not specifically on what tolerance isn't, but on the subject in general:

3. Noting intolerance where it exists is not "identity politics," "victim politics," or any kind of politics at all. It is observing phenomena and calling attention to it. Human beings depend on their powers of observation for survival; we have wielded these powers for millennia. Turn off the talk radio and read a fucking biology book before you pull this nonsense again.

4. Being called out on your intolerance does not make you the "real" victim. It means another person thinks you have been intolerant, or are an intolerant person chronically and in general. You are free to dispute that on the merits or lack thereof. You are also free to throw a big ol' tantrum and cry about it, but that's what ear plugs are for--to spare the rest of us from it.

5. If you wish to appear tolerant, you must be tolerant. If you do not wish to appear tolerant, you must own up to your intolerance. It would be best for some on the right to ensure they all turn to the same page of the playbook--either the page that says "Of course I'm intolerant of queers, they're sinning against God and corrupting our country," OR the page that says "I am tolerant of GLBTs and won't associate with those who are not, for by tolerating their intolerance I inadvertently help to perpetuate it; further, by offending my friends, the intolerant offend me." But pick a page and stick with it, because trying to have it both ways doesn't work.

*I think this definition would be better if it included, along with beliefs and practices, identities differing from or conflicting with one's own. But I don't work at Merriam-Webster.

Alternate Pronouns

Yeah, why NOT "it?" What have you got against it?

Sunday, December 17, 2006


. . . as it's my weekend, and things are getting a little crispy in places around here, and you just never know when or whether someone's going to flip out, porque ese es el internet, blah blah blah, I'm putting on [sigh] comments moderation. Better safe than sorry, and this way I can chill out with a movie without worrying that someone's posted my address and a link to Mapquest with directions, or whatever. You just never know.

Y'all have a happy Monday.

UPDATE: I'll turn comments moderation off sometime Tuesday afternoon. That'd be Wednesday morning for some of you--Tuesday afternoon in the Moutain-time United States, and when I say "afternoon," I usually mean "4:00 p.m." So, almost evening, but maybe sooner. You never know. I might get all kinds of motivated.

I HATE comments moderation, even when I'm the one doing the moderating. No, especially when I'm the one doing the moderating. It means more work for me.

On the other hand, I did catch some nonsense about job-hunting and resumes this morning on this very post--which, nearly as I can tell, hasn't got a thing to do with either job hunting or resumes. And yet, it was clearly not a spam comment. It was from a poster with an unpublished Blogger profile, and it made reference to the two main places I have lived: The Northeast and the Southwest.

Normally, I would just assume a heavily attention-deficit-disordered person had wandered onto my blog; but as it happens, my currently most "Damn! Massive downer in the inbox alert!" emailer has both my real name and my place of employment, because no matter how careful you are, it is still possible to be an idiot on the internet. Example: Me.

So, one wonders. One does wonder. Wouldn't it be nice? If we lived in a world in which you said this, or that, and no one tried to take your upper millstone as a result of it?

There Are Exactly Two Things in Life I Know for Sure

1. The first time I locked my keys in my car--that is, approximately 10 minutes after I got it--my father instructed me thusly:

"If you always use your keys to lock the door, instead of pushing down the button and holding up the handle, it is impossible for you ever to lock your keys in the car again."

His advice is largely obsolete now, but not entirely. My boyfriend has the old-fashioned keys. Does he listen to my dad's advice, as I did? (The first time I locked my keys in the car was also my last.) Of course not.

If you have that type of car key, always use your key to lock the door, and you will never risk locking your keys IN the car ever again.

2. If you always type your opening HTML tag, then your closing HTML tag, and then arrow back in between them to fill in the middle, the only way you can leave an open tag is by accidentally hitting the "Insert" key and typing over your closing tag--and that's a far rarer occurrence than simply forgetting to type the closing tag.

Meaning: If you want to italicize text, you first type:




And then you arrow in between them, and type your italicized text.

Same for a hyperlink:

<a href=""></a>

OR, you could just do what my boyfriend did, and break the comments for an entire post by not including that final </a>, thus enclosing the comment "submit" button in a neverending a-href=, forever and ever, amen.

Hope you're enjoying the extra traffic, Pandagon.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Reading Assignment

This. I've been holding off linking it because I wanted to wait until I had time to add a remark or two of my own, but I don't want it to get lost or buried in my bookmarks. It's too good for that:

This started - or was finally triggered yesterday - by a post and the associated comments on a topic I actually have very little interest in: divorce. Villainous Company: Idiot... Suffice it to say, I found the vehemence of the attacks out of line considering that not one of the commenters were directly impacted by anything in the situation. Except of course that most of the commenters are firmly in the marriage/fidelity population and look askance at anyone considering divorce. No, that isn't strong enough. Ad hominem attacks, vehement attacks, proclaiming that their concept of marriage was right, and any other viewpoint was stupid or evil or whatever.

So for now, just read it.

(I admit I like it especially because the post Deb takes issue with, partly for the "vehemence of the attacks" within it and the comments, was written by a longstanding proponent of civility, or, translated into reality-speak, "I do so wish that Democrats would not call me names. It's really mean of those uncouth assholes." But I am notoriously uncivil that way.)

UPDATE: A few of my thoughts on this--not the ones I'd been meaning to get to originally, but for now they'll do.

So You Think Men Are Feminized Now?

We were watching The Sinister Urge last night, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, and the disk came with an educational short which has so far delivered three times the entertainment of the actual film.

It's called "Keeping Clean and Neat," produced by Encyclopedia Brittanica. And oh, boy, do those emasculating bitches at the Britannica do a number on one of the short's subjects, an eighth-grade boy named "Don."

Don's told to make sure he cleans his ears and between his toes in the shower. He is advised to keep a nail brush in the shower to scrub under his fingernails. Although instructed to shampoo only once a week, he's to lather twice so his hair will be "perfectly clean." Once out of the shower, he's to clean his brush and comb first so they won't dirty his clean hair. Don has to make sure the towels are all hung up neatly, the cap's back on the shampoo, and the shower, tub, and sink have all been wiped clean of any stray Don hairs. Eww, Don hairs.

You see Don earnestly shining his dress shoes, hanging up his clothes, and organizing his closet. Yes! Organizing his closet. And you hear the male narrator extolling the virtues of being "clean and neat" for what seems like forever. When we were watching it last night, the boyfriend made the crack that "by now, unfortunately, he's missed school," about 15 seconds before one of the dorky robots made a similar joke.

Don goes to a LOT of trouble to be clean and neat. No trucker hat over unwashed hair for Don, oh, no. No leaving the clothes and dirty towels scattered all over the floor for Mom to pick up. No jeans with holes in 'em, no baggy slacks. Don's so clean and neat it's almost prissy.

(The film depicts the clean-and-neatening of an eighth-grade girl, too, but that's another post. Ladies! Be sure to shampoo in the afternoon or evening, so you'll have time to put your hair up.)

Thing is, none of this was really news to me. I've seen my dad's elementary school pictures from the late 40s/early 50s. My father wore dress shirts and ties to school. Public school--PS 189, if that rings any bells for New Yorkers. My dad can't remember whether it was a city-wide mandate, or just something his principal did; but in that school, in that era, every boy wore a shirt and tie, every day. Forget Casual Fridays.

So! Tell me again about how neat, tidy men who take pains to dress well are signs of a culture increasingly hostile to masculinity, and all because of feminism? You can explain it to me after you put a high shine on them shoes, mister. I want to see lots of elbow grease.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Branding with Hot Iron

There have been a few poorly muffled snorts and giggles over Jon Armstrong's slideshow presentation at this conference, mostly over the length--95 slides in all. It has also been suggested in some quarters that the content is puerile.

I am not making that suggestion. I am trying to be a more positive person these days. I think the only thing to do, since I obviously missed the branding conference, is to engage the slideshow on its merits. I know almost nothing about marketing. I am hoping my interactions with the slideshow will teach me a thing or two, or at least get me started thinking about my online identity and how to brand it.

But I'm not walking us through all 95 pages of this. I vote we just skip forward 70-odd pages and get to the good stuff. Everyone, please turn your PDFs to page 77:

Think about the brands in your life.

Okay! I pick Tampax.

What makes them important to you?

They come in Super Plus, and I can get a box of 80 for pretty cheap at that store I probably shouldn't be shopping at.

It will often seem foolish on close examination.

I disagree, Jon's Slideshow. Bleeding through one's jeans doesn't normally connote super intelligence. It would be foolish NOT to Tampax, in that case.

But that is the essence of a brand.

I think I get it now: You don't want me to think about the actual Tampax product, you want me to think about the Tampax brand. No wonder we're having misunderstandings.

Well, the essence of the Tampax brand for me is that it sounds very similar to tampon, which makes it easy to remember, and that's important to me because my memory is a shambles anymore. See, Kotex I could potentially mix up with Rolex, and it is ill-advised, generally, to confuse tampons with anything else in the world. I'd look awfully stupid trying to tell time with a Kotex, and I don't even want to think about the other possibility.

So I guess what I have learned from this is that a good brand sounds like what it is. This seems reasonable to me, but still leaves a lot unexplained, like Prius and Yahoo and Starbucks.

The emotional response is weird.

Now you've lost me again. I thought we were talking about brands, not my period.

I have to ask: Did you really stare out at a conference room full of people, Jon's Slideshow, and break the news to them that emotional responses are weird? You have brass balls, Slideshow.

Embrace it and apply it to your brand.

Maybe I'm not cut out for marketing, because it's only just occurred to me that I should probably have a product or a service first before even thinking about applying brands, or applying weird emotional responses to brands, or--hey, was this covered in the first 70 slides at all? That's what I get for skipping.

It won't be easy.

All right, I guess, but do you have to be so negative about it? I was sort of looking to you for encouragement. I thought that's what slideshows were for. Instead you're just making me doubt myself, my emotions, my menstrual cycle, Tampax, and hybrid cars.

Building a solid brand can be rewarding for you and your customers.

How rewarding is it for Leta, slideshow?

Okay! Wait! Don't storm off. I admit that was a little nasty. A lot nasty. I just . . . see, this is why I'm so disappointed that you went negative in the last slide. That hurt my confidence, and now I'm lashing out, and I'm sorry.


Time for more skipping. I'm going to condense the next few slides into one because there is seriously a slide for every fucking bullet point on the advice list. People sat through this. People paid money to sit through this. This either proves that people are insane, or that I am the dumbest person on earth for not having thought of this instant-expert-on-branding gig myself.

If I started telling you guys I was a sex expert (I will not say "sexpert," because I like you, and because we've all long since forgotten about Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and that is just as it should be), would you buy it? What if I put it on slides? Would you pay me to learn how to sex it up like an expert? Do you know any people who might? Can you give me their addresses?

What if I applied branding to my sex expertise? What then, huh? Could you even handle it? SEXBRANDING: It's the future; I'm just giving you a glimpse of it.

And now, without looking ahead, I am going to make a prediction: I predict that some version of "dream big" will appear in the "Advice" section. Because "dream big" is the favorite advice of every slideshow presenter in America, and because I've watched a lot of infomercials, and because I once bought a set of Anthony Robbins tapes. On the one hand, I was 18 at the time. On the other hand, I handed over $180 to Anthony Fucking Robbins and I don't think that should be forgivable even if I'd been THREE at the time.

The advice on the tapes, by the way, amounted mostly to "Dream Big."

And now back to the slideshow!

Take your time.

Think conceptually.

Think abstract.

Don't be timid. Go big.

Beautiful. Can I get half credit for it being "go big" instead of "dream big?" I really think I should get half credit for that.

Advice 2

Oh no please no. Not more--

Advice 2
Did I mention the bit about taking your time?

Hire a pro. If you can't afford one, one will not be appointed to you.

Use professional tools. I'm looking at you MS Paint.

There should be a comma after "you" and before "MS Paint" in that last sentence, shouldn't there be? I know it's tacky to nitpick and grammar-cop like that but in fairness to me, the prior sentence DOES read, "Use professional tools." You mean like punctuation, slideshow? I hear that shit is awesome.

I am not even getting into the part where the conclusion of a 95-slide slideshow is essentially, "Hire someone who's actually good at this stuff. Really, what are you all sitting up here in Canada, in November, listening to me for?"

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

When Trainwrecks and Feminism Collide

How do I defend reading that blog? Simple: First, I like schadenfreude, and second, that Mr. Pickles, too often he gets it exactly right:

Since we pick on the moms so much that I thought I’d share this YouTube video condensing 9 months of pregnancy into 20 seconds, which you may have already seen. But the video is not the trainwreck. The video is perfectly cute and adorable; the mother-to-be gains what looks like a normal amount of weight, and she certainly isn’t “fat.” The trainwreck is in all the baby hater comments:

Well, you have to eat extra so the baby gets fed too, and sometimes I guess you eat a little over. Another reason I’m glad to be a guy.


you are really really gross!!


your belly was so beautiful on the first pic, than you got fat… so have fun with the baby, fatty. hahaha

Is there more?--Shit, is pregnancy rough on a body?

I'm going to overlook Mr. Pickles' incidental use of the term "twat" to describe a woman horrified by the prospect of pregnancy, because the larger point stands: It's a sad, miserable world fulla patriarchy if video (time-condensed video, even) of a perfectly normal human reproductive process elicits responses like those quoted above. But let's not focus on the larger point; let's go ahead and write me an impassioned objection to ever condoning use of the word "twat," because that is what blogs were made for: Unabashed, unchecked pedantry. Then again, you pedants were right about exactly how many instances of the letter "h" appear in "Cheetos," so maybe I'm not in the best position to judge?

(Not related at all to this post, but it's going to come up and I'd rather head it off here: There's something about announcing I'm on hiatus that is so liberating to me, I start posting again. It's when it feels like just another item on the to-do list that I can't tolerate it.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wherever I Go, There They Are

The Mormons always find me. I have no idea how. It would be scary/creepy, but Mormons are fairly benign little stalkers; all they do is send you friendly letters and invite you to church. They make sure to enclose a monthly calendar of events, too. It's nothing to seriously freak about, and yet . . . .

I made it a year and a half here without them finding me, which makes me wonder whether maybe my dad turned me in. He's done that before. He knows I hate it, but my dad's kind of an ass that way. I can hear him now:

"So they send you a letter once a month, big deal! I wish someone would send ME a nice letter once a month. It beats getting bills, you know? That reminds me, you're not back on the credit cards, are you?" And then we're off onto a big long nag. It's better not to bring the subject up at all. If he turned me in, he turned me in. If the honchos in Utah went crazy updating their national "Where the Mormons At?" database, okay. Either way, they found me.

A year and a half's actually kind of a long time for them. Gettin' sloppy, Mormons!

So tonight the boyfriend brings in the mail and he's sorting it and he stops at one piece and asks, "Do you know a Joseph and Emma Smith?"

"Oh hell," I say. "No. It's local, right? I have mail from someone in my town?"

"Sure do."

"Lemme see."

So he hands it off to me and I rip it open and the red Xeroxed calendar of events tells me all I need to know about what's up, but I read the first few sentences of the letter anyway:

Dear Ilyka:

My name is Emma Smith. I'm in the Ilyka's Town Third Ward. My husband, Joseph, and I moved to Ilyka's Town four years ago from Some Other Place. We have two sons, ages 8 and 5 . . .

They always think I CARE about any of this. That's what kills me. I start reading it aloud to the boyfriend:

I would really just like to get to know you. It doesn't have to be at church.

"Isn't that nice?" I say to the boyfriend. "She's perfectly willing to bring her Book of Mormon to the Village Inn, instead. To accommodate my apostasy. That is so tolerant of her."

"Don't they know you're Catholic now?"

"They don't CARE," I explain to him. "They think it's their duty to try to win me back, even though I converted to Catholicism and that's like barely one rung up from converting to Judaism for Mormons. They might actually respect a conversion to Judaism more, in fact. But whatever! Why can't they leave me alone to be an apostate in peace?"

"What happens," my boyfriend wants to know, "if you leave the Mormon church? What's supposed to happen to you when you die?"

"I think it depends. Like if I had a real testimony of the church, and then I left it, that's very bad, and I think in that case I go to something they call Outer Darkness, which is like hell. But I don't think I really ever got around to getting a testimony. I never quite advanced to the rank of True Believer, you know? So I think the worst I could possibly get is the lowest rung of Mormon heaven. It's like the Motel 6 of heavens."

"So no jacuzzi."


"Probably no room service, either."

"Definitely not."

"But you still get free HBO."

"See? That's what I'm saying. How bad is that, really? They're going to have to come up with a grimmer vision than Motel 6 to scare me back into three hours of church on Sunday."

"But if you leave the Catholic church--"

"--I'm going to Purgatory, right? I mean, best case, that's what I get."

"I think so, but I don't know. My mother would tell you you were going to hell."

"Your mother is crazy."

"Well, duh."

And that's what makes the possibility that my father reported my new address to the Mormons so hysterical. See, I'm a former Mormon who converted to Catholicism (and when I figure out why, I will tell you). But my father?

My father is a former Catholic who converted to Mormonism.

If he's wrong, he's going to Purgatory. If I'm wrong, I'm going to Motel 6.

Who's got the better deal here, Dad?

Feminist Sex

Subject, not object. Is it that difficult a concept?


You go, Helen.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

I Interrupt This Hiatus To Say

. . . "Cheetos" has no second "h" in it. No, not even in the singular. You are thinking of the cat. See, when you're bashing on the rightwingers with jokes about how they all live in Mom's basement and type with "Cheeto-dusted fingers," only, you render that phrase as "Cheetoh-dusted fingers," then YOU, not your insipid right-wing target, are the one who annoys. THERE IS NO SECOND "H" in "Cheetos." Even Dan Quayle knows this.

Next week: Why there is nothing inherently rightwing about Cheetos, and why couldn't you pick on Pringles for a change? Or nacho-cheese-flavor Doritos, the smell of which nauseate me something fierce, and I can eat Cheez Whiz without puking, so what does that tell you? It tells me that there is something in those Doritos that is just not right. Anyway, there must be dozens of other snack foods to pick on! This is America. Have you considered pork rinds?

And now let us return to my hiatus. Oh please yes let's, right this minute.

UPDATE: Do not argue with the fat lady. Or with Frito-Lay.

UPDATE II: I had this originally as "no 'H' in 'Cheetos'," even though there clearly is an "H" in "Cheetos," you know, right there after the C? But I was so enraged by people tacking on the second "H" that I--no, wait, that's not it. It's that I'm just that stupid.

UPDATE III: If you enjoyed watching me make an ass of myself this post, tune in next Saturday, when I angrily insist that there is no "U" in "Triscuits."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I Think Maybe This Blog's on Hiatus?

Patio_lights_2006, originally uploaded by ilyka_damen.

First things first: I owe a groveling apology to Miss Ginger, who asked me to contribute something to the 28th Carnival of the Feminists, to which request I said "Sure!" and then, well. I blew it. And in a week in which Christopher Hitchens grew gills and jumped into a tiny barrel (of gin), too. That is inexcusable. My behavior, I mean--there's never been any excuse for Hitchens'.

Next things next: Have a great December, and I'll likely see you in the new year unless I get drunk and turn on the computer, in which case I'll see you Friday night. Hey, that's tomorrow!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I Love Escapism

Scroll down on the link in the paragraph below unless you want to read about the montage from the Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling movie (you don't):

The song is so effusively congratulatory that it makes you want to believe anything. They should play this before amateur magic shows, or at church before the priest turns the crackers into Jesus’ body.

Totally true, and that's why I've played the damn thing at least twice weekly since downloading it a few months ago. But the part about me hearing it in my head when I'm lifting weights, that part is totally untrue and definitely a lie.