Thursday, September 13, 2007

Moving On

I've decided to consolidate all my blogs into one, so I won't be posting here anymore. Please visit the new blog at:

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Snowflake or the Handmaiden?

The recent article on the Daily Kos brings several disturbing questions to mind:

If embryos are to be recognized as "fully" human, what is stopping the state from insisting that they have a "right to life", even if it means requiring women to carry these embryos to term? What is stopping the state from requiring any woman who undergoes infertility treatment to be implanted with each and every embryo produced by her eggs? Will women who donate their eggs be tracked down and required to be implanted with the unwanted embryos produced from her eggs? Will the state start "recruiting" unrelated women to carry embryos to term? If the embryo has a right to life, and, as anti-abortion advocates believe, the right to inhabit a woman's body (and to leech off her body systems)against her will, will it matter to a Gileadian* state whether or not the embryo's assigned uterus is related?

The mind boggles and there is no escaping this conclusion: If the embryo has a right to gestation invested in it by the state, there is no limit to what the state could do to coerce women into providing the gestation. The only defense against this sort of reproductive slavery is abortion rights, which are actively being dismantled even as you read this post. If a woman has no right not to be pregnant, and an embryo has a right to gestation, who will win out: The Snowflake or the Handmaiden*?

*In Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale, the theocratic state which reduced women to their reproductive capacities was known as "The Republic of Gilead". Women who were "recruited" as surrogate mothers for infertile families were known as "handmaidens".

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mommy Wars: Part 458 1/2

Linda Hirchman is the retired philosophy professor who got everyone's shorts in a knot by suggesting that it is a VERY BAD THING when educated women give up their careers to become stay-at-home mommies.

This made many stay-at home-mommies and those who support stay-at-home mommies VERY, VERY ANGRY. And thus another shoe was dropped in the mommy wars. One blogger wrote a post on why
"Everybody Hates Linda". Hirchman, a happily married mother of three daughters, responded with a screed of her own. Now everyone is cross with each other.

(As for me, I can only be glad that after having my son and placing him for adoption, I chose not to have any more kids. I couldn't stand living in a world that judges mothering according to a sacrificial code: If your mothering doesn't involve making yourself uncomfortable and unhappy, you are a bad mommy. Period.)

Not that I have a whole lot of use for Hirchman's thesis, either. I agree with her premise that when highly educated, highly accomplished women retreat into stay-at-home mommydom, they play into the hands of those who would keep women barefoot and pregnant. At the same time, I also believe that children do best when their parents are able to focus much of their time and energy on them. But more importantly, I disagree with Hirchman's careerist assumptions: Most people do not derive their primary satisfaction from their jobs. Instead, people use their jobs as a way to make money and thus obtain satisfaction from their families, their relationships, their hobbies, and their communities. The recent trend toward 60+ hour weeks and uber-committment to one's job is largely a cultural phenomenon promoted by employers. It does not reflect the desires of the people.

I would argue that this is true among most of the "best and the brightest" as well: The very women that make up the so-called "Opt-Out" revolution. Even the highly educated and talented realize, I think, that their chances of making a truly lasting mark on the world is slim. They don't want to make the sacrifices that are required to get ahead in most business and law firms. It just isn't all that fun.

But at the same time, I am aware that the people who are the movers and shakers, those who are willing to claw their way to the top, have a huge influence on the world in which we all live. On one hand, I do want to see women as part of this group. On the other hand, I am uncomfortably aware that those who do make it to the top are the very people who were and are willing to ignore the needs of their families, friends, and communities in order to get there. This paradox is unsettling, and, in my opinion, is a much more important issue than whether women who leave the rat-race are doing the right thing.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Baptist Inquisition

Some time ago, the Southern Baptists got taken over by fundamentalists. The fundamentalists began a purge of "moderates and liberals" in their seminaries, churches, and other institutions.

After the fundamentalist take-over was complete, the Southern Baptists adopted a distinctly anti-feminist approach to gender roles. Although the Southern Baptists had never been a hotbed of women's liberation, the subordination of women in the home and the church had now become a matter of church doctrine. Dissention from this doctrine could and would mean losing one's job.

Here is a story of just some of those who got caught up in this inquisition:

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The New Welfare State

I ran this in my Livejournal back in 2003. I think it still holds true today. (FWIW, "Steve" is my husband of over 6 years.)

The New Welfare State

Steve and I got to talking about the various small injustices that piss us both off. Steve noted that there is now a "New Welfare State" in which small groups of people are victims of a "Tag! You're IT!" government or social policy. Some examples are:

Landlords are forced by non-discrimination laws to rent to people who are offered free legal protection/help from tenant unions once they stop paying rent. Cities don't want to provide quality low-income housing, but they structure their laws such that private landlords are forced to give free housing to deadbeat tenants. Sometimes these landlords end up losing their property entirely as a result of prolonged resistance to evictions.

Cab drivers are harrassed by the city for not driving in "underserved" communities despite the fact that cabbies don't "serve" those communities because doing so is both unprofitable and dangerous. These same cities cut public transportation services to and within these communities, and yet expect cab drivers (themselves usually poor) to compromise their own finances and safety to go where city busses and trains won't.

Parents of disabled children who are told that they are obligated to care for their own children in their own homes and that institutionalization is "unacceptable". Never mind that these parents frequently lack the financial, personal, and emotional resources to care for seriously disturbed or disabled children. Naturally, if something bad should happen to a disabled person who, say, has been restrained and dies in a housefire, it is entirely the beleagured family's fault.

Small towns are suddenly overwhelmed with a stream of new immigrants (oftentimes refugees from persecution and terror) are accused of being "racist" if they dare suggest that future immigrants find themselves another town to live in. Never mind that the needs of long-time citizens are being compromised and social services are being strained to their limits.

School districts are informed that a new school/community/group home for severely disabled children is being built in their area. The schools are required by federal law to accomodate the needs of 10, 20, 30, or more disabled students, even if their budget is already severely strained. When parents, teachers, and administrators protest, they are regarded as heartless bigots who hate the disabled.

Areas like Chicago's Uptown find themselves overwhelmed with the homeless, the drug addicted, and the mentally ill because the local alderman is the only alderman who won't oppose shelters, charities, and treatment programs in her ward. Meanwhile, the local park is now a urine-soaked, needle ridden, tent-city, street crime is common, and many citizens are afraid to walk around at night. Other city wards don't assume their fair share of the social-service provider "burden", and so Uptown (and areas like it) continue to have to manage as best they can under that burden.

In many of these cases, the "victims" are just normal, everyday people who were minding their own business until the state and/or special advocacy groups decided to dump a "problem" on them. These victims are then held responsible when they are unable to assume a responsibility that they never asked for, and really couldn't be expected to fulfill.

If we are going to have a "welfare state", let's be a little more honest about it and spread about the burden a little more fairly.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Suggestions for Those Who Wish To Help

. . .I'd like to offer the following suggestions for those who wish to donate time/goods/services/cash:

If you want to donate time/services:

1. Call before showing up at a shelter or a charity and offer your services. "Showing up", unless the charity has asked people to do so, can make more work for charity workers.

2. Specify your skills or talents to the person who takes your call: If they know off the bat what you have to offer, they can more quickly direct your inquiry and get back to what they were doing.

3. Be realistic about the amount of time you can volunteer: Don't leave a charity hanging because you bit off more than what you could chew.

If you want to donate goods:

1. Again, call the agency before you come over with a load of food, clothes, housewares, etc. The charity likely has limited space and may not have room for your contribution. Describe what you have to donate and try and offer an estimation of how much space it takes up.

2. Do NOT treat charitable donations as a chance to get rid of garbage or white elephants. While it is true that sometimes one man's trash is another man's treasure, more often than not, trash is trash to all men. Do not donate broken (test electronic/battery operated items first), soiled, torn, ugly, and/or out-of-date items.

3. Do NOT just "dump" your goods at the door of an agency. When you call to ask if they can use what you have to offer, ask about the hours during which they are accepting donations. Be prepared to take some of your stuff back if they can't use it.

4. Do NOT specially shop for food to donate, unless a charity asks you to do so. The reason for this is that charities often have access to government commodities programs and not-for-profit food banks and can obtain food for pennies on the dollar. It is ok to donate food that you have in your kitchen so long as the food is fresh (check expiry dates on cans and boxes).

5. If organizations are calling for clothing and household items, consider getting together with friends and purchasing a load or pallet from a merchandise liquidator (i.e.

6. If you have frequent flyer miles, you can often donate them through the airline. Ditto for points earned through incentive programs such as .

If you want to donate cash:

1. Be wary of telephone solicitations, scammers abound. Contribute via the charity's official website, phone number, or mailing address to be sure that your money is going where it ought.

2. Double the value of your contribution by donating through a matching fund at your office. Ask your HR department if they are offering such a program.

3. Consider donating to localsocial service agency affiliates and smaller charities: They have their regular caseload to support and they may not be getting the help they need from their national agency right now.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Crackdown on Bicyclists

The Chicago Police Department has recently instituted a crackdown on errant bicylists. I will confess that my first reaction to this story was one of mean-spirited glee: As a dedicated pedestrian (who has never learned to ride a bike or, for that matter, drive a car) I have had far more "near misses" with cyclists than I have had with car drivers. Cyclists consistently demonstrate a lack of regard for both established traffic laws and good common sense. It is about time, said I to myself, that cyclists be held accountable for their actions. (Just to make things clear, I am all for ecological and health benefits of cycling: I just think that cyclists ought to obey the Rules of the Road like everyone else.)

After a bit of basking the afterglow of civic minded self-rightiousness, I began to rethink my position on the matter. True, I do think that cyclists should be required to obey road laws, but I am also dismayed at the fact that the behavior of cyclists has gotten so bad that there is now a public demand for police action. Is this really a matter for law enforcement? Is there really a need for a special task force?

Perhaps there is. But I find it terribly tragic that such a task force should be necessary. Cops with guns are, sadly, probably the best "enforcers" of courtesy for car drivers. After all, the thick glass and metal of the car makes interaction between drivers/pedestrians/cyclists difficult. But bicyclists have no physical barriers offering them protection from interactions with fellow users of the streets. The cyclist can get up close and personal with a pedestrian and ought to be able to see and hear the protest of the pedestrian who has been cut off while turning down a corner or who has come inches away from a collision with a cyclist. Yet, it would seem, bicyclists don't care: As long as they can speed off in their own metal contraption, they will not respond to the pleas of fellow citizens, only the threat of criminal penalty will motivate them to change their behavior. The modern cyclist (much like the modern automobile driver) doesn't care about her neighbor's welfare nearly as much as she fears interaction with the criminal justice system.

The irony of this, then, is that the very institution that people fear and despise (the police) are given even more power by the cyclists. By rendering a citizen's ability to confront a wrong-doer impotent, the errant cyclist has, by default, made the police officer society's primary enforcer of civility. The fact that this enforcement is being accomplished by the threat of deadly force or imprisonment, rather than by a concern for the safety of one's neighbor, ought to be disturbing to driver, cyclist, and pedestrian alike.