Gender Notes: A short note about Greenland

December 19, 2014

Greenland looks pretty massive on the map. It’s actually only sparsely populated (about 57,000 residents). I don’t really know what else lives there. In my mind it’s just polar bears and the ghosts of dead Vikings. But what they have done is attempt to de-institutionalize sexism in a way the U.S. should pay attention to.

We can’t even pass an Equal Rights Amendment in this country. (Is Phyllis Schlafly dead yet?) The glass ceiling is cracking but it’s still there. There are more women serving in Congress than ever. In both houses there are 120 women serving (of 635 possible seats), and more coming in January. But guess what? Not one of them has grey hair, unlike the men. Elizabeth Warren (who I would like to see in the White House ASAP) is 65 years old and dyes her hair just like all the women there. What does that tell you about political equality?

Greenland has passed several laws to ensure gender equality and has a Gender Equality Council to insure that institutional blockages are dealt with. The economy of Greenland is based mostly in fishing, but in public sector work there are twice as many women working as men. This dedication to gender equality may be rooted in the traditions of the native Inuit people who practice flexible roles as well as the influence gender values in other Nordic cultures.

This is the stuff you look up when your a stay-at-home parent and the baby is taking a quick nap. I like to think of all the places we will take Cozy when she is older. She will spend plenty of time in Mexico, which has had a tortured history around gender (The Pope vs. the Virgin of Guadalupe is just one example.) Maybe we should plan a trip to Greenland. May 20th is “Gender Equality Day” in Greenland. How are the polar bears in May?

*And please feel free to share this with ANYONE in Greenland. I would love to get their perspective.

Cozy’s dad is on TV again.

December 18, 2014

I’m getting good at doing things with a baby on my man-hip. I’m not sure if peeing should be one of them. I am definitely not an expert in child rearing. I have Facebook for that.

When Andrea was pregnant, I felt like I was the first person to ever have this idea, reproducing. Having a kid. Apparently, women have been having babies for decades. Nearly 6000 years, according to some Christians. That’s a long time! The point is that, as it turns out, I have a bunch of friends in Portland and on-line that are experts.

I do hold some expertise on some topics. As a criminologist and sociologist with a PhD, there is a whole range of topics I can offer perspective on. I was live on KATU this morning talking about the Kim Jong Un/Seth Rogan Sony international crisis. I talked to KGW on the subject yesterday. Live interviews are always more fun. I got to say, “We spend trillions on the war on terrorism and with just one vague threat, America folds like a cardtable after a poker game” on live TV. I practiced that line so I wouldn’t say that America folded like a poker game, which half-way makes sense but requires a working knowledge of poker.

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Usually, I’m the “hate crime” guy. I’ve done a million interviews on the subject, from 60 Minutes to Good Morning America. I’ve been on shows from Gangland to (my favorite) The Sally Jesse Raphael Show (Hey, it was a free trip to NYC. And yes, I was hung over on the show.). My mom Googled me once and called me in horror finding all the hits that were connected to hate groups. “Those people really hate you,” she said. Believe me, I know.

If you’ve got a mass murder, serial killer, gang activity, terrorist bombing, police or school shooting, I’m your man. You can call me the professor of mayhem. When the news is bad and you need two more minutes to fill your newscast, call me. You know I’m good for a soundbite that will link today’s tragedy to the “big picture.” I know the research and the academic language but let me try to frame it so Joe the Plumber, who probably lives in the right-wing of society, can process it.

Now, let me say, I say “no” to lots of interviews. Even more now that I’m “with child.” I learned my lesson after a local news station asked me about a dead cat on a railroad track and the chyron below my talking head said, “Randy Blazak, Voodoo Expert.” There are lots of people at Portland State who are experts on topics I can only Google, so I often say, “Call Professor So and So in the Psychology Department. She knows more about this than me.”

[FULL DISCLOSURE: Driving into KATU at 5:30 this morning, they were discussing the Sony hack on NPR and compared it to the US hack of Iranian nuclear power plants in 2010. When I got to the green room, I Wiki’ed Stuxnet and worked it into my interview a few minutes later, like I had a big fucking brain. Expert!]

Society has an over-reliance on experts who supposedly know something more than the common schmo. I do read the research and obsess about data and so I might have some insight on something. But, personally, what I am trying to do is offer a critical perspective of power and institutions that has disappeared from the mainstream media. I can put a tie on and get a few lines in about institutional racism and maybe Joe the Plumber will think, “Yeah, that makes sense.”

Where I try to do this the most is around discussions of gender. Viewers do not expect a radical feminist perspective to be coming from a white guy in a corduroy jacket. I can use the authority of my privilege like a Trojan Horse to at least make allusions to patriarchy and destructive forms of masculinity.

After one horrific school shooting, I was live on KPTV. I turned to the camera and channelled my friend, Jackson Katz, and said, “I want all the viewers watching this to imagine that all these school shootings had been done by girls instead of boys. Don’t you think every newscast in the nation would be talking about gender right now?” There was a lot of positive response from female viewers. (One male commenter called me a “college pussy.”)

I hope this expertise is of some value to my daughter. Not that her dad is on TV all the time, but that he has something to say about power. There is value in speaking truth to power, even if you are not an “expert.” And it should never be a one-sided conversation. That would be me if I was a preacher.

Talk Box: Sociology Professor Randy Blazak on Ferguson

My baby is smarter than you! (and me.)

December 17, 2014

Baby brains are freaking freaky. They absorb and process more information than ours could ever hope to. You’re trying to utilize Rosetta Stone to learn a second language and it’s just too difficult. Babies are processing language cues constantly. How many bilingual kids do you know that make you look like a moron? When I was doing research in Prague there was a four-year old girl named Zuzanka who would laugh hysterically because I could not say the word “čtyři” properly. That’s the Czech word for four. Are you smarter than a 4th grader?

According to Dr. Frederick Wirth, author of Prenatal Parenting (2001), “At birth the human brain weighs only 25 percent of its eventual adult weight… An infant brain’s metabolic rate during his first two years is three times that of an adult.” Basically, baby brains are hyper-active sponges organizing every possible bit of data and building the brain around that data.

I love watching Cozy’s neurological development. The first time she recognized my face and then the first time that she recognized my face and smiled. The first time she grabbed her mother’s hair. The first time she realized she could see more if she raised her head. The first time she figured out that if she opened her mouth, a spoonful of pureed banana would come in (and that if she closed her mouth, green beans would not). I think she’s just a few days away from speaking complete sentences.

Obviously, my daughter is in the top 1 percent of all babies that have ever existed. She makes those Baby Einstein posers look like knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers. I can see her at Cambridge busting Stephen Hawking’s balls. We’re at the grocery store and she is studying the layout of the shelves while the other babies are just drooling. (Of course she will be raised to not devalue the other 99 percent of drooling babies, but somebody’s gotta take the lead.)

Today is her 4 month birthday. I can’t believe I’ve been staring at her bright eyes for 4 months. We began the day by watching Obama’s press conference about opening relations with Cuba (She approves). Later we worked a bit on learning ASL. Sign language is the second language skill I wish I had so it’s fun to learn it with her. The sign for “milk” is almost as awesome as the sign for “milkshake.” (Look it up.)

She also learned an important lesson today. You can’t laugh and cry at the same time. I interrupted a crying jag by blowing belly farts on her tummy and I could see the wheels spinning as she tried to laugh and cry simultaneously. #Fail. She also learned today that if she sticks her finger in Daddy’s ear, she might pull out something sticky. I also leaned that lesson.

It’s so cool to watch her synapses connect thought and action. She can already hold the bottle by herself (freeing dad to blog) and when she does Bridge (as we call it in yoga), it’s time for her diaper to go bye-bye. She is still having some confusion about the dream state and the waking state. That’s a fun one in the morning.

Of course the gender imprinting is happening as well. Every day I wonder what I would do differently if she was a he. And then I let her cry just a little bit longer. Just a little bit. I recognize that biology and hormones may play a role, but it’s never to soon to discuss quantum physics with baby girls. Stephen Hawking’s balls await.

This book is available at Powell’s independent books by clicking the cover below.

My daughter’s first words will be “What the fuck?”

December 16, 2014

Parenthood offers plenty of surprises. It seems like everyday there is something new. A lot of it has to do with bowel movements. Some of it has to do with my own stress level as a stay-at-home dad. Yesterday, Cozy was screaming for her afternoon bottle. I got flustered and spilled half the pumped mother’s milk on the counter. What the fuck?

I swear a lot these days. I try not to but it just comes. I would like for my daughter’s first word to be “intersectionality,” but I have sneaking suspicion it will be “whatthefuck.” It’s possible it could be “fuckaduck” which is the more child-friendly version I’m trying to move to. I recognize that that phrase my create later problems with waterfowl, but it just seems less harsh. For infants, it’s all about the tone.

I try to be zen, but sometimes it just overwhelms me. Sorry. She’s peeing while I’m putting a new diaper on. What the fuck? She’s screaming bloody murder while I’m singing “Yellow Submarine” to her. What the fuck? She puked up 90% of the milk I just gave her and it went down my pants (Don’t ask). What the fuck? She was crying for the bottle and now that I have it ready, she’s asleep. Fuck a duck.

Many what the fuck moments have to do shit. The shit is leaking out the diaper and running down her legs (both of ‘em). What the fuck? Her diaper-liners are shit-stained beyond redemption. What the fuck? That wasn’t poop, just a big fart (after taking off layers of clothes). Da fu? While changing her, her ass becomes a firehose of baby shit, soaking the carpet brown. What the fuck and fuck a duck.

Then the WTFs get exported to everything else. Where are the wipes? What the fuck? Why won’t the microwave work faster? What the fuck? I forgot to eat lunch. What the fuck? Mom’s watching TV when there is a giant pile of laundry. What the fuck? The Walking Dead isn’t back on for months. What the fucking fuck?

I know, I know. What’s new about this? Maybe I just need to lay off the coffee. But I know there are big WTF moments coming for my daughter. Soon it will be, “I gotta poop in that? What the fuck?”  “What do you mean, ‘You’re just a girl’?” What the fuck? Then comes, “Wait, I only make 80% of what you make? Seriously, what the fuck?”

Modern society gives us too many of these moments of incredulity. Sometimes I feel like I live in Whatthefuckistan. From streaming rivers of baby poop to the top stories on the 5 o’clock news (She hears WTF then, for sure). I should be immune to it. But I don’t want my child to be immune to it. I want to protect her but also instill a certain amount of naivety so she can react like human and not a jaded baby who has already seen it all. Deep breaths, but I mean, really, what the fuck?

“Oh, house husbands are so great!” and other double standards.

December 15, 2014

Andrea and I had a rare Saturday night out. (Thank humanity for family willing to babysit.) We were sitting at our local bar next to a guy who was lavishing praise on me for being a stay-at-home dad. (He stayed home with his dog, so he knew.) He then went on to imply that my wife was giving up something up essential. I missed it but it went straight to Andrea’s heart. What working mother doesn’t carry some guilt? (And maybe working fathers should share said guilt.)

How many double standards does sexism create for women? The slut/stud one is obvious. Then there’s the beauty standard. Women need to be better at their job than men and look good while they do it. Me, I look like a slob and slack off a bit too much. But there’s another one that is worth discussing. The duel parenting standard.

I can’t lose. As a man, if I shuffle off to the 9 to 5, I am a good provider. I am playing the role that every traditionalists thinks is the backbone of modern society. If I stay at home to raise children (as more and more men are doing), I get constant pats on the back as a “trailblazer” and challenger to domestic gender roles. But for my wife, it’s the exact opposite. If she stays at home with the baby, then she is viewed as “giving up her life” for diaper changes and kitchen chores and if she returns to work, she’s seen as somehow depriving her child (and herself) of a precious mothering experience. You can see how it could make a mom a bit nuts. She can’t win.

In the 2000s, there started to be this backlash against “supermoms,” who greedily wanted it all. The result of evil feminism was to deprive women of the thing that was essential to their femaleness (changing diapers and kitchen duty). You thought that job would make you happy? Now you’re just a man in drag. It was pitched as the opposite of Friedan’s “feminine mystique.”

But those conservative “post-feminist” critiques (as usual) ignored the power of patriarchy. The 2nd Wave vision (We will discuss feminist waves soon) in the 1960s was that women would be able to pursue careers, as men had, and men would take up the slack at home. Firemen became firefighters, mailmen became letter carriers and stewardesses became flight attendants. But men didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Don Draper didn’t start vacuuming and planning meals. It was the men who still wanted it all; a self-actualizing career and dinner on the table at 6.

So that gave birth to the supermom burnout. Mom’s didn’t have it all. They had to do it all. In 1989, Arlie Hochschild referred to this as the “second shift.” She’s got a job and responsibility for the care of the family. Mom gets home from work and then goes to work. Where is dad? Hey, he’s had a hard day at the office. Get off his back!

Society is a work in progress, especially in the good ol’ USA. Gender roles are evolving. Anthropologists can tell you that there are tribal cultures that can go for centuries with little social change. Europe in the Dark Ages was just stuck for over 500 years. We are light-years from 1954, but we are still looking for balance.

So let’s stop the judgment. Judgement of women who choose to stay home or choose to work (we can discuss women who are forced into these roles, as well). Don’t assume that a stay-at-home dad is a hero. We live in an economy where more women are working than men (I blame Wal-Mart). The rise of the modern house-husband is a delayed but natural response to ideas the feminist movement had 50 years ago. But it’s also just natural. Praise for one parent shouldn’t come at the expense of the other.

This book is available at Powell’s by clicking the cover below.

 

How to get the right woman.

December 12, 2014

There’s a lot a guides out there that will help fellas “get the girl.” There’s even a mega-creep named Julien Blanc who runs seminars that instruct bros on how to use violence and abuse to “pick up chicks.”

‘Dating Expert’, Julien Blanc, Recommends Using Violence To Have Sex With Women

I might have been interested in what he has to say when I was 19. But I’m a man now and (straight) men need women, not “girls.” There are guys my age who never get that. Apparently, there are people who don’t know that I got this a while ago.

Every time I look at our daughter Cozette’s perfect baby face I’m reminded how lucky I am to have met Andrea. I went through a lot in my life to be finally be ready for her to arrive. I didn’t pursue her. She came for me. I flew the feminist flag but never really figured out the last pieces of the puzzle until this decade. My shrink gave me a reading assignment. The New Rules of Marriage (2008) by feminist therapist Terrance Real.

The first chapter really hit home. It was essentially about how couples are teams, not competitors. Most battle-tested husbands will tell you that you can never actually “win” an argument. But I spent much of my relationship time “proving my point” and “defending my position.” The important response is to shut up, listen, and be empathetic. I joke to my male students that if they are in a heterosexual relationship, the sentence that will save their world, is “How was your day, honey?” And then to just shut up and listen.

In relationships there are really three beings. The two people (in this example, we will use a man and a woman) and the relationship itself. Traditionally, the female has been in charge of the relationship. She tries to nurture it on her own. The guy blows if off for golfing or woodwork. So when mama says to papa, “Honey, can we talk?” Papa says, “Oh, shit. This is about the relationship right? Can it wait until after the Masters Tournament in April?”

So guy shuts down and mama is left holding the bag. Or guy changes the oil in her car as proof that he cares. Or guy tries to convince her she’s crazy and throws a beer can at her. It just spirals from there.

There are some folks who probably don’t think Andrea and I should be together. Our cultural differences (she’s a foreigner!). Our age differences (I’m older!), but people who know us know we fit together perfectly. We’re a team. And whenever we face a tough time, that’s our mantra. “We’re a team! It’s us against the world!” And now that we are parents, we are even more bonded as a team. I have no fear because I am with someone who is stronger than I am. She is not my “submissive wife” (Sorry Southern Baptists). She is my partner in our life adventures.

I guess I just feel bad for guys who don’t know this. I was one of those guys. I couldn’t figure out why relationships would start out so well and then crash and burn. I didn’t know how to stop and listen to my teammate. It took a lot of work to get to this point, so let me share it so it won’t be so hard for you. You want to be a good father? Start a partnership. That way you can spend less time fighting and watching golf and more time living in love.

This book is available at Powell’s by clicking the cover below.

“You’re raising your daughter as a feminist?”

December 11, 2014

There seems to be some real confusion about what feminism is for some folks. This includes the Twitterverse, where some very ignorant women somehow got #WomenAgainstFeminism trending last summer. So let me clear it up.

First of all, being ignorant does not mean you are a bad person. We are all ignorant about more than we are knowledgeable about. I do not know Swahili, nor do I know how to bake a flambé. I am also ignorant of federal tax code and how to potty train a child. But let’s not be ignorant about what feminism is.

In her vital book, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, author bell hooks very clearly states, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” This is my favorite definition because it implies that someone who is not a feminist does not want to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression. And we know who those people are.

It also establishes what feminism is not: man-hating hairy armpit lesbianism that could care less about men’s lives (Shout out to my hairy armpit lesbians!). It is not about free abortions, getting fat, destroying the family and blowing up the make-up counter at Macy’s.

I argue in my classes that every woman is feminist, whether she identifies as such as not. Every woman understands the double standards. Every woman understands street harassment and the constant threat of rape. Every woman understands unequal pay for equal work. Every woman understands that society says you are less attractive each day you age. You might not call it “patriarchy,” but you understand it exists.

Feminism is a huge tent. There are radical feminists, liberal feminists, Marxist feminists, eco-feminists, psychoanalytical feminists, transnational feminists and even free market feminists. There are Beyoncé feminists, Taylor Swift feminists, and, yes, Sarah Palin feminists. Queer feminists, Suzy Homemaker feminists, and CEO feminists. There are feminists who oppose pornography and those who support it (if it’s done right). There are feminist who oppose Rush Limbaugh and… well, I guess there are feminists who don’t know he exists. After all, this is the cretin that said, “The feminist movement was created to allow ugly women access to the mainstream of society.”

Forty years ago, the core of the feminist club was a small clique of upper middle-class white women at private universities with subscriptions to Ms. magazine. Now it’s open to everyone. Women of color have a voice and so do men, as well as transpeople and rural people (and rural transpeople).  I try to get copies of bell hooks’ 2010 book, Feminism is for Everybody, into people’s hands as often as possible. Feminism is now addressing how patriarchy hurts men as well as women and that’s the work that I do as a sociologist. Men die at an alarming rate for doing things just because they are “manly.”

When I was a graduate student at Emory, I was teaching Intro to Sociology at Dekalb Community College. I would get a lot of working-class (often black) women who would say, “I’m not a feminist, but…” and then say something completely feminist, about abusive men, unfair work situations, or unreal beauty standards. They were feminists but that term had been both stigmatized by anti-feminists, like Mr. Limbaugh (and all the men sympathetic to his cause), and made obtuse by academic feminists who favor 10-dollar phrases over opening the door to those outside the academy.

Here is one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite academic feminists, Dorothy E. Smith –  “The relations of the ruling are rationally organized. They are objectified, impersonal, claiming universality. Their gender subtext has been invisible.” It makes perfect sense to me but I am a university professor. Smith’s thought might send anybody else running for the comfort of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

The point of this piece is this. When I say I am a feminist and I will raise my daughter as a feminist, don’t blow a gasket if you don’t even know what feminism is. If you want my kid to grow up in a world where she is appreciated as a full human, with her own dreams and desires and rights and freedoms, welcome to the feminist club.

These books are available at Powell’s by clicking the covers below.