Feminist Herstory Pt. 2 – Here comes the FIRST WAVE

This is part of a book I’m writing on men and Western feminism. I’ll be occasionally posting a little bit of history of feminist theory in a way I hope you like. Part 1 is here:


All people are created equal

Feminist thought did not die like Dr. Frankenstein. In fact it ramped up in 19th Century America. People forget that the leading voices for the abolition of slavery were female. It shouldn’t be that surprising that the abolition movement gave birth to the first modern feminist movement. There are important names that came out of this era that you might know from a picture on a coin or an Amy Ray song, but they are important as the Founding Fathers because they helped to liberate not only the enslaved populace, but also half of the “free” citizens.

One of the key voices of the abolitionist movement, Lucretia Mott, is also viewed as the first American feminist by many. Mott was a Quaker from Nantuckett and founder of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. In 1840 she headed off to London to speak at the International Anti-Slavery Convention. But the male abolitionists turned out to be just as sexist as the general population and wouldn’t let the women speak. Mott rallied her supporters and became known as the “Lioness of the Convention.”

Another American abolitionist was in the audience, watching Mott get the short end of the stick; Elizabeth Cady-Stanton. Cady-Stanton was the daughter of a prominent New York attorney who introduced her to the law and her husband was an anti-slavery activist. She met with Mott in London and the two decided to combine forces to speak against the oppression of women and slaves.

For those that think that line in the Declaration of Independence about “all men a created equal” negates the need for any feminist agitation need a little historical footnote. Not only were slaves denied full citizenship, so were women. At no point in the 18th or 19th century did female Americans have a Constitutional right to vote. The belief was that women had the vote through their husbands. Widows, spinsters, and hussies were screwed, but oh well. Women couldn’t inherit wealth or sign contracts or sit on juries or divorce their husbands or wear designer jeans. In reality that “all men are created equal” stuff only referred to white men who owned property. So when Lott and Cady-Stanton got back from London, they were ready to stir some shit up.

Throughout the 1840s female abolitionists, like Mott, Cady-Stanton, and Lucy Stone from Massachusetts, began lobbying for legal rights for women. With the help of male politicians (including Cady-Stanton’s cousin, presidential candidate Gerrit Smith) small changes were made, mostly in Northeastern states. The women wanted to build a larger movement and built towards a convention that would focus on women’s rights and kick the cause into high gear.

The Seneca Falls Convention in July 1848 was really the birthplace of modern feminism. For two days in Seneca Falls, New York, men and women debated the various issues (white) women faced in their struggle to be full citizens. Speakers included Frederick Douglas, the famous abolitionist, who gave an impassioned speech urging the convention to make women’s suffrage a priority. The end result was the Declaration of Sentiments. Modeled after the Declaration of Independence and utilizing the language of the Enlightenment, the Declaration outlined the structural imbalance women suffered at the hands of free men. Sixty-eight women and 32 men signed the Declaration and launched it into the world. The opening paragraphs read:

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.


Change wasn’t immediate. A lot of men were scared shitless about giving women the right to vote, let alone any legal equality. As the suffrage movement heated up, a lot of powerful men went into a panic. Turns out there were (and are) more women in the U.S. population and the “majority rules” democracy could be turned upside down. Major newspapers, like the New York Times, began running editorials about the White House becoming the Pink House and wars being replaced with quilting bees if women had voting rights. But Suffragettes, like Susan B. Anthony, the Quaker founder of The Revolution, kept the heat up. Finally, in 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed, and 57 years after the slaves were freed by Lincoln and 124 years after the Declaration of Independence, women were granted full citizenship. The “first wave” feminists had achieved their greatest goal.

A range of other views moved to the front burner. These included birth control for women, the legalization of abortion, equality within marriage, sexual freedom, and the ability of women to escape drunken, abusive husbands. While some women found liberation in the Flapper fad of the 1920s, personified by actors like Clara Bow, once the Depression hit in 1929, the focus moved back towards basic survival. It wouldn’t be until fifteen years after WWII that the Second Wave would appear.

Coming soon:

Feminist Herstory, Pt. 3 – Rosie the Riveter and WW2

You can learn a lot from a rock star.

January 28, 2015

As a guy with a massive love of music but minimal musical talent, I’ve been lucky enough to get to hang around  musicians for most of my life. From local jammers to superheroes, like the guys in U2 and REM, I’ve had friends who know how to take a thought and turn it into a song that people want to sing. It’s a beautiful process. I’ve been working on a book called Mirror Star about some of these people and the excitement they’ve brought my life. But for now, I’ll just post this picture of me and Carrie Brownstein, of Sleater-Kinney, at the 2008 Obama rally in Portland.


I’m on this topic because Cozy had her first backstage experience yesterday. We were at the KINK Bing Lounge show of Trigger Hippy, Joan Osborne’s great band with Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman. Steve is a very old friend of mine and a former roommate. In fact, I played a role getting him into the Crowes when I was Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s manager in 1987. It’s always great to catch up with Steve and the new group is really, really great, like a band I would have wanted to see in 1970.

Joan just fell in love with Cozy and my baby girl has the same birthdate as Steve (so we’re convinced she’s going to be a drummer). I was excited for him to meet her as he’s known my ups and downs for the last 27 years and gave me a lot of great father advice when we were still expecting (before he ran off to hang out with Dave Grohl and Ringo Starr).


So what does a baby get from being backstage at rock gig besides the above picture to brag about when she’s older? Not that much and I don’t want to foster mindless idle worship or encourage some version of groupiedom. (I want you to REALLY listen to the lyrics of “Superstar” by The Carpenters.) However, there is something of value of having friends who are successful musicians.

Most of those people got to do what they love for a living for one reason, a lot of hard work. When I was in high school, I took a folk guitar class and was frustrated that I couldn’t already play like Jimmy Page. I’d think, “I should have started at 10. It’s too late!” And I sort of just quit. If I had just practiced my ass off from 16 to 20, I would have been able to play all those licks for the last 30 years. My friends didn’t quit. I learned a lot from my long conversations with Bono and Susanna Hoffs. I learned about the creative process and what it takes to do it right.

I love the chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book, Outliers, where he compares The Beatles and Bill Gates. Both practiced obsessively at the the thing they loved. He calls it the “10,000 Rule.” You need 10,000 hours of practice before you can really get good at anything. Macklemore wrote a song about it called “10,000 Hours.” I’d like to think I have 10,000 hours of teaching in and I’m working on 10,000 hours of writing now. I know my friends who have put in their time drumming or songwriting can now enjoy the fruits of their labor.

I want Cozy to know that to do the thing you love well takes a lot of commitment. If she wants to play the violin or write speeches or fix refrigerators she needs to go all in. People aren’t born rock stars, they pay their dues. (I will save the required discussion on the evils of American Idol for another time.) And it’s often not very glamorous. You are alone in a room or playing in a tiny club to 4 people who are ignoring you. But you are working your craft. So yes, she will have piano lessons and, unlike me, she won’t quit.

Well, I guess some people are born to be rock stars. Steve Gorman wasn’t the first star she met at a show. Before she was born she met Beatle son Sean Lennon after a great Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger show. I’m sure she’ll meet more in the future. (Does Bono baby sit?) And I hope they tell her how you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice.


Hanging out with Beatle baby Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl of the GOASTT, Mississippi Studios, May 24, 2014.

The following book was mentioned in this blog and you can buy it from Powell’s by clicking the cover below.

Why I chose to no longer wear bicycle shorts

January 26, 2015

For the past several months, I have been having a conviction weighing heavy on my heart. I tried ignoring it for as long as I could until one day a conversation came up amongst myself and a few others (both men and women). The conversation was about bicycle shorts and how when men wear them it creates a stronger attraction for a woman to look at a man’s body and may cause them to think lustful thoughts.

God really changed my heart in the midst of that conversation and instead of ignoring my convictions, I figured it was time I start listening to them and take action. I went home later that day and shared the convictions I was having with my wife. Was it possible my wearing bicycle shorts could cause a woman, other than my wife, to think lustfully about my body? I asked my wife her thoughts on the matter when she got home. I appreciated her honesty when she told me, “yeah, when I walk into a place and there are men wearing bicycle shorts everywhere, it’s hard to not look. I try not to, but it’s not easy.”

So, because it is up to me to control women’s lustful ways, I pledge to no longer wear bicycle shorts, bathing suits, or yoga pants. Also, I will refrain from wearing my Spiderman costume in public, because I know that women are staring at my junk and my buttocks and having perverted thoughts about sex with America’s favorite webslinger. I made a vow to my wife and will only wear the Spiderman outfit when I am alone with her.

Because this is a covenant with God and my wife, when in public I will only wear a burka. I know when I am outside, even in a business suit, women see me as a sexual object and are undressing me with their lustful eyes. So I vow to wear as many layers as possible so undressing me with their eyes will just take too much effort. Women will look, but why entice them? I also plan to put on 200 pounds, stop brushing my teeth, and cut my hair into a mullet. My body belongs to God and my wife so I must do what I can to inspire revulsion in women who would look at my twigs and berries in my tight jeans and become aroused.

If Eve had had a burka, I’m sure she would have worn it to keep all the animals in the Garden of Eden from thinking she was “easy.” I am more than my body and by hiding my body under a burka I am protecting women from falling into a pit of overwhelming lust for me and also making God happy.

Obviously, I’m just clowning on fellow Oregonian Veronica Partridge’s viral blog post, Why I Chose to Not Wear Leggings. Her reason is the exact same reason women who live under the religious regime of the Taliban are forced to be covered from head to toe, so as not to illicit lust in men. And look at how that turned out. Those sexually repressed men in Afghanistan are not known for their respect for women. Veronica, it is not women’s job to prevent men from having lustful thoughts, just like it’s not women’s job to stop men from raping women. In the Victorian era there would be riots just over the sight of a woman’s ankle and I’m sure there are men in Afghanistan who get a stiffy from a tiny bit of jiggle under a hijab. If you want to stop enticing men from having lustful thoughts about you, why not get Jesus tattooed on your face? Shit, I bet there some guys who are really into that! Men are going to have lustful thoughts yoga pants or no yoga pants. In this patriarchal culture, men can pretty much find any way to sexualize women. That’s the problem. It’s not leggings that make you a “sexual object.”

I have no doubt your husband appreciates you trying to reduce men jonesing for you. I’m also sure he’s glad other women are NOT doing the same thing. (The male gaze goes unchecked.) And I appreciate you not telling other women to burn their leggings at the stake. Ain’t America great? We’re all free to blog whatever!

As a feminist, I support Ms. Partridge’s right to wear whatever she wants without facing judgement. But it also important to point out that what she is doing is a version of “slut-shaming.” That somehow women are at fault, just by virtue of their clothing choices, in causing bad thoughts (or behavior) in men. I’m sure she is secretly aware that women can be just as lustful as men, but men in biker shorts aren’t seen as creating problems in her Christian marriage. As far as we know.

I want my daughter to live in a world where her clothing choices reflect her sense of self, not a fear of what men might think of her. She will have a right to wear leggings or a hijab or a Brooks Brothers’ suit or a very tight Spiderman costume. She (and Veronica) will be better served by respecting men who can keep their “lustful ways” in check. People (men and women) look. So what? But if you don’t feel safe in your yoga pants, it’s not your fault. And not wearing those things isn’t going to make you any more safe. So let’s deal with that. But I still promise not to wear bicycling shorts again. So 1990s.

And Cozy (23 weeks old and future blogger)  typed the following: n     f h, v   mum n,pojm,lkm/hyu,m/omn fr 6rert ybhtn76yhgnb,ms d , ,.m rgjvm gtrfce x    cx xjynjymbh nn 786xx v


10 things I know from having a 5 month old daughter

January 22, 2015

The 5 months have flown by, but I’ve learned a few things about myself and the known universe. Here are 10 random lessons.

  1. Just let me do the laundry, because everything is going to be pink anyway.
  2. That moment when a screaming baby gets her bottle of milk must be the same as a junkie getting a hit of heroin. For both of us.
  3. Girls fart without shame.
  4. When my daughter wears the brown hat my mom saved from my babyhood and people think she is a boy, I get a thrill from her first gender transgression.
  5. Her saying “Mama” first is not a fair contest because that’s the sound of the mouth coming off the breast. The baby’s mouth, not mine.
  6. If a baby doesn’t poop for a day, get ready for a California mud slide.
  7. When we dance to Van Morrison songs in the living room, I already picture dancing with her at her wedding.
  8. She knows how to use her eyes to get what she wants. 5 months old.
  9. I regularly imagine that I’m inside a burning car trying to get her out of the Graco car seat.
  10. I could just listen to her for hours, my little Yoko Ono.


Bonus: #11 – I can drink a LOT of coffee now.

My little MLK story: Skinheads and feminists

January 19, 2015

Being from Atlanta I get to claim Martin Luther King, Jr. as my homeboy. I’ve spent a lot of time on Auburn Avenue, and not going to Ebenezer Baptist Church. The Royal Peacock Club was there, where the Supremes and James Brown performed. And the band I managed, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ too! I was hit by a car on Auburn in front to the Sweet Auburn Rib Shack. I was on my Vespa scooter and sent flying. I ended up at Grady Hospital, now a Walking Dead location.

But before Atlanta, I was from Stone Mountain, Georgia. Our little town was mentioned by Dr. King in his famous 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech, but not because it was awesome. When I was a kid, I thought it was because it was awesome. (Stone Mountain has a giant granite mountain with a lazar show the ends with “Dixie” that I doubt MLK ever saw.) He mentioned my town because it was the birthplace of the modern Ku Klux Klan in 1915. Sad trombone.

Growing up around the Klan was the beginning of my interest in extremism and oppression. As a grad student at Emory University, I chose to go undercover in the late 1980s to study a new racist group, Nazi skinheads. My first study was a 13-month observation of a racist skinhead gang in Orlando, Florida called the O-Town Skins.

Much to my surprise, these rabid bigots were not morons, or bullies (although a few were sociopaths). They were reasonably intelligent kids who just had been given the wrong explanation for why their world was changing. (“It’s the Jews!”) The right explanation had something to do with Ronald Reagan. I would listen to them gripe about The Cosby Show and how this black family had so much more than their own.

I bonded with these guys, drank beer with them, and talked to them about their girl problems. I began to get too close to them and lose my objectivity. So, while I was home on a break from the study, I rode my scooter over to Martin’s tomb on Auburn and sat with him for a while. I wanted to reflect with the man by the cool reflecting pool and remember why I started the project. He once said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I wanted to understand these skinheads so I could liberate them from their burden of hate. We sat together in the hot Atlanta night and I felt ready to go back into the field.

It was this study that turned me into a feminist. It became clear, as the research progressed, that the racism was just a vehicle for them to perform their masculinity. They saw black men, lesbians and feminists taking “their” white women. And Jews outsourcing “their” manufacturing jobs. And gay men threatening “their” sexual propriety. As the 80s became the 90s, they became obsessed with that “bitch” Hilary Clinton, who signified, to them, the end of the divine right of men. Hateful violence was their defense of their fragile masculinity, not far removed from the rhetoric of the conservative right. Much of this research ended up in my 2001 book with Wayne Wooden, Renegade Kids, Suburban Outlaws.

Martin Luther King’s love ethic is all around. It’s in the philosophies of bell hooks and Cornell West. It’s in the actions of youth outreach workers and gay rights advocates. And it’s in the work I’ve been doing since I interviewed that very first skinhead. Love undoes hate. If you try to understand the hater, including the misogynist, through love, you can turn them toward the light. As Dr. King told us long ago, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

The following book was mentioned in this blog. You can buy it from Powell’s by clicking the cover image below.

The Great Breast Milk Secret. Dad’s on the Boob!

January 16, 2015 This blog is what happens when two much loved things come together, breasts and milk. Sorta like Reece’s Peanutbutter Cups.

There is a massive movement afoot (or abreast) and it’s exciting to see. England and the US have been hit with a wave of “Nurse-Ins,” as women protest Victorian views about breastfeeding. Babies have to be fed on a regular basis, and sometimes that’s when mom is in a restaurant or even an Anthropologie store in Beverly Hills. And if you tell her she can’t (because some funky hang-up you should talk to a therapist about), be prepared for an army of moms to show up, armed with babies and mammaries.

Breast-Feeding Moms Protest Nursing Incident at Anthropologie in Beverly Hills

For most of the 20th Century women were shamed away from breastfeeding. That was something that “primitive” women (i.e., not white) did, who didn’t have access to all that awesome baby formula. (Gee, who profited from that idea?) But now the evidence is clear, breast is best. Breast milk builds all kinds of healthy immunities and baby brains and dozens of other benefits for both mother and child. (Sorry Enfamil, Incorporated.)

101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child

So it’s a new day. Universities and workplaces have “lactation stations” where women can nurse and pump. Target has a whole row of breastfeeding supplies so women can pump the good stuff without ever missing a single post on Facebook.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 9.32.02 AM

But there is another part of the story that is still taboo and I’m here to break it; Breast milk is not just for babies. Google shows lots of searches for “Is it OK to breastfeed your husband?” Apparently everyone is asking about it but no one is actually talking about it. When the topic comes up, you are obligated to say, “Ew!” or “No way!” or “That milk is for the baby!” Go ahead, do it. Get it out of your system now. The reality is partners are slurping up mama’s milk for a whole bunch of reasons other than pervy ones.

Obviously, there is an erotic element. When you think about it as an anthropologist (the scientists not the store employees), it’s pretty bizarre how western culture has festishized the breast. I mean, really, their primary function is to feed children but we use them to sell burgers at Carl’s Jr.. As Abby Epstein’s wonderful 2014 documentary, Breastmilk, discusses, there’s an entire sub-genre of “lactation porn” featuring women spraying the way men spray in traditional hard core porn. (I have no idea what these films are titled. How to Train Your Dairyman 2?) But people who are intimate enough to conceive a child should be allowed to mix it up with bodily fluids in the privacy of their own barn. I mean, bedroom.

Of course, all the health benefits the baby receives can help the partner as well. (I have not had the flu this year.) However, there are concerns because breast milk has a high fat content to help the baby grow, so you might have to hit the gym if you are slipping breast milk into your coffee. Breast milk also has about six times the cholesterol of cow’s milk. That’s good for the baby but might not be good for you (unless you own stock in Lipitor).


The main reason for writing this piece (besides completely outing myself as now having an elevated cholesterol level), is that partners can REALLY help nursing moms by going on the tit. As we learned in our lactation class before Cozy was born, breastfeeding can be a lot harder than hippies make it look. And a good partner (husband, wife, boyfriend, local hobo) can really make the process a whole lot easier.

The first issue is helping with blocked milk ducts. This is going to happen a lot early on. And baby is not happy when there is no food coming down the pike. So, unless a woman in the rare position (physically and statistically) to fix this herself, Dad needs to get to work. Most people know how to suck a breast, even if they haven’t done it since they were a month old. So a good hard sucking session is going to bust up that roadblock and everybody in the house will be happy. I’m not going to say who will be the happiest. (Mom, you weirdo.)

Secondly, partners can help get the milk flowing for the baby. Sometimes baby is not willing to do the work to get the milk to let down and so, again, help is required. Some women can have a milk letdown with good Usher slow jam or an old YouTube videos of John & Kate Plus 8, but a more patient mouth usually does the trick. It’s for your family, for God’s sake.

Third is the issue of engorgement (which should be the best death metal band name ever. “We’ve got tickets to see Cannibal Corpse and Engorgement!”) Look, the milk is coming whether there is a baby on one of the nipples or not. A full breast may look “porn star,” but it can be painful, so be a good egg and help out, will ya. Momma is leaking while you are driving to a rare date night dinner? Pull the damn car over and relieve some of the pressure. No court in the land will convict you. I wouldn’t suggest doing this in a restaurant or movie theater, but in an alley behind a restaurant or movie theater is perfectly helpful (and, hot).

Of course, there is also the “pump and dump” matter. Occasionally, moms like to treat themselves to a glass of wine. Or a case of Fosters. That boozy milk has got to go somewhere besides baby. It’s not exactly like suckling White Russians, but you can always pretend that you are belly up to mother nature’s bar. Hiccup.

I know all this is “weird” to talk about. We don’t even have a term for it, it’s so taboo. “Partner nursing” seems wrong. I know I play a role in helping my wife get her supply up which helps her and our baby. It’s also an intimate bond between two parents who shouldn’t be shamed just like breastfeeding in general shouldn’t be shamed. I’ve really had enough of the Orwellian Sex Police who want to shame consenting adults. So maybe this is the next movement. A celebrity could come out as a proud “Lactation Dad.” (I’d like to nominate Kanye West.) There could be partner nursing workshops, sponsored by Lipitor. Let’s end the silence and enjoy the experience. Until then, I’ll just say, “Ew!”

Feminist Guilty Pleasure 2: The Bachelor

January 13, 2015

TV is bad for you. Books are good for you. Reality TV is really bad for you. I have a weakness for reality TV. I sent in audition tapes for the 2nd and 3rd seasons of Survivor. Somewhere CBS has a video of me swinging on a vine in Forest Park wearing only a loincloth and smoking a pipe. I will never run for office because of this.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about The Bachelor, most mixed between horror and revulsion. But my very powerhouse wife loves it, so out of solidarity, I’m tuning in.

I suppose one could argue that reality TV gives you a perspective on lives other than your own. Certainly, the world’s eyes were opened to the experience of living with HIV/AIDS because of Pedro Zamora in 1994 when he was part of The Real World: San Francisco. But the problem is there isn’t a lot of reality on most reality TV. There is a lot of editing and staged situations. I’ve always thought a good idea would be a season of Big Brother where they spiked the food with meth and put a gun in the house. That would be Must See TV.

So that brings us to The Bachelor, where some studly guy gets to pick his wife from a stable of beauties who have professions like, “make-up artist” and “cruise ship singer.” He gets to move his way through the crowd, like a jihadist’s fantasy of the afterlife. There’s even a few virgins in the harem to balance out the widows!

So here’s a feminist take on it. Of course, beautiful dumb people have a right to hook-up, breed and lower the national IQ score. But there is a message in this show that’s a familiar one. Women are bitches. Bag-stabbing bitches who will do whatever it takes to get the man, including of accusing their fellow bachelorettes of being crazy and having hairy buttholes.

Debate Rages Over Whether The Bachelor Censored a Woman’s Hairy Ass

Here’s the thing. Guys don’t compete with each other. Not really. Maybe on the rugby field but not on the rugby field of life. Early on we get the message of male bonding. It’s us boys against them. From Little League to the frat house to the boardroom, it’s “bros-before-hos.” The old boy network is the foundation of patriarchy. Michael Kimmel wrote about this so well in his study of college-age boys in Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men (2008).

Quick name-dropping story. In 1992, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton were in Atlanta for the VP debate. I brought Kevn Kinney to perform a few songs for a mass crowd at the rally downtown. I was standing behind the podium with Val Kilmer (then aka “Jim Morrison”) and Hilary was speaking. Val and I both looked at the black seams up her stockings at the same time and then at each other. It was a male moment, bro. I use that story as an example of the unspoken language of patriarchy.

So boys bond but girls are taught to compete with each over the same scarce resource, Prince Charming (or in this case some “awesome” dumb-ass from Iowa). There is no female bonding, just the war of all against all. “I hate her and her skinny thighs!” “That drunk bitch is a skank!” “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” And it all plays out on The Bachelor to remind us that bitches can’t be trusted.

Now I don’t know what season this is. I know this show has been on since 2002 (I blame the terrorists!). It seems odd that any of these young women want to live on a farm in Iowa, turning cute pigs into bacon. But there doesn’t seem to be much intellectual discourse going to address that “reality.” I thought I might start a drinking game where I took a shot of whiskey any time anybody on the show said that something or someone was “amazing,” but I would be dead by the second commercial break.

On last night’s episode, Chris Soules, this year’s mentally challenged caveman, picked six women from the herd for a “group date.” Here’s what it was. 1) Pool party! So the women slide into their bikinis and climb on to each other’s shoulders to wrestle as Chris tries to not blow his load in the pool. 2) Tractor race! (Clothed) Chris parades his mini-harem through the streets of LA in their bikinis, where they then mount five tractors. (You know this was fantasy imported straight from the fields of the Hawkeye State.) The lucky winner gets a one-on-one date with Chris and tractors are sufficiently slow to give viewers plenty of time to watch the non-bathing beauties bounce down the road.


It’s such crap and I’m not sure what the appeal is. Maybe, like The Jerry Springer Show, it’s fun to watch people who we feel somehow superior to. (“Jesus, these folks are stupid.”) But I suspect that part of it is the romantic Prince Charming fantasy that is so ingrained in our gender socialization. These women are willing to humiliate themselves on national TV (“Is that whore making out with him?”) to find “true love.” I’m willing to admit that for many the prize is just being on TV. Same reason people go on Jerry Springer.

Now I know that occasionally ABC mixes it up with The Bachelorette, but giving women the same opportunity to be douchebags as men is not “equality.” And I would love to see a sociological analysis about how gender plays differently on that version of the show. Maybe somebody could count the number of times the guys competing say, “Bro!” or puff up their pecs. But The Bachelor routinely beats The Bachelorette in the ratings game, and my guess it’s because it is the opposite of “girl power.”

People Prefer ‘The Bachelor’ to ‘The Bachelorette.’ Why? It’s Science.

Here’s what I would like to see. 1) A version of this show where the contestants all had IQs over 100 and could talk about vectors of oppression and the lastest op-ed from Paul Krugman (But that might be Portlandia). A show where, at least, the bachelor asked the women about their lives and thoughts. OR 2) A season of the show where the women realized that this “Compete for a Pig Farmer” set-up was bullshit and bonded together to take over the show, chugging all the Fireball themselves and making Chris walk around downtown LA in a banana hammock.

I don’t expect to see any feminist uprising on this season of The Bachelor. I imagine that some “amazing” woman named Ashley will get the final rose and they will live happily never after in Reality TVLand. In the end we’ll learn that all the “girls” are “basically nice” and wonder what we could have read in all those weeks.

This book was mentioned in this blog and can be bought at Powell’s by clicking the cover below.

Feminist Guilty Pleasure 1: Cowboys

Is it time for a career change?

January 12, 2015

This might be a mid-life crisis (if I live to 100), but I’ve been thinking about a career change. I absolutely love being a university professor. I’ve got thousands of former students who are out in the world doing amazing things, perhaps influenced by something I talked about in a classroom or an idea I shared. One student, after my discussion linking the power theory of Ralf Dahrendorf to the genocide in Darfur, headed for Sudan after graduation to work with refugees. I have plenty of students like her.

That part of being a professor is infinitely rewarding. In my 20 years at my current university, I have created a legacy that has ripple effects around the world and will continue for generations. I know the world is a better place because of my work. But the part of the job that most people do not see is the bureaucracy that drives universities that is something out of a Kafka novel. I’m not one to tell tales out of school, just watch the Anthony Hopkins film The Human Stain (2003), to get a picture of the dynamic that pits administrators against faculty and students. It’s exhausting.

So I might do something different for a while. In 2011, I published my first novel, The Mission of the Sacred Heart: A Rock Novel. It was loosely based on my own issues with depression at the turn of the century. I based the structure on an Electric Light Orchestra album I had when I was a kid called A New World Record (1976). I know you know the songs. Each chapter in the novel riffs on a song from the album. When I started writing it, I had no idea how it would end, but writing it saved my life.

It did pretty well for a self-published novel. (50 Shades of Grey started out the same way.) It made it to #2 on the Powell’s Small Press Best Seller list and has been optioned by a very talented screenwriter in Hollywood for a film. It’s a long road but you might see me walking Andrea and Cozy down the red carpet someday. Hey, I’m a Pisces. Let me dream!

But the feedback from that book was been it’s own reward. Singer Storm Large was an early champion of the Kindle version. The reviews were all pretty amazing. But best was a military veteran who told me the book convinced her not to commit suicide and stick around for life. That’s enough. I could never write another word and have that.

But I love to write and university politics and committees have eaten into my writing space. There is no joy like sitting in the coffee shop with a blank page (or screen) and just letting it come. When I free myself from the technical requirements of academic writing, something transformative happens. The Irish call it the muse (something Bono once told me about). It’s a stream that you can just step in and let it take you away.

She might not be a literary giant, but my true influence here comes from singer Susanna Hoffs, of The Bangles. We were spending a lot of time together in the 80s and she asked me what I really wanted to do after college. “Be a writer,” I said. I was writing a lot of music journalism and had fantasies of being a new Jack Kerouac.

“How often do you write?”

“Uh, what?”

“Randy, if you want to be a writer, you need to write everyday.”


That was the start of my tenure as a poet and I got good. I hosted a popular monthly reading in Atlanta and got to put together some of the spoken-word events for Lollapalooza ’94. In 2011, when The Bangles came to Portland, I gave Susanna a copy of the novel and thanked her for getting me started on this path.

So now it’s time to write again. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been writing. I’ve been working on a book on 4th Wave feminism and a memoir about my rock star friends (Hi Bono and Susanna!) and I have a short story about the ghost of Elvis coming out this year. But it’s time to really write.

Cozy and I just got back from my favorite Portland coffee shop, Random Order. She stared out of her stroller while I wrote the first page of the new novel. It’s called The Dream Police and uses the Cheap Trick album as a structure. It picks up with some of the main characters from Mission and their struggles to come to terms with some of the suffering of life in modern America. There are no aliens in this one, but there is some time travel. It will be more post-modern this time. (I was hugely influenced by Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad (2010), which made me just want to write like a madman.)

So I’m going to take a break from being a professor for a while. I know the university will be there when I’m ready to go back. Maybe I could find one that’s run by students, or elves, or bags of rocks. Sometimes your soul needs a break from the fight. There are other ways to reach people, and this book is gonna be great.

OK, here is the opening sentence: The dark expansive room was knee deep in steaming water, coming in waves from all angles.

These books were mentioned in this blog post. You can buy them at Powell’s by clicking the cover images below.

Parenting Advice from the Pez

January 7, 2015

If babies could all have a bumpersticker on their rubber baby buggy bumpers, it would say, “If it feels good, do it.” We’re all born these raging Freudian ids who just want it now. Honestly, babies are selfish little beasts. They don’t care if it’s the middle of the night, they want the tit! They don’t care if you have a weak stomach, they want that WTF poop wiped out of their crack!

If babies weren’t so cute, it might be easier to put tape on their mouths. They have no concept of delayed gratification. I was just getting ready to feed Cozy but the bottle was too warm. The problem was she could see it setting on the dresser to cool. She flipped out. “Give me that damn bottle! Baby needs a hit!” She was fixated and I could feel the hate directed at me. “Stop fucking with me, Dad!”

I tried to explain to her that the anticipation is the best part. Christmas Day sucks compared to the lead up, right? By 3 pm on December 25th you just feel deflated. When it’s over, it’s just a memory. When I went off to college my big act of independence was to get a subscription to Playboy magazine. (Sorry.) Very quickly it was clear that the best part of the magazine was the anticipation  of receiving it, not actually “reading” it. In fact, my favorite part of the magazine was the last page that let you know who was going to be interviewed (and naked) in the next issue.

I’m sure I will discuss the Playboy thing in some post. That subscription is decades gone (but my Beatlefan subscription has been uninterrupted since 1984). I now look forward to my Voice Male magazine, but I actually read those from cover to cover.

When I first moved to Portland I was volunteering in a residential facility for juvenile offenders. One night I was sitting around with a half dozen teenage car thieves and gang bangers, showing them my Spiderman Pez dispenser. They had never seen Pez! (Obviously why they became cruddy JDs.) I explained to them how you take the candy out of the foil and load it into the dispenser (as one candy lodged in sideways).


“Why don’t you just eat the candy?” one kid asked. Good question, I thought. “Because you get to put in the dispenser and make each piece pop out of Spiderman’s neck.” It didn’t seem like a very satisfying answer. I mean, think about it. Maybe that was “fun” in 1975, but these kids had Xbox.

In that moment I saw the importance of Pez and metaphor for delayed gratification in our culture. These kids were essentially babies. If it felt good, they did it. And since they were boys, that included violence and criminality.

So the challenge is to make Cozy wait, but to enjoy the waiting. To sit in the moment and anticipate what’s to arrive; a bottle of milk, a birthday present, a bachelor’s degree in pottery. Tom Petty once sang, “the waiting is the hardest part,” but sometimes it’s the best part.

She doesn’t get it at the moment at only 4 1/2 months old, so I’m still OK to spoil her. I’ll get this lesson started later. And enjoy the anticipation.

Feminist Herstory Pt. 1 – It is discovered that Women are PEOPLE!!!

Some people find history boring. Then they go watch an episode of Downton Abbey. I love history and the history of feminist theory is pretty wild. In feminism we talk a lot about waves. (Are you a second or third wave feminist?) I’ve been working on a book on 4th wave feminism, but before we get there, we need some history. So I will periodically drop in some excerpts from my, hopefully not boring, “herstory.”

Feminist Herstory Pt. 1 – Roots, Galileo and Frankenstein

There’s a famous quote I use at the beginning of my social theory class by Cambridge professor Geoffrey Hawthorn,  “The sociologist who begins a history of social theories is at once very tempted to stop.” Finding starting points for ideas is only asking for trouble. Capitalism existed long before Adam Smith became the father of it. Punk rock existed before Patti Smith became the godmother of it. So finding a starting point is an exercise in futility. And then everyone is going to complain about what and whom you left out. “How could you not mention Emma Goldman in your history of feminism???”

For me, the whole thing started in second grade, when I heard Helen Reddy’s song, “I Am Woman,” on the radio. I loved that song. I loved that it used the word “embryo” as a rhyme. I loved how it went into the minor key for the “Yes, I’m wise” part. I loved seeing my mom sing it in the car. The song was source of discussion among my friends at school and in the neighborhood. Apparently there was this thing called Women’s Lib and (some) women were as pissed off as (all) black people. That was about the extent of my feminist consciousness at age seven. But I can still do a mean version of that song at karaoke after a few whiskeys.

So any history is incomplete, insufficient, and inconsistent.  It is important to say, though, that at every step of the evolution of feminist thought, men have been there. Sometimes just as supportive husbands and sometimes as primary movers and shakers. Famous male thinkers, like John Stuart Mill and John Dewey, had plenty to say on the equality of women. One of the first European intellectuals to identify patriarchy as a root cause of social inequality was Friedrich Engles in his 1884 book, Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Engles was Karl Marx primary collaborator and addressing the core matters of feminism.

This complex history has two threads in it and it’s not what Rush Limbaugh and his army  of “femi-nazi” haters think.  It is not that feminists think that women are the same as men or better than men (although some individuals may think that). It is that women and girls are human and therefore deserve the same basic rights that men and boys do. The second thread is that there is a structured system that benefits men and disadvantages women (patriarchy). We feminists think there is a better way to organize society, but our views are shaped by the times we live in. As C. Wright Mills once pointed out, our history is our biography.

Galileo’s head was on the block

You could make the case that 6000 years ago, you didn’t need feminists as pretty much all people living in civilized settings were feminists. As discussed in the work of Riane Eisler, those cultures did not view males and females as occupying an inherent power imbalance. It wasn’t until the advent of patriarchal religions that “original sinners” got demoted to bitches and hos.

The long reign of the Catholic Church plunged Europe into a dark age of patriarchal violence. Women (and men) who challenged the new order were tortured and executed. At the peak of the witch trials (1480- 1750) it is estimated that 100,000 people were executed as witches.

But the hegemony of the papacy wouldn’t last forever. The Protestant Reformation worked to put non-Latin Bibles in Christian hands and help folks figure out the meaning of the Gospels for themselves (which many used to justify slavery and more oppression of women). Perhaps more significantly was the finding of one man, Galileo Galilei. Using the theories of Copernicus, in the early 1600s Galileo discovered that the earth was rotating around the sun, not the other way around as proscribed by The Bible and the Church.

Galileo began to promote this heliocentric view of the universe and, boy, was the Church pissed off. If the Bible was wrong on this simple point, what other lies had the Church been covering up? Galileo was denounced by the Roman Inquisition in 1615 and placed under house arrest as a heretic. The good news is that the Catholic Church eventually pardoned Galileo. In the year 1992.

The observations of the little astronomer from Pisa represented the beginning of the end of the Dark Ages and the birth of the Age of Enlightenment. Enlightenment thought based knowledge on rationality and empirical evidence, not in blind faith of the unseen and the autocratic authority of church officials. Enlightenment philosophers across Europe and America ushered in a new age of science, philosophy, economics, and political thought, undermining the “divine right of kings.” Revolutions in America and France swept away monarchies and established governance based on the ancient rational process known as democracy.

It was in this period that the modern championing of women’s humanity began to take hold. You could argue that there is a long history of women standing up to the Man, or doing the job better than men, but it was never really based on a critique of patriarchal power. Joan of Arc was a badass, but she wasn’t a feminist. But in the 1700s, a chorus of voices took up the cause of female equality. American revolutionary Thomas Paine, author of The Age of Reason, argued that his new nation could not be completely free if its citizens could own slaves and its women could not vote. In 1775 he wrote:

“Nature herself, in forming beings so susceptible and tender, appears to have been more attentive to their charms than to their happiness. Continually surrounded with griefs and fears, the women more than share all our miseries, and are besides subjected to ills which are particularly their own. They cannot be the means of life without exposing themselves to the loss of it.”

If there is one name that stands out as the Enlightenment feminist, it is Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797). Wollstonecraft, who influence the work of Paine and others, was a British writer who covered many subjects. As a product of the Age of Reason, she applied the ethic of rationality to the wave of social change that was occurring in the late 18th Century. In A Vindication of the Rights of Man (1790), she assailed the aristocracy that had survived the French Revolution and advocated for true democratic forms of government. Her next book, A Vindication for the Rights of Woman (1792) is generally seen as the first feminist work published for a large audience. In Rights of Woman, Wollstonecraft makes what we would think of now as a standard sociological case on gender; that the passivity of women is not due to biology, but socialization. She advocated for educations as the primary method to change the role of women.

A Vindication for the Rights of Woman was still written in the language of the era (there is much discussion of how women’s role as mothers is crucial), but for the first time the language was clear, females are as human as males. They could be wives, but as full humans they could be her husband’s companion, not his ornament. She links racism and sexism, stating that the justification for gender roles as tradition is the same for the justification of slavery as tradition. “If women be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?” she writes.

If Mary Wollstonecraft had been born a hundred years earlier, she probably would have been burned at the stake. Instead her short life produced some of the most radical writings of her time. She died in childbirth at the age of 38 and her daughter, Mary, became one of the most famous female authors of all time. Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein 20 years after her mother’s death. Pretty much everyone knows Frankenstein. Not enough people know about the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft.

The following books were mentioned in this blog post and can purchased from Powell’s by clicking on the covers below.

Coming Soon: Part 2: Birth of the First Wave