Dad Love, Pt. 3 – Death and U2

April 29, 2015

Today I’m thinking about how much my life has changed in 30 years. April 29, 1985 was the best day in my life. It was my last day of college classes at Emory University. I was going to be graduating with a double degree in Sociology and Political Science and then heading off to Europe (and Live Aid) before starting grad school in the fall. It was No Business As Usual Day, a national day to protest Reagan’s arms race and I had organized a major teach-in on campus. It was the beginning of my relationship with my first girlfriend, a cool Danish-American freshman named Starla. I was 21.

22337_317856799306_8301681_n

But the thing made it the best day ever is the fact that it was the day I played on stage with U2 at the Omni in front of 18,000 people. It’s a long story. I knew Bono from my time in Dublin so everybody thought it was a set up. I just helped him out in a pinch when his “Anybody can be a rockstar” bit on the Unforgettable Fire tour stumbled. They guy he pulled up on stage couldn’t play a guitar. He looked at me in a panic and asked, “Randy, can you do this?” So I played Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” in my hometown with the greatest band on earth. It was the moment every rock fan fantasizes about; to be pulled out of the crowd to join the band and looking back at the masses screaming for you. It was pure rock and roll bliss.

It didn’t hold a candle to the day Cozy was born.

I pretend to understand my brain, but it’s a complete mystery how I could love this kid more each day. From the second I first heard her heartbeat to the moment a few minutes ago when I gave her some smushed up prunes to help her poop, it’s been a unwavering incline of Dad Love. She’s an 8-month-old love factory. Sometimes she presses her forehead against mine and I feel like she is transmitting everything that is good in the universe into me. Bono never did that.

It’s weird to have a fully formed human completely dependent on us. Maybe that’s the evolutionary thing. Like by the time she’s 16 and doesn’t really need us for food and shelter, I won’t give a rat’s ass about her. But at the moment, I can’t seem to get her out of my head. Sure, there are little bits where I groan. Like when she wakes up at 7 am with a big smile on her face, pulling my hair to get the day started. (I thought one of the perks of being unemployed was getting to sleep in!) Or when I’ve done everything I can think of and she’s still crying and I just want to go make a Jack & Coke. But even then I’m madly in love with her.

So that’s where the fear of death comes in. Not mine, hers. There’s just so much horror in the world. There was a story in the local news recently about a 7-month-old boy who died when the baby-sitter purposely cracked his skull. Turn it off. Or the story last year of the Intel worker whose 6-month-old died when he forgot she was in the car at work. Too much to handle.

When Cozy was a newborn, we were watching the 1996 film Trainspotting. I wanted to share Ewan McGreggor man-crush with Andrea. I forgot about the scene where the women with the baby is so strung out on heroin that she neglects her kid in the crib. When she sobers up, the baby is dead. I just turned the film off at that point.

I think about driving and some asshole talking on his or her cell phone runs a red-light and plows into us. In the worst version of that is the car on fire and I can’t get Cozy out of the car seat. This is the shit you think about when you are a parent. I used to think about what band is coming to town. Now I just want to know if my sleeping child is breathing.

When I was a teenager, there was a fad of dead baby jokes. Why did the dead baby cross the road? It was stapled to a chicken. Stupid shit like that. We had a substitute teacher named Mrs. Neely, an older woman. Word got out if you told her a dead baby joke, she would flip out. We would just mutter “dead baby” when she walked into the room to see her squirm. I understand now that she must have lost a child and the guilt I carry haunts me. When people talk about “innocent children,” we were not innocent. We were little sociopaths. I can’t imagine what that must be like and I live in constant fear that it is a very real possibility.

This love is not rational and I guess the fear that goes along with it is not rational either. I’ve known people who have lost children and I don’t understand how it wouldn’t transform you. I think they are heroes for just sticking around. If something happened to Cozy, I think I would just be tempted to say, “Check please! I’m done.”

unnamed-1

But this isn’t meant to be a bummer blog post; just a commentary on how intense a parent’s love for his or her child can be. I just stare at her in disbelief. How did I help make something so perfect? Yeah, playing with U2 was pretty epic. But not nearly as epic as when my I see my lopsided smile on my daughter’s face. That truly rocks.

Note: Using a cell-phone while driving in Oregon is a Class C violation and the penalty can be as high as $500. Hang up and drive, asshole. ORS 811.507

Dad Love, Part 1

Dad Love, Part 2

Advertisements

Friends: My George Baily moment.

April 23, 2015

Yesterday about 8 am was the last minute of our big Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 in forty days for my new novel, The Dream Police. The idea was my wife’s and it basically saved my life, or at least my sanity.

11142384_1429232070714756_1495089016_n

Over the holidays, a small cabal at Hogwarts conspired to remove one of their most vocal critics. I was blindsided and my life, career, and my ability to provide for young family were turned upside down. I had worked hard to create something that meant something to the world, that tackled hard topics like gender and racial power dynamics. It was sacrificed out of spite by people who did it simply because they could. So, as you can imagine, I got pretty depressed. At one point, I was was ready to just check out on my own terms, not theirs. Fortunately, a little angle named Cozy sat on both shoulders.

It’s good to have a back-up dream. (I think a lot of bloggers have one.) Being a sociology professor at Portland State was a dream come true. I saw lives change nearly every day. But I’ve had a romantic vision of myself as a writer and have had some success in that area, so, as I discussed in this blog in January, I decided that was the direction to go. Then Andrea had the idea of turning it into a Kickstarter and it gave me not only added motivation to write, but a possible source of revenue to keep us in our home for at least a few extra months.

Andrea was smart enough to know I would become completely obsessed with the project and forget about the bureaucrats who sacrificed me at their alter of power. And I did. First it was just getting the word out. So I apologize to all the people I tagged on Facebook and Twitter. But it got the word out. People like Angie Bowie (yes, that Angie Bowie) helped put out the campaign through their networks. And then pledges started coming in. They came in from the music world, including a friend in the Waterboys and singer Kelly Hogan. They came in from old high school friends and and new neighbors. My former students really came to the rescue in ways that blew my mind. There were $5 pledges and one pledge for $648 by an old friend who wanted to see us reach the 10K goal a few days early. They came from Ireland, England, Germany and Japan. And they came from Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 8.02.12 PM

I tried to make it fun with rewards for pledgers (including my old and cherished rock T-shirts and paintings by Andrea). We began thinking of things to do to make certain benchmarks. To get to $6000 by a certain hour, I promised to eat a raw egg. (I did.) $7000 was a raw jalapeño. (I did and ouch.) $8000 was running down the street in my undies, Birdman style. (Yep.) And $9000 was a promise to go to a country bar and ride a mechanical bull. (I think I pulled a muscle on that one.) It kept the energy and focus on the campaign. I even got a call from the daughter of Cheap Trick singer Robin Zander, the original Dream Policer, who let me know she’d tell her dad about my take on the classic album. In the middle of all this a cranky Atlanta journalist posted on his Facebook page that I was “begging for money” for a vanity project, unaware of the reason I had turned to crowd funding, but, again, it was my friends to the rescue.

11133703_10153779139699307_3550117082788913734_n

In the end, the project was funded at 112%. (Most Kickstarters don’t reach their goal and, therefore, no funds are awarded.) We surpassed our goal by more than a thousand dollars. I was in tears. Obviously, the money will help (Kickstarter takes a small cut). But there were better rewards. First, having so many people who believe in my talent as a writer that they are willing to pledge their hard-earned money for my dream of this novel. How can you not feel inspired by that? But secondly, to know I have so many friends who are willing to help me get through this tough time. Some are close friends, some I haven’t seen in decades. I got a great pledge from my friend Barbara. We were good friends at Woodridge Elementary School and used to write songs together for school events. I had a bunch of Barbaras. Each one of those people has a new place in my heart.

In the end, I felt like George Baily at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life, with friends, old and new, bringing in baskets of cash and Zuzu hearing the bell on the tree. I am both humbled and committed to write a truly important piece of literature. Maybe more importantly, I’m committed to not ever entertaining the idea of quitting this adventure I am on. I am proof that the down times are there to propel you to the good times. Friends and family are all you need to get you through. And a little dream. So this a quick thank you to the world while Andrea is at her art class and Cozy is demanding some attention. I’m forgetting the villains in this story and remembering all the good people in my world.

Please help support other people’s dreams on Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and other crowd funding sites. It’s really a lot of fun.

I Remember Oklahoma: White men and terrorism

April 19, 2015

oklahoma_bombing

We call them snapshot memories. I remember 20 years ago today like it was yesterday. I was in my apartment in Atlanta. I had just gotten the job at Portland State and was planning my move across the country. I had some morning TV on when they broke in with a live report from Oklahoma City. The face of the Murrah Federal Building had been blown off by a massive bomb and numerous people were dead, including many small children who had been in the day care center.

I had just finished my dissertation on white supremacist groups after spending several years in the field getting to know these extremists and I had a feeling the perpetrators looked a lot like me. That didn’t stop the “liberal” media going on and on about “Islamic terrorists.” I stayed up that night recording talk radio and listing to Little Limbaughs calling for the burning of every mosque in America. I knew they were wrong. They always are.

story.mcveigh.file.cnn

The following day when toe-headed white boy Timothy McVeigh was paraded before the media as the bomber, those Islamaphobes fell silent, and then turned their vitriol to the mentally ill. “Oh, this mass murderer looks like us? He must be crazy. He’s a Waco Wacko. It can’t be because he’s white.”

Timothy McVeigh killed those 168 people (including 19 children) BECAUSE he was white. And male. It was quickly revealed that McVeigh was part of the radical right underground. He and his co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, had done time in the militia movement. A diverse subculture, many patriot militia members (not all) believe the federal government has become a puppet of a global Jewish cabal and the only way to “rescue” the country is by waging a “second American Revolution.”  (All this is clearly researched in Ken Stern’s great book A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate.) McVeigh was a virulent racist. A Gulf War vet, he (falsely) bragged about killing Arabs in Iraq and peddled the racist novel, The Turner Diaries, at gun shows. The story, written by former OSU professor William Pierce, follows a committed gang of racists who want to reclaim America from the “Zionist Occupation Government” (ZOG) by starting a race war. This includes a truck bombing for the FBI building in Washington DC that McVeigh used as the model for Oklahoma City. The book also details the mass slaughter of minorities, liberals, and “race-mixers” who are seen as agents of ZOG.

image5353

I have a copy of The Turner Diaries that a Nazi skinhead gave me and there is a passage that reveals how this whole thing (McVeigh, the Militia Movement, the skinheads) is really about gender, even more than race.

Liberalism is an essentially feminine, submissive world view. Perhaps a better adjective than feminine is infantile. It is the world view of men who do not have the moral toughness, the spiritual strength to stand up and do single combat with life, who cannot adjust to the reality that the world is not a huge, pink-and-blue padded nursery in which the lions lie down with lambs and everyone lives happily ever after.” (p. 42)

McVeigh was a white warrior. Mark Hamm’s excellently researched book, In Bad Company: America’s Terrorist Underground, reveals how he was backed by Aryan gangsters, hell bent on race war. But he was also a man, who saw violence and terrorism as an acceptable expression of his rage at the system.

My dissertation was, ultimately, a feminist analysis of the skinhead subculture. I met a lot of guys like Timothy McVeigh. Their racism masked the fear that their traditionally defined masculinity was being stolen from them. Black men were taking their girlfriends away. Jewish elites and immigrants were taking their jobs away, minorities were taking their tax dollars away, and “lesbian feminists” were taking their women away. And the only way to “reclaim America” was through hate and violence. Racism was just one manifestation of their gender panic. The skinheads I knew in the 1990s complained more about First Lady Hillary Clinton than any black male celebrity. “She’s got this country by the balls,” one skinhead told me.

I see the same thing in elements of the Tea Party, which I think McVeigh would have loved. It’s made up mostly of old white men (and their dutiful wives) who want to “restore” America to some point before the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, when men were men and women knew their place.

But today is a day of remembrance. I’ve been to Oklahoma City twice since the bombing. There will forever be a giant scar in the city to remind us of that day 20 years ago and hopefully people will remember that it was a white male acting, not as a crazy person, but as a white male. If you go to the memorial you will see a field of 171 empty chairs for the victims. For the 168 victims. The ranger will only explain this if you ask him or her. It’s because three of the victims were pregnant women. The day I was there, he had tears in his eyes as he said it.

The threat of right-wing terrorism by white men is very real in the 2010s. They can’t process the world as a more equitable place. They are not going to be able to handle a female as a viable candidate for president in 2016. Get ready for the call to restore, reclaim, and reboot America. Get ready for more McVeighs.

Of course posts like this generate a backlash from those white men who are a bit fragile, so let me say that there are also women and non-whites who do horrible things. The difference is white men typically do it in defense of the status quo.

These books are mentioned in this post and are available at Powell’s by clicking the covers below.

I surrender the remainder of my time to my daughter.

April 17, 2015

“Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright, they just seem a little weird.” Cheap Trick, 1978.

11098537_811917425543347_1501264203_n

Today is our Cozette’s eighth month birthday. I could write about how fast the time goes. Indeed, I already have. Today I’m wondering where my time went. I realized that before she arrived, I had so much of it.

When you are childless, your time is your own. You want to join a kickball/drinking league? Do it. You want to go to Reno for the weekend and bet your tax refund? Do it. You want to go see the latest greatest band and then crash on a friend’s couch? Do it. The world is your alcohol-soaked oyster.

I used to spend a lot of time at a bar called Binks. I was there at happy hour and Saturday nights. The bartenders knew my name and I knew their’s. The regulars were like second cousins. It was just a place to be out in the world. The proverbial “second place” between work and home where community happens. Ah, those were the days.

Now baby sets the agenda. I thought as a stay-at-home dad I would have all the time in the world. I’d get all those projects done and read a ton of fiction. But there is no time. It’s a constant rush of activity. As I write this my wife is hiding in a long shower as I “watch” the baby. The baby is attempting to eat a book. It’s always something. I spent 10 minutes this afternoon dealing with the fact that I stepped on a turd that rolled out of her diaper.

Her first seven months we were living on her eating/crying/sleeping/pooping schedule. The sleeping time was like a gift from the gods. Maybe we would sleep, or maybe we would do some laundry or catch up on a show. Now that’s she’s crawling, everything is turned up to 10 (soon to go to 11). I got got got no time.

10462962_10153765618339307_8472379165650332971_n

This kid now has two primary missions. #1 is to chomp into any electrical cables in sight. I have to think this is a prenatal memory of her first friend, her umbilical chord. As Marvel Comics as it would be to have her severe a cable with her teeth and acquire a superpower, it’s just a lot of me screaming, “No!!!” Mission #2 is to eat all paper on Earth. Goats are very hip in Portland, so she might just be trending. But I just pulled a page of the latest issue of Men’s Health out her gob so she wouldn’t choke on the workout that I wasn’t going to do anyway.

The fact that’s she’s mobile means that she could disappear at any moment, like the meatball that rolled under a bush. “Where’s the baby?” is the new chant. On top of that, she loves to pull herself up on things and practice standing. So we are busy securing bookshelves to the wall and moving TVs so she doesn’t end up like one of those kids in that Super Bowl ad.

You really don’t get much of a break. God bless trustworthy babysitters (Shout out to Delia and Gary in LA and Andrea’s family in Salem). As much as we love our little tornado, those moments away are much needed. You have to recharge your basic humanity so you can be fully present for the 24-7 job of parenting. You really can’t call in sick on this one.

A few nights ago, Andrea went out for a drink with a friend who had just gotten back from Paris. I was fine solo-ing. I was doing it 5 days a week while she was working at Planned Parenthood. But then Cozy woke up and screamed for 45 minutes straight. I flipped out, sending my wife a flurry of texts. “Where are you? You have a baby! Why aren’t you answering? You are a crappy parent!” Not good. I should have just taken a chill pill and gave the kid some mushed banana. But my mind is no longer my own. Man is the baby.

So this is a message to all you childless people out there – Enjoy the time you have. Take a nap, or a walk, or a road trip to Austin, Texas. Go out and drink and sleep under a rose bush. Be random. Make no plans. Let the wind blow you around like a dandelion seed. It’s a beautiful gift you might trade in one day for another gift. But you might be trading it away for a very, very long time.

Gender Notes: A Short Note About Nigeria

April 14. 2015

A year ago tonight, hundreds of Nigerian girls went missing in the middle of the night, kidnapped by extremists to be sold as virgin brides. Many are now free and three are going to school here in Oregon, but 219 girls are still missing.

Nigeria marks anniversary of Boko Haram’s kidnap of 200 schoolgirls

51Y07VKKHTL

In the early 1980s, I fell in love with Nigeria, through the music of King Sunny Ade. His “juju” music, from the Yoruba tribe, hypnotized me and transported me to mythical Africa. I saw him first play at the Agora Ballroom in Atlanta in 1982 and was entranced by the colorful cothing of his band and their talking drums. But there was more to the “Giant of Africa,” than cool music. Unfortunately, now when you hear about Nigeria the only news is about Boko Haram and their abduction of young girls. Besides the fact that this is the country where Paul McCartney recorded Band on the Run, there is a rich gender history, of which #BringBackOurGirls is only one part.

Rooted in tribal groups, Nigeria has three large ethnic populations, the Hausa, Igbo, and Yaruba people. The Yaruba are the largest and have a long tradition of empowered women. In the pre-colonial era, land was communally owned and women had a central role in commerce. Women were a big part of long distance trade and many accumulated great wealth, rising in positions of power.

One of the things I’ve lectured about for decades is the way women lose power as they age in America. After 21, it’s all down hill, babe. Western African culture had the opposite take. It’s not about your looks, it’s about your wisdom. So older Nigerian women gained power as they aged. The matriarchal elements of tribal culture made girls and women valued as contributors to the whole.

What ruined this was the European colonizers who brought their heavy duty Church-backed patriarchal rule to Mother Africa. And the first thing the British did was establish an education system that invited the boys to school and sent the girls home. It’s an oversimplification to say that colonialism brought patriarchy to Africa, but the culture from the north dramatically altered the matriarchal and gender balanced relations of Nigeria.

After independence in 1960, the post-colonial education system raised the status of women. After a long period of military juntas, Nigeria saw a new era of democracy begin in 1999. But Nigeria is far from a human rights bastion. Child labor and the rape of inmates are common as is child marriage. Last year Nigeria past a law that allowed the government to sentence same-sex couples who marry to 14 years in prison and anybody who supports gay rights to 10 years in prison.

South Africa Nigeria Kidnapped Girls
The rise of religious extremist gangs, like the Islamic Boko Haram, is the pressing threat to females in Nigeria, especially in the northeastern part of the country that they control. A year later their oppression of females goes unchecked. Amnesty International estimates that they have abducted at least 2000 girls and women. According to UNICEF, over 800,000 children have fled their homes because of the conflict between Boko Harum, government forces and civilian self-defense groups. The war against women rages on.

Report: At least 2,000 women abducted by Boko Haram

The gender issues that Nigeria is facing in 2015, females face in varying degrees all over the globe. For my and all our daughters,  #BringBackOurGirls.

Feminist Herstory Pt. 4 – The Swingin’ Second Wave arrives

April 10, 2015

We’re back for the occasional history of feminist theory. Earlier posts are here:

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

Feminist Herstory Pt. 2 – Here comes the FIRST WAVE

Feminist Herstory Pt. 3 – Let’s Judge Ourselves as People

The 1960s were exploding with numerous waves of consciousness raising. In a short period of time, masses of people (especially young people) were re-evaluating how they thought about race, war, politics, social class, sexuality and gender. Boys began to grow their hair like girls and reject the marriage/house in the suburbs trajectory. Girls, with the help of the birth control pill in 1960, stopped waiting for Prince Charming and started practicing “free love.” A lot of the same old bullshit continued, but second wave feminists were active on numerous fronts.

2blog-msmagazine

In popular culture, Gloria Steinem not only went after Hugh Hefner on a 1960s talk show for referring to grown women as “girls,” but helped change the language itself. Single women were referred to as “Miss,” while married (claimed) women were “Mrs.” There was no equivalent shift for males. They were always “Mr.” whether they were single or not. Why not refer to females as “Ms.”? (Steinem founded Ms. Magazine in 1971, which became the standard bearer of second wave feminism.)

Feminist themes began creeping into 60s pop culture, in TV shows, like That Girl, and songs, like Aretha Franklin’s reworking of Otis Redding’s “Respect” and even the Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper.” Much of the feminist energy was not just a rejection of the plastic suburban lifestyle, but the gender politics of larger liberation movements. For example, young women would show up to participate in anti-war and New Left groups, like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and find males running the program and females expected to prepare food, not author manifestos.

My mother was typical of many middle-American women who heard about the feminist movement (“women’s lib”) from the fringes. She was 20 in 1963, when Friedan’s book came out, and newly married. She remembers seeing her on TV frequently in the 1960s, talking about The Feminine Mystique but not making the connection with her own situation. She recently emailed me about it:

Men were getting paid more than women for the same job, (and they still are). The big saying in the 60’s for men was “keep your wife barefoot and pregnant.” I also felt that with or without the feminist movement, a women could get ahead on her own with hard work a few brains, and knowing how to maneuver in a man’s world, such as starting a company, which I did.

Stepford wives

I think my mother, like a lot of women, didn’t see herself in the faces of the activists who were railing against “patriarchal oppression” and protesting against Playboy magazine and stay-at-home moms (which was never really the target). In the 1970s, she found a space to start her own consulting business. But that small space was created by the feminist pioneers who fought to get their foot in the door. It’s interesting that she pointed out the 1975 film, The Stepford Wives, as more influential on her ideas about gender power. The horror flick was rooted in the core principles of The Feminine Mystique; that you can only treat women like robots for so long.

The feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s was wide-ranging and defied any simple characterization of what a “feminist” was. (But, as we shall see in the Part 5, it wasn’t exactly inclusive). Liberal feminists, like Friedan, pushed towards an equality of the sexes, focusing on issues like equal pay and an end to job-discrimination. Marxist feminists, like Jeanne Gross, pointed out that women gaining access to the same jobs that exploit men is not true liberation. Their position was that, since capitalism turns women into commodities (and not just prostitutes), the best way to end sexist exploitation is to end capitalism.  Radical feminists, like Charlotte Bunch, pointed out that patriarchy predates capitalism and what feminists should focus on is various systems of oppression. And then socialist feminists, like Barbara Ehrenreich, were concerned about how all of these issues impact women’s individual economic lives.

So when people tried to characterize feminists as “bra-burning man-haters,” they were really just perpetuating a caricature favored by those who defend sexism. First of all, despite some of the un-evolved men at the SDS meetings, there were men engaged in consciousness raising groups and exploring their own male privilege. The debate within feminism was healthy and held together around two basic ideas. First was the idea that society is primarily organized around male power and that patriarchy is insidious in virtually every aspect of life. The second idea was the slogan, “The personal is the political.” Individual experiences of oppression are manifestations of social patterns and the solution to personal problems is collective action. The personal is the political!

By the early 1970s, the debates within the feminist movement were raging. Liberal feminists mobilized women to break through the old boys clubs of power and start cracking the glass ceilings. Radical feminists asked if claiming 50 percent of a world created by men was really best for women. Would a military in which half the members were female really be a transformation of society, or just one where women were good at playing men’s games? Some feminists were increasingly frustrated with the reluctance of the men in their lives to share power. Is it possible to have a truly equal relationship with a man? Some feminists suggested lesbianism and separatism as the only way to escape abuse, oppression and dehumanization. This extreme position actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it but separatist groups, like the Furies Collective, added to image of feminists as hating men.

As men (including many progressive men) dug their heals in to defend their patriarchal power (you could be Mr. Radical and still want “your woman” to get dinner on the table), the rhetoric heated up. Rage towards “male domination” and “male chauvinist pigs” may have been justified, but it fed into the hype that feminism was all about stoking the “battle of the sexes.” For me as a 9-year-old in Stone Mountain, Georgia, this was all manifested in a tennis battle between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. Riggs was a loudmouth who’d been a tennis champion in the 1940s. He seemed personally offended by the notion of female equality and made something of a comeback by challenging female tennis pros. The grand match was on September 20, 1973. There was a ton of hype about the ultimate “battle of the sexes” and anyone with a soul was rooting for King. Billie Jean beat Bobby’s ass in all three matches and he disappeared back into his cave. If you know the Elton John song “Philadelphia Freedom,” you know the right person won that round.

billie-jean-king-bobby-riggs-battle-of-the-sexes

Despite some of the rhetoric from some of the more militant factions, feminism was never about turning the oppression of women into the oppression of men. I think that was the fear of a lot of men. Just like Southern whites feared free blacks would torture whites as blacks had been tortured, many men feared free woman would go all Amazon on men, forcing them to bake three-level cakes and wear open-toed high heels. But feminism was geared towards ending oppression in general and men could be strong allies in that cause. But in the early 1970s, feminism needed a good look in the mirror to achieve that.

As the second wave moved into the 1980s, many feminists began to explore intersectionality and expand the big tent of feminism (that’s the subject of Part 5). Some liberal feminists, like Hilary Rodham Clinton, figured out how to beat men at their own game. But some Second Wavers got stuck in the early feminist thinking that cast women as universal victims and all men as dastardly agents of patriarchy. Some of those folks found an enclave working in Human Resources departments, zealously looking for sexual harassers, denying the agency of women. As we will discuss in a coming section, third wave feminists rejected this reductionary view as denying the complexity of gender power. But it makes for engrossing movies on the Lifetime Channel. Those evil men! But we still owe the second wave a great debt for naming the problem with no name and fighting it on multiple fronts.

The following book was mentioned in this post and available at Powell’s by clicking the cover below.

“That dude has intense eyes!” Normative maleness and my baby

April 6, 2015

One of the main goals of my Intro Sociology class at Portland State was to get students to develop an understanding of what feminism is really about. I would start with a riddle;

“OK, imagine a father hasn’t seen his son in 5 years. They are reunited and spend the day together. They go to a ballgame and out for burgers. On the way home there is a horrible crash and the father is killed. Barely alive and in need of surgery, the boy is rushed to the hospital. In the ER, the doctor rushes up and, with a shocked look, says, ‘I can’t operate on this child. He’s my son!’

So who is the doctor?”

In a room of 100 students there is almost always dead quiet. When I first heard this my mind went to SoapOperaLand. Maybe they were switched at birth and the doctor thinks this is his child.

The answer is much more simple. The doctor is the boy’s mother. But in a patriarchal culture we are taught to assume the male. It’s called normative maleness. “Female” is the default position. Actors (and actresses), poets (and poetesses).  Even with animals we assume the dog is a “he” even if we haven’t checked underneath to be sure.

tumblr_mdrweq1Eex1r4gisno1_500

It happens everyday. Cozy has plenty of pink but most of her clothes are not. She wears lots of clothes that were mine 50 years ago. We were at the videostore yesterday and a young clerk looked at her and Cozy gave him the “Whatchu lookin’ at, Willis?” stare. The kid said, “Man, that dude has intense eyes!” Yeah, it’s a girl, young brother. I did it just this morning. I got a note that a child of Cheap Trick singer Robin Zander, Holland Zander, might be interested in talking about my Dream Police novel. I immediately replied, “Please email him!” Turns out Holland is a she (and Robin is a he, a very awesome he). In the 2000s, whenever I would see a news headline that read something like, “Clinton headed to China,” I would think, “Oh, Bill’s taking a trip!” It was always Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Always.

So I lecture on normative maleness and how it serves to make females fade from view. It’s even in our politics. There are political issues and then “women’s issues,” like health care and education. All the women in the class, whether they call themselves feminists or not, get it. A lot of the guys have sort of a “so what” look on their faces, but I get 10 weeks in a quarter to work my magic. There’s a similar  situation of normative whiteness, how we assume a person is white unless we are told otherwise. What’s the picture in your head when you hear the term, “All-American kid”? It’s probably not a girl named Fatima.

Having a baby is a good place to see this play out on a daily basis. Since gender is socially constructed, babies start out genderless. We horseshoe them into pink or blue realities from Day 1. (Now we can start before they are even born!). But, in reality, babies don’t look much like boys or girls. They look like babies.

PATTON

We were out at the coast yesterday, a nice Easter road trip to Lincoln City. Cozy was in awe of the Pacific. I love seeing her see things for the first time. I snapped a picture of her. As soon as I looked at it I realized that my baby looks like comedian Patton Oswalt! When I posted it on Facebook, a friend commented that all babies look like Patton Oswalt. Whew. Love the guy but my projection on my daughter, as it turns out, is more gendered than I thought. If she’s going into comedy, I see her as more of a Cecily Strong an Amy Schumer. (Although, Patton Oswalt seems like a perfectly happy person, so I’ll take him.)

I’m a bit off point here. It’s just very telling how many people think Cozy is a boy when she is wearing her green sweater or sucking on her blue binky. In this “genderless” moment she is completely free. I love her gender transgressions and I hope it sows the seeds of not feeling trapped in the “girl box.” She’s Cozy Fucking Blazak! She can construct her own definition of gender.

This Dar Williams song makes me think about the time she has to be genderless.