Gender Notes: A Short Note About Mexico

July 21, 2015

I’m loving my time in Mexico and we’re not even half-way through the adventure. Every day holds a dozen new sensations and the people are so generous here, it puts self-absorbed Americans to shame. Mexico is a complex country, existing in the high tech modern and almost feudal rural worlds at the same time. My feminist brain has noticed some deeply gendered realities, but I have to remind myself that it’s not just Mexico that can get caught in the past. I’m sure that rural Alabama is basically the same.

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I’m back with my family in Andrea’s grandmother’s town. It’s a little place called Puente de Ixtla in the state of Morelos, near Mexico City. The house is really a group of houses for the family. Andrea’s abuela lives in the house in front and some of her dozen children live in other houses on the property. It’s like a family compound known as a vecindad and it keeps the family close to each other. That means there’s a host of uncles that can help take care of grandma.

But in reality, it’s the uncle’s wives that do most of the work. In a classic gender division of labor, the women stay in the house cooking and cleaning constantly. As a guest, it’s wonderful to be the recipient of such hospitality. I can’t say no to all this amazing food, but when I helped Andrea wash the dishes, there were some laughs. What’s a man doing washing dishes?

This isn’t just a rural Mexican thing. Dorothy Smith wrote about this over forty years ago. Women are relegated to the domestic realm while men exist outside the house. Virginia Woolf wrote about it long before that. There’s really no reason for the woman here to leave the house except for an occasional trip to the market. There’s even a whole army of beeping trucks and honking bikes who will deliver everything from tortillas to propane to your door. The streets are filled with a barrage of these sounds on the lookout for housewives who will flag them down.

You could make the case that this system exists because it works. But who does it work for? Just like Betty Friedan addressed in The Feminine Mystique in 1963, these women are fully formed human beings, not domestic robots. Just maybe, at one point in their lives, they imagined themselves pursuing their own dreams and goals. Of course this way of life is so deeply rooted, being a “good wife” may be the only objective.

This gender dynamic played out last night. I got pulled in to a drinking contest with an uncle we will just refer to as Tio Diablo. I let my own macho desire to not be shown up get the better of me. I didn’t want to be the “American wimp” with this hard drinking lot (and I’m paying for it today). A group of us were sitting outside drinking 40s and Grandma, 84, was chugging the Coronas. One of the uncles’ kids is a beautiful 4-year-old girl and Grandma gave her a sip of her beer. I was a bit shocked but then she started just sharing the beer with this child who was enjoying it way too much. I asked the girl if she was OK and she just smiled. It was a case of bystander apathy. Later, I was angry at myself for not intervening right away. Children’s brain development can be seriously compromised by alcohol. What if grandma thinks it’s “cute” to give Cozy beer?

I don’t expect Andrea’s abuela to be up on the latest research on pediatric cognitive development, but there’s bigger issue at work. This girl is on a trajectory to be another housewife and if she loses a few brain cells, it shouldn’t interfere with her ability to get supper on the table. Added to it is an element of racism. Because this little girl has more of an indigenous Mexican look she is also devalued, as opposed to Cozy who is fawned over because she is so “white” looking.

I talked to Andrea about the beer thing and she talked to her mom and there was a little chat with Grandma. So I think the beer thing is dealt with. I did get an epic evil eye from her for bringing my Yankee values to her casa, but who cares, this little girl deserves every possible chance to do whatever she wants to in life.

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I’ve often lectured about how we can be ethnocentric when viewing other cultures, but sometimes it make sense. I have wonder what it would be like if a wave of feminist consciousness swept Puente de Ixtla like it did America fifty years ago. Men might have to start washing their own dishes! And maybe women would get dressed up and go out on the town for a bit of fun.

I don’t want this post to sound ungrateful for all the wonderful hospitality I’ve enjoyed here.  Andrea’s family is vibrant and hilarious, singing and laughing. It really is like a dream to be here. And Cozy Valentina loves all the attention. Family is so important. I just want everybody in the family to be fully valued.

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Dad Love, Pt. 6 – First Steps

July 17, 2015

I’m learning there are a lot of “first times” when you have a kid. I’m sure my father remembers the first time I told him his car was “hit in the parking lot.” (There would be subsequent times.) The first year is full of non-stop firsts. Like the first time I saw Cozy figure out how to use her thumbs. Mind blown. There was the first time she rolled over on her own. That was pretty amazing as there was about a two week build-up of valid attempts and then BAM. I was there for that.

There are a couple of big ones. Yeah, she got mama before dada, but she rocks “Dada!” a lot more these days. Maybe she is saying, “Where is Dada and why does he only appear on Mama’s laptop? If I pretend to be asleep, perhaps I’ll hear them explain why.” It must be confusing because of all the,  “Oh, baby” business. “Me? Are you talking to me? You said, ‘oh baby,” Dada.”

I mention this because yesterday Cozy took her first steps and I had to see it second hand in a video Andrea sent me. Cozy walked her first walk in the same house Andrea took her first steps, in Morelia, Mexico. Her mother and her sister were there as well, all coaching my daughter on. All the Mexican relatives call her by her middle name, Valentina, because Cozy sounds weird in Spanish. In the video, you can see how proud Cozy Valentina is of her accomplishment. “Bravo! Bravo!”

Of course I’m sad that I missed it. Two more days later and I could have been there to clap with the whole family. But in a way, it’s good timing. She walked yesterday, today is her eleven month birthday and tomorrow morning we will all be  reunited in the Mexico City airport, probably by the Krispy Kreme. I haven’t seen them in two weeks but I plan to drop to my knees and have Cozy walk to me. And then have grandma take the baby while I throw my wife onto the baggage claim belt for some seriously inappropriate PDA. That week will all be about catching up and then all of us return to the isla where I will be the first one to walk on the beach with her.

But I’m not that sad that I missed it because I got to see so many firsts when Andrea returned to work after the birth (including the first solid poop #winning). There will  be many more to come. She will have her first birthday, four weeks from today, here on the isla. We have first sentences and first eating with a spork. She had her first trip to the hospital last week (just a cold), but her first sea turtle should be pretty wild.

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I did an incredible drift-dive yesterday. A big group of us jumped off the boat in our scuba gear, raced down to the bottom and let the rapid current whip us around to the other side of the island where the sea turtles live. We were like a mob rolling into their turf. It was a first for me and I’m still buzzing from it. I hope I can give Cozy the wonderment that all the first moments nature has to offer. If the environmentalists continue their battle against the money people, she should have lots, but it’s certainly not guaranteed. The natural beauty of this island, for example, is being eroded by the tourist industry. Talk to a diver about the reefs if you don’t believe me. I want this all to be here when she is ready to suit up and see it for herself.

As a feminist, there are other firsts I fear. The first time she hears that being pretty is more important than being smart. The first time she realizes that “like a girl” is used as a put-down. The first time she learns that there are men and boys that will mentally, physically, and sexually abuse her just because she is a girl. The first time she realizes that most people think God is a “He.” All that is coming and we gotta prepare her for the bullshit as much as the wonderment.

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But for now, I’m gonna watch the video of her walking one more time and get ready to see her do it in person tomorrow in Mexico City.  Our first walk together.

Felices once meses, mi hija!

When our heroes are raped: Loving and learning from The Runaways.

July 13, 2015

A few years back I started writing a book about all my rock star stories and the lessons learned. I was going to call it Jukebox Hero, and there was gonna be a big chapter on the 70s band The Runaways. The recent Huffington Post article about the rape of bassist Jackie Fox by the band’s “manager” Kim Fowley has got the band back in my head and the normality of the rape of young girls in the public discourse. Or at least it should.

The Lost Girls. One famous band. One huge secret. Many lives destroyed.

But first the story of how The Runaways turned me into a riot grrrl before Carrie Brownstein was in kindergarten.

A thousand years ago, in 1977, before iTunes, there was the Columbia House Record Club. You could get 12 vinyl albums for a penny (with some vague agreement that you would sell your soul to the devil, or buy more LPs later). At the age of 13, I used it to complete my Kiss collection. I also got the ELO album that Mission of the Sacred Heart is based on. But I only had 11 selections. What to get to finish the order?

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A friend had the recent Columbia House catalog. I found a little section for “punk rock,” something I had been reading about in Creem Magazine. They had Patti Smith, the Ramones, and a group of five teenage girls called The Runaways. Of course, being a 13-year-old boy I chose The Runaways. The end of that story is that record ended up being my favorite of the 12 and opened me up a whole universe of music you couldn’t hear on the radio. The music for us misfits, born to be bad.

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That album was Queens of Noise, their second album. They were only a few years older than me, probably 11th graders. They looked mean and not cutsie, which made them hot. I wasn’t old enough to know that girls weren’t supposed to rock like this. I would blast “Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin” from bedroom in Stone Mountain. Lita Ford’s massive guitar groove and Jackie Fox’s epic bass-line would echo through the Woodridge subdivision. Punk rock. This was my band and these were my people. My generation, baby! That was the year I saw Led Zepplin in concert and fell asleep. Give me loud, fast and hard.

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I finally saw them play in February of 1978 just a few days after my 14th birthday. I was finally allowed to go to concerts without my mom. They played at the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium, a hall that usually hosted wrestling matches, opening for the Ramones (with The Dynamic Atlanta Cruise-O-Matic first on the bill). Jackie Fox and singer Cherie Curie had just left the band, so it was just Joan Jett, Lita Ford, drummer Sandy West and new bassist Vicki Blue blowing the doors off. They didn’t play “Neon Angels,” but I was still in heaven. Not because they were “hot girls,” but because they were my age and they rocked with a fierceness Beyoncé could only dream of. Oh, and the Ramones were pretty great too, but that’s another chapter.

When Joan Jett’s first solo album came out, Bad Reputation, all the hip kids at Redan High School got it. That means me and two or three others. The rest were still jamming to Ted Nugent and Styx. Then “I Love Rock and Roll” came out right as MTV was landing and it was all over. My little secret rock singer belonged to the masses and a million karaoke bars.

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I got to meet Joan in early 1982. I was working at Turtles Records & Tapes and she did an in-store appearance at the Northlake Mall store. I took my Runaways albums for her to sign and she appreciated the pre-hit fandom. In the picture of us together, you can see a white streak on my jaw-line. That’s a big dollop of Clearasil I didn’t properly wipe off my face. I was 18, OK?

A few years later, I became friends with Mickey Steele of The Bangles. We were in Nashville and I was talking about my love for The Runaways and how they really set the stage for “girl bands” like The Bangles. That’s when she told me she was IN an early version of The Runaways and co-wrote “Born to Be Bad” on the Queens of Noise album! Shortly, after that I became good friends with LA music icon Phast Phreddie Patterson. Turns out The Runaways first show was in his living room! I was so close to this band that meant so much to me when I was a pimply teenager.

But still there was no mention of the abuse the girls had suffered as young females in this patriarchal business in this patriarchal culture.

I knew about Kim Fowley because I studied the liner notes of every album I put my hands on. He wrote songs on Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare and Kiss’ Destroyer albums. His name was on the American Graffiti soundtrack. He wrote, “Alley Oop!” None of those sources let on that he was a sexual predator. OK, maybe Kiss’ “King of the Night Time World” was a clue. “It’s so bad, goin’ to school. So far from me and the dirty things that we do.” He wrote that.

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In 1997, I was in LA and saw that drummer Sandy West was playing a show at the Coconut Teaser on Sunset. It was a great set and Cherie Currie showed up to do a few old Runaways songs with her. After the show I told Sandy my Columbia Record Club story and she dragged me over to Cherie to retell the story. I was hanging out with the Runaways! I’m glad I got to meet Sandy as she died of cancer in 2006. She was a true pioneer for women in rock music.

By the time the movie about the Runaways came out in 2010, the Kim Fowley story was out. The 2004 documentary Edgeplay:A Film About the Runaways danced around it. Fowley was in that film but Joan Jett was not. But the 2010 film, starring Dakota Fanning as Cherie Curie and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, heavily leaned in to the idea that Fowley was more of a warped Svengali than a visionary of feminist rock. “Creep” would be the better word. I was sad that Jackie Fox’s role was written out of the film (I now get why she refused to allow her likeness to be used) but it did give me another chance to meet Cherie.

There was a screening of the film at the Hollywood Theater in Portland and Cherie talked a bit after the movie. When I asked if they thought they were “punk rock,” I dropped that I had seen the band in 1978. There was a a groan from all the young women who would have loved to have been there. The benefit of being old I guess. Anyway, I reminded Cherie that I met her with Sandy and got her to sign the Queens of Noise album that Joan had signed 28 years earlier.

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After that we briefly became Facebook friends but she routinely attacked me and my friends for our liberal views, finally unfriending me. Turns out she’s a Tea Partier and sort of a female Ted Nugent. Kind of ironic for a woman who brags about having sex with Joan Jett. Dagger to the heart, Cherie.

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This past week The Runaways are back in the news cycle with Jackie Fox’s revelation of the story everyone has danced around for all these decades. On New Year’s Eve 1975, she alleges, just a week after her 16th birthday, entering into a scene that has occurred in endless permutations. Back at the hotel, after the show, a roadie gave the teenager multiple quaaludes. The short version is that Fowley then entered the room, took her blouse off and raped her with the handle of a hairbrush while other members of the band watched. The Huffington article is hard enough to read so imagine the worst.

Fowley went down to cancer in January so he can’t reply. But Fox’s (real name; Jackie Fuchs) motive to telling the story now is to better understand the bystander effect and how her young bandmates are not to blame for not intervening in the attack. Of course, right-winged Currie quickly posted a message that she was the victim of these allegations and would mount a Go Fund Me campaign so she could afford a lie detector test. (Facepalm.) And Jett has said he doesn’t remember the events as told by Fox but if it had happened that way she surely would have stopped it. (You really want to imagine Joan Jett kicking Kim Fowley’s ass through the wall). Both women showed their support for Fox and her path through this. None of us were there so we’re likely to let our sympathies determine what we think the real story is.

The more important thing is how common this story is and how much we DON’T WANT TO BELIEVE IT. You (I mean, YOU the reader)  know so many women who were victims of rape when they were very young, but there is this denial that is just infuriating. Just think of all the people who defended Bill Cosby. When Fowley died in January, Joan Jett delivered a heartfelt eulogy at his Hollywood funeral. Many wondered how a woman who was the “godmother of riot grrrl” and helped to organize the Home Alive project after the rape and murder of Gits singer Mia Zapata could honor a man who was well know to sexually prey on underage girls. Is it just because “that’s the way it was in those days”? Or is our rape culture so normalized we’ll let a abusive monster slide because his name is on a stack of cool records?

It’s confusing because I want my daughter to love The Runaways the way I did when I was 13. If I have to tell her to turn down “Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin,” I will know that I have met one of my primary parenting goals. But she’s going to know that the rape of girls is part of the story and such a common tale behind so many things she will love. I would like her to think, WWJJD? (What would Joan Jett do?) but in this example, that might be the exact wrong thing. I don’t know. We can’t blame people for paralysis that being a bystander can create. But we can celebrate those who bust through it and act to defend those in desperate need of action. Jackie Fox is a really important name in the history of rock music. But her story is more important.

Side Note: Today is the first anniversary of Andrea and my beautifully simple wedding in a casino chapel in Reno. I hate that we are apart, but pledge to be her ally and supporter until death do us part. I love her more every day and there will be fireworks when I see her in five days!

Dial your douchebag down: How to.

July 8, 2015

Ah, summertime when a boy’s mind turns to, well these days, probably endless video games. I was a bit girl crazy as a boy (not that I ever did anything about it) and it was the “crazy” part that got me into trouble later. You see (feminist blogger confession coming), I was trained to be a girl watcher. As a 70’s kid, I came of age in the era of “jiggle TV” (Google it). I had a poster of Charlie’s Angels on my wall with Jacyln Smith’s cleavage stationed right at eye level.

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The message was clear. Men are to look and women are to be looked at. There was no concept that they might not want to be looked at that way or that men should be equally objectified. Females were just eye candy.

This was reinforced all around me. Men’s magazine’s had pictures of women to look at, but so did women’s magazines. My mom’s Glamour magazine provided more fantasy material than Playboy ever could. And my father was not shy about craning his neck to see a pretty girl, once almost driving the car off the road. There was no counter message about the real impact of all this girl watching.

I’m going to save, for another day, the discussion of beauty myth and what the toll is of the atmosphere of non-stop (mostly airbrushed) images of “beautiful” women. And there is even another discussion about the social construction of beauty itself. Today, from my little cafe on Isla Mujeres, I want to write about the cost of looking.

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So, as you may know, I’m currently living on an island in the Caribbean called Isla Mujeres, writing and helping teach a course on research methods. Isla Mujeres – Island of Women. While there are Mayan goddess roots to that name, the marketing of the island alludes to the fact that beautiful women from around the world come here for sun and fun, so boys head over with your pesos. I would be an idiot not to notice the contrast between the locals and the large numbers of young people (including female people) wandering around in their bathing suits. So does this give me permission to girl-watch? I mean, my wife and child won’t join me here for over two weeks. What could be the harm?

This has long been an issue for me that I think I finally have a handle on. They say old habits are hard to break and you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but psychologists will tell you that even longstanding synaptic pathways can be re-wired. Those deep ruts, worn in from bad cognitive patterns can be rebuilt.

I’ll start with a little story that gives me a starting point. In 1994, I was nearing the end of my doctoral dissertation at Emory but also doing a lot of spoken word performances. I was to asked to organize the poetry events for part of the Lollapalooza tour that year (the one with the Beastie Boys). That year the big fad was for young women to just wear bras, with no shirt. I imagine that that was quite liberating in sweaty but conservative Georgia. My girlfriend at the time, Christina D., caught me looking and asked, “What are you thinking about?” Now this was at a time when I was fully embracing feminism and assigning Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth to my students at Emory. My answer to her was, “I was just thinking about how I want to fuck every single one of these girls.”

Such a dochebag moment. There was no thought of how that statement would hurt her let alone the impact of the activity itself. And she’d called me on it before. In fact, often after margaritas, this 5 foot 1 “girl” would kick my ass down the street for ogling women. (Those of you that knew Christina D. can surely see this happening.) My defense? A. Men are just more visually stimulated than women. And B. I’m just looking.

This issue had been a long-running problem in my relationships. One minute I was lecturing about the male gaze in patriarchal mainstream media, and the next I was checking out a coed walking across campus. I’d write it off as no big deal. I don’t care about those women on a personal level and will probably forget I ever saw them. But each one probably was a little stab for the woman I was with. “He says he loves me but why does he do this to me?”

I’m not sure how this plays in same sex relationships, but in male-female relationships there are two elements of gender socialization that factor into it. The first is that men learn male bonding at a very early age. We may compete on the basketball court, but, at the end of the day, we’re headed to the same treehouse. (“Bros before hos, bro! Jaeger shots!) Girls are trained to compete with each other for the same scarce resource, the Bachelor. (“Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?”) So while dudes are calling each other “bro,” girls and grown women are calling each other “skank.” Divide and conquer the ladies.

The second part is that once bro and skank are in a relationship, not only does he not want to talk about the relationship, he doesn’t want to even hear about it. It’s her job to maintain the whole thing (I have an earlier blogpost about this), so when there is a problem (and there always is) she’s expected to suffer in silence. Until it all blows up and bro asks, “What the fuck?” Then some other bro will just say, “What do expect from a ho? They’re all crazy.”

This where I can help both parties. Learn from my mistakes. Bro, you are a human, not a bro. And she is also a human, not a ho, skank, or hooch. She might be a “swamp donkey,” but I don’t know what that means. It does not sound good. So Step One is stop dehumanizing the other. There is no other. There is only us. Us together. Step Two is don’t just listen but hear. Hear the hurt you do. You love and respect this person, hear the hurt you cause. It may mean nothing to you (“I’m just looking!”), but if hurts her and you blow it off, that’s on you. She needs to be stronger because she’s with you. Not weaker. There is an old R&B song that says, “When something is wrong with my baby, something is wrong with me.” Listen to it often.

Now if bro is not in a relationship, he may fell free and clear to stare at women. But here’s two things to chew on. 1) There is also a real impact of your male gaze on the women and (often under-aged) girls you creep on, and 2) why build a habit that you are just going to have to break later? Like, when you grow the fuck up.

There’s this video circulating this summer called “The Scientific Reason Why Guys Stare At Girls Will Surprise You.” First of all there is no actual science presented in the video. Secondly, it’s done by right-wing radio personality Dennis Prager. He’s an active anti-feminist. Just check out the other videos on his Prager “University” channel. It’s the shit that masquerades as legitimate academic thinking on the internet. The guy rivals Trump in the 2015 Douchebag footrace.

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Having said that, some of his points are rooted in general sociological thinking. Women are trained to constantly compare themselves against each other and evaluate the threat. I mean, Halle Berry’s husband, Eric Benet, cheated on Halle Berry. I mean, seriously. So I get why women might have some anxiety. And yeah, guys might just be getting a taste of eye candy, but Prager seems to be saying, “So just shut the fuck, you crazy bitches.” And bro, go right ahead and look because “Professor” Prager says, “Science!” Most importantly it serves to invalidate the very real feelings of the female in the relationship.

So much of the world under our noses seems invisible. This includes the emotional world of women – Who have been trying to tell us about it for ages. Virginia Woolf, where are you? Oh, in the bookstore? OK. But there is a paperback version of Jurassic World! But that big picture may be hard for some guys to swallow, so try this. If it’s important to your partner, it should be important to you. If turning down the Girl Watcher Eye will make her feel better about you, I promise it will make you feel better about you.

hor_122Isla MujeresThis is a really long post to say old habits can be broken. It’s not a sad thing. I’m happy to be in place so physically different from Portland and so emotionally different from 1994. And I’m almost as naked as everybody else, so… When I finally heard my wife, I started rewiring my brain and it feels nice. So besides the goddess Ixchel (above), there’s only one girl I want to watch. OK, two. Which means get ready for devastatingly cute pictures of Cozy at the beach.

Vivimos en dos mundos (We live in two worlds)

July 4, 2014

This is my first time blogging from another country. We arrived in Mexico two days ago so I could teach a research methods class on an island in the Caribbean. I’m not doing it for money, just to live on a tropical island for six weeks and get my Ernest Hemmingway on. Cozy will have her first birthday on Isla Mujeres and probably celebrate it by riding away on the back of a dolphin.

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But first we’ve come down to the city Andrea is from, Morelia, to spend time with her family. We’ve been here together before and I wonder if last time we were here, her mother imagined us returning with a child. I love seeing my wife in her native land, returning to the house she grew up in. And Cozy’s eyes are wide at all the new sites, sounds, smells, and flavors. While her dad and her uncle do shots of mescal, she watches kids play soccer in the alley.

We made a decision early on that our daughter would spend as much time in Mexico as possible. She is “bi-racial” and certainly, at least, bi-ethnic. On the 2010 U.S. Census, nearly 3% of the population identified themselves as being more than one race. The number of biracial children increased 50% from the 2000 census. While the white-supremacists I study see all this “race-mixing” as the end of the white race as we know it (a race that never actually existed until slave-traders invented it), most of us see it as a beautiful door that opens to more goodies. Postmodernists tell us that collision is production. You bigots can keep your chocolate and peanut butter separate, but give me my damn Reeces.

The line I’ve always heard from people (especially racists) is that bi-racial children suffer because their identity is somehow split in two. There was the famous 2009 case of the Louisiana judge, Justice Keith Bardwell, who refused to marry an interracial couple because of the harm it would do their future children. Tell that to Barrack Obama. There is no scientific evidence that shows that biracial kids have it harder because of their status. The only evidence of harm comes from the racists themselves who stigmatize such children as “half-breeds” (Cue Cher song.)

Most anti-miscegenation appeals are by racists who fear the blurring of racial boundaries. There has long been a fear of “mulattos” making it hard for whitey. Just watch the 1915 epic Birth of a Nation. “Is he black or is he white? Quick! Call the Klan! Stay in your racial box, boy!” But the other side is about the loss of culture. For example, the more Native Americans assimilate with American culture, the less of their own culture they have to hold on to. I went to a wedding on the Warm Springs reservation between members of two different tribes and there was an awareness that the children would be less than full-blooded members of any one tribe.

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Cozy isn’t half anything. She’s full on human. Like most of us, her parents bring different pieces of ethnic culture to her party. I’m far from 100% Czech and my Czech relatives were probably from Poland anyway. We’re all mutts to some degree. And we know that genetic diversity makes us stronger. I’d like to convince some inbred white supremacists who think the “white race” is going to disappear of this, but they’re too inbred to understand that it’s all just shades of flesh color.

Anyway, the point of this blog post (and this trip) is that we want our daughter to know the vibrant Mexican culture her mother comes from. When I grew up watching TV,  I thought Mexico was a big desert filled with banditos, siestas, and mice that ran really fast. The reality is much different. My wife had never even heard of Mexican jumping beans. And don’t go looking for burritos here. Huaraches y micheladas, si. I love Mexico and I want Cozy to know the real deal, not the fear of rapists and murderers that morons like Donald Trump spread. Or the reports of narcos chopping off people’s heads that pop up in the news and then end up on Breaking Bad.

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Mexico is a colorful land filled with endless music and food and generous people. (Can I please pay for something? You payed for the last ten things!) Sure, it’s had its recent struggles with corrupt police and narco syndicates who exist solely to feed America’s drug appetite, but there is also a beautiful resistance. Just watch the brilliant film Hecho en Mexico (now streaming on Netflix) to witness the true soul of this land, defiant to generations of colonizers. I want my daughter to know the vibrance of this spirit.

In many ways, Mexico is like los Estados Unidos. People are addicted to their smart phones and crappy TV shows. They just wear more Hollister gear and don’t believe in car seats. But they do have movies in 4-D. We just saw the new Terminator film and were, quite literally, blown up and down. (C’mon, USA, catch up!) And Mexico has its own issues with gender fairness just like us. But for every macho ranchero there is a budding feminist rapper, like Mare Advertencia Lirika, bubbling up from below the ground.

The big question for us is will baby Cozy get her ears pierced while she’s here. (It’s the culture, OK?) She will be baptized in a Catholic church in two weeks, which will give her something totally valid to rebel against later. 11356677_1464214720555714_304303057_n

How can anyone be less for sharing in two cultures? Our daughter will learn how to eat Velveeta from her white dad and make abuelita from her brown mom. Being from two worlds will give her options. How Latina does she feel today? Culottes or an escaramuza? She can travel widely as 450 million Earthlings speak Spanish. Summers in the Philippines or Costa Rica? The future looks a lot more like her mother than it does me. She will be a richer person because she is bi-racial and I’m excited for her to have both worlds to enjoy.

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But for now she is going to enjoy two weeks in Morelia being gushed over by her family here while I head off to Isla Mujeres to start my teaching job. When I rejoin her I’m sure she will be a little darker and a lot more spicy. My little Mexican jumping bean.