Friday, March 30, 2007

The Needless Fear of Day Care - Judith Warner - Domestic Disturbances - Times Select - New York Times Blog

Playing the Mommy Card: Real and Unreal Work

The Needless Fear of Day Care - Judith Warner - Domestic Disturbances - Times Select - New York Times BlogI’ve got some good news to share. The latest word about day care from the nation’s largest, longest-running, highest-quality, mega-government-financed study is this: it doesn’t really matter much at all. That’s not, of course, what most newspaper headlines announced this week. They declared that new links had been found between day care and aggression, between day care and fighting, disobedience to teachers and, well, bad behavior in school generally, right on up to sixth grade.

So, a study indicates that there's no significant different between kids who've spent their early years in day care and those who've been raised by stay-at-home moms. But the media spins the insignificant, ambiguous difference in outcomes as a result indicating that day care is bad for kids.

Qui bono? Why is there a market for this spin? And why am I, apparently, the only person on the Internet who understands why there's a market for it?

It isn't hard to understand really. Most work stinks--and most women's work is especially stinky: it's mindless drudgery with nothing to learn, no chance to achieve, no result to show at the end of the day and no opportunity for advancement. You sit in a carrel taking phone orders. You sit at a terminal inputting data while your supervisor monitors every keystroke. You stand behind a checkout counter scanning groceries. That's what work is for most people--not some underclass minority who are especially oppressed, but most people and not just women. "Real Work" is mindless drudgery at high reps without anything to show for it, and women's work especially is physically constrained and closely supervised. It's being buried alive.

Every reasonable person will do everything in their power to avoid Real Work. That's why I got a PhD. Most women, and men, can't get PhDs and, in any case, there isn't enough Unreal Work--work that's interesting, challenging and produces results you can be proud of--to go around. For most women, the only way to escape Real Work is to plead child care responsibilities. Most women are desperate to hear that day care is bad for kids so that they can cite the statistics to justify getting out of work, and have a response to husbands pushing them out of the house. "Get your butt to Walmart, bitch, and get a job." "No, no Honey, it would be bad for the kids."

Between high school and college I worked as a clerk-typist for a bus company. I sat between Lois and Mrs. Kuhn who, though they weren't much older than me, were married and were trying desperately to get pregnant because it was the ticket out of the office. I saw that this wasn't a long term solution. Besides young women like them, doing what they could to get married and pregnant so that they could quit work, there were older women who were pushed back into the labor force after their children were grown. I realized that marriage and childbearing wouldn't do: the only way to avoid Real Work permanently was by getting the qualifications and credentials for Unreal Work--work that was interesting, challenging and produced some satisfying result. That's why I went to college, killed myself to get the highest possible GPA, and then went to grad school: to avoid boring work.

But that route isn't feasible for most women, or men, and there isn't enough Unreal Work to go around. So the only way most women can get out of work even temporarily is by playing the Mommy Card. Taking care of young children is bad, but the alternative is much, much worse and anything that will get you out of the pure hell of work even temporarily is a good thing. Is work really that bad? You better believe it is. The chattering classes, the tiny minority who have the incredible luxury of doing interesting work, don't recognize that but the overwhelming majority of the population for whom work is pure hell will do anything to avoid it even temporarily.

There's a market for bad news about day care because it's become the only chance women have to play the Mommy Card. That's why the Mommy Wars are going on--between that minority of women like me who've managed to avoid Real Work by getting Unreal Work and the majority of women, like Lois and Mrs. Kuhn, whose only chance for respite from the hopeless, mindless drudgery of Real Work is the Mommy Card.

R.I.P. Catherine Catt

Our 16 year old cat, CATherine, a.k.a. Kitty, died yesterday. Kudos and thanks to everyone at the South Bay Veterinary Hospital who have been wonderful to her and all our beasts.

Catherine was not a good cat. Red in tooth and claw, she decimated the local bird population, beat up other neighborhood cats and thought nothing of taking on our 75 pound lab. She regularly bit the hand that fed her--namely mine. She was spiteful and vindictive: when she got cat food that didn't suit her, she made a point of pooping all over the kitchen floor. She bit, scratched, growled, hissed, spit, sharpened her claws on furniture, sprayed and just plain didn't like us.

I know dogs go to heaven. I'm not so sure about cats but I hope they don't go to hell because Catherine was a thoroughly bad cat. And we miss her!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Saints of Ecology: F*** YOU!

Welcome to Walden Pond, Fifth Avenue style. Isabella’s parents, Colin Beavan, 43, a writer of historical nonfiction, and Michelle Conlin, 39, a senior writer at Business Week, are four months into a yearlong lifestyle experiment they call No Impact. Its rules are evolving, as Mr. Beavan will tell you, but to date include eating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost, see above); using no paper; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation.

I have a Swiffer. It's a handy device for cleaning floors that runs on 4 AA batteries which power a squirt from a bottle of cleaning stuff. You put in the bottle, attach a disposable paper pad with velcro, and clean the floor with it. It's hopelessly wasteful but gets the floor clean without much effort.

It's unecological but I need all the help I can get. Somehow I don't have the talent for housework much as I wish and much as I try. I've bitten the bullet and hired cleaners to come in every two weeks but it's still beyond what most people can handle. I don't have any fetishes about germs--I just want to place to look ok and not shock people, but it's losing battle.

I don't have a big ecological footprint compared to most Americans. I drive a sub-compact, I don't use a dishwasher and, frankly, I only shower about once a week. I don't buy lots of stuff: my working wardrobe consists of 3 pairs of jeans I got about 4 years ago, tee shirts and assorted sweaters I got at yard sales. I turn off lights, including the lights in the ladies room in my hall. I don't mind sacrificing stuff but I will not sacrifice time or convenience.

An inveterate consumer of women's magazines, I have read innumerable articles about saving money and the environment. One of the themes is the Joy of Couponing: there are, apparently, women who make a hobby of collecting coupons, filing and organizing them, and swapping them with other hobbiests. Once a year or so they take all their coupons to the supermarket and buy two shopping carts full of brand name merchandise for 97¢. Another theme is Ecological Families. They spend all their spare time composting and sorting trash which they take to recycling centers so that on garbage day they don't have more than a grocery bag full of recalcitrant rubbish to be picked up.

I am just not going to do this stuff. I need to do my work and I also want to do things that matter to me in my spare time: improving my French, knitting, keeping up with the piano, and learning math. I am not going to spend my time clipping coupons or sorting trash. There are three kinds of people that get into this: housewives desperate to avoid getting pushed into the labor force, the idle rich and the idle stupid, which overlap. These are people who don't have the wit to use leisure productively or have to pretend that they're doing real work. Please, Massa Hubby, don't make me get a job at Walmart--I'm saving us all this money by couponing. Please don't kick me out; please, Massa, don't make me get a job.

I'm less sympathetic to the rich and the stupid, who take on shit work because they don't have the wit to do any better. If they aren't stuck with drudgery they haven't a clue what to do besides watching TV or staring at the walls because they're stupid so they look for boring shit work--collecting coupons or sorting trash. What a pity. The world is full of people like me and many, many others who've spent our lives fighting for all we're worth to avoid doing this drudge work. If we had their money and leisure, we'd know what to do with it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Episcopal Church Rejects Demand for a 2nd Leadership - New York Times

The Episcopal Church declines the Trojan Horse

Episcopal Church Rejects Demand for a 2nd Leadership - New York Times

Responding to an ultimatum from leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion, bishops of the Episcopal Church have rejected a key demand to create a parallel leadership structure to serve the conservative minority of Episcopalians who oppose their church’s liberal stand on homosexuality...Several bishops also said in interviews that they believed that the pastoral council arrangement was intended to strengthen the position of conservative parishes or dioceses that want to leave the Episcopal Church and take their property with them. The breakaway parishes could claim that they came under the new pastoral council guided by the primates, and that the council was the highest authority in the Episcopal Church’s hierarchy.

I can only imagine the bishops' marathon emergency meetings with their legal team to figure out the best strategy for holding onto Church real estate. Recognize the legitimacy of a "parallel leadership structure," and they don't even have a case if that "structure" awards church buildings and endowments to conservative congregations. Don't recognize the proposed "leadership structure" and they can at least duke it out in the courts, though getting kicked out of the Anglican Communion will certainly undermine the Church's case. But maybe deals can be cut behind the scenes. After all, ECUSA finances lots of these third world churches and so still has some leverage. It will certainly be entertaining to watch the bishops playing hardball--litigating, twisting arms, bribing and manipulating--while making the usual pious noises about "inclusiveness."

I have a dog in this fight, but my issue isn't sexuality. It's the more fundamental issue of authority and the Church's patronizing, manipulative treatment of its laity. The Church will not bend and will not even recognize that those who disagree about doctrine, policy or practice may be rational and informed, even if they are wrong. The assumption is that anyone who objects to the its program is ignorant, psychologically hung-up or just irrationally resistant to change, and that this can be fixed by "using psychology" or, failing that, playing power politics.

In the end, maybe it's I who was wrong--I, who wanted and expected the Church to be something it never was and was never intended to be. I was always puzzled, and irritated, by people who claimed to be "spiritual, but not religious, who bought into every sort of fashionable nonsense but rejected Christianity unworthy of serious consideration and who professed an aversion to "organized religion" and the "institutional church." It seemed to me that if you were going to be intellectually sloppy you might as well be a Christian. I could understand, and sympathize with tough-minded secular humanists like Russell, Ayer and Flew, and even the better sort of village atheists, like Dawkins, but I could never fathom why people who were soft-headed enough to buy into alternative medicine, self-help fads, astrology or what have you pooh-poohed "organized religion" and Christianity in particular. Occasionally I asked students why they had left the Church or rejected Christianity and the answer was always the same: "rules."

Now maybe I get it. When we talked about Christianity or the "institutional church" we were talking about two different things. When I talked about Christianity I meant church buildings and furnishings, liturgy, a body of art, music and literature, an historical story about councils and theological disputes, a collection of stories and myths, and a library of theology to explore and criticize; when they talked about Christianity they meant "rules" about what to believe and how to behave. When I talked about the "institutional church" I meant the organization that maintained the buildings and did the liturgy; when they talked about the "institutional church" they meant the hierarchy that made the rules about what to believe and how to behave. The romance of church history meant nothing to them, they weren't interested in theology or liturgy, and didn't think that the buildings were the essence of the Church: nice buildings were nice, and if the church had nice buildings that was a good thing in the way that it was good if libraries, schools or other public facilities had nice buildings. But that was not what the Church was all about--the Church in its essence was rules: authority, about what to believe and how to behave. And they didn't like it.

I don't like it either. Maybe now I understand. But I'm still furious at the church for dismantling that historical romance, which meant everything to me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Decision-Making and Agency

I’m about to give a talk at a Law School class about a couple of my papers on “adaptive preference,” discrimination and women’s choices

One of the issues I discovered, re-reading them, is the question of how people make choices and the extent to which they believe, rightly or wrongly, that they have agency. Advising students about majors and future careers it’s always struck me how wildly optimistic they were and the extent to which they imagine that they have control over the way their lives would go. They seem to believe that the best predictors of how their futures will turn out are their choices and the efforts they make to achieve their goals. They’re highly privileged by world standards and even by American standards and have been propagandized from birth with the Great American Myth of self-effort and personal achievement. What is especially striking to me is that they never seem to assess their future prospects by considering the way in which the lives of people who are similarly situated go and judging the odds that they will have lives of a certain kind be reference to others like them.

I would bet that this is not the way most rational choosers operate. Most of us look at people who are, in relevant respects, like us—other women or men, other members of social group, others with similar academic records, SAT scores or credentials—and calculate the odds that our lives will go one way or the other by reference to how their lives go. We make our choices by playing the odds and don’t risk pursuing goals that we recognize are unlikely because others like us haven’t achieved them.

Nowadays about half of law school students are women. When I was growing up it was very different. I remember discussing career options with my mother once. That was when I learnt, to my dismay, that women couldn’t be vets. Women could be doctors, my mother said—they just couldn’t be surgeons. And women could be lawyers. There were in fact a few women lawyers and they were called “Portias” but they were rare.

So, as a rational but misinformed chooser, I wrote off veterinary medicine, which I would have liked to pursue, and law. It wasn’t that I doubted that I, or other women, could do these jobs, but the assumption that individual ability and choice simply don’t play much of a role in how our lives go. This, I think, is the way in which most people operate. First, we assume that there are a whole host of arbitrary, non-negotiable rules that are no more open to challenge than the laws of nature. Women couldn’t be surgeons or vets: that was just the way it was and their was no point thinking about it any further. Secondly, there were jobs that weren’t against the rules for women but which were highly unlikely—like law. It wasn’t worth trying because the odds were so low—not because of any individual characteristics one had, but because the odds were determined by how things went for others who were similarly situated. There were very few women lawyers so the odds of being a lawyer were low.

The fundamental assumption that I and. I think, most other rational choosers make is that individual characteristics like ability and effort simply do not play much of a role in determining the sort of lives we’ll live. We assume that we’re likely to live the same kind of lives as others who are demographically similar to us and that our choices are essentially choices to enter into lotteries. As rational choosers we choose amongst the lotteries where the odds are best, generally the least worst of a relatively narrow range of options.

This cuts both ways. Even though I assumed it wasn’t worth entering the law lottery, I also assumed that there were things that would just happen for me without any real effort on my part. I assumed I’d go to college because everyone I knew did. I assumed I’d play the piano because when I was growing up pianos were one of the normal pieces of living room furniture, like couches, and every adult woman could play—at least a little. So I ended up going to college and playing the piano—a little: it was inevitable.

Now when I teach applied ethics classes or read papers on “adaptive preference” and related issues, and when I argue with students or colleagues of a conservative bent, it’s clear to me that one our disagreements is a consequence of their failure to understand that this is the way in which most people make choices, in particular, about whether to invest in education or training and which job options to pursue. And unlike me, most of them are correct: they have little control over the way in which their lives will go and their efforts will not make much of a difference so the best they can do is choose lotteries where the odds are reasonably favorable. Women apply for pink-collar jobs because they recognize that their odds of getting them are good. They don’t apply for better-paying “men’s jobs” because they know that in most cases the rules are against it and that even where there are a few women in an occupation their odds of getting in are very low. It isn’t a matter of doubting their own abilities but simply a matter of playing the odds—they recognize that ability simply doesn’t matter: most jobs can be done equally well by almost anyone and most hiring decisions are arbitrary.

“Consciousness-raising” and programs to programs to build self-esteem are a waste—or a cruel joke. Most people aren’t short on self-esteem: they simply recognize that their efforts, abilities and personal worth are largely irrelevant to their life-prospects. The poor women in the global south who Martha Nussbaum imagines are victims of “preference-deformation” and put up with bad conditions because they do not believe that they are worthy of better lives or think they have rights don’t prefer the lives they live: they believe, with justification, that they can’t do any better. There are 1000 arbitrary rules that constrain them and, they know that the odds that their lives will be any different from the lives of other poor women are very low indeed. Living on the edge, they can’t afford to assume risk and even investing in a lottery ticket for a better life is a cost they can’t afford given the odds.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Multiculturalist Racism

Some critics of multiculturalism argue that minority communities should assimilate into the mainstream, surrendering their cultural differences for the sake of a unified, egalitarian society. This approach is adopted by the French Republic, which treats (in theory, if not in practice) all its citizens as equally French and equally deserving of rights. It claims to be indifferent to difference. Unfortunately, however well intended, the French integrationist strategy seems to have failed. Witness the racial tensions and the rise of the far right National Front. Moreover, it is surely ethically wrong and socially impoverishing to demand the conformity of minority communities. Why should they be required to give up their cultural uniqueness? Would not the abandonment of difference inevitably lead to a reversion to the stultifying, suffocating social blandness of the Macmillan and Eisenhower eras? I say: Vive La Difference!

Do members of these "communities" want their "cultural uniqueness"? Why assume that conformity to the mainstream culture is an imposition or represents the "stifling homogeneity, blandness and conformism of monocultural societies"?

This article is half reasonable, noting that some minority cultures are misogynistic, homophobic and generally oppressive, and suggesting that tolerance for cultural practices that violate individual rights is morally unacceptable. I certainly agree. But the chief argument against multiculturalism is not that minority cultures are inferior or that they suppress individual rights, but that they are assigned on the basis of bloodlines and lock individuals into cultures with which they do not identify or want to identify.

The linked article comes out of the UK. If I were a Swedish immigrant to the UK, and certainly if I were the child of Swedish immigrants, I would not want my fellow citizens to expect me to celebrate St. Lucy's day in a candelabra headdress or eat lutefisk. I'd want to be 100%, unhyphenated British, to identify completely with the land and history, the place that was my home. I'd want that not because the culture of my ancestors was in any way inferior or in any way oppressive--surely Swedish culture isn't--but simply because it wasn't what I was, because it wasn't me. I wouldn't want to be chained to my genetic "roots."

But, of course, if I were a child of Swedish immigrants to the UK, or the US, I wouldn't be chained to my "roots": as Big Bill Broonzy had it, "if you're white, you're alright." If you're white in a white country, ethnicity is largely a matter of choice, and the extent to which you identify with an ancestral culture is a matter of choice. No one expects Sarkozy, the child of a Hungarian immigrant father and a mother, of Greek-Jewish extraction, to make a fuss about his ancestral cultures: he is French and that's that. But if you're brown or black it's quite a different matter. You had better make noises about black or brown "pride" and do a bit of ethnic else you'll be stigmatized as "self-hating" or "inauthentic." If you're Barak Obama you had better visit your father's ancestral village in Kenya and do black, or you won't be elected dog-catcher.

No one seems to ask whether people want the "cultural uniqueness" ascribed to them on the basis of ancestry or appearance, or whether the expectation that they will conform in some way to their ascribed minority cultures might not be more oppressive than conformity to the majority culture. No one dreams of asking whether they want La Difference. Surely some do but some don't. The issue is not primarily whether some cultures are inferior or oppressive, but whether individuals should be locked into any culture, good, bad or indifferent, by bloodlines. What is offensive, and racist, about multiculturalism is the assumption that ancestral cultures, good, bad or indifferent, define who individuals "really" are, and the expectation that individuals will identify with them.

Monday, March 12, 2007 New Center Report: Foreign Guestworkers Routinely Exploited by U.S. Employers

Guestworkers New Center Report: Foreign Guestworkers Routinely Exploited by U.S. Employers

Guestworkers who come to the United States are routinely cheated out of wages; forced to mortgage their futures to obtain low-wage, temporary jobs; held virtually captive by employers who seize their documents; forced to live in squalid conditions; and denied medical benefits for injuries

We want immigrants of course: who else will do our dirty work? But we want them out of sight in Bantustans, and illegal or semi-legal so that they can’t make a fuss.

Here’s a nice review America Alone, a paranoid fantasy of Europe devolved into the continent of Eurabia, dominated by Muslims who have taken over by out-breeding the indigenous population and have established an Islamicist regime. In my reading for the multiculturalism book I’ve come across similar paranoid fantasies about the rise of the Nation of Aztlan in the American Southwest.

Neither Eurabia nor Aztlan are going to happen. But these visions and the policies they promote are self-fulfilling prophecies. We don’t like the way these people behave: they don’t speak the language of the country where they live or buy into its “values,” they live tribally and they have no commitment to the public good outside of their families and clans, they treat women like shit, they loiter in public places and live their lives outdoors in a way we find repellant, they live in squalor and their kids join the “rainbow underclass.” So we don’t want them around: we want them contained in Bantustans, housing projects or camps in ravines—so that they can do our dirty work and then disappear.

We worry that they’ll outbreed us and take over so that we won’t be able to live the kinds of lives we want to live: the whole country will turn into a squalid slum and the streets will be bazaars; there will be knots of young macho-males hanging around every street corner and convenience store, hassling women who go past and getting into brawls, hustlers hawking their wares and street vendors barbequing greasy meat for sale. The streets will be trashed, families will dump old refrigerators and cars on their front lawns, and sit outside at all hours of the day and night, on lawn chairs or stoops, playing loud music and screaming to one another in foreign languages. Let’s be honest: that’s what we worry about—that combination of foreignness and the generic culture of poverty.

But it’s precisely poverty and exclusion that perpetuate that behavior. If immigrants get decent jobs they move to the suburbs and mow their lawns. If they have a fair shot at economic and social integration into the larger community they learn English, educate their children and assimilate. It’s the assumption that they prefer to live as they do that perpetuates that “culture”: we, rightly, detest it so we exclude them and their exclusion perpetuates it.

I’ve been reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s memoir, Infidel. After picking up her new passport at the local post office Hirsi Ali turns heads by shouting in the street, “I’m Dutch!” She loves the tidiness and order, the safety, cleanliness and fairness of Holland and regards her escape from the third world as liberation—not only from poverty and danger, but from an oppressive culture. She identifies it with Islam but there she’s wrong: it’s the generic culture of traditional societies which, under the influence of urbanization, becomes the culture of poverty. She wanted out, and got out.

But I don’t think the difference between her and others who remain stuck in this oppressive culture is a matter of preference: she was smart enough and bold enough to take the risk of exit. Most aren’t—I wouldn’t be. People stick with their clans and tribes, and live accordingly, because it keeps them afloat: breaking out is a risk they can’t afford to take. Show people what is possible, not merely abstractly possible but possible for them, and make it seriously possible for them—wind down the risks of exit, promote integration—and they will go for it.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Edwards for President!

Raising the Bar
The Democrats swept to victory in 2006 by delivering an economically populist, antiwar message. When the Campaign for America's Future asked voters to name the three most important issues of the election, "Iraq" topped the list, followed closely by "gas prices and oil companies" and "health-care costs." In 2004, 53 cents of every dollar in salary increases went to the top 1 percent of earners. Inequality has gotten so bad that even George W. Bush has given a speech decrying its rise and the attendant spike in CEO pay.

In short, it would seem an ideal moment for the class-conscious son of a millworker. But populism is traditionally a hard sell in American presidential politics, even when the timing is fortuitous, and Edwards has compounded that problem by declaring war on poverty as well. That's not exactly a proven combo for winning the nation's highest office, and the electorate may not want to hear such harangues from a mansion-dwelling lawyer worth tens of millions of dollars. But it's been a long time since a presidential campaign featured a populist as authentic as Edwards, and he's spent a long time proving his talent for winning over skeptical groups of ordinary Americans. For Edwards, those groups used to be called juries. Today they're called voters.

I’m not sure that Edwards has much of a shot, but he’s my man: the only presidential candidate (or pre-candidate) since Hubert Humphrey who is on message. The message of the Left is economic populism, supported by a welfare state and social engineering. That is all the law and the prophets.

This message was drowned out during the noise of the Vietnam era when the Left became inextricably linked to the anti-war movement and subsequently muddled with various forms of identity politics until no one was sure what the Left was all about. At best it was a laundry list of projects that reflected the preoccupations of the coastal, urban elite: abortion rights, gay rights, multiculturalism, gun-control and, probably more than any specific agenda, the ethos of that elite including their thinly-veiled disdain for the white working class. Conservatives, predictably, jumped in and persuaded “middle Americans,” that they were the true populists by promoting Culture Wars.

Will the lower classes actually believe Edwards? I doubt it. The dogma that government is the problem not the solution is too firmly entrenched and the lower classes are convinced that the only benefit government can provide for them is “tax relief.” But I still support this guy if for no other reason than to get a hearing for the old time religion of the Left. Maybe in a decade or two people will catch on.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | This is idiocy, not feminism

Goddess Day at St. John's

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | This is idiocy, not feminism

I am not saying that there should be total homogeneity in what we discuss on women's day...What is not relevant is fun-packed dancing from around the world, spice workshops and fashion shows. Fashion is to international women's rights as Agassi kitchen utensils are to gay rights. Yes, some women are interested in fashion; some gay men own more than one brightly coloured fish slice. But it is an outrage against people who take liberties seriously - who embody the core of feminism by interpreting it as a war that hasn't been won until it's been won for all women - to trivialise these matters...It's this kind of hijacking of meaningful collective action that did for the women's movement in the first place, that made today's young women think you could believe in equal pay as a regular person, but as soon as you called yourself a feminist you had to stop shaving your legs and start eating pulses. Tell stories and dance as much as you will - but not on International Women's Day. Make your own day of celebrations. Call it Gullible Idiots Unite. Have it in April.

I still get email from my (former) church and couldn't resist saving this one (and it's real--I couldn't make this up):

Goddess Day

Saturday, October 15th
8:30 a.m. til 4:00 p.m.

St. John’s Church
760 First Avenue, Chula Vista

A day created to empower and celebrate women, individually and collectively.
This conference will include: speakers, music, dance, chair massage, labyrinth, gourmet lunch, shopping and renewal. (Cost: $30 includes all)

Keynote: Rev. Rhonda McIntire, “The Universal Feminine”

Presenters: World-Renown Artist, Eleanor Wiley, “Creating Your Own Sacred Prayer Beads”

Mary Cruz, Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center Community Outreach Director, “Breast Cancer What Every Woman Has to Know”

Spend time with holistic professionals:
Lori Gritz, Acupuncturist, presents the Wellness Toolbox
Ruby Grosso, Labyrinth Facilitator

The Healthy Spirit Gift and Bookstore
Scents of San Diego Homemade Soaps
Paula McCarten Jewelry
Granny’s Gifts (unique potions, brews and wands)
Mary Kay Cosmetics
Weekenders Clothing
Cookie Lee Jewelry

To Register or for More Information:

Call: Susan O’Shaughnessy 619-482-8872
The Healthy Spirit 619-427-1210

I thought the point of feminism was to liberate us from femininity, to fix things so that we could get guy jobs and didn't have to crap around with labryrinth-treading, chair-massage and little herbal teas. But look at this: here we have the new presbyter as the old priest writ large: a woman priest lecturing housewives on the ewig weiblich--health, jewelry, make-up and scented homemade soaps.

I got involved in the Church and, for the first time in years, in the Real World outside of Academia, when my kids were at the parish day school. I realized straightaway that I'd have to relearn all the Real World Rules about what women could, should and should not do. I made some faux pas. After our church burnt down we had to move furniture to the parish hall. I got into the spirit of things and was cheerfully shoving around stuff when I stupidly got onto moving a spinet piano along with about half a dozen young working class males. This piano was on wheels and I'd had no problem moving it together with an elderly lady who was even shorter than me in the past. But when we'd gotten across the courtyard to our destination, one of the guys yelled at me, "What are you trying to prove?" He immediately apologized and I didn't turn a hair, but I felt like I'd been socked in the stomach.

After that, I was careful. When the rector announced that he needed volunteers to paint the parish hall, I rode by and checked to see that there were women working before I got out with my rags and paint brushes. Later, when he solicited volunteers to dig for an underground pipe I packed a shovel in my van but was careful to check out the scene first. There were a bunch of young working class males in tee-shirts, conferring as they leant on their shovels. I drove by and went home, filing away the maxim: "women may paint but may not dig."

This is trivial, compared to the problems most women face--in particular, getting decent jobs at decent pay. But it's irritating. Women always have to be cogniscent of what is gender-appropriate, understand when an invitation to everyone really means men only. This is one of the petty vexations of being female: ALWAYS having to worry about whether a particular behavior is "ok for a woman" and understanding where the no-go areas are. Some seem to know the Rules instinctively, but not me--I invariably screw up and am embarrassed.

I was driving through a residential neighborhood when I got a flat. I ran out, grabbed the jack and spare tire and set to work. As I was loosening the lug nuts I realized the people on the porch of the house in front of which I was parked were watching and talking about me. They worried that I'd be offended if they offered to help. The take was, again, that I was trying to prove something, to make some feminist statement. I realized that I was supposed to have asked them if I could use their phone to call AAA (but I don't have AAA). I was in a sweat. Like everyone who has ever changed a tire I knew that the last lug nut would stick. I knew that I would stand on one side of the wrench, bouncing up and down to dislodge that nut, praying that it would come loose, while the crowd on the porch watched.

Incredibly, it didn't stick. I got all the lug nuts off, changed the tire and drove off. But it was a close call.