I’ve been doing my utmost to debate less, but it’s hard when you’re as naturally opinionated as I am. This is compounded by the fact I come from a highly opinionated gene pool. Our family dinners sometimes spiral into debates. And when I say “sometimes,” I really mean 90 percent of the time.
Usually my mother plays referee, and when I say “referee,” I mean she’ll eventually shout, “Will you all be quiet!” My father plays the contrarian, opposing whatever view I hold. And my sisters may or may not be on my side.
I thought everyone did this — debate over dinner, as an expression of love and then pretend like nothing happened. Apparently not! Dinner is for small talk. So I’ve been trying to reprogram myself whenever I go out, because my opinions can be a bit disruptive. Keep reading »
Magazines seem to love writing about women’s choices, particularly if they can inspire readers to conclude that we’re making the wrong ones. Just before the new year, a much-talked about New Republic cover story focused on women and men becoming parents at an older age. The piece was written by an author who is herself an older mother and was concerned about a steady increase in birth defects and autism in recent years, although it’s been difficult so far to prove a direct correlation. Meanwhile, one of Boston Magazine’s cover stories that same month was about a growing breed of women who believed that it’s okay to have an “occasional” drink while pregnant. Yes, that was the language — “occasional” 00 yet the subject was so provocative that it warranted top billing. Let’s not forget the May Time cover of the woman breastfeeding her three-year-old son (she didn’t appear to be drinking wine at the time). Soon after came the story in The Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter that blared: “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” (The Atlantic has published at least three stories since 1995 about women facing diminishing marriage and pregnancy prospects if they wait; one of the most famous such pieces, “Marry Him,” from 2008, urged women to settle for “Mr. Good Enough” rather than waiting to have babies.)
It isn’t these stories themselves that are frustrating as much as the fact that they appear to blame women for waiting to have children – as if it’s impossible to fathom that they didn’t find decent or willing men to date at the right time. Some of the stories blame the feminist movement, as if having more freedom is simply so confounding to women that they just can’t figure out what to do with themselves. There’s a wide swath of people in this country who appear to resent the idea of women having leeway in making life choices, and hope we’ll get our comeuppance if we don’t marry the first person who holds a door for us. Keep reading »
A few years ago, a favorite subject of conversation in pop culture writing was about Taylor Swift’s perceived “slut shaming” in her songs. Need I remind you of the song “Better Than Revenge,” allegedly directed at the actress Camilla Belle for stealing away Joe Jonas, which includes lyrics like “she’s not what you think, she’s an actress / she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress”?
Today, the favorite subject of conversation in pop culture writing about Taylor Swift is her long list of boyfriends. Can you name them with me? Joe Jonas, Jake Gyllenhaal, Taylor Lautner, John Mayer, Conor Kennedy, and most recently Harry Styles from One Direction. (Pardon me if I forgot anyone.)
My, how the fickle winds have changed. Keep reading »
“So, this is kind of a random question…”
I nodded my head at the man across from me. I was in the kitchen of a fellow parent from my child’s school. I had come to pick my son up from a playdate, and found myself hanging around making small talk while the kids finished up playing. Between multiple playdates and a few shared meals, we had become friendly with this family and had reached the level of Facebook friends and random text exchanges. I was curious what his random question could entail.
“Do you … well … do you know where I could get some pot?” Keep reading »
This essay was published with permission from Gender-Focus.
My spouse and I are seeking permanent birth control, and the entire process has been difficult. At this point, we are sick to death of unsolicited advice on the subject (Pro-tip: If someone you don’t know says they’re not judging you, they are judging you.) Everyone’s heart is in the right place, I can only assume. People think they are telling us new information that will keep us from making what they perceive to be a mistake. I get that they’re trying to help. But we continually find ourselves defending this very personal decision to total strangers. So to keep myself from screaming, I’m going to outline why the condescension disguised as concern is totally unfounded. Trust us. We’ve thought it through. Keep reading »
Bottom line: I was a female soldier in the combat zone. So why do I feel so uncomfortable about formalizing women’s placement in combat roles? I did a lot of soul-searching about why this bothered me so much. Ultimately, though, I’ve discovered there’s nothing I should be uncomfortable about.
When I first read that Defense Secretary Panetta had lifted the ban on women in combat roles, I felt queasy. While I left the military for the private sector in late 2011, I spent the first decade of my adult life in the Army, half of it on active duty as a Military Police officer. I have led and served alongside extraordinarily tough and competent leaders, male and female, while deployed in Iraq and in training all over the world. This was personal.
Yet, even as a woman who had been to combat, I couldn’t endorse lifting the ban. The more I examined my prejudices, though, I realize that they were just that — prejudices. Keep reading »
This piece was republished with permission from Role/Reboot.
This week I read a wonderful article about our generation’s search for meaning by fellow Role/Reboot contributor Kerry Cohen. It spoke to me so deeply that I went out of my way to read the article that had inspired Cohen: Elizabeth Wurtzel’s recent meandering confessional. It made me so angry my hair nearly caught fire.
I had been primed by Cohen to be compassionate and thoughtful about what Wurtzel was saying. So I took off my judgmental hat as I read about her life. I tried to see the world through the eyes of someone who has lived a life so foreign from my own I could barely wrap my brain around it. When she wrote that she was proud to have never kissed anyone for any reason other than desire or written anything that she did not feel like writing, I questioned my own ideas about kissing and writing rather than immediately assuming hers were perhaps a bit shallow. I decided that she could have done far worse things with her life, like becoming a parent who is a narcissistic dilettante. Keep reading »
My son turns six next week, and among all the other wishes I have for him, I have a silent hope that won’t be shared at his birthday party. It’s one that swims in the depths of my mind, surfacing occasionally when awful things happen that force me to think about it: I wish and hope and pray that my son won’t grow up to be a rapist.
I know that sounds horrible and not a wish a mother of a six year old should even have in the back of her mind, let alone flashing loud and red and painful throughout it. But I can’t help it. We live in a society that is steeped in rape culture, no matter how many people refuse to acknowledge that reality. My worry was driven home more forcefully after watching a video that Anonymous posted online of Steubenville High School students talking about the rape of a 16-year-old fellow student. This case is heartbreaking enough — the victim was sexually assaulted while drunk and unconscious, only to have the photographic proof of her rape spread all over various social media outlets. Her attackers, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, two football players for the high school’s team The Big Red, were let off relatively lightly, subjected to being under house arrest. However, the victim was also punished, forbidden by the judge in the case from sharing any details of the case, essentially re-victimizing her. Keep reading »
For as long as we’re aware of other people’s dirty bits and sexual desires, we’re aware of how funny it can be to talk about them. My niece, for instance, thinks that “butt” is the funniest word in the English language. But she’s six. The grown-up version of “Ha ha, butt!” are those conversations — either whispered sotto voce or way-too-loud after a few too many cocktails — about other people’s personal lives, particularly the parts we’re not supposed to know. She did what? He wanted to put his thingy where? Oh my God. EW.
I’m not above finding the TMI details of other people’s private lives fascinating. Or sharing my own. Hey, the dude who wanted to lock me inside a dog cage and pee on me makes for an interesting story. (Hopefully he has found someone less claustrophobic to fulfill that pecadillo.) It satisfies the same morbid curiosity that wants to see celebrity nude pics. We want to know what other people are packing, I suppose so we can compare it against ourselves.
But there’s a point where a line needs to be drawn. It needs to be drawn hard. We need to stop posting people’s real-life personal, private, sexual information on the Internet for the purpose of mocking or shaming them. Keep reading »