Archive for February, 2007

Plan B: Educate pharmacists. Shouldn’t that have been Plan A?

On Friday, when I went into the pharmacy to pick up kitty meds, I was pleasantly surprised to see a big sign at the end of the counter: “Emergency Contraception Available Here”.

“Hey, that’s great! I’m really glad you’re carrying that!” I smiled at the pharmacist, who nodded casually. “Did you know,” I went on, “that WalMart is carrying it but allowing pharmacists to opt out? Crazy, right?”

The pharmacist shrugged. “I know a lot of people – friends of mine – who won’t dispense it. People are people, you know?”

I was taken aback. “But . . . do they dispense other contraception?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Then they must not understand how Plan B works. It’s a contraceptive – it prevents ovulation. It’s not an abortifacient.”

He shrugged again. “Each to their own.”

If I hadn’t had a sick cat in the car, I would have stayed to battle this out. As it was, I paid for the medication and left, fuming.

Each to their own? Each who? Obviously, not women trying to prevent pregnancy. Each of them is subject to the caprice and ignorance of self-righteous pharmacists.

What would WalMart do if they had a pharmacist who happened to be a Christian Scientist, and refused to dispense any medication on moral grounds? Target was asked that very question about their own “opt-out” policy, and apparently responded that “The emergency contraceptive Plan B is the only medication for which this policy applies.”

So this actually has nothing to do with upholding pharmacists’ right to choose and everything to do with denying women’s right to choose? Thanks for clearing that up, Target!

I swear, this is almost enough to make me pay $80,000 for four years of pharmacy school, graduate, go to work for WalMart, and then refuse to dispense Viagra.

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Knitting and cats, so I don’t lose the rest of my readership.

Back in August, I hired a file clerk. She was a 28-year-old college student, majoring in Anthropology, who liked to knit. And – even better – she was far more organized than Lawyer and me put together. She found things I hadn’t even known were missing. She created space for files where before there had been none. She was bright, funny, and had great hair. I was in supervisor-heaven.

Then, shortly after the holidays, she e-mailed me to say she had abruptly moved away from L.A. to take care of her mother, who had been diagnosed with an agressive cancer. Naturally, I offered to knit her mom a chemo cap. Monkeygurrl had just done two caps that I liked, so I asked her for the patterns. Then I e-mailed the (ex-)file clerk.

“Is your mom more the Strong Women Dance type, or the Fuck Cancer type?”

“She’s kinda both, but the dancing lady would probably be more appropriate for everyday wear,” she responded. So that’s the one I made.

Chemo Cap - Strong Women Dance

Chemo Cap - Strong Women Dance (in sunlight!)

Both photos were taken with my cell phone camera, because my regular digital camera is on the blink. Pardon the quality. Or lack thereof.

(Oh – and to the MRA blogger who called me “Knitting Nellie,” thanks! I’m totally adopting that as my stage name.)

In other news, we had a scare with one of the kitties this week. Gawain was very, very sick with Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease; he developed a blockage that prevented him from urinating at all and caused him a lot of pain. (If you have male cats, please go read those links.)

He was at the vet for three days, and I may or may not have visited him each day. When I picked him up this morning, he was very pleased to see me.

Gawain at the Vet

Now he is home, eating his fancy new food and taking his fancy new medications, and we are considerably poorer than we were last week. When he’s feeling better, we’re going to make him get a job. He’d be a great hairstylist. Or maybe a professional ping-pong fashionista.

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Subverting Patriarchy: Not just for chicks anymore.

    So on we worked, and waited for the light,
    And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
    And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
    Went home and put a bullet through his head.

    – Edward Arlington, Richard Cory

In the last few days, I’ve heard a lot of people attributing men’s suffering to the rise of feminism. Less readily discussed is the role of patriarchal enforcement of masculinity in that suffering. Newsweek’s big story right now is all about men and depression.

The Gary Cooper model of manhood—what Tony Soprano called “the strong, silent type” to his psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi—is so deeply embedded in our social psyche that some men would rather kill themselves than confront the fact that they feel despondent, inadequate or helpless . . .
For decades, psychologists believed that men experienced depression at only a fraction of the rate of women. But this overly rosy view, doctors now recognize, was due to the fact that men were better at hiding their feelings. Depressed women often weep and talk about feeling bad; depressed men are more likely to get into bar fights, scream at their wives, have affairs or become enraged by small inconveniences like lousy service at a restaurant.

Commenters at Pandagon immediately picked up on the absurdity of labeling fighting in bars, screaming at wives, having affairs and becoming enraged as “hiding their feelings.” Men haven’t been hiding their feelings at all; they’ve been expressing their feelings in the only way socially acceptable for them – anger. Anger is a manly emotion, one they’re often far more comfortable with than fear or sadness.

Even medical professionals make assumptions based on their gender prejudices. While women suffer the ready presumption of doctors that their physical illnesses are psychosomatic, or “all in their head,” men suffer the opposite. Because men are trained not to reveal emotional weakness or vulnerability, their doctors may not pick up on the physical signs and symptoms of their depression. The article cites the case of one man who committed suicide-by-train at the age of 24:

Totten learned afterward that her brother had indeed visited his primary-care physician but complained only of stomachaches, headaches and just generally “not feeling so great,” she says. The doctor didn’t make the connection.

The article also gives some insight into the lengths doctors must go to in order to convince men to accept counseling and treatment when they are having emotional difficulties. Practitioners re-frame the treatment as “taking control of the situation;” taking control is not in conflict with masculinity, whereas “needing help” would be.

This mandate for men to stay strong at all costs stems from the same system that mandates dependence and subordination for women: Patriarchy. When MRAs rail against the system that sets up fathers as “providers” and mothers as “nurturers,” then prefers to keep children with nurturers when the parents split, they’re railing against Patriarchy. But because the terms “Patriarchy” and “Men” are so often – wrongly – used interchangeably, the true enemy is obscured, and men lash out against the very people who support their right to be vulnerable – feminists.

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Responses to the commenters on the “Guilty Pleasures” post.

Okay, we are officially into the “Uccellina has much to say and too little time in which to say it” territory. I will try to address as much I can for now.

Serin

“Why do feminists always assume all MRAs are conservatives?” I’ve noticed the same thing you have, Serin – that MRAs have a broad range of political opinions on issues other than gender and feminism. Their opinions on those issues, however, may safely be deemed conservative opinions. Therefore I feel secure in labeling websites devoted to MRA “conservative websites.”

Regarding menarebetterthanwomen.com – while I think the site itself is clearly parody, many of the commenters take it seriously.

Andrewone thing I’ve observed is that when people say they “believe that there should be an organization that is a spokesperson for all of men in this society,” they usually do not include gay men in that category. Would your ideal MRA movement fight for gay men’s rights too? While I agree that there are far too many black men in jail, I think this is evidence of a racist and classist system and, as I mentioned before, of the damage done to men by cultural definition and enforcement of “masculinity”.

Rob“[wage-gap studies don't account for] the AVERAGE woman working 10hrs a week less than men, nor . . . women taking time off for having children (averaged 5yrs out of career)” I think it’s important to consider the factors behind the choices we make. If women take five years out of their careers to have children, or work ten hours less per week, these things hardly happen in a vacuum. I suspect such statistics reflect necessity more than choice; if more men took more responsibility for childcare, I think you would see a distinct shift.

“Women lawyers don’t marry waiters, but male lawyers do marry waitresses” – those are the stereotypes, sure. But to me this says more about how our culture measures the value of a man as opposed to the value of a woman than about individual dynamics. Women don’t have to be educated or high-earning, they just have to be pretty and pleasant. Men don’t have to be pretty or pleasant, but they should be smart and rich. These expectations hurt everyone, male and female.

“[T]he link between feminism and communism has been so solidly established . . .” I’m never particularly impressed by the old feminism=communism cliche. First of all, feminism – particularly in the last twenty years – has made a concerted effort to concern itself with classism and racism, as they are inextricably linked to sexism. Second of all, if the language of oppression is so abhorrent to MRAs, why have they adopted it for their own use? (See previous post). I think the proper response to the rhetorical spectre of communism in a discussion of feminism is, “that’s just a red herring.”

CLAF - “I find it astounding that feminists can conclude that they speak for all women.” Where did I say I was speaking for all women? I’ve re-read my post, and I just can’t find it. But I will say that feminism certainly represents women’s interests better than MRAs do. “Why do feminists think MRAs are going after all women?” I don’t think they’re going after all women individually, but I do think they’re going after the rights and interests of women as a class.

Khankrum - You are clearly suffering from a lack of irony in your diet. Please see the website of the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance, which basically states that the group is challenging a particular decision by the WA Supreme Court that denied same-sex couples the right to marry based on the “‘legitimate state interest’ [that] allows the Legislature to limit marriage to those couples able to have and raise children together.” So now WADoMA has proposed that, consistent with the above decision, procreation should be a requirement for legal marriage.

Absurd? Very. But there is a rational basis for this absurdity. By floating the initiatives, we hope to prompt discussion about the many misguided assumptions which make up the Andersen ruling. By getting the initiatives passed, we hope the Supreme Court will strike them down as unconstitutional and thus weaken Andersen itself. And at the very least, it should be good fun to see the social conservatives who have long screamed that marriage exists for the sole purpose of procreation be forced to choke on their own rhetoric.

“It has not come to all out Gun battles yet. But our Harper’s Ferry moment is coming.” And in that Harper’s Ferry moment when you take up arms and go out to battle, which side will you be on, Khankrum? The radical abolitionists’ or the slaveholders’?

Mom - Thanks! You shameless feminist hussy, you.

Istoute - I addressed your number 1. above, so I won’t here. Regarding 2., Standards of Beauty. People often conflate Patriarchy with Men, but that’s a false equation. Patriarchy is a system under which we all live and in which we all, to greater or lesser extent, participate. So the fact that women are running the advertising campaigns is not actually a counter-argument to anything I have said.

Regarding objectification of women, and leaving aside your claim that models aren’t victims because they make good money, I disagree that if you weren’t turned on by advertising images, that “something would be wrong with” you. First, I suspect a lot of men don’t get turned on by department store ads or cosmetics commercials, though I suppose I could be wrong about that. If you’re talking about images in pornography, I think if you weren’t turned on by them, it might mean that you were bothered about the greater implications behind the images. Or it might mean you need a different type of porn. I don’t know you, so I’m unwilling to guess.

Interesting that you ask what kind of message that sends to a pre-pubescent boy – what kind of message, exactly, do you think pre-pubescent girls get when they see such images?

Your “3) Fathering”: I think it is a strange contradiction of the MRAs generally that they advocate more “traditional” roles for women, yet fight for custody of the children in divorce situations and/or relief from child support payments. If women are encouraged to stay home and not be career-oriented, how are they supposed to support their children when divorce occurs? If “providing is parenting,” as you say, then in divorce situations men should feel comfortable with the parenting rights they have been exercising up to that time, should they not?

I think the solution to your question about how men should learn nurturance lies in the way we raise our male children. If people allowed men their vulnerability and stopped mocking kind men as “feminized” or secure men as “manginas”, then perhaps they would be better prepared to be equal parents.

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I’ll be signing autographs in the lobby after the show for $5 apiece.

Remember that contest I entered? The results are in, and they are good: I have been mentioned. Honorably.

Uccellina G. (who not only offered up a brilliant revision but included, at the end, a list of all the words she’d left out. Fabulous.): “the so-called objective evidence” currently being meticulously weighed and evaluated by the media is no more “objective” or “conclusive” than the … rapidly changing … accounts of … the … accuser. … Pick your fact, any fact. Each of them … dismisses … the alleged … rape … “

Thanks, Dahlia! You’re fabulous too.

The winner of the contest rewrote the Chili’s Menu to reveal the restaurant chain’s latent liberal agenda. Who knew?

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Wavy

Wavy Scarf Section

Back in November, when I was visiting the far, chill reaches of Connecticut, my not-actually-Aunt B. expressed an interest in my knitting; naturally, I offered to make her something. I took her to my mother’s LYS (local yarn store, for those not familiar with knitters’ argot) and let her choose a yarn. She, of course, chose the scratchiest wool she could find in the brightest color available. I chose the pattern – Wavy, from Knitty. As previously discussed here, I had to adjust for the bulkiness of my chosen yarn, so each row has 24 stitches instead of the 42 originally called for.

Wavy Scarf Closeup
I knit it in a very tight gauge on size 9 needles.

The patternmaker recommends using a row counter, to which I cockily said “Bah!” Then I put the scarf down for a few weeks (maybe months) without marking which row I was on, and when I picked it up again, I had a hellish experience trying to figure out where I was in the pattern. I was thoroughly chastened (and also drinking heavily) by the time I received a row counter in the mail from my friend S.B., which I used faithfully from then on.

It’s for an ankle-length coat. Think it’s long enough?

Wavy Scarf Full Length

(Don’t say no. I already bound off.)

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Dahlia Lithwick Rewrite Challenge 2007

In Monday’s edition of Slate, Dahlia Lithwick penned a column in which she described how a conservative journalist had taken a piece Lithwick had written about the Duke lacrosse rape scandal and used it to set up a straw-man argument about the liberal rush to judgment. The original article, in fact, made the argument that everyone was rushing to judgment.

So, how did Allen turn this into a hysterical men-are-pigs “hanging party”? She just cut and pasted until she’d rewritten the column to say it. Where I had referred to “mounds and mounds of significant physical evidence”—listing both exculpatory and inculpatory evidence, and highlighting the ways in which they conflicted—Allen inserted her own language to have me claim there were ” ‘[m]ounds and mounds of significant physical evidence’ that a rape had occurred.”

Lithwick then invited her readers to rewrite the same column in a slightly different way:

So, I turn to you, my readers, to help me invent a new Imaginary Right-Wing Hack. And I’m asking you to start with that bilious conservative wing nut, Dahlia Lithwick, whose April 22 column on the Duke rape case was a full-bore assault on women and minorities, and a stunning piece of right-wing vitriol to boot. Make free with the cut and paste functions, and please don’t be afraid of those ellipses … Rewrite the column as Ann Coulter channeling Bill O’Reilly . . .

I took this challenge on, thinking that it would be an amusing exercise. I used entire original phrases and sentences where possible, in order to make the resulting piece convincing. Where it wasn’t possible, I swiped individual words and made my own sentences up. But each and every word is Lithwick’s, though my version bears about as much resemblance to her original column as Frankenstein’s monster bore to Abby Normal.

When I sent this in to Ms. Lithwick, I said in my cover letter, “Having finished, I am embarrassed by my own handiwork. This has been an interesting lesson in the finer points of distortion.” I will post it here because I promised to, and because I do feel it is an interesting lesson. But please know that I feel slightly dirty having written it.

Read the original column first for comparison!

Now my version: Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8) »

I like to win things.

If I’m quiet today, it’s because I’ve taken up Dahlia Lithwick’s challenge. I’ll post my submission here when it’s done. Probably not today.

Edited to add: Link fixed!

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Guilty pleasures.

We all have them. Some of mine include: preventing aggressive drivers from merging into my lane ahead of me, lip syncing to my iPod, mirror dancing (often along with the lip syncing), and, of course, blogging when I should be doing other things.

But for a really guilty pleasure, I read conservative websites. Specifically, I read Men’s Rights Activism sites and blogs, and have ever since the eensy-weensy shitstorm that erupted on my blog a few months back. I don’t comment on them, but I read them. And I do not lightly dismiss them.

I’m interested in these sites for several reasons, not the least of which is the sucking vacuum created by the absence of logic in most of their arguments. I also enjoy the back-slapping atmosphere of boyish camaraderie, and the grammatically adventurous venom unleashed on dissenters. But beyond these small pleasures is the voyeuristic fascination of finding out how these people think, and how they interact when they’re in groups of like-minded people. My point is not to expose these Men’s Rights Activists and anti-feminists as hypocritical and misogynistic – they accomplish that all by themselves. What I find much more interesting is the systematic co-opting of the language of oppression. Affirmative action is discrimination against men. Fathers, no longer the unchallenged masters of their families, are denied rights. The Violence Against Women Act destroys families and discriminates against male victims.

Feminism, they say, is a cult of victimhood. And yet the anti-feminists have codified their own list of victimization. The Catalog of Anti-Male Shaming Tactics is a perennial favorite on MRA sites. Examples of the “shaming language” used by women/feminists against anti-feminist men include such phrases as “You’re bitter!” and “You need to get over your anger at women,” to which the author proposes the response should be “Anger is a legitimate emotion in the face of injustice.” The inverse is not considered valid, however; “angry,” “bitter,” and “bitchy” women are not expressing “legitimate emotion,” but are simply angry, bitter, and bitchy.

Another section of the Catalog addresses the “Charge of Invirility (Code Lavender)”

Discussion: The target’s sexual orientation or masculinity is called into question. Examples:

* “Are you gay?”
* “I need a real man, not a sissy.”
* “You’re such a wimp.”

Response: Unless one is working for religious conservatives, it is usually of little consequence if a straight man leaves his accusers guessing about his sexual orientation.

Despite the above, “Code Lavender” is frequently found on MRA blogs when male commenters dissent from the party line. One response to a self-identified pro-feminist man’s comment reads in part:

I can only imagine what kind of mother you had or lack of..

I don’t know how old you are but if you start going through life this way and being “buddies” with various girl friends who will just “love” the way you validate what they see on “Sex in the City” then you might as well be Gay even though you claim you are not.. I says this because no normal woman will be sexually attracted to you and any left over ones that you manage to get a mercy f*** from are just basket cases looking for an instant co-dependency with you.

If you choose to be some woman’s “whipping boy” then that’s your call.

The above also falls into the author’s category of “Threat of Withheld Affection (Code Pink)”, of which the author rightly says, “This is an example of the logical fallacy “argumentum ad baculum” (the “appeal to force”). The accuser attempts to negate the validity of a position by pointing to some undesirable circumstance that will befall anyone who takes said position.”

The “Charge of Misogyny” is listed as a shaming tactic, as to which the author says “One may ask the accuser how does a pro-male agenda become inherently anti-female (especially since feminists often claim that gains for men and women are “not a zero-sum game”). ” This response, of course, assumes that the agenda is pro-male and not anti-female, a claim not entirely supported by the popular MRA website menarebetterthanwomen.com, or the rhetoric in this list of definitions. A partial excerpt of the latter:

Femhag
The Suppressed Truth:
Noun
A particularly vile and older breed of feminist.
Hideous and appalling to look at, this particular brand squawks the loudest, often followed by impressionable youngsters, all too willing to buy into the misandric claims and assertions.
Femhags find maintaining relationships difficult, if not impossible, and so take their frustrations out on innocent men who have an aversion to their smelly armpits.
They can be found in positions of power- such as in politics, women’s organisations or as college/university lecturers. These professions are particularly appealling to the femhag because they give her a seemingly legitimate platform to spew her misandric lies and hatred.
Note- the femhag doesn’t always have to be old, as she could be one of the growing number of modern females who have elderly, haggered faces and drooping tits- often with more sagging flesh than pumped up breast tissue, thereby giving a cows udder look to them.

Nope. Nothing misogynistic about that. Nor about this, from eternalbachelor.blogspot.com:

Women are the ones who have to sell themselves to us; us men don’t need them. We can defend ourselves, support ourselves and do our own ironing too. By delaying marriage until their looks have gone, by whelping illegitimate bastards, by slutting around, by being so obnoxious and self-centred, not to mention successfully demanded outrageous anti-male bias in the divorce courts, women are the ones who have chased men away from marriage. If women really are happy being old, single, childless and slaving away at their “careers”, then fine, but if not – and I doubt many are – they’ve got a lot of work to do before us men find them in anyway tolerable, let alone irresistable.

These blogs and websites represent a surprisingly large chunk of internet voices (though not as large as, say, blogs devoted to Star Trek), and they are, for the most part, very, very angry. The CDC, hardly a feminist organization, has a fact sheet on what they term “Intimate Partner Violence”. Risk factors for being abused include

  • being female (!)
  • for women, having a greater education level than their partner’s
  • dominance and control of the relationship by the male.

Risk factors for being a perpetrator?

  • Anger and hostility
  • belief in strict gender roles (e.g., male dominance and aggression in relationships)
  • desire for power and control in relationships
  • dominance and control of the relationship by the male.

I certainly do not mean to suggest that any of the bloggers or site-administrators listed above are abusers themselves. But they are part of and feeding into a culture of anger and violence against women. I read their blogs because, as individual screeds, they amuse me. But I do not dismiss them, because as a collective voice of aggression and hostility, they bear watching.

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Yowly cat update

The cat was picked up today by its new owner. According to the Resident Relations manager at the Puzzletown Chateau, it is an exotic cat! Which leads me to wonder, why, oh, why, would you pay several thousand dollars for a cat and then leave it outside on your balcony?

Oh, well.

Happy endings are the best.

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