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30 December
While the cat's away...
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Can you believe that she's letting us do this? WOW! April sweetie, you're outta your mind! *evil cackle* Of course, I had to jump at the chance to guest blog here. Oh, wait, I haven't introduced myself? ta-da! I'm Roni!

April, I hope you understand how kewl and sexy you are. You inspire me to new heights in life. Well that's it. Just wanted you to know that and write it all over your blog.

APRIL IS KEWL & SEXY
APRIL IS KEWL & SEXY
APRIL IS KEWL & SEXY
APRIL IS KEWL & SEXY
APRIL IS KEWL & SEXY
APRIL IS KEWL & SEXY
APRIL IS KEWL & SEXY
APRIL IS KEWL & SEXY

 

vacation
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I won't be around for the rest of this week. Vacation and all that stuff. Might post some pictures when I get back, though.

In the meantime, I picked up something from Eris that might entertain you (and me, when I'm back): you can write your own guest entries.

Just follow this link and log in. Username: guest. Password: redherring.

 

22 December
drug-doing moms and abortion rights
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Is doing drugs during your pregnancy murder? I quite adamantly don't think so.

Morgaine brought this question up in this week's WHB question. A woman in South Carolina has been convicted of murder after she may or may not have done cocaine while pregnant, which may or may not have led to stillbirth.

That patently sucks.

The logic behind this decision follows the same premise as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, namely that it's sometimes convenient for us to think of a fetus/kid/whatever as a legal person. In fact, the South Carolina precedent (SC v. Whitner) for extending the concept of child abuse to any "viable" fetus, while the only one of its kind in any state, sounds in some ways narrower than the UVV attempt (which doesn't place any limits on viability, doesn't require any knowledge that the pregnant victim is pregnant, let alone intention to injure the fetus/baby/whatever you choose to call it).

That said, I think both both approaches are absurd. Any notion of "viability" is extremely vague, as is brought up again and again whenever the term is used legally. It's not a cut-and-dry legal or medical term, this "viable" thing. I'm not just biased by my own opinion (namely that, as long as it's physically attached to you, it's still a part of your body, and sadly yours to abuse as you like), though I am certainly confused by the extensibility of these fetal child abuse concept - will you eventually be prosecutable for failing to take your folic acid for giving your kids fat genes?

So, aside from the vagueness with which the Nation article surrounds Regina McKnight's conviction, it is very difficult for me to see a pregnant woman's behavior toward her own body as a criminal act against her baby/fetus/whatever you choose to call it. Kerri made a good point that a woman who can't provide for a kid/fetus/whatever ought to make the smart choice and have an abortion, just as she ought to have made the decision not to do drugs in the first place, but again - both my self-righteous and my practical sides say that holding a woman criminally accountable for treatment of a non-born kid/fetus/whatever is pointless. Like many drug offenses, I doubt that prosecution will stop the problem. Does it make women think more about their behavior during pregnancy? Does it help the kid/fetus/whatever? Does it erode abortion rights? No, probably not, and quite likely yes.

One of the things I saw raised in some other articles about McKnight was concerns over the violation of her privacy implied by testing for drugs. I don't have so much of a problem with that. I say, in the event you are not in a position to make informed, rational decisions about your care and the care of your child and these things are being provided for by the public, the public should have some ability to direct you towards better, cheaper (in the long term) care, i.e. rehab to prevent you from having a crack baby. If you want to have and pay for your own crack baby, that makes you a shitty person, but not one over whom the public has control - unless, that is, you fail to provide for your kid once it's born.

 

dean turns out to be right
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I'm still on the fence about the Democratic nominee possibility, but I have to give Dean credit for pointing out what no one else would - that capturing Saddam didn't necessarily mean squat as far as America's security was concerned.

And what happens the week after? That's right, the terrorist threat level rises.

Karl sums it up quite tidily.

 

18 December
catfight - a sort of book review via personal reflection
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I've been reading Leora Tanenbaum's Catfight. You can tell from the hot pink cover it's intended to be "feminist lite" (defined in my book as nonfiction work ostensibly about feminism but mostly a shallow examination or praise of women), but it's more substantial than that.

It suffers, as her first book Slut did, from a tendency towards magazine-ish writing. She'll posit a personal hypothesis, summarize a wide range of interviews and other books, then tidily wrap it up. In covering so much from so many sources, each chapter serves more as a summary of related topics than as a presentation of any specific point. Magazines do that a lot. Coupled with her conversational style (which I absolutely love), it's a very easy read that leaves you feeling like you haven't consumed much. The feminist nonfiction equivalent of chick-lit.

I'd like Tanenbaum to write a memoir. What has interested me most about her books so far is her personal response to the things she researches, and the bits of personal history she brings up. I suspect that a book focused on her that touched on some of the themes of her research would be more substantial, and might ultimately say more about the topic of female competition than what she's written on the subject.

Part of my dissatisfaction with her books is that I think they're really intended for you to be thinking "hell, yeah" along with her, not posing new information to you. So, if you don't find you identify heavily with her ideas, if you don't see yourself perfectly reflected in them, you don't get the rousing experience you might otherwise have had. It's the same problem Cunt poses for readers - either you completely identify, you radically disagree, or you find yourself wishing she'd dive in with a bit more detail. Of course, Cunt is polemical. Tanenbaum's work lacks Muscio's raving passion.

So, why don't I identify with Tanenbaum's ideas?

but wait! there's more »


 

lotturrh-rottkuh
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Maybe this is because I grew up in a Navy town, but I have to say this: I love when people turn unpronounceable acronyms into words. To that end, I believe the Return of the King movie should forever be referred to as lotturrh-rottkuh.

Despite serious consideration, we opted out of Trilogy Tuesday and the midnight show, but we did cut out of the office early yesterday afternoon.

And it's clear I'm not a real, serious, geek, because I happily enjoyed the movie and don't have a lot of favorite quotes from the book that I just can't deal with not having heard or anything like that. Truth is, I've forgotten quite a bit of the books and only half-enjoyed reading them to begin with, so I'm not exactly a LOTR book fetishist. Details? I know not details.

I did, as with Two Towers, find myself surprised by just how dern much Gollum was in the story. I think I know why now, though - I skimmed those parts of the books. So I sort of anti-miss Gollum. Whiner.

Wait, there is one scene I miss. Those of you who love this scene had best know now that it didn't make it - the Aragorn/Eomer sword-leaning scene in the midst of battle? Not there. Hope it was filmed and will show up in the DVD.

But, yes, all told a really good movie. Grand, moving, and all that fun stuff. I recommend it.

[On a completely hilarious side note, I heard some Star Wars enthusiasts on NPR yesterday saying that the original Star Wars trilogy is better than LOTR because - get this - the acting is better and the characters are better developed. As if. Sometimes geeks just get out of control.]

 

my gripe about the march for choice name change
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The March for Choice folk put out a press release that they're changing the name to March for Women's Lives.

I don't like it. And I'm curious what the real reasons are behind the change.

I liked that the original name set it up as about choice rights. To me, a March for Choice title carries more weight - it becomes all about defending something already established as a logical, legal right. I think any citizen should consider that a responsibility.

Choice is an emotional issue for a lot of things, but I've always felt that the pro-choice camp was on the side of justice, that our job was to see past the emotional conflicts that might erupt around any one woman's decision about her own pregnancy, and to ensure that all women had the right to make those decisions. And, while "choice" is for many people a euphemism for support of abortion rights, it also carries the implication of all the varied ways a woman should be able to make choices about pregnancy - including birth control, abortion, and many other healthcare questions. That appeals to me.

There are probably a number of different reasons for the change in name - as the press release says:

The name change reflects the urgency of the issue and the huge diversity of the groups co-sponsoring the march.

" The March for Women's Lives" addresses the assaults on women's rights and lives, both nationally and globally, that restrict women's access to reproductive health services and limit women's ability to have a child or to end a pregnancy.

So, the former implies that some of the newer supporting groups took issue with "choice", perhaps because they don't want to be seen as about choice. Maybe those of us planning to attend the March haven't been sending NARAL, Planned Parenthood, etc. enough money this year, and they ended up toning down the message of choice in order to get more support. In which case, shame on us.

The latter rather implies that the March organizers have decided to market the whole thing in the emotional style that characterizes conservative anti-abortion tactics. It sets women's lives against what anti-abortion folk think of as babies lives. Which, I guess, does put us on more even footing in a way - but it also takes the question of choice out of law and logic and into emotion; it was wrong of anti-abortion rhetoric to go there, and it's wrong for us to follow.

I realize that the March name change is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but it touches on a hot button for me: I think we're entirely too apologetic in our defense of abortion rights, probably because we're afraid of being seen as cavalier about the complexity of the choice issue. It is, however, a simple issue - women have the legal and moral right to control their own bodies.

 

16 December
top ten feminist influence, redux
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Ooh! I feel like a part of meme history.

In February of last year, I happened upon someone else's top ten list of feminist influences. As far as I know, she was the first one to post this list. And then I posted my own list which Zaedryn then picked up on and posed as a question for F-word. Since then, I see it pop up in new places occasionally, sometimes apparently random and others attributed to F-word. So imagine the excitement when Feministe brings up the meme again, with a twist - identifying how your influences have changed.

I mentioned the first time that the list probably changed daily, and I don't think I was wrong. Today's list, in no particular order:

1. Fat activists. Marilyn, who made fat a clear feminist issue for me. Tish, who made it personal, and Paul, who armed it.

2. Dirty hippies. Specifically, the people I hung out with in college, who gave me a safe environment for the sexual experimentation that would help make me a decisive, sex-embracing grownup.

3. Men. Still my partner, who is an unflagging reminder to just go and do the things you need to do, and all my male friends, who remind me on a daily basis how sexism sucks for men, too.

4. Gay artists. Tony Kushner, my best friend from high school, and Bill & Mary professor Tom Heacox, all of whose specific contributions to my activist root I've been reminded of lately.

5. Independent media. Websites. Zines. Ms. Bitch. Michael Moore. It's good to know that there are some media sources who recognize their audience's desires for truth, balance, and a little bit of fun.

6. Speaking of fun - the humorous side of the media, like The Onion (you remember The Onion, don't you?) and the Daily Show. Their whole liberal humor thing cracks me up all the time, and that gives me more energy to fight stupidity.

7. Bloggers. Everyone I read offers some version of inspiration, be it personal or political. It's good to know there are so many people like us spread over the world.

8. The subset of bloggers who also participate on the WHB site in whatever way. They're particularly exciting when they challenge each other, not so much when they come to verbal blows as when they ask questions.

9. The casts of our last few plays, who remind me to use my reserves of energy and drive, and who bring a nice wacky semi-political edge to discussions at parties.

10. The March for Choice, which impresses me with its mobilizing influence on so many other feminists - and others who don't consider themselves feminists but support choice.

How about you? What are your influences and how have they changed?

 

saddam and middle school
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My first thought when the news started showing pictures of Saddam Hussein post-capture: Aw, he looks cute.

Really, with a softer haircut and rid of the Stalin facial hair, he looks like a fuzzy little old man. Cute.

And this is why I don't comment much on international news.

Something that pisses me off, though. When I was in middle school (in the eighties), I distinctly recall being taught that Sunni Muslims were the friendly, secular, "good" Muslims, and that Shi'ites were basically raving fundamentalist meanie mean pantses who were not our friends. And now the news is all "yay, Shi'ites"/"Sunni sucks" and apparently we're not at all concerned about fundamentalism - ironically, a word I came to associate with "narrow-minded badness" through my education in a southern US state, right next to one of the hotbeds of christian fundamentalism. Which is worrisome (not my ironic education, the whole Sunni/Shi'ite thing).

I mean, first, this proves that our government's perspective of the week has a major influence on textbooks, what kids learn, etc. Ergo - the citizens aren't very informed, because someone else decides what most of us get informed about and how. So, okay, we knew that. But it's still disturbing to see it proved so blatantly. I'm feeling a little police-statey here.

And of course, there's the whole implication of a judgement upon non-christian religions in what's supposed to be a secular school system. Not to mention the semi-racist implications of our general attitudes towards fundamentalism in Islam.

But worst of all is that, let's face it, we're big liars. It's absolutely to be expected that, over 15 years of changing US interests in the Middle East, our allegiances would shift. Seriously, people, it's a bit absurd to criticize the US simply for having supported some group that turns out years later to be a group we don't like. Sometimes people make mistakes, or things change. But to not own up to those mistakes is lying, and failing to take accountability for the parts of our problems that we contributed to ourselves.

 

15 December
anyone looking for a host? i'm feeling generous.
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Dawn posted what looks to me like a really good idea. She has a bunch of extra space on her site, and figured she'd offer to host one of her readers/acquaintances.

As it turns out, I don't just have a bunch, but a nearly absurd amount of free space on this doman, and I am as annoyed as Dawn is by the fact that so many Blogspot blogs are so difficult to comment on sometimes. Sometimes the whole commenty script thing just flat-out breaks, which means I don't get to post back to bright folk like Karl and Kerri and Vic and others of you who probably know who you are.

This non-commenting thing annoys the heck out of me.

So, I figure if anyone I know and like would like to move their blog from one of these remote-hosted sites, I have space free. And I mean that - free. The circumstances of my domains are such that I have to pay for a lot more space than I actually need, and it's still not that expensive. If I'm going to pay for it anyway, someone ought to use it.

You'd have to learn how to use Movable Type and presumably keep your site under the 50MB mark (and, you know, not do anything illegal with your site). I'd hook you up with a subdomain like .redpolka.org (you could also be hosted on propagandafortoday.com, wehavebrains.com, or seventenseven.com, if you wanted), a Movable Type blog, and even FTP access to your subdomain or email addresses if you wanted these things. You could use the space for stuff other than a blog if you like.

It's a pretty good deal. Now, admittedly, you'd face the possibility that I'd do something really moronic like lose my domain name again - but really, how often does a person do something that stupid twice?

Email me if you're interested.

 

11 December
populism and unconventional politics
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Have you found feminist or women’s health issues being addressed in real life in places similar to this? I will say right here that I think it is necessary to get beyond academia and traditionally elitist and/or primarily white middle-upper class mediums as the main source of information and connection. How do you think this can be carried out? In what other places would this hybrid of a salon/health center work?

This is Kerri's question on WHB this week; you should read her whole post as well.

My own hair salon is very much of this casual "everyone talks to everyone about everything" vibe. We read offensive bits of women's magazines aloud and dish them. We talk loudly about gay marriage and perms and aging and fat activism and Buffy. It's a relatively white, middle class place, but it's still an opportunity to educate each other on our various backgrounds.

I agree that we have to go beyond the "traditional" milieu of feminism in academia and upper middle class life. I think, honestly, that feminism is already outside of that milieu, and it is only those of us who don't step outside who can't see it. Could there be more? Hell, yeah!

That said, I think there is a very fine line between making feminism accessible and talking down to one's audience. It is entirely too easy for white, educated, American women to take on the patronizing attitude of deciding what feminism's "message to the masses" should be without, say, bringing the masses in and involving them. Any message will be massively more relevant and powerful if comes from a source the audience can trust.

So, one vehicle for this is television. One is music. One is celebrities. Popular media are incredibly influential for many people. I don't mean public television, or Ani DiFranco, or celebrity political endorsements. What I'm thinking about is analogous to what a friend talked about as the human element of a political story - the way some media can be implicitly, not explicitly, socially conscious. The sort of "woman power" implied in shows like UPN's "The Parkers", for instance, subtly transmits politics but is really about a story (UPN, by the way, does this "featured link" thing on their website that connects people to health and human services sites - a cool thing I discovered when I went looking for a link to the show), much the way Wyclef Jean is about rhythm and celebration but also about pointing out some of the problems poor black people face.

The hair salon, church, barber shop and community center (in urban areas) also all tap into another vibe, the safe comfortable place vibe, for a lot of people. It seems to me that those have always been places where you could get information about health and other big issues (at least, when your hair salon isn't one of those sterile white-and-chrome places), so it would feel natural to expand that. It would be weird for an outsider to come in and start up a new program, but I think one way privileged feminists could reach out would be to learn to talk to salon owners and ministers and owners of community centers, laundromats, and other places people gather - those are people who might be most effective at reaching out directly to their communities.

 

09 December
buy nothing day and income relativism
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I haven't read the Common Wheel Collective's blog much recently, so I'm a bit late in responding to some of their posts.

But they point out another aspect of Buy Nothing Day that explains a lot of why I'm so ambivalent about Wal-Mart and places like it. Namely, that a lot of people live on very little money, and the bargains available through special holiday sales and discount stores can help them stretch that little bit further. Wal-Mart and Target were certainly staples of our lifestyle when we were living on maybe eight or nine hundred dollars a month between the two of us. It's great if you can afford to get your basic necessities at an organic mom-and-pop store, but a lot of people live in cities where mom-and-pop costs more. And farm subsidies work out such that non-local organic foods aren't cheap.

So there are positives to discount stores. That's why they do so much business.

Common Wheel also posted some really interesting information on world incomes - namely pointing out what we should all know already, that most of the world lives on exponentially less than the top 1% or so of people, exponentiatlly less than even fairly "poor" Americans.

It's strange to think how rich your $25,000 yearly household income makes you relative to the majority of people in the world, and yet, when you look at US income, four-car families living in the suburbs are just as low on the curve as welfare recipients. We are so wealthy and so poor, simultaneously.

 

08 December
angels apparently don't translate to television
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While the Angels in America television movie last night pretty much sucked, I still found myself watching it.

I think this is all about the thousand other things besides the story which the story represents to me. I kept wishing to see those things. I missed them. But the play had been reduced to only its story, which is tender and compelling, but ultimately more or less on a level with Degrassi Junior High, a fact made all the more clear by the straight-to-television production values.

Emotionally, I still feel so fondly towards the material, the characters, and the past-tense self they represent. Even in a small-screen movie, I like them.

Artistically, I think, it has two problems.

One. The very theatricality of Tony Kushner as opposed to, say, nearly any other playwright. It was an honorable choice to produce the play virtually editless, but it was the wrong choice for television. Squeezed into that tiny screen, the language starts to feel bizarre, the surreality of, say, most of Prior's experiences, becomes just so many banal special effects when the crazy shit is there on screen to see. It just felt - shrunken. Shrunken from the size of the world and your imagination to the size of an itty bitty box.

Two. Mike Nichols. He's directed an array of excellent, intimate films. But that's just the problem - intimacy. If it weren't bad enough that the play had been shrunken for television, it's now an emotional, heartfelt drama. It's Degrassi, I tell you, Degrassi! [Which, by the way, I was very fond of - it's just not transcendent in any way; it's emotional entertainment, little more.] It is not the same thing to translate Angels to the stage as it was to translate Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Not to understand that is to fail to understand theatre. While Mike is a smart guy who makes a good living on his understanding of acting (which I don't), I don't think he understands theatre in the larger sense.

Despite my broad, sweeping criticisms, I did like the movie and do think the movie has some value - certainly as a tender little story and perhaps as a continuance of the message of cross-species political and social tolerance (something HBO is really becoming expert at) - and I will be recording it to pass on to friends. Just, keep in mind, if you have any familiarity with Kushner, or with Angels that was, you may well be sorely disappointed.

 

07 December
trampled woman has crazy grifter history
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In interesting turnaround, the Walmart trample victim has a history of filing personal injury suits - under a variety of last names, at that. So, the iconic story of holiday shopping frenzy could turn out to be a show of greed on at least two levels. And quite possibly a testament to how effectively one person can talk a group into a raving mob.

Karl goes on to imagine how she may have incited the crowd of people around her into a buying frenzy in order to ensure her own injury. It does, indeed, sound like a movie. Creepy. [I was thinking more Lifetime than Coen brothers, but the latter would certainly be more watchable.]

 

raucous women
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Look at this! Wouldn't it be great to see more pictures of women having unembarassed fun?

Never mind the size thing, even - how often do you see women of any size willing to be wild in front of a camera (barring, you know, "Girls Gone Wild" video series)? Personally, I take it as an inspiration to go be raucous.

The picture is from a Groot Gat Godin (roughly Big Bottomed Goddess) beauty contest that Paul posted on earlier this week. Now, it is a little odd that everyone's so white, but it doesn't take away from the pleasure of watching them have a good time.

 

05 December
virginia choice victory
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It's pretty sad that I end up hearing about state abortion news from NARAL and such (rather than the local news media, for instance), but at least the latest news was good.

The week before Thanksgiving, the Virginia "partial birth infanticide" provision was ruled unconstitutional in federal court. While there's little doubt the state will appeal, it's good to know that someone, even if it's someone outside the state, will step in to defend a woman's right to choose against the raving anti-choice folk who keep getting elected to the state legislature uncontested. We need pro-choice people to run for office, clearly.

I am extremely thankful for the existence of the Richmond Medical Center for Women, which is one of only 40-some providers of abortion in the state, one of a handful that perform medical abortions (the pill, that is), and the clinic that initiated the case against the "infanticide" ban.

 

a sort of positive article about kids and dieting
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Big shocking news! Dieting is bad for kids. And, you know, everyone.

"I would argue that dieting is the primary cause of weight gain," says Waterhouse. "Let's be realistic. If diets worked, we'd all be thin instead of fatter than ever before."

While Debra Waterhouse, the woman who is interviewed in the MSN article, seems to be mostly a diet subscriber herself (see her list of diet books), she manages to dispense some pretty sane advice.

 

04 December
feministifying the holidays
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I mentioned in this weeks' WHB post this Bitch article (I mean, I think it was Bitch. It might have been, as someone said, Butch.) that made me all cranky about christmas.

The ironic thing is, I read this article so long ago that when it came time to post the question it had inspired, I could only remember the ideas it sparked for me, not any of the content of the article per se. I drift. But then Kerri reminded me of one of the things about the article that irked me: casually dismissing holiday traditions as "really not all that traditional". Namely the lighting of stuff (trees, candles, buildings, the entirety of most downtown city blocks). Well, sure, electric light is kinda new. But Channukah, all kinds of light (festival of light, in fact)- thousands of years old. Saturnalia, Yule, both candlerific - not celebrated so much these days, but hey, big huge fires; you don't get your own log and not be about fire and light. Anyhow, Christmas is basically a combination of Channukah, Saturnalia and Yule, and that makes it a holiday heir to thousands and thousands of years of excessive fire and light. I say pfft. And also thanks to Kerri for reminding me of that little factoid. It's okay to dismiss or change a tradition, but do it in an informed fashion.

Now that my irritated sidebar is out of the way, I can talk more about this wacky intersection of feminism, religious history and crass commercialism known as my personal take on christmas.

Not to refer to Kerri excessively, but she pointed out something so obvious I probably wouldn't have thought much about it - how much of holiday celebration is the responsibility of women? How little of it is the responsibility of men? Respectively quite a lot, and not that much, in most houses. Well, gee, that's weird. Isn't it?

I think a lot of that has to do with this notion that women are allowed to be more expressive, so we're permitted to have more enthusiasm about the whole holiday thing as we grow up. Also, holiday celebrating is very much centered on the home, and, as I've mentioned before, the home is the province of women. We've tried to make that less true at our house, but I still find that I drive most of our holiday choices (gift-giving, decorating, etc.), ostensibly because I care more. My partner contributes opinions and labor.

Have you heard of the "honey-do list"? I hadn't until fairly recently. The premise is that in heterosexual houses women give their partners these lists of household chores for them to do - typically things involving tools, presumably just because they're men. I assume it's a "honey-do" list because these requests are usually preceded with a cajoling "Honey...?"

It's a sexist concept. Why assume that a man will want to do what a woman won't, or that a woman can't do what a man could? Even if that division of labor makes sense for your household, when the woman is basically management and the man labor, it effectively locks the man out of participating in his own home life.

And the holidays seem to bring that out in people. Sometimes even at my house, where I try to avoid that kind of arbitrary labor division. A holiday without a omnipotent cookie-baking ruler is more fun.

I should point out here that, while what I celebrate is basically christmas, I'm really celebrating the "mas" (big party) and not the "christ" (Jesus stuff). I grew up around a lot of kids of various religions and spent some time researching all this stuff (thus the irkedness above), so while my parents' celebration is marginally denominational (light-up nativity, church on xmas eve), my own is highly secularized. We have some religious figures on our wacky modern-fusion tree, because you have to respect religions that produce such gorgeous miniature arts and crafts, and we do a few sortof pagan things (Yule/12th night party, for instance), but we mostly light lots of things and give gifts to the people we really like. Some years I do generic winter holiday cards, some years I don't. This year I'm thinking about making them by hand again (which I haven't done in ages). Or we might do CD's. Anyone want a handmade holiday card or CD? Just email me your address. I send them around New Year.

Perhaps because I'm relatively estranged from most of my extended family, I don't feel a big push to do a huge shopping extravaganza for the family. I don't think it's just the lack of family, though - my product-of-feminism-if-not-feminist family was very much about the thought or answered desire behind gifts, and I think a good combination of rebellious dorkiness and solid feminist politics help anyone defend themselves against the cultural push to make decision X or decision Y. There is very little that I do just because other people are doing it, or want me to do the same.

When it comes to gifts, I do spend a fair amount (probably still a bit less than the national average of $500), but I try to shop for gifts from positive places - about as much I usually do when shopping. Some people on my list are getting presents from Novica and 10,000 Villages (both of which do fairly traded handicrafts). Some things are coming from The Body Shop - which, while in the mall, is still a good company. Others are coming from local places or cool people who make things and sell them over the internet (see the list of links I made a few days ago, or Kerri's original). And, yes, some of them were ordered from places like LL Bean, Sears, Old Navy and such. Not so good, but what people wanted. Getting people things that please them is satisfying.

And I have to say - I like the mall. I especially like it the last 10 days before christmas, when people are sort of spastic and friendly. It's part of that whole feasting thing I talked about around Thanksgiving. Still, I know this is trite, but the thing about holiday gifts should be the thought - a gift is a reminder of a relationship, a celebration.

 

03 December
absurd diet talk
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So, awhile ago I subscribed one of my lesser email addresses to the South Beach diet list. The idea being that, while I have no interest in dieting per se, that particular diet book appeared to have some practical advice on eating well and interesting healthy recipes in it, and I figured the list would occasionally send me something of value.

It does. Um, occasionally.

Today it sent me what sure seems to be horrible misinformation.

The average American eats between 2,000 and 8,000 calories - just for Thanksgiving dinner. And it's filled with bad fats, bad carbs, and bad sugars.

Can someone who isn't starving or accustomed to training to bulk up actually eat 8000 calories in a sitting? Even at a major feast? That's like three heaping plates of everything one might traditionally eat at Thanksgiving, each of them drowned in fatty gravy.

That just seems absurd.

But not as absurd as the diet's other claim to fame: the promise of losing nearly 15 lbs in 1-2 weeks.

If, as the email claims...

Most American's [sic] will gain 5-10 lbs by New Year's Day

Then the assumption is that you can lose 1-3 times as much as other people will gain in one fifth the time. That just seems shaky to me.

Of course, if (as so many people do) you go on this diet and fail to meet its inflated claims of instant, permanent weight loss, you'll be buoyed up by the regular emails you'll receive explaining how the failure to lose weight is, in fact, your fault. You didn't really cut out the bad foods. You didn't exercise enough. You have some other sort of health problem and should see your doctor (perhaps for weight loss surgery?).

Absurd.

 

01 December
more alternatives to the mall
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This is a continuation of Kerri's list of alternative places to shop for the holidays. Places that aren't the mall. Places that are good for you. I started to type a list to add to her site, and it just got longer and longer.

Superfantastico (paper, gifts)
WackyJac (undies, tees)
DaddyO's (retro clothes)
Novica (fairly traded gifts)
High Class Cho (clothes made by Margaret Cho)
Fat Chance Belly Dance (belly dance videos, music, costumes)
Dyke Tees (t-shirts)
Good Vibrations (sex toys)
Book Sense (independent booksellers)
Bust (magazine, other stuff)
Bitch (magazine, other stuff)
Hula Source (dance stuff)
Super Hero Designs (jewelry)
Lush (cosmetics, bath stuff)
Sparkle Craft (purses and such)

I'm sure I've missed a ton of great places. There are tons.

 

world aids day
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You probably don't need a reminder. Still, here it is.

 

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