Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Inauspicious Start

Let me preface this post by swearing that I am, in fact, a functionally intelligent being. I can tie my own shoes, tell time, and even clean my house without creating lethal chemical combinations. However, rookie errors have plagued my first week at the new Grad School. I've managed to sign up for classes located at all corners of the campus, giving me the opportunity to sprint three times every other day. For now, this is simply good cardio-vascular exercise. But I'm the sort of person who breaks bones in the comfort of her own home, while doing things like painting the living room. Within two months the combination of my own native spastic tendencies, the piles of snow I expect at this latitude, and these sprints might just prove dangerous to my health. Good thing I brought my crutches with me.

I've also managed to sign up for a class taught by a professor renowned for his brilliant but dithery lectures, and almost satanic grading system. Fabulous. Nothing like knowing that the information you're given will be unclear, while the standards set for your scholarship--based partly on that unclear information--are frighteningly high, to make a new student feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

But the capper, the absolute "Damn it, woman, get a grip on yourself" moment came in my final class of the day; a hagiography course I've been dying to take since I saw the offerings. I know something about hagiography, and I've been reading new scholarship so that I could hit the ground running when I got to school this semester. And I'll swear any oath required that I had an intelligent, pertinent thought to add to the discussion. Until I opened my mouth. Somehow, my lips conspired against me so that my intelligent, pertinent thought came out something like, "I was reading this article...uh... and it was about a similar situation... uh, yeah ... except different." And I received the professor's pitying smile in return, the one that says "Let's all be patient with the stupid girl." Which is really the best possible scenario considering the blockheaded thing I said.

However, contrary to my concerns, my fellow grad students are extremely friendly, and I may even get some of them to sit with me at lunch. Because stupid people need supervision.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

What do Delhi and D.C. Have in Common?

It appears that the capitol buildings in Delhi are experiencing the same infestation as ours here in the U.S.A.

Internet Amusements & Irritations


1. Watching the complete emotional breakdown (paranoid delusions, ad hominem attacks that include accusations of ad hominem tactics, non sequiturs and red herrings aplenty) of a male chat room acquaintance who takes it as a personal insult that one considers oneself, and all other women, as more than life support for female genitals.

2. Finding crazy news stories from all over the world, like this one from Budapest, which tells of one government official's attempts to pretty up his workplace by making dress codes dependent upon the physical assets of the (female) employees. Way to go, chucklehead.

3. Hate-filled "Christians," given the rope they need. Seriously, folks, Jesus was not a hate-monger. All the same, thanks for the entertainment.

4. Self-styled grammar and usage mavens who have severely limited vocabularies, and no flipping idea how the English language works. Mrs. Malaprop lives! ( On a similar note: people who use words like "bloviatory" in screeds against verbose communication, with no concept of the irony.)


1. Doing a search for news pertaining especially to women, and coming up with several sites that promise to teach ugly and stupid men how to screw around with a pretty woman's self esteem just enough so that she'll want to date baby-eating trolls like them.

2. In same search, finding sites that extol the virtues of invasive, life-threatening, elective surgery that will make women "feel better about themselves."
Because nothing says 'healthy self-esteem' like having assfat transferred to your lips.

3. The many quizzes, blogs, chat rooms and games that call out to you, just as you're settling down to do necessary work. Damn you, age of information!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Theocracy & Women in the News

Theocracy: n., 1. government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. 2. a state governed by a theocracy.

  • Woman: n., an adult female person.
  • Let's Start with Happenings Right Here at Home.

    The New York Times reports today that the FDA Commissioner, Lester M. Crawford, has chosen to delay making a decision on Plan B. According to the article,some democratic senators were under the distinct impression that allowing a vote on Crawford was an exchange for a decision on Plan B prior to September 1, 2005. I can't say what agreements were made by whom and when, but I do know that the FDA's stated reasons for pushing off decision time are asinine. 1. They need "more time to gather public reaction to the plan and to figure out how they could enforce it." 2. The "agency had decided that the science supported giving over-the-counter access of the drug to women 17 and older, but that the agency could not figure out how to do that from regulatory and practical standpoints without younger teenagers' obtaining the pills, too."

    Let me help the geniuses at the FDA out a little bit. Gather round, wingnuts. For lo, I have much accumulated knowledge that I wish to share. You see, there are several substances within these United States to which access is controlled by age:

    1) For instance, liquor of any kind must not be sold to people under 21 years of age.

    2) This is similar to cigarettes, which must not be sold to persons under 18 years of age.

    3) Pornography also is limited to those over 18.

    4) Hell, I couldn't buy my mother a dozen eggs anywhere near Halloween until I was 18.

    5)The sale of cough syrup, in light of its newfound recreational uses, has been restricted to those over 18.

    6) The bagel shop near the high school I taught at briefly would not sell to school-age children between the hours of 7 AM and 2 PM.

    Are any of the purveyors of these fine products people who have gone through many years of schooling, and incurred massive debts in order to be licensed in their chosen fields? Are they 'professionals' we can trust to keep our children safe from poor choices, school-skipping, and their own seasonal inner vandals? Well, no. They are fairly unskilled, minimum wage clerks at grocery and convenience stores throughout our fair land. Do we imagine that pharmacists, the very same people whose consciences the right wing trusts to override decisions made by a woman and her doctor regarding her own health, are not responsible enough to card a kid? Pharmacists are the folks we let dispense all manner of addictive medications. They aren't good enough? I'm afraid I'm going to have to call bullshit on this one, Sparky.

    And what do the concerned citizens of the right have to say about this? Why the big brouhaha over a pill that must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex in order to prevent the fertilization of an egg? What a shock! It's the same argument as they use against all birth control, and even sexual education. This pill, it seems, would encourage teenagers to have sex. And we all know that people who have sex are bad. (Burn the sex-having witch!) Incidentally, I was under the impression that puberty encouraged teenagers to have sex, but I am also one of those godless freaks who took health class in high school.

    From Afghanistan

    Freedom marches right past Afghani women when it comes to gaining positions of responsiblity and power. Also in The New York Times , there's this article that reports that Afghani women will not run for office, because they have no control over their money; that's a man's job. Apparently, the "many women" who came to vote in Afghani elections forgot to vote for less scumbaggy husbands. Or, could it be theocratic, misogynistic principles still in action in Afghanistan?

    And, Finally, That Great Bastion of Freedom: Iraq

    Still the NYT, (it's early, and I can only read one massive paper in the middle of the night. Sue me.) there's this op-ed piece concerning the Iraqi constitution that isn't. Despite all the grumblings about freedom for the three groups that make up Iraq, and all the struggling for safety for them, the provisions that seriously jeopardize women's rights in Iraq have been left firmly in place. So, like women in Afghanistan, Iraqi women can expect to be kept in a life of penury by legal restriction, unable to divorce, inherit, or in any way choose their own paths. But, I'm sure that won't affect their ability to assert basic human rights for themselves. As long as their human rights don't interfere with their husbands' rights to treat them like chattel "in God's name," that is.

    Friday, August 26, 2005

    A Belated Happy Birthday to the Nineteenth Amendment

    Amendment XIX - "Article-, Section 1. - The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
    "Section 2. - Congress shall have power, by appropriate legislation, to enforce the provisions of this article."

    I'd like to thank my Great-Grandmother, and all the men and women of her generation who fought so hard for women's suffrage.* There are so many aspects of our lives, far beyond the voting booth, that have been made inifinitely better by their work.

    *Let's be serious, it was mostly women.
    Credit where it's due: This post was inspired by, and is almost identical to, one posted on Bitch PhD by Elise, who is substituting for Dr. Bitch and also has her own fine blog called After School Snack.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    La Plus ca Change...

    Lurking somewhere not so deep in the recesses of my mind is a five year old, and she's annoying. I am currently preparing to meet with fellow grad students at my new University, and I should be thinking about all the exciting new stuff I want to learn and teach, and how I'll be meeting people who may prove to have thoroughly pickable brains, and what sort of advocacy groups I might want to get involved with since this city doesn't have the same groups I've joined before. Instead, most of my worrying has centered around the questions that used to plague me as a child whenever my family moved; will they like me? will I have anybody to sit with at lunch? will my new teachers be as nice as my old ones? (This last is partially amended in the case of two ex-professors, whose soul-sucking attitudes and behavior I hope never to encounter again. I say 'partially' because spite was a wonderful motivator for me in response to those two knuckleheads. "There's no way those miserable bastards will put a red mark on MY paper" leads to pretty damned good work sometimes. Still, doing my best work in the company of instructors who emphasize the *enriching* half of the humbling and enriching experience of education is preferred. ) So now, just as then, I feel myself putting on the cloak of insouciance as the meeting time becomes closer, hoping that I can trade it in for a more comfortable garment soon.

    Saturday, August 20, 2005

    Whine Selection

    Blogging Lesson #1: Don't start a blog a week before you have to cart all of your stuff, including thousands of pounds of books, several hundred miles away. Life Lesson #1: A) Do not rent an apartment in a building that has no elevator when you have thousands of pounds of books. B) Moving suuuucks! C) When your legs have given out, and you can't get your stuff up the stairs anymore, know that undergrads will do any heavy lifting you can throw their way if you offer them $50.

    Tuesday, August 09, 2005

    Numbers Can be Fun: Mandate This.

    Some math people I know keep telling me that numbers can be fun. They're nice people, and I don't want to hurt their feelings, so I pretend to believe them. I'm sensitive like that. Besides, nobody who studies antique dirty books for college credit, and teaches slightly less elderly books for a living (while pretending not to notice the sexy bits), has any business making fun of mathematicians. So, I decided to look at numbers from a slightly different angle, to see if anything fun popped up.

    My first forays into the numbers game validated my 'numbers suck' philosophy. This is not to say that there aren't people in the world who would consider my bank account amusing, but I'm a poor sport about it. The 77 cents on the dollar promise for my working life is equally grim. I mean, I like a dangling participle as much as the next guy, but I can't see how having one merits a 23% salary differential. However, with due diligence, I discovered a way to make numbers work for me.

    Remember last year, when the friends of Dick Cheney and his Pet Monkey decided that 3 million more votes comprised a mandate? (We won't talk about disenfranchised voters now.) Have you noticed that the Monkey has used his 'mandate' to do whatever he damn well pleases with our country, including appointing an embarrassment to speak for us at the UN? Well, a quick look at the 2000 census has cheered me right up. It seems that American women, with a whopping 5.3 million-strong lead in the gender poll, have a super-mandate. Women are in charge, kids. And, frankly, I'm tired of these uppity dangling-participled minorities telling us how to run OUR country, acting as if we should put ourselves out giving them meaningful voices in the media. Blathering on incessantly about their rights to a fulfilling career, happy family lives, entertainment, and pin money to spend on the frivolous things that make their little days go more smoothly. My God! Isn't it enough that we pretend to listen to their thoughts, and never tell them how fat those khakis really make them look?

    Clearly, since God made more of us, He wanted us to be in charge. And, when God wants one to be in charge, He means "get out there and steamroll over every person who doesn't look, act, and think just like" the ones He put in charge. So, ladies, I suggest we get busy doing the 'hard work' of being ridiculously privileged, and develop the entitlement issues we have been ordained by God to have. You wouldn't want to upset God, would you? Gentlemen, you needn't worry, we'll be a kind as kind can be to you, provided that you're pretty and agreeable enough, and can make a decent cup of coffee.

    Sunday, August 07, 2005

    Inaugural Address: "You Don't Seem Like a Feminist"

    I started calling myself a feminist when I was twelve years old, as soon as I understood that there was a word for thinking that boys and girls having different chores, rules, or allowances wasn't fair. While I hope my thinking has become broader and more nuanced since then, the general idea remains the same. As far as I'm concerned, there is no reasonable way for any person to argue with the basic tenets of feminism. Women and men are intellectual and emotional equals. Women and men should be socially, politically, and economically equal. These were radical thoughts in 1792, when Mary Wollstonecraft wrote her A Vindication on the Rights of Women, but they are not radical now.

    Still, whenever I have called myself a feminist, the term has elicited a reaction. The reaction varies; it can be an eyeroll, sudden anger, or--more rarely--a sense of instant comraderie. However, the reaction that concerns me most, and paradoxically appeared only after I became a grown woman, is the correction. This is most often a variation on the theme stated in the title of this post. "You can't be a feminist, you're not like them." It should be noted that the 'them' in this sentence is clearly used as a pejorative. The 'them' of whom I cannot be a part, are different, other, wrong. This reaction is partly due to the success of the opposition in characterizing feminists as bellicose women with whom nobody would care to associate anyway. Well, wrong. It is entirely possible to have both social skills and self-respect. Assuming that the men you know are not in immediate danger of having their opposable thumbs rescinded, it is also possible to be a feminist who enjoys the company of men. Hey, it's even possible to be a man and a feminist! So, I freely confess to you now that I am, indeed, one of those pesky women who has respect for herself, and a willingness to speak her mind.