Friday, September 5, 2008

reactions, part 3

Sometimes I get brain steam going in my comments here or in a forum elsewhere, and I realize that I want to make it more visible, like I'm more accountable out in front here and also on the chance that I might say something insightful or eloquent, and you get to read it:)

Elyse from Skepchick has now inspired two such posts. Her first post, the one I referenced yesterday briefly, came to my attention because I'm becoming more and more fascinated with the skeptic movement via exposure by smart, critical-thinking women. (It's a very interesting perspective to dip my toes into rational critique while my mouth's chanting goddess mantras and my brain spins and dances between these two places. But said smart woman recently praised my ability to portray my feeling two things at once so maybe simultaneous contradictory thought is my bag...) In that post she

1) made me pee my pants:
Why are the media talking about Palin like she’s some kind of superheromom? She’s in the PTA. She’s governor of Alaska. She carpools tohockey practice. She cooks moose burgers for her family. She flew homefrom Texas to Alaska while she was in labor… on the back of a pegasus…unicorns were waiting for her at the airport to whisk her away to thehospital… she was throwing gold coins at homeless eskimos betweencontractions… Jesus was her midwife and when the baby crowned, a chorusof five thousand Boticelli angels erupted in chorus, singing a songpenned by the Almighty himself about how Sarah Palin is the greatestmother ever to grace His 6,000 year-old universe.
2) triggered some working mom guilt in my head, and

3) asks: "Why don’t we ask that question [ "about how she’s a crappy mom for abandoning and exploiting her family for political gain." ] and agree that it’s just as wrong fora man to abandon his wife, disabled newborn, pregnant teen daughter andhis three other children to run for office?

After that, remember, I read this thing at MamaPop and said "Yes! That is position." Then Elyse commented and says she thinks that basically Dana at MamaPop agrees with her. I reread both posts carefully and I think that the thing they have in common is the demand that the same standards be applied to parents of all genders. But I don't read that as the crux of Elyse's post. The overriding theme in her article is that working a demanding job makes for a bad parent of young children.

I will address that, but I need a quick extra note here. Last night I listened to an NPR broadcast about children and learning and there was a reference to a "Four Thirds" parenting approach, and a brief statement about the lack of quality parenting time. The featured author says parents should each give two thirds (time? effort? attention? all of the above I guess) and the child gets more than enough. I liked it- an overlapping, holistic approach to attentiveness. (Sorry, no link yet...)

With that in mind, Elyse doesn't seem to be giving much credit to Palin's husband or extended family, and she's making assumptions I'm uncomfortable with. We don't know how childcare works in this family. I'm extremely put off by the language she's chosen:

"Sarah Palin is a selfish, shitty mom."
"...with a hormonal pregnant bitch sister and a retarded baby."

Um, yeah... that ruffles my feathers. I know at five months I was a glowing nesty bliss mama, and at eight months I was a bitch. But seriously, it's like this was intended to be infuriating. I also recoil at the word "retarded" as an adjective for a human being. It's more specific and medically accurate to use it as a descriptor for intelligence, growth, etc. People with Down Syndrome do have varying degrees of mental retardation but it's not always global developmental delays and the label retarded calls to mind a time when we understood such conditions much less than we do now. Yes this child needs intense parenting, but can we discuss him and other kids with Downs a little bit of sensitivity?

Being a mother has made me hyper aware of other's choices. I know there's a natural tendency to critique, and I won't even pretend that I don't get judgmental about breastfeeding- I do. If you don't make an educated attempt to nurse (within the few biological limits), I'll judge. I won't call you out as a shitty mom, though, and certainly won't extrapolate that judgment to all moms who don't breastfeed.

Judging parenting skills is so subjective, and so complex. With mothers it is so tied into the tangled notions of worth that we have now, "post-feminism." Elyse gets a pass for the feminist ramifications, because she does insist that fathers be held to her standards too. My argument is that she doesn't have enough information to judge this family as a whole and I'm not comfortable with the idea that we should judge the Palins as parents on the basis of career decisions.

I don't know where to fit this, really, but in a way I think that in the big picture the role model of a mother-politician is pretty noble in theory (although let's be clear again I HATE her politics) and putting the service of a people as a whole up against a family is really confusing to me- if she were a champion of women and the earth I would call that a beautiful, meaningful career that gives her extra "parenting points" as modeling service to others for her kids. I might still give her points, but as her positions are deplorable I'm just befuddled.

Elyse is planning, I think, a follow up post and I'm excited to read it. I have more to say, but I want to step back for now and read-think-process more. Thanks again, Elyse, for engaging in a dialogue about this.


  1. You're in my Google-reader now, I swear I'm not stalking you or waiting for you to drop my name again :)

    Without getting into the nitty-gritty, the "selfish, shitty mom" comment was harsh, but that's really how I feel about her.

    The "bitch sister" and "retarded baby" comments were meant from the perspective of the 3 kids stuck in the middle of the family drama. I debated deleting or re-wording that sentence but ultimately decided to keep it. I'm surprised that you're actually the first person to bring it up.

    I think my biggest mistake here was jumping on Sarah Palin as an opportunity to be relevant and topical while voicing my frustration with my-career-before-my-children attitudes. My follow-up will be my opinion on the topic, sans controversial emotion evoking personality and the personal attacks.

    While my post certainly left a bad taste in your mouth, I really hope I don't turn you away from the skeptical movement (or made you think that Skepchick calls women who don't agree with us "shitty moms".) It's really important that we get more women involved in skepticism.

    I hope that you find your journey into critical thinking to be challenging and rewarding.

  2. I can certainly relate to the impassioned language; I searched my vocabulary deeply trying to come up with with a powerful but ungendered curse word to throw at "Dr." Laura wossname:) "Asshole" doesn't fully convey my pissiness. I didn't have time to read past the first few comments, but I'm surprised too that no one else found that part unpleasant. I get what you're doing with it, but yeah... it squicked me.

    It's impossible to separate ourselves in this as moms (I think I read you have a young baby?) and as women. Like I mentioned before, I do have a fair amount of angst about having to work outside the home- I do design and some art but it falls way short of holding the household together.

    Laura (from, my skeptic friend) gives me great pep talk about second wave feminists and how I'm showing Molly that I have a full, rounded life. It's really, really complex though. I want to write a post about the biology and the maternal bond and feminism. My identity as a feminist is much deeper AND broader now that I'm a mother, and some of the ways I've changed are challenging people. My husband was thrown for a loop when I was upset about returning to work- he really thought as a feminist I'd prefer to work. I would, but at home with my baby, and after the first nine or so newborn months.

    I'm not about to judge skeptics as a whole because I took issue with parts of your post (Promise me you won't assume all Appalachians are quasi-Wiccan bisexual hairy-legged artists! LOL)

    Enjoy your weekend.

  3. I have a very active 13-month-old at home. I have a similar dilemma with staying-at-home. I decided to choose a career that "made me happy" instead of one that made a lot of money. Unfortunately for me, that means that once I've paid for day care and transportation, food and the other expenses that go along with actually going to and being at work, I've actually spent more to get to work than I make in a day at work.

    Given that my job involves working with animals and is 100% hands-on, there's no telecommuting and there's no working out of my home.

    I'd love to work from home, but I'm just not organized, creative or motivated enough to start my own business or be my own boss. Throw in the active 13-month-old and the two dogs... forget it! I have a hard time remembering to go to the bathroom some days.

    Sometimes the *best* option for a family is not an easy one and may mean some members suffer more than others or that some memebers suffer while others thrive. Sometimes it's a matter of picking the least losingest option. As parents it's up to us to make sure that we choose the options that benefit our children. Those choices are not always cut and dry (rarely, even).

    I don't think anyone is prepared for how hard parenting is before they become parents.

  4. As to whether Appalachians are quasi-Wiccan bisexual hairy-legged artists.

    I never assumed that. I figured some of you probably shave your legs, right? ;)

  5. All I have to say is - remember, not all skeptical women are 'skepchicks'.

    In the case of this, it is a VERY good thing to make that distinction that they are NOT the second-wave of female skepticism alone.

    There's a lot of assumptions made about Palin (whether or not you agree with her politics, or whatever) made in the post which were raised as negatives in the comments of that blog.
    As was said by herself:

    "We don’t have to have a “skeptical consensus”. I’m okay with that. I’m also okay with being wrong. And I very well might be."

    Good. But still, in response: "Sarah Palin is actually probably a better-than-average mother. And no amount of belly-aching from you will change the reality of the situation. You can keep believing she’s “shitty” if that works for you, but as we all know, believing don’t necessarily make something true."

    Just don't paint _all_ skeptical women as skepchicks, please. We certainly are NOT the same, not on parenting support, not on politics and not on opinion on what's 'good for skepticism'.

    If these skeptic party-girls (who pose holding alcohol with teenagers in NY bars! What 'feminist role modelling' do you call member's alcoholism??) of skepticism are now taking this approach, it makes me and others want to distinguish ourselves from your label EVEN MORE.

  6. Daisy-

    I apologize that one of our trolls has taken it upon himself to bring some drama to your blog.

    He said he would stop responding to me on the blog, but now he's following me to other sites to continue this conversation... or just to make me look bad... or to make Skepchick look bad? I don't know.

    I apologize.

  7. I really have enjoyed reading the discourse back and forth here. I'm not a mom, so I can't offer any personal experience or feel I can comment really, but I do have to say that both of you are definitely great role models to your children. I think about how disconnected former generations of women were from an intelligent conversation with another adult and I just get so excited about technology and it providing connectedness and community and an outlet and platform to voice opinions.

    Ok that was my little emotional-gushy comment.

    I hope neither of you think that all Pittsburghers are touchy-feely, overly idealistic nimrods (who only occasionally shave their legs).


  8. Thanks, Laura. :)

    You're right about the disconnect. If not for the internet, I would be sitting at home unable to have any conversations with adults all day. My husband leaves for work at 8:30 AM and gets home (on a good day) at 10:30PM. That's a long, exhausting day. When he gets home, he's usually too tired to engage in much conversation (he tries though, he really does.) It's not unusual for me to go 2 or 3 days without having a face to face conversation with an adult!

    I wonder if it was different when all the women on the block were home, too?

    I hope you two don't judge me for really loving having shaved legs! To me, there's nothing better than how my legs feel after I've shaved and slathered them in body butter. Feels so clean and sexy!

    But then I don't get to shower or shave as much as I'd like to... so don't judge my smelly :)


  9. Elyse, that's a great point about when all the women on the block were home together. I remember my mom had a few great friends and the gaggle of kids would bounce between houses and the neighbors and I played... it was a good thing. My neighbors here include 5 or 6 great grandmas, suspected meth-heads who've just vacated (w00t!), a couple of weirdly asocial redneck-ish guys, and one family with a Molly age kid who seem fairly reclusive. I'd love to feel more connected to my fellow holler-dwellers:)


    When I shave/wax my legs- yearly? biannually? I feel so kinky. The silkiness feels unnatural and delicious and I feel vaguely like a drag queen. It's hot:) It's sensually about the same amount of awesome as feeling wind in the small soft hairs on my legs when I bravely wear shorts.


    The troll? Meh- whatever. I'm not simple enough to judge a whole movement by one website or one author. Or even to judge one author by one post.

  10. @ Laura, No, but I do realize based on my life experiences that all women in Pittsburgh are sexy, smart, bisexual, or bi-curious. Heh.

  11. My grandma used to talk about how all the neighbors on her street used to throw big parties on a regular basis. All the parents would put the kids to bed and then just leave the house, unlocked, and go party outside or at a neighbors house and just generally be social with other adults. Sort of like when older people talk about "the good old days" - I do wonder though, with all the mommy blogs and what not, aren't there still a lot of SAHparents who create communities? Play groups and such? Perhaps people like to say people are less connected, less friendly with neighbors, etc. but its not the reality. Then again, I don't really see/talk to my neighbors much. I just don't ever need to borrow a cup of sugar. *sigh*

    When people tell me technology is making people antisocial I just don't agree. The internet has given me a broad network of people I can go to for advice, a fresh perspective, a good laugh. I think there are ways in which technology can be isolating, but a video game that requires one to focus is okay in moderation. I think its not technology that is isolating, but rather people who are overdosing on activities that are just solitary in general.

    Leg shaving - I love doing it. I love not doing it. If I'm with a new lover, I always shave because its exciting. Or if I'm wearing a skirt somewhere. In the winter, I'm pretty chill about it. I also have rather fine leg hair, so even if I let it go in the summer, most people can't see it. I always laugh when people are offended by hair though. I mean, if it's on my head its ok, but under my arms or on my shin - ew thats gross! WTF?!?

    There is a great song by India.Arie where she sings the lyric:

    "Sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I comb my hair and sometimes I won't"

    That's me. This was a rambling comment. I so want to have coffee with both of you IRL!

  12. Elyse - got to deal with it someday, rather than just calling it 'trolling' and dismissing it as such. Blindness to valid criticism - is hardly skepticism.

  13. Anonymous,

    You are significantly less likely to be labeled a troll if you own your stances and opinions by providing an identity (even a super cute secret alias!) in your posts. Just a thought, and I think Elyse has shown a truly exceptional willingness to engage in dialogue and debate. She backs up her positions and takes a fluid and open approach that to me shows a smart skeptical mind.

    Thanks for stopping by.