The Crime That Crosses Class and Color Lines

Former prosecutor Rikki Klieman argues for prosecuting perpetrators of domestic abuse even when the victims refuse to testify:

These women do not like being beaten, and I literally recoil whenever I hear others blame them for staying. Their situations are complex and present a societal issue, not simply an emotional one. They literally cannot leave because they have been traumatized for months or years. They are completely vulnerable, having lost self-esteem even if they have successful employment or publicly appear as if everything is fine, particularly when both the man and the woman are otherwise reputable. Victims live in denial, blaming alcohol, drugs or gambling–anything but their abuser. Even if not in denial, they live in that deep valley of hope that things will get better, that they will work it out, that they can make things be what they were before, that he will change. They live cloaked in shame, feeling guilty that it is their own fault.

There are certainly other categories of crime that government will prosecute even without the participation of the victim, aren’t there? This seems like a good candidate for inclusion on that list.

The Biggest (And Smallest) Pay Gaps

More numbers, this time showing income disparity between men and women by occupation. Cheat sheet: if you are a woman, do not go into sales; do go into health or medicine as anything but a doctor.

Part of the gap in pay is driven by choices, even within single job categories. Among physicians, for example, women are more likely than men to choose lower-paid specialties (though this does not explain all of the pay gap among doctors).

And among all workers, women are more likely than men to take a significant time off from work to raise children, and they tend to be re-hired at lower wages than their counterparts who remained in the workforce.

This suggests to me that if employers don’t want to disadvantage themselves long-term by perpetuating a lack of gender diversity they should swallow the short-term costs of better accommodating working women who want to start families.

Via The Jane Dough.

The Second Shift

Alexis Coe at The Atlantic reports on sociologists’ finding that women who earn high wages do not necessarily outsource the cooking or cleaning at home either to paid employees or to their husbands or children.

Housework has a performative quality to it, and conforming to traditional gender norms may produce social and psychological rewards. This is true for [sociologist Alexandra] Killewald, who said while she and her husband often cook meals together, when her mother-in-law is expected for dinner, she not only cooks the meal, but urges her husband to make it clear that she was the chef. “That’s important to me because I’m showing [my mother-in-law] that I’m a good wife,” she said. “Those expectations don’t fall on fathers and men.”

I work fewer hours than my wife, but if she sees me washing a big stack of dishes she’s still all too likely to engage in some sort of self-condemnation.

I Really Thought the Honeymoon Phase Would Last Longer Than Two Weeks

Complaining that the first year of marriage is hard isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but I found this idea from Lindsey Capperrune’s story at The Good Women Project insightful:

As if marriage is the start of it all. It’s a fallacy that life begins there and everything prior to the vows evaporates suddenly. I’m not sure why exactly; maybe we want it to be that way, or we know it’d be easier that way. Maybe because we want to be the only life our new spouse has ever known, but the truth is life begins before “I do.”

You bring your family, your norms and values, your “we’ve always done it” ways and you marry a person who just happens to have those ways too and you collide. You find yourself wondering, “Why does he do it like that?! Why does the garbage sit there in a bag by the back door? Why does he fold his underwear?”

And things he probably asked of me: Why are we having cupcakes for dinner? And why do you steal the covers every. single. night?

"I Reject the Notion That My Virtue Is Located in My Vagina"

Trigger Warning for Rape

An Indian woman who was gang-raped in 1980 attacks a still-prevalent notion:

Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.” It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonored.

I recommend reading the article she wrote at the age of 20, three years after her rape. The link is in the first paragraph.

Via Feministing.

The Masculinization of the Garage

Tristan Bridges of Inequality by (Interior) Design traces the sociological roots of the man-cave.

Industrialization and suburbanization brought about fantastic transformations in family life and gender relations. Men and women began to rely upon one another in new and unprecedented ways. Divisions between work and leisure became more pronounced for men and this same boundary was probably blurred more than ever before for women. The same forces that led Lasch to call the family “a haven in a heartless world” were inequitably distributed between family members. This fact is reverberated in our design and use of home architecture.

Reading over this for the second time, I can’t help thinking how men in our culture have lost their identity as patriarchy collapses. Clinging to the trappings of old-fashioned masculinity ultimately only delays the inevitable need to redefine what it means to be a man.

Suzanne Venker Wants a Truce

The author of Fox News’ terrible “War on Men” piece wants you all to know that she didn’t really mean to be gender-essentialist. Her new article, “Let’s Call a Truce in the War on Men” (title case added, because—despite my maleness—I am not some kind of barbarian) clarifies what she was really trying to say:

Here’s what we know: Females, in general, are nurturing and relational beings. They like to gather and nest and take care of people. They like to commiserate with other females—a lot. That’s why girls can talk for hours on end. It’s why more women stay home with their children than men. It’s why the teaching and caregiving professions are still heavily female. Not every single woman in the world falls into this category, but that doesn’t make the generalization any less true.

Males, on the other hand—in general—are loners. They’re content to mill about in their man caves. They like to hunt. They like to build things and kill things. If you don’t have a son, this may sound strange. But again, that doesn’t make it untrue—nor does the fact that not every single man in the world is like this. Men also take pride in caring for their families. They can’t carry babies or nurse them, but they can provide for them. So let them.

See? Not gender essentialism at all.

Venker also wants to be sure you realize she was not telling all you ladies you have to stay home cooking and cleaning and cranking out babies; she just thinks you should de-emphasize career a little.

Just because you make your own money doesn’t mean your guy can’t pay the bill. Just because you value independence doesn’t mean you can’t take your husband’s last name. Just because you can do the same job a man can do doesn’t mean you need to let him know it.

Surrendering to your femininity means many things. It means letting your man be the man despite the fact that you’ve proved you’re his equal. It means recognizing the fact that you may very well want to stay home with your babies—and that that’s normal. It means if you do work outside the home, you don’t use your work to play tit-for-tat in your marriage.

So in this case, de-emphasizing your career just means pretending you don’t have one even though you do. Also, consider not having one but staying home and having babies instead.

Insidiously, those last couple paragraphs from Venker’s piece contain a number of quasi-truths. You shouldn’t necessarily be the one writing the checks to the utility company. You shouldn’t feel compelled to keep your last name if you get married. You shouldn’t rub it in if you have a better job or make more money than your boyfriend or husband. You shouldn’t feel compelled to keep working full-time if you would really rather have children and stay home with them. And you certainly shouldn’t foster a domestic relationship where you keep score against each other to see who wins the game of doing the most to keep the machine running.

Of course, Venker is actually implying that you should change your name, overtly or implicitly lie to your man about your career success to make him feel more “manly”, let him manage all the money, quit work or work less after you have children, and expect that if you do keep working your husband will not lift a finger to do any of that pesky “woman’s work” so you won’t turn into a crazy person.

I’d be much more cranky about this whole thing if it weren’t for one important realization:

The one calling for a truce is usually the one who’s losing.

Evangelical Coalition Rallies Behind Family Planning

Where by “family planning”, they definitely mean contraception, not abortion:

The centrist New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good released a 15-page document on Monday calling for “common ground” support of family planning and the health of mothers and children.

“We affirm that the use of contraceptives is a responsible and morally acceptable means to greater control over the number and timing of births, and to improve the overall developing and flourishing of women and children,” said the Rev. Jennifer Crumpton, one of the advisers to the evangelical group.

Good for them.

♀ As Lived, So Written; As Written, So Lived


This post is also part of The Feminist Oddyssey Blog Carnival. If you’re visiting courtesy of the Carnival, welcome!

I credit Fred Astaire with starting me on the path to feminism. When I was growing up, my mom and I would go every week to the library (and later, to three different libraries, one being insufficient for our demanding multimedia requirements), returning home with crates of audiobooks and VHS movies.[1] We rarely failed to consume all of them by their due dates.

Between housework, which my mother probably delegated to me much more judiciously than I remember, and improvements to our neverending string of fixer-upper homes, there was always some kind of mindless work to be done in my family, and we filled the mental space with books on tape.[2] In the alternate universe created by the myopia of memory, my audiobook selections fell neatly into four categories: Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, P.G. Wodehouse, and everything else. Movies were even simpler, with only two categories left after “everything else”: WWII films, and 1930s musicals.

My mother has never once actually sat down and watched a movie all the way through. Nearly every film she has ever seen has been viewed from behind an ironing board, the volume of laundry for a three-person household somehow dictating that the ironing would never actually finish. I can only assume that families in the 80s and 90s who had more than one child hired out their laundry so the homemaker of the family could occasionally eat a hasty meal standing over the sink. In any case, since you can’t keep both eyes on the TV while ironing without burning holes in your clothes, Mom needed movies familiar enough to be intelligible from sound only, and her go-to sub-genre was the RKO Astaire-Rogers musical.

In case you’ve never had the pleasure… um, spoilers? Every single one of these films involves a meet-cute between Astaire and Rogers, followed by some kind of falling out, the singing and dancing of many songs and dances, farcical but witty comedy, and an eventual reconciliation. In other words, romantic comedies.[3]

We homeschooled, which meant that I spent lots of one-on-one time with Mom, who taught me everything except math. (My dad is the math brain of the family.) Most days we stayed home, but frequently we rode a circuit of thrift shops and grocery stores that took all day to complete. (Despite never having a “job” while I lived at home, Mom stayed busy by stretching every dollar we had to within an ace of shredding, and she accomplished this by never buying new clothes if at all possible, obsessively coupon-clipping and price-comparing food, and canning or freezing massive quantities of fruit and vegetables that filled every one of our successive garages and basements. When I tell you that, combined with my father’s supernatural ability to never buy anything at all, Mom’s thriftiness has enabled my parents to pay off three different mortgages over the course of their marriage, you might be able to imagine what I’m talking about and why “homemaker isn’t a real job” will never make sense to me.)

Those shopping trips form my strongest memory of middle school education. I remember sitting in the front seat of our big conversion van, getting a stiff neck from slouching over my books while Mom was inside the Half Price Books store planning the next phase of my education, better than I remember actually studying at home. And as soon as I think about studying in the car, I remember talking in the car, because having your teacher right next to you while you read is the best thing about being homeschooled. My mother’s model for education, especially once I hit the middle-school years, was to assign me a bunch of reading on a topic, then make me discuss it with her until she was satisfied I knew what I was talking about. And because neither of us is very good at staying linear, those discussions branched out in every direction imaginable.

My family was pretty conservative—in case you didn’t get that from the homeschooling and strict diet of black-and-white movies—and we attended an evangelical church in the Anabaptist tradition whose model for the family I have referred to elsewhere as “semi-benevolent” patriarchy.[4] While I was living at home, my mother always stuck to the party line on things like wifely submission in marriage, traditional gender roles, and a woman’s place in the church. As I neared graduation, though, cracks began to show—subtle, self-corrected off-message rants and sentences that started with “I know the Bible says X, but….” Despite being (I think) generally happy in other ways, Mom was no longer satisfied with what the church was telling her about herself, and as accustomed as she’d become to dialoging with me about everything else, she couldn’t keep that conflict contained all the time. I left high school with several seeds of doubt about the Christian teaching on gender taking root in my mind.

I won’t detail the myriad steps that brought me to the place where I believed in egalitarian marriage and equality for women in the church. They happened in my college and post-college years—that glorious time when you re-think everything you believe and come to believe you know everything—and early in my marriage. I don’t even remember most of them, inconsequential as each incremental change seemed in its time. I’m sure working for three years on the staff of my local church contributed in some way, but apart from the realization that evangelicals treat their unmarried like second-class citizens, I don’t know how.

I do know that I fetched up in Indiana, where I went to college, back from a two-year residence in Los Angeles, where my wife did. Some years earlier I’d decided to be a screenwriter and film director, so I spent those two years working in the entertainment production business and writing a series of screenplays that no one wanted to buy. Despite assuming at the outset that I would write supernatural or fantastical thrillers (the genre of movie I most enjoy), nearly every idea I had somehow turned into a romantic comedy, so I decided to embrace my identity and not only write another rom-com but also produce it myself. It starred a high-school girl—with a single mom—who solved a murder using her photography skills.[5]

I’d recently realized that writing strong female characters fascinated me, a fact that took the writing time of eight rom-com scripts to sink in. Since I was about to go into pre-production on the movie, though, I knew it would be a while before I wrote another screenplay. I decided to make the most of that time by teaching myself as much about women’s issues as my old pal Half Price Books would allow. I remember thinking, “I’m going to be the romantic comedy screenwriter who knows all about women’s issues!” Armed with absolutely zero research to guide me, I bought two books: The Chalice and the Blade, by Riane Eisler, and Promiscuities, by Naomi Wolf.[6] I read them both within two weeks.

And suddenly, I was a feminist.

That was almost two years ago. I’m still very early in my feminist education, but I feel like growing up the only child of a homeschooling mom who didn’t recognize the concept of subjects being taboo to children (and also liked Astaire-Rogers musicals) has given me a bit of a boost—as backward as putting “30s musicals”, “homeschooling”, “evangelical church”, and “feminism” together may sound to many feminists. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with a wife, a number of close friends and family, and a church who don’t think those things sound strange at all. Even more fortunately, while many non-religious feminists behave skeptically or contemptuously toward people of faith—particularly those from traditionally partriarchal religions—I know that the God I worship feels nothing but compassion for honest questions and loves to elevate the marginalized, be they slaves, the disabled, Gentiles, or—more recently—women.

  1. People born too late to experience the dubious thrill of the manual-tracking VCR may consider themselves among God’s most fortunate children.  ↩

  2. I’m serious, everyone. I do not miss taped media.  ↩

  3. (With music.) In every movie Fred Astaire (and usually Ginger Rogers) plays a dancer either by profession or hobby, so the musical sequences don’t seem as jarring as in the musicals where people “just break out into song” for no apparent reason.  ↩

  4. Notwithstanding the snark, I retain a great fondness for the church of my middle- and high-school years. Although I wouldn’t fit in there now, I currently attend another church in the same “fellowship” (as they call it), which has a pretty big tent.  ↩

  5. Oh, and also fell in love.  ↩

  6. I’m going to stop you right there, just to save time. Yes, I also eventually bought The Beauty Myth.  ↩