A Post

…in which I write some things other than “Hey, I’m not going to post for a while.” Specifically, some reasons why I haven’t been posting and probably still won’t for a bit.

1) Two nights ago, a spider got up my pajama pant leg while I slept, got trapped around the knee, and left me with 11 goddamn bites. This happens about once a year, and it’s hardly a big crisis, but it means that for the next several days, I will wake up with my knee on fire, and sit around whimpering and cursing the spider for 10-20 minutes until it calms down instead of posting first thing in the morning, which is usually my best time. (This is not a good reason for not posting, mind you, but since I just woke up, it’s the one that’s foremost in my mind.)

2) I just got back from a 10-day trip to New York, which was amazing in several ways, perhaps most notably that I think I went like three days without turning on the computer at all. (I  did, of course, check e-mail and Twitter on my phone. But it was still a big change for me.) Like my recent trip to Toronto, it reinforced that I spend too goddamned much time on the internet, and I actually enjoy leaving the house and speaking to other human beings face to face. So I’m still trying to figure out how to do more of that.

3) I am, as previously mentioned (I think), working on a new book proposal. Although when I was out with Amy Benfer and another writer friend last week, I said “I’m still at the proposal stage,” and Amy immediately corrected me: “She’s still at the talking-about-it-in-bars stage.” Mostly because that’s exactly what I was doing at the time instead of writing. But A) that is an important stage, dammit, and B) I have written half a proposal and would like to get the other half finished soon. So that’s ongoing.

4) Before that, though, I have to finish revising/adding to the body image chapter for the upcoming edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. How awesome is that?

5) My mother-in-law is coming to visit tomorrow.

6) In anticipation of 5 — and because I really couldn’t avoid it much longer and still have a usable space — I have spent the last two days thoroughly cleaning my office, including going through every box full of papers that’s been sitting around there for months to years, figuring out what to shred and what to save, and creating a filing system that lends itself to actually finding things when I want them, as opposed to my tried and true “throw it in a box and maybe go through it the next time I move” system. I am still not done. And now Al’s gung-ho on organizing the closets and pantry and trying to set up systems all over the place that will help our future selves avoid getting buried under heaps of clutter and I’ll Deal With It Later boxes, so if you don’t hear from me, it is probably because I will be cleaning this fucking apartment FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

But to tide you over, here’s a thing I probably would have posted about, had I been in a posting mood. In the “Flesh and Stone” episode of Doctor Who, which is the last one we’ve watched (so please don’t spoil anything past that) (and if you haven’t seen that ep and don’t want to be spoiled for it, quit reading now), new companion Amy comes back from a typically harrowing adventure and reacts in exactly the way I would if I were a young, single, heterosexual woman who’d just traveled through time and space (and nearly died) with a guy who looks like Matt Smith and is basically the most amazing dude ever, because that’s the whole point of him: She tries to get him into bed. (And gets nowhere, predictably, but still.)

Now, I should note that A) I am not remotely a Doctor Who purist (I’ve only watched the new version) and am therefore not invested in the notion that the Doctor is meant to be asexual. (Especially when he’s as hot as the last three have been, which frankly is the main reason I got into watching it.) B) I am also not remotely the kind of person who thinks sex/tension between leads ruins good shows in general. In fact, I would pretty much like everyone on TV to be fucking and/or having relationship angst all the time. So there’s that.

But even setting those things aside, I was stunned to see the internet reaction to that scene. Not only is there slut-shaming galore (I forgot to mention that Amy’s supposed to get married in the morning, so OMG HOW COULD SHE?) but there are several people advancing the theory that her hitting on the Doctor is meant to be read as evidence of mental illness (by which they seem to mean daddy issues and low self-esteem, mostly, but they’re framing it in terms of a disorder). Simply because she wants to have sex with what appears to be a very cute twentysomething guy (ok, he’s a 900-year-old alien, but still) after going through several adrenaline-pumping adventures with him. Previous companions in the new version have either mooned over the Doctor endlessly or kept it strictly platonic, and on a show about time and space travel and aliens and monsters, the fact that no one’s tried to bone him yet has strained my credulity more than just about anything else.

And I’m not alone, as I learned in this (very amusing) Doctor Who Confidential clip about the scene in question:

Around 2:05, the show runner, Steven Moffat (who’s been accused lots of times of being anti-feminist, but whatever, that’s another post) says: “Here’s this man, this generally rather good-looking man — sometimes older, sometimes younger, but generally good-looking — who’s wonderful, funny, passionate and kind, and the nicest, bestest human being (apparently), you’ll ever meet. And all those girls… didn’t notice? Ever? Not once?” GOD, THANK YOU.  ABOUT TIME. Yes, previous companions have been crazy about him, but only in a “You are my One True Love and I will wait around until you think of me that way, which I know you never will” way, so later, Moffat explicitly states the obvious:  Unlike them, Amy’s just looking for a romp, not true love, because why not? See also the part around 3:05 where Karen Gillan, who plays Amy, gives her reasoning for why the character went for it: “I don’t know, sometimes you do things in the heat of the moment…when you’re, like, excited, and you’ve shared something with someone and… [shrug].” Indeed. NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.

And yet. Precisely because she just wants sex, a disturbing number of people can’t figure out her motivation. There must be something deeper — something dark and fucked up, in fact — because a young woman just wanting a roll in the hay because hey, you’re here and you’re hot and all that stuff we just did was kind of mind-blowing? Well, that makes no sense whatsoever! To take that at face value, you’d have to believe that girls like sex or something!

So, yeah. I guess I did sort of post about that just now, except if I were really posting, I’d spend 9 more paragraph reiterating the above points in increasingly ranty ways. As it is, I’m just going to issue a big, fat SHUT UP, INTERNET and turn it over to you guys. That’s all.

Out of Office

Hey, it’s another post where all I do is explain why I’m not really posting!

I’m out of town until mid-next week, and at this writing, my internet access is not quite as robust as I hoped it would be. So posting from me might be even lighter than expected. In the meantime, have an open thread and be good.

Happy International No Diet Day!

It’s that time of year again, folks. As Fillyjonk wrote two two years ago:

Of course, we strive to make EVERY day No Diet Day, but if you’ve been teetering on the edge, today is the day to try it out for 24 hours and see how you function when you make peace with food. Or maybe it’s time to spread the word to some friends, or post a flyer next to the stats for your office “Biggest Loser” competition. Or maybe it’s just a day to eat a big piece of cake.

This time last year, we were celebrating by getting Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere to the number one spot on the Powell’s bestseller list. Of course, I happen to think that’s an appropriate way to celebrate every year, so feel free to try again. (Kidding, kidding. But it does make a lovely gift.) Tell us how you’re celebrating in comments.

Commenting Issues

So, hey, here’s a screenshot of one chunk of our recent spam queue. If you click to embiggen it, you will see that there is one actual spam comment in there. Additionally, there are comments by Plumcake of Manolo for the Big Girl and The Manolo himself, attempting to call me out for ripping Plummy off — which I didn’t do, and we worked that out in comments over there, but the whole kerfuffle was compounded by the fact that their comments never showed up here, so they thought something fishy was going on. (Note: in comments there, I said I never found her comment, but I just did — there was also a bunch of actual spam above and below this, and my eyes glazed over.) Below that, you will also see several “Hellooooo? What the hell?” comments by our beloved Tasha Fierce, who could not seem to comment on her own damned guest post, among other places.

So yeah, the spam filter is evidently having a hypersensitive week.  Usually, it does its job reasonably well, with only occasional missteps. But then there are periods when it just starts letting everything through, which are usually followed by an overcorrection period, during which it sucks a lot of non-spam into its gaping maw. This is one reason why the comments policy has included the following for a couple of years now:

Tenth rule: Be aware that if you posted a coherent, reasonable, and respectful comment and it didn’t show up, you probably got trapped in the spam filter, which I can’t control. I do, however, check it occasionally and release the coherent, reasonable, and respectful comments. So either relax and wait for that to happen or e-mail me (sometimes, when spam volume is high, I don’t even see the good comments), but either way, know that if you behaved like a decent human being, I didn’t delete you on purpose.

As always, I encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with the whole policy before they try to leave a comment.

Also, although this is not stated in the policy, it’s been stated numerous times before, and I’ll say it again: All first-time comments are held for moderation. This is why you never see drive-by trolls here, which is something most folks seem to appreciate. (And again, if you want to know what you’re not seeing, have a look at the Helpful Comments blog Sweet Machine was keeping up for a while. Trigger warning for pretty much every possible trigger there.) But the unfortunate corollary is, every first-time comment has to be released by a human being, and that can take a while. We currently only have two active mods, both of whom have lives and can’t be checking the queue every five minutes. So even if you’re lucky enough not to have your first comment eaten by Akismet, it could be a long time before you see it show up.  Like, possibly a couple days, if it’s a weekend and we’re out doing stuff and both sort of vaguely assuming the other one might be dealing with the mod queue. The good news is, once it does, you will be free to post in real time until such time as you piss us off and get banned.

I realize this is frustrating, and I’m sorry about that, but I can’t control the spam filter issue (and don’t routinely check it as often as I do the mod queue, although I will until it calms down again), and the first-time moderation issue is a necessary evil, so I can’t really do anything besides tell you what the deal is and ask for your patience. So that’s what I’m doing. Thanks for understanding.

The Last Three Paragraphs

I wrote another piece for Broadsheet yesterday because this Daily Beast piece made me tremendously ranty, and I figured I might as well get paid for it. I’ve been thinking a lot about the social advantages and disadvantages of motherhood these days, so once I started, I couldn’t shut up even more than usual. Which meant that the piece I turned in was absurdly long, and I fully expected to see large chunks of it missing in the final version.

What’s missing, as it turns out, is the last three paragraphs. They were exactly the right thing to cut, since I’d already made my argument (and then some) by that point, and the rest was a combination of tangent and reiteration. But the tangent was one I really wanted to get in there — that choosing not to have kids really doesn’t come off as a glamorous, attractive choice, just because it might increase a woman’s chances of reaching the top of her field. If you know you want kids, the message childless* women send is kind of beside the point. I know people who want/have kids, who don’t want kids and who are ambivalent — and sometimes, ambivalence gives way to a default decision one later regrets — but I have yet to meet a woman who’s like, “I am absolutely certain I want to be a mother, but I’m going to completely ignore that overwhelming urge because it might ruin my career.” Some women gamble on delaying pregnancy and lose, but that’s really not the same as saying, “I desperately want children but have officially decided I will never have them because Sonia Sotomayor is my hero.” And that’s what Beinart seems to be worried about.

So. Please do go read the Broadsheet post, because that’s all about how brutally hard it is to balance motherhood and career ambition, and if you just read this part in isolation, you’ll think I’m missing the point entirely. (I’ve been writing and thinking a LOT lately about my own ambivalence toward having children and how much of it stems from the fact that neither childless women nor mothers get the social support and respect they need, so committing to either feels like asking to have a load of shit shoveled down my throat — whereas existing in this liminal state allows people to project whatever future they think is best on me, and thus not harass me too much about my choices. Problem is, this state has a fast-approaching expiration date.) But I think there are lots and lots of important points that arise from Beinart’s piece, basically — too many for one post — so I wanted to put up the rest of my rant, and open a space for discussing the whole thing that’s free of Broadsheet trolls. And make sure you all saw Tami’s piece, because it’s brill, and I basically spent the whole rant working up to quoting her, but then that got cut.

Without further ado, the last three paragraphs:

And trust me, young girls are hardly getting the message that choosing not to have children is an easy path — or if they are, they shouldn’t be. If you haven’t thought too hard about it yet, girls, let me break it down for you: In addition to the potential for lifelong regret, which you’ll never stop hearing about from the Hewletts of the world and their proxies among your friends and family, you will be widely regarded as a freak, as incomplete, selfish, irresponsible, unfeminine, somehow broken — what kid of woman doesn’t want kids? — and you’ll spend half the time and energy you saved by not having kids defending that decision and your credibility to people who inexplicably think it’s their business. So basically, the message you should be hearing loud and clear is that you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t — which means the only good reason to have kids or not is because it’s what you feel is best.

Blogger Tami of What Tami Said nails it:

The problem is not that women without children are getting too many extra goodies, too many shots at the brass ring. The problem isn’t that working mothers don’t have enough role models to demonstrate that they can have it all. The problem is that for all our superficial obsession with “baby bumps” and our pledges that “the children are the future,” we aren’t willing to walk the walk. We don’t support women in having it all. We fail to back up our supposed belief in families with legislation and societal values that truly establish successful nurturing of the next generation as a priority. (I can pretty much guarantee that our “family values” friends on the right would be the first to rail against any sort of strengthened parental leave or socialized childcare.)

Beinart concludes his argument, “[C]hoosing Wood would send the message that women can have kids and still reach the apex of their profession. That’s a message that I’d like my working wife –and our 2-year-old daughter — to hear.” Hey, as a married 35-year-old professional currently grappling with the question of whether I can handle motherhood, that’s a message I’d love to hear myself — but only if it’s true. And for the most part, right now, it’s just not. Right now, the number of women who reach the apex of their profession, kids or no kids, is still so tiny relative to the number of men who do, the girls and women I know will take any dingdang role model we can get. So instead of scrutinizing potential Supreme Court appointees’ reproductive choices, it would probably be more helpful if men who care about their wives’ and sisters’ and daughters’ futures would help women agitate for longer parental leave, subsidized day care and a culture that supports women who choose motherhood, women who don’t, and women who want to balance parenthood and career ambition without being condemned as either coldhearted monsters or half-assed employees, just like men always have.

*I’m using “childless” because I actually find “childfree” just as problematic, in addition to the fact that not everybody without kids identifies as such. To me, “-free” overcorrects for the lack implied by “-less”; now, instead of implying that people without children are missing something, we’re implying that people with children are burdened, and those of us without have dodged a bullet, suckers! I don’t particularly like what that says about parenthood or about people who choose not to have kids, who are often stereotyped as simply unwilling to sacrifice and take on the responsibilities of parenting. So what I’d really love is something in between, but since I can’t think of anything, I revert to the word that’s more commonly used.

CNN Makes Jaclyn Friedman Sound Like a Victim-Blamer! Again!

It’s hardly a well-kept secret that journalists can make an interviewee sound like she said pretty much anything. Those of us who are asked to speak on controversial topics know we risk seeing our words twisted to fit a predetermined narrative — even to suggest the exact opposite of what we clearly meant — every time we agree to an interview. But it’s still quite a jaw-dropper to watch it happen as blatantly as it did this week, when CNN’s Carol Costello warped an interview with Jaclyn Friedman (friend of SP and co-editor of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape) into something about “raunch culture” and the pernicious influence of Ke$ha. The whole video (which purports to explore “what could be the ‘third wave’ of feminism,” because apparently, the last twenty fucking years have gone unnoticed by CNN) and a transcript are available over at Shakesville. But here’s the juicy part:

Costello: When it comes to binge drinking, experts say, sadly women are up to the challenge. According to Southern Illinois University, in 1996, 33 percent of women admitted to binge drinking or having five drinks in one sitting in the past two weeks. In 2008, that percentage shot up to nearly 41 percent.

Jaclyn Friedman, Editor, “Yes Means Yes”: It’s a really troubling message.

Costello: That’s disturbing to feminist editor Jaclyn Friedman. She says women having fun or making stupid mistakes is one thing, but adopting destructive, raunchy behavior is scary.

Friedman: When it comes to sexual assault, most rapists use alcohol to facilitate sexual assault.

Aaaand, bam, Jaclyn’s gone and we’re back to Ke$ha. That song is so catchy!

If you’re looking at that part I bolded and going, “WTF, Jaclyn?” well, you should be. You’re absolutely right that it sounds nothing like the position of a feminist activist who spends half her life explaining and decrying rape culture. Mostly because it’s not her position. Not even a little bit. On Twitter, Jaclyn’s explained that she actually “said there was a double standard worrying about girls’ drinking and not boys’, and that the trouble with the binge drinking culture in general is that it gives plausible deniability to rapists. And that we should be telling men that THEY need to drink responsibly, because alcohol’s not an excuse to rape! ARGGGGHHHHHH.”

So the real question is “WTF, Carol Costello? What the fucking fuck?”

Jaclyn was kind enough to G-chat with me for a few minutes this morning before she got on a plane. I could probably keep ranting about this bullshit for another 90 pages or so, but for now, I’ll just leave you with what she sounds like when the interviewer is not merely exploiting a subject’s feminist credentials to further a tiresome, sexist narrative about “dirty girls.”

Jaclyn: Part of the problem is one of nuance — the things I’m trying to say sound complicated, because they aren’t things that people have heard much before. It’s easy to understand the “OMG bad girls! Danger!” trope. Everybody knows it and can name that tune in three notes.

Me: And that tune is apparently “Tik Tok.”

Jaclyn: Hee. Yes. It’s a lot harder to say: “Wait. It’s not that simple.” To talk about women’s freedom to be “good” or “bad” or drink or even do risky things, just as men have that freedom, while simultaneously talking about the real danger that is violence against women, and how the “bad girl” trope is used to excuse it. But I also think they knew what story they wanted. And when I didn’t give it to them, they just made it work anyhow.

Me: Yep.

Jaclyn: Because they never once asked me about “raunchy behavior.” Or third wave feminism!

Me: I know! I can’t stop laughing at “what could be the third wave,” even though it also makes me want to cry.

Jaclyn: And I told them straight up that it was ridiculous to wring our hands over girls’ drinking and give boys a free pass. I’m just so angry. Because this is the second time I’ve been on CNN. Different producers, different reporters, different shows. And the EXACT SAME THING happened both times: I gave a smart, nuanced interview in which I steadfastly refused to victim-blame. And they edited me to sound like a total victim-blamer.

Me: Unbelievable.

Jaclyn: To be fair, I haven’t done this kind of soundbite interview for any other networks. So I’m not singling out CNN over, say, FOX or MSNBC. I have no idea.

Me: But if they’re going to keep spinning it like this, it’s like, what’s the point of having you on instead of just inviting someone from the Independent Women’s Forum or whatever?

Jaclyn: What’s the point? I have more cred. Which they are evidently determined to DESTROY.

Me: And then this goes out there as “what bona fide feminists believe,” and we have to spend even more time telling trolls that’s bullshit.

Jaclyn: EXACTLY. I mean, I’m CRUSHED to think anyone now thinks I actually believe that bullshit. I spend my entire life trying to UNDO that bullshit.

Me: I know!

Jaclyn: I am secretly pleased about one thing: All the people who bought Yes Means Yes b/c they saw me on that segment are going to have quite the surprise when they start reading. :)

Me: Ha! Right on.

Jaclyn: We did get a sales spike after it ran.

Me: That is terrific news… Although also sort of depressing news because it reinforces why we need to keep throwing ourselves to the wolves like this.

Jaclyn: Uch, I know.

Me: Well, thank you for taking one for the team YET AGAIN.

Jaclyn: NP. Wish it had gone better.

Useful Weekend Fluff: Your Fucking Recipes

I hate to distract anyone from the serious business of talking about how FUCKING AWESOME we all are, but it’s come to my attention that many Shapelings are spectacular cooks, some with dazzling signature recipes, and I would like to know more about these things. Tell us, please, about those recipes. Plus any helpful tips you have for those of us who are rather unspectacular cooks.

Speaking of which, one commenter (and I’m sorry I don’t remember who and couldn’t find the comment again when I skimmed back) said something in that thread about feeling like her accomplishments were too mundane to merit unabashed horn-tooting (though happily, she got over it), and the funny thing to me was, one of the first things she listed was being able to sing. Shapelings, I can do a lot of things well, but hoo boy, singing is not one of them. That is no boring, pedestrian talent/achievement to my mind. I have been told a million times that anyone can sing with training, but I would seriously need to put in years of work to be able to do karaoke without causing the audience physical and emotional pain. (I have learned to shut up people who insist, “Oh, come on, it’s karaoke! No one will judge!” by saying, “No, you don’t understand. The problem is not that I’m worried about embarrassing myself. The problem is that you will be embarrassed for me.” That usually makes people drop it. And if you think I’m exaggerating, ask Sweet Machine about playing Rock Band with me.) Xander in the Buffy musical episode? Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia? Finn on Glee? All way, way, WAY better singers than I am. WAY better. (And I have seen what people with training and/or talent and/or better ears than mine say about all of them, so don’t even try to tell me there is hope for a way, way, WAY worse singer than those.) Basically, anyone who can successfully hit the note they were trying for more than about one out of a hundred times is a way better singer than I am. I suppose it’s possible that with extensive training, I could become a passable, or at least somewhat less cringeworthy singer. But I could probably never be good, I could definitely never be great, and since voice training is not a big priority for me, I will most likely remain mind-blowingly bad at it for the rest of my days.

And that’s perfectly OK. I’m Kate fucking Harding either way. But I bring up that particular shortcoming to remind you all that things you might think are too ordinary and unexciting to count as Things That Make You Awesome can, in fact, seem like superpowers to the rest of us. Those of you who can sing, cook, sew, do math, program, make small children like you, keep yourself (let alone other people) organized, play team sports without frustrating the rest of the team to death, function with chronic pain, stretch a dollar, keep from swearing constantly, make a point succinctly or function without half a pot of coffee first thing in the morning all amaze me to varying degrees. Whatever talent, skill or even coping mechanism you take for granted would probably amaze someone. Don’t forget that when assessing your own awesomeness.

OK, now amaze me with your recipes.