A Horrible Parent Persecutes a Caring Teacher

Instead of thanking this caring teacher for picking up her slack, this miserable excuse for a mother who didn’t even manage to teach her daughter about contraception reported the teacher to the police:

A high school girls basketball coach is facing a felony charge for giving a “morning-after pill” to a student who was worried that she was pregnant, according to an arrest affidavit released today. . . Steinberg, who also was a math teacher at LBJ, gave the pill to a 16-year-old student who was crying in her class about Jan. 26 because she had unprotected sex with her boyfriend, the affidavit said. . . The girl then reported the incident to her mother, who reported it to school police, the affidavit said. Soon after, Steinberg was placed on administrative leave with pay, pending an investigation and subsequently resigned, the affidavit said.

The only conclusion one can draw from the story that one should be the kind of teacher who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about students. Because if you do, parents who think they should have the right to police their children’s bodies will pillory you.

A woman I know once left on vacation. At that point, her teenage daughter discovered that she was pregnant by a boyfriend who abused her. Since this was happening in a civilized country, the girl immediately went to see her high-school principal. Since the principal was a civilized, compassionate person, she discussed the girl’s options with her, listened when the girl said that she was completely sure that she wanted to terminate, and helped the girl to arrange an abortion. Since the girl’s mother was also a normal, civilized person, when she came home and learned about what happened, she felt intense gratitude towards the principal who had helped her daughter at a difficult time.

This is how normal, civilized people behave in such situations. But we obviously can’t expect Texas to understand what it means to be normal and civilized.

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Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion

If middle-class women ever thought they’d lose access to legal abortions entirely, the game would be over, and the Fetus People would find themselves swiftly and eternally cast into political purgatory. What was done to Komen was just a preview.” From this blogger’s keyboard and to God’s blogroll.

This is so well-put that I want to kiss this entire paragraph: “To blog one needs a very thick skin, and I think this is especially true in the social justice blogosphere, with the mob like mentality of many of its participants.  There seems to be this pervasive belief that group think is necessary for participation. This is absolutely counter to who I am and what I believe in. Mistakes require one to prostrate oneself and at any moment. A mistake you made years ago will be thrown into your face, as though your worst day is representative of who you are as a person.  None of you are Jesus for me to beg eternal salvation from. The level of perfection demanded is ridiculous.

Is the Tea Party dead? A very good post by a young journalist who, undoubtedly, has a brilliant journalistic future ahead of her. Oh, I love reading blogs by brilliant young people. It gives me so much hope.

A very insightful post on the uses of the words “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.”

I really love it when people rant about how the entire concept of student evaluations of teaching is wrong. It always makes me want to say, “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah. You’d change your tune pretty fast if only you were a good teacher who knew how to get the students to love you.” Clarissa’s Rule of Teaching: If most students say you suck, you probably really do. If anything, students are too kind on evaluations.

If we are to be bombarded by inane studies of “working mothers”, where are the equivalent studies of working fathers? Or is a woman who has a career and children some kind of a rare phenomenon akin to a pink elephant? I especially loved the following part of the post: “I imagine child care would be more interesting, and easier, if it were shared among a group of sisters, cousins, mothers, and aunts who lived and worked together.” As you can see, men don’t even make an appearance. All of these women must have come into existence and procreated by osmosis. Bleh, and this is the kind of rubbish that gets published in Inside Higher Ed.

And this is an assignment I would have totally failed if I had a prof silly enough to give it to me. Discuss your most salient identity label? Like I’m supposed to have one? Sheesh.

Shopping in Canada sucks. And don’t we, the Canadians, know it all too well. I love Canada but this blogger is right. When my sister came into an American mall and discovered what a huge selection of very reasonably priced baby clothes there was she started exclaiming, “What?!?” and continued to do so until her voice turned into a croak.

Lynda Laughlin of the US Census Bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch is explaining why is it that the Census Bureau assumes mothers to be the “designated parent” in a two-parent household, and why further it considers a father providing childcare while mother is at work/school to be a “child care arrangement” but a mother providing childcare while father is at work/school to be designated parenting.” Yes, mothers are parents and fathers are easy-to-substitute dime-a-dozen care providers. Still wondering why the baby’s father isn’t taking equal care of the baby? Because the government is telling him he is not even a parent, that’s why.

SB 1467, newly introduced in the Arizona State Senate, would force schools and universities to suspend, fine, and ultimately fire any teacher or professor who “engage[d] in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the federal communications commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that speech or conduct were broadcast on television or radio.”” Mind you, not publicspeech or conduct. Any speech or conduct. Got it? So mind your language when you slip in the bathtub because your neighbors might hear and there goes your job. As Angus Johnston points out, “If this law passes, it will be illegal for any “person who provides classroom instruction” in the state of Arizona to have sex. Or pee. Ever.”

In the new Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita, Che Guevara will be played by no other than Ricky Martin!!! When I read the news yesterday, I couldn’t stop laughing. An openly gay singer playing the most commercialized Latin American icon of the past 50 years. Ricky Martin playing America’s favorite macho revolutionary.” Spanish prof finds this casting choice fascinating. I find it plain weird. What do you think?

How the field of mathematics in the US was impacted by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

An inventive response to academic rejection.

A stolen Taras Shevchenko statue returned after 10 years. My Ukrainian heart rejoices.

As the new research suggests, conservatism is largely a defensive ideology – and therefore, much more appealing to people who go through life sensitive and highly attuned to aversive or threatening aspects of their environments. By contrast, liberalism can be thought of as an exploratory ideology – much more appealing to people who go through life trying things out and seeking the new.”

A beautiful post on marriage equality.

Should Plan B pills be available in vending machines?

A beautiful post on the American Constitution versus the Canadian Charter. I want to print out this post, give it to my students and tell them, ‘The young woman who wrote this is a physicists. And you, folks, are in the Humanities. So how come you can’t write nearly as well as she does, eh? Eh?” It makes me very happy to see young people write well.

If you have trouble concentrating on your work, here is a list of great suggestions.

Nominatissima’s response to my beauty products post. This post is a lot better than mine, so I highly recommend.

Maternal Gatekeeping

This phenomenon is not that common in North America but it’s very present in my culture. I very rarely write about things that my English-speaking audience will find hard to relate to, but, every once in a while, I feel like I’m justified in doing this. So feel free to scroll down if you find this incomprehensible and / or boring.

A child belongs to a woman. Or, at least, that’s how people very often see things and this is precisely the attitude that is at the root of awarding custody of children to women by default except in completely egregious cases. A woman deserves access to her kids by definition. A man has to prove that he is should have the custody, absent any other possibility. A child and her (his) mother are a unit. A father and his son (daughter) can only become a unit as a result of hard work on the part of both.

Women give birth to children, they breastfeed, they are supposed somehow to know magically how to take care of them. Often, a relationship within a male-female couple suffers greatly immediately after a kid is born because the “a woman and a man” model* transforms into the “a woman and a child plus a man hovering somewhere in the background being mostly annoying but sometimes somewhat helpful” model.

The man in such a situation feels displaced. On the one hand, he doesn’t feel he can rebel against the situation because he feels like a jerk demanding attention when there is a much needier infant in the picture. On the other hand, he can’t be happy about his partner transferring the bulk of her attention to somebody else.

There are several approaches men can take in this situation. They can fight their female partner for access to the child. This is, however, a very hard position to take. You fight with a woman who has just given birth and is breastfeeding and you come off to everybody as a total jerk. Such an approach is doomed to damage the relationship between the male and the female partners by placing them into the scenario of a constant warfare where the child is the ultimate prize. The man is set to lose this battle because he becomes an aggressor who is trying to pry a kid away from her or his own mother. Since the bond between the child and the mother is supposed to be “natural” (or even worse, God-given) in patriarchal cultures, such a man is always a villain by default.

Another possibility is for the man to try to find his place in this “woman + child” symbiosis in the capacity of another child, an elder sibling to his own kid. If a man chooses this role, he will do things for his kid by taking direction from the woman and looking for her approval. He will wait for a list of instructions on how to feed, change, bathe and play with his own child**. This will eventually destroy his relationship with his female partner because she will be forced to play the role of his Mommy.

The third scenario is when the father feels so displaced from the equation that he will start growing emotionally distant. It is natural for people to protect themselves from situations where they become superfluous, dispensable, barely tolerated***.  Often, the man ends up drifting away from his female partner.

And this is when the maternal gatekeeping kicks into full force. The woman feels betrayed by the man. “I have done everything I could to take childcare upon myself. He barely had to sacrifice anything for the baby,” the woman says to herself. “It was all on me. And now he is unhappy? He wants to leave? That jerk!”

And this is where maternal gatekeeping (which has already been happening this entire time) kicks in full time. The mother feels genuinely entitled to ration the contact between the “deadbeat dad” and “her” kid. In the most egregious cases (that in this more evolved culture are rare but in my much less civilized culture are very very frequent), this maternal gatekeeping takes the form of the complete exclusion of the father from the kid’s life. The kid is told that his or her Dad is a useless deadbeat who has abandoned his own child. This a bold-faced lie to begin with because abandoning the mother of the child does not equal abandoning the child.

The child, who has already experienced one parent’s removal from her or his life, is desperate to retain the only remaining parent. As a result, the child will gladly subscribe to the “horrible deadbeat dad who abandoned me” version to please the only remaining parent. In the completely clinical cases, a zombified child is so incapable of seeing a version of reality that contradicts Mommy’s mythology that s/he even carries this version of events into her or his adulthood. I will let my readers predict what the chances of such a zombified person’s creating a happy family life for him or herself are.

My female ancestors have had all kind of relationships with their male partners. I, their heir and their ticket into eternity, see myself as a powerful, intellectual, strong, self-sufficient woman. I am and always have been “una mujer de muchos hombres” (a woman of many men.)**** However, my many men have never demeaned, degraded, insulted, abused, or truly mistreated me. My only grievances against them has been that they have not been absolutely completely perfect like N., the love of my life, has been. And the only reason why I have been this adored, spoiled, admired, worshiped woman***** is that I have had not only the tradition of the admirable Klara, Mary, Klarissa, Nadia, Liuba, and Nadia behind me, but also the rock-solid tradition of Itzhak, Ziama, Vladimir, Timofei, Shlomo, and Moishe to rely upon.

It is absolutely crucial to a person to have a long (or short or any whatsoever) line of amazing, strong women to imitate. But it is absolutely just as crucial to have a male line to rest upon.

If you have formed an opinion that your Pa is a total loser, that only means that half of is are just as much of a loser. Believe me, you are not betraying your mother if you set out – right now, at this very moment, today – on the search of your Pa, you GrandPa, your Greatgrandpa, in short, the entire male line that has gone into creating you. And if it so happens that all these men are, indeed, complete jerks and vicious deadbeats who have rejected you for generations, don’t you, as an independent adult, deserve to discover this story first-hand? Because, you know, loving your mother does not equal accepting the mythology of her (possibly very unsuccessful) personal life as gospel.

Just remember, that if it ever appears to you that you are just a consequence of your mother’s personal life******, this only means that you have been a very miserable, a very abused kid who has been denied her or his true history.

And nobody should be able to deprive you of the right of discovering who your father is or was right now.

I don’t know what advice to give to (potentially) gatekeeping mothers. I do, however, know what to say to the children who have been raised in the “My Daddy is a deadbeat who abandoned me in infancy” mythology: Your life does and should belong to yourself. If your papa is still alive, go and hug him. Forget this narrative of his evilness. It is not yours, you don’t need to participate in it. Just go and hug you para if and as long as he is still alive. If he isn’t, find his relatives, the representatives of you male line, and talk to them about him. In real life or in through their stories, just hug your Daddy. This is absolutely the best thing you can do to take possession of one half of yourself.

Just do it today.

* I have no idea how this process plays out in gay and lesbian relationships, so I won’t pretend like I do, OK? In the queer couples that I have observed, this issue never arises because the patriarchal “women and children” model is simply absent.

** Try switching the genders in this equation and you will see how ridiculous it is. Imagine a woman who doesn’t breastfeed until her male partner informs her that it is time to do so.

***  In stable heterosexual couples, male cheating usually sky-rockets in the first two years of the kid’s life. Female cheating skyrockets between the ages of 5 and 7 of the child (that is, during the first major separation between the child and the mother). The kid is gone as the main source of emotional fulfillment (in healthy mother / child relationships), the child’s father has been discarded as a reliable partner. Hence, a new adult male becomes necessary. In unhealthy mother / child relationships, the separation doesn’t happen until the kid goes away for college. Hence, the “empty nest” syndrome that marks the really miserable, sexually unfulfilled couples.)

**** I learned to express my emotions in Spanish, so whenever I turn really viscerally honest emotionally, I turn to Spanish.

***** Again, Spanish provides the best definition for this phenomenon, which is “una mujer contemplada.”

****** Still writing for people from my own culture, so just accept that we are way more screwed up than you, folks, are, OK?

A Daycare Story

This is a story shared by people who work at a very good daycare with extremely experienced staff.

Usually, kids take one or two weeks to get used to daycare. At first, they cry and ask for their parents, but, eventually, they start loving their new little friends and the great activities they are offered, and you have to drag them out of the daycare in the evening, kicking and screaming. (I’ve seen this with my own eyes.)

One kid, though, just couldn’t get used to daycare. One month, two months, three months, he just cries all day long. And he’s not an infant. They boy is a toddler and his peers already talk, walk, play games, have friends, etc. But this boy just cries and cries. The daycare workers are baffled because they’ve never had such a case.

One day, the boy’s mother comes and sees that he is crying even harder than he usually does.

So she whips out her breast right there, puts it into the boy’s mouth, and starts breast-feeding him. Right there, in front of the other kids from his group, the daycare workers, and the other parents. And the kid immediately calms down.

“Finally, we realized what was going on and why the kid couldn’t get used to daycare,” one of the daycare workers says. “The boy was experiencing a cognitive dissonance that his brain was not yet ready to process. On the one hand, he was asked to be a toddler who goes to kindergarten every day, who is expected to have some degree of autonomy and toddler-level skills. On the other hand, though, he was receiving the message that he is a babe in arms who is breastfed and who has not begun the process of separation from his mother even on a basic physiological level.”

I’m telling this story because, in my opinion, it exemplifies an attitude that many parents exhibit towards their children. On the one hand, they monitor their every move, call their college professors to argue about the kids’ grades, criticize their choices endlessly and then genuinely wonder why the 22-year-old kid has planted him or herself in their basement with no plans to move out and start an independent adult existence.

Of course, this plays out the other way round, too. If you expect your parents to treat you as an independent adult, it’s really important to be one. So you’ll kind of have to move out of that basement, or at least make efforts in that direction, if you want your adult choices to be respected.