Shame on You, Quebec!

People of Quebec, you disappoint me. I used to be so proud of our progressive, enlightened province but lately it has been growing more and more reactionary and useless. You hand over a scarily huge percentage of your money to the government in taxes and then don’t even try to hold the authorities accountable for what they do with the taxes.

Your young people seem to be the only ones who are still interested in ensuring that all of your money doesn’t end up in the pockets of fat-cat bureaucrats. And what do you do in response? Do you support them? Do you join them in solidarity, trying to protect the access to higher education that Charest’s government is trying its damndest to take away from you?

No, you do none of these things. You keep repeating like a weird mantra that the tuition raises are not going to be that high. “It’s just $300!” You keep saying. You are either a lot less intelligent than I thought and honestly fail to understand that the erosion of your rights is always a slow and nearly imperceptible process, or you really don’t care that within 20 years, your taxes will be 4 times higher than in the US and your college tuition will be just as high. Every time I read the comments to articles on student protests in Canadian newspapers, I want to go vomit. You call the intelligent young people who see the future a lot more clearly than you do “spoiled brats.” Shame on you, people.

Now the dishonest, completely corrupt government of Jean Charest is trying to get you to condemn the student protests by spreading the stupid rumor that “because of the protests, your taxes will be raised.” Wake up already! Your taxes will be raised because Charest is greedy and his army of useless bureaucrats is greedy, as well. The students of Quebec are defending your right not to be trampled on by your hugely unpopular government. And you are buying the government’s lies that the students are to blame for the province’s financial problems.

And since I’m on it, Canadians from other provinces, you suck, too. I cannot believe that you’d bought Harper’s lies that he wasn’t going to open a discussion on abortion. He is a Conservative! Of course, he was going to open that discussion. They always do. So you voted for him and what has he done? Started harping on abortion. Because, apparently, the country faces no other problems. Of course, he is trying to pretend that it’s the uncontrollable party members and not him who is starting all this abortion-related brouhaha. Please, please tell me that you will not fall for his lies once again.

To the people of Quebec I can only say that if Charest’s government does not fall as a result of its egregious mishandling of the student protests, then you, folks, are hopeless and deserve to be bled dry by your bureaucrats.

“Nobody Cares About Pretty Speeches!”

From a student’s essay: “In the story, people vote for the candidate just because he makes a very good speech and they fall for the beautiful words he uses. This would never happen in real life. People vote on issues, not because one candidate speaks better and is more charming than the other candidates.”

This kind of youthful optimism and faith in humanity bring tears to my eyes. I feel so old and cynical by my students’ side.

Latin American Fantasy Genre

A student writes: “The genre of this short story is fantasy. The narrator says that the protagonist couldn’t read or write at the age of 20. That’s completely unrealistic. Also, the protagonist had to leave home and make her own living since the age of 11. This makes no sense. Her parents would never just let her leave and fend for herself at such an early age. Another thing that sounds completely fantastic is that the Coronel was illiterate, too. How could he get to be the Coronel if he didn’t know how to read and write?” [Translation mine.]

Apparently, I’m not managing to explain the concept of a different cultural reality very clearly.

More on My Trip to Europe

Prepare to be bugged to death about this trip to Europe now, people. 🙂

So the trip itinerary is:

May 6 – St. Louis to London

May 9 – London to Berlin

May 15 – Berlin to St. Louis.

Now, a question: am I insane to think that I can squeeze a trip to Barcelona in there (between May 9 and May 15)?

I just researched it and I could get an entire two-day trip to Barcelona for €200. The thing is that I’ve never been to Barcelona. Every writer I have ever researched (OK, not every one, but still) is from Barcelona. I always wanted to see that city but something always prevents me from doing it.

Of course, now it depends on whether my sister will be OK with me leaving for Barcelona in the middle of the trip to Berlin.

Money for Travel in Europe

Dear readers, as you know, I will be traveling in Europe the week after next. Could anybody offer any suggestions on what to do about money? My sister suggests I carry the entire sum I plan to spend in cash but that bothers me a lot. I know I’ll just lose it somewhere.

Do people still use traveler’s cheques? Or do they just use their American ATM card to withdraw money in Europe? Is that ruinously expensive? Can you pay for purchases with an American debit-credit card? Is that better than paying in cash? Or worse? Are these cards accepted everywhere?

P.S. I just reread the post’s title, and it sounds like I’m asking for money which, of course, is not the case. I only want advice.

Crosses and Condoms at WKU

One of my favorite bloggers graduated from Western Kentucky University. She is such a brilliant writer that I couldn’t help feeling a profound respect for an institution that graduates such talented people. Then I read an article she sent me about it and I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. There is weirdness going on at that place which is nothing short of scary:

During the final night of the “Cemetery of the Innocent” display put on by Hilltoppers for Life, Bowling Green senior and art student Elaina Smith decided to make a statement, one involving placing several hundred condoms on the Popsicle stick crosses. . . Around 2:30 a.m. on April 20, Smith and a non-WKU friend placed several hundred condoms on the Popsicle stick crosses set up on the Colonnade that housed the display. The crosses symbolized the graves of the more than 4,000 fetuses aborted every day.

In case it takes you as long as me to figure this out, let me help you. On a college campus (once again, a college campus, which is a crucial detail), a group of very unhealthy people who for some reason are not in a mental institution and are allowed to roam around free created a cemetery of fetuses out of Popsicle stick crosses. Then, a student placed condoms on the crosses to signal that abortions happen because people do not use condoms:

“For me, each condom represents an unwanted pregnancy that could have been prevented. The subject of abortion is an important issue, one that stirs strong and sometimes conflicting emotions. Nonetheless, the question was raised: How do we feel about abortion?”

This bunch of weirdos then engaged in an endless discussion of which one of them apologized to whom and for what action. Just read the article and you’ll see the drama unfold. The organizer of the fetus cemetery seems to have been upset by the suggestion that he touch the condoms in order to remove them, so everybody spent forever reassuring him that he won’t need to touch condoms. Or whatever. And now the entire country is busily discussing this loser’s hissy fit about the non-existent threat of touching condoms.

However, the following groups of people who were insulted by these weird events never got as much as an acknowledgement, let alone an apology:

– Christians. I’m not inviting anybody to share Christian beliefs but, surely, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to imagine how a Christian might feel seeing the cross, which symbolizes the martyrdom and death of Jesus Christ, being used to create a Popsicle fetus cemetery. I respect the freedom of speech but I have to wonder how different this is from public burnings of the Koran or public defacement of a menorah and how interested the administration of the university would be in promoting that kind of free expression on campus.

– Women. The suggestion that every unwanted pregnancy is a result of carelessness is deeply offensive. Condoms are only about 85% effective and we all know that it normally takes quite some practice to use them in a way that prevents slipping, breaking, overflowing, etc. Also, the idea that people need to “feel” something about abortions practiced by complete strangers is very bizarre. I find the whole discussion to be completely offensive and deeply intrusive into the lives and bodies of complete strangers who did not solicit this sort of a freak show on their behalf. How this cemetery is different from the actions of those fanatics who baptize Jewish people after their death in order to save them is a mystery to me.

– Students. Students pay money to come to college and learn to think. They don’t come there to be endangered by the presence of mentally ill persons who are not getting adequate care and, instead, are conducting fetus funerals.

– Professors. These are people who went to school for a huge number of years, who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge, and who now have their place of work profanated by creepy installations dedicated to “innocent fetuses” (not those guilty fetuses, mind you, just the innocent ones) created by weirdos. After all of the stories about people who shot up campuses because they had not received adequate medical care on time, I’d be terrified to come to work each day. This creates an intolerable environment for people who come to campus to earn their living and not to engage in fits of hysteria.

Mind you, I’m in no way suggesting that any of the people involved in this scandal should be censored in any way. Freedom of speech is more important than pretty much anything else at stake here. However, it would be nice if the discussion of this situation mentioned how it affects others. For now, all that is getting discussed is whether a group of idiots who insulted huge groups of people should receive an apology for being insulted for that insult. Let’s now exercise our freedom of speech and tell them that they all suck. And the administration of a university whose students are so egregiously stupid that they bury “innocent fetuses” sucks the most.

C-Section as a Narcissistic Injury

Great minds, people. One of my favorite bloggers writes about a C-section as a narcissistic injury:

Why are some women devastated by a C-section? Why are VBACs [vaginal births after Cesarean] portrayed as “healing”? Perhaps it is because those women experience C-sections as a narcissistic injury. Narcissistic injury is a term from psychoanalysis. A narcissist is a person who suffers a deep sense of inferiority and masks it by projecting an air of grandiosity and excessive self regard. A narcissistic injury occurs when reality threatens the narcissist’s carefully constructed facade of perfection. . . In other words, for VBAC, homebirth and some NCB advocates, not having an uncomplicated vaginal birth is viewed as an imperfection.

Brava, Dr. Amy! Now, this is a brilliant OB-GYN I would not mind consulting.

This wouldn’t be a problem, of course (who cares if a bunch of narcissists want to torture themselves with home-births, or what not?), if it weren’t for the sad reality that there will be kids saddled with narcissistic mothers for life. And that is a very heavy  burden.

Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, A Review, Part III

Why is it, then, that women accept the burden of this unrealistic image of a perfect mother who sacrifices her career, hobbies, sex life, body and 100% of her time to motherhood?

For nearly three decades, a subterranean ideological war has been fought for a wholesale return to nature. We cannot yet assess its consequences for women. . . The advocates of this philosophy have an extraordinary weapon on their side: a mother’s guilt.

Women are guilt-tripped endlessly into feeling like there is something wrong with them if they don’t welcome the idea of diluting themselves completely in their children. So what do you expect to happen as a result?

If women are subjected to the relentless message that a mother must give her child everything—milk, time, energy—or pay for it later, inevitably more and more of them will give in.

Also, more and more of us will choose not to have children altogether if the only way to have them involves castrating our existence and reducing it to endless clucking around the poor children who eventually get so fed up with your annoying sacrifices that they leave home as soon as they can and only call you on Mother’s Day to expiate their own guilt.

Of course, if women could legitimately and without constantly being vilified for their choices select the method of childbirth that they prefer and that simplifies their life, breastfeed or not based on what suits their fancy, rely on daycare and babysitters without feeling guilty, and let the children be without feeling the need to schedule their every breath, more successful, accomplished and brilliant women would be interested in motherhood. And this would be a great thing because, contrary to what naturalists believe, breastfeeding has zero effect on a child’s IQ. Mother’s IQ is what matters. (I’m guessing father’s IQ, as well, but I haven’t seen any studies. Probably because people are still not managing to see the father’s participation in the creation of a child as something even worth studying.)

One of the reasons I like Badinter is that she does not take the easy road that so many feminists of the previous generation love to take in order to explain every problem that women face. Badinter does not blame men for every obstacle that women encounter in our path towards liberation. She states specifically in The Conflict that sexist men (who obviously do exist) had absolutely nothing to do with making this sad situation possible. A small but a very vocal number of women who didn’t make it professionally and financially have taken up the banner of the perfect motherhood and are now guilt-tripping women who haven’t failed in these arenas into feeling as lesser human beings precisely because we have not limited our entire existence to childbirth.

Do read the book, my friends. Read it and leave reviews on Amazon because, at this point, the only review that’s there has the following pearl of wisdom to share:

This is a feminist book, but it’s not of the rabid, aggressive sort. It’s more of an inside look into women’s lives and what they believe and value.

As one of those rabid, aggressive feminists, I find Elisabeth Badinter’s perspective on motherhood as an ideological construct to be very refreshing.

We, the successful, intelligent, professional women should reclaim our right to be mothers (only if that’s what we wish, of course) on our terms. We have allowed the naturalists to guilt-trip us into practices that harm mothers, fathers, and children. We need to start pushing back now. We need to stop letting the failures that constitute the naturalist movement to dictate their idiotic ideas to us and make us feel like we are the ones with a problem.

I suggest we start the anti-naturalist movement. Let’s celebrate the advances of our civilization that allow us to choose whether, when and how we want to become parents and that simplify parenthood for us. To hell with instincts! Long live intelligence!

Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, A Review, Part II

So what are the tenets of the naturalist approach to motherhood?

First of all, the naturalist movement returns to the eminently stupid notion of “maternal instinct.” A mother has some sort of a natural bond with a child that appears from nowhere and that is inaccessible to a father. Fathers are dispensable and interchangeable, according to this philosophy, because their only role is to support and “protect” women. At no point should they insist on having access to or a say in their own children’s care.

Naturalists believe that motherhood should be completely sacrificial in nature. There should be no relief from the pain of childbirth, no respite from the burdens of breastfeeding, no break from childcare:

Accounts by childless women and the many surveys of them that are now available are striking for their faithful endorsement of the model of the perfect mother. Even these women believe that a good mother takes constant care of her children round the clock and cannot pursue personal fulfillment at the same time.

Is it any wonder that many women are choosing to opt out of motherhood altogether? I mean, if you have anything at all that is even remotely fun going on in your life, why on Earth would you give all that up to dedicate yourself 100% to childcare? If you can’t use formula, daycare facilities, nannies, or any means that would make childcare easier for fear of feeling like a bad mother, then who needs the entire thing at all? Women are human and we are guided by self-interest. If we can’t be allowed to experience motherhood as a fun experience that enriches our lives and, instead, have to see it as a constant self-sacrifice, can we be blamed for giving up on it altogether? As Badinter puts it:

The lighter the burden on the mother and the greater the respect given to her choices as a woman, the more likely she is to want the whole experience of child raising, and even to repeat it. Supporting part-time motherhood is the key to increased fertility. Conversely, insisting that the mother sacrifice the woman seems to delay her decision to have a child and possibly discourages her from having one at all.

When I read Badinter, it is like she is speaking to me personally because this is really how I feel. I totally dig my life, people. It is a life I created for myself with a lot of effort and care. No aspect of it just happened. Rather, it was planned in painstaking detail by me. When I was younger, I’d imagined a series of vignettes from my future life where I knew exactly how I wanted to feel, what I wanted to wear, and where I wanted to be in the future. Now I’m acting out those vignettes because I managed to create the life of my dreams. The idea that I need to sacrifice all that for the drudgery of what motherhood should be like according to the fanatics of naturalism is appalling.

[To be continued. . .]

Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, A Review, Part I

Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women made me feel really sad. It’s a shame that one of the world’s leading feminist philosophers should waste her time on explaining things that are so painfully obvious to everybody who has at least some brain activity. For instance, Badinter demonstrates to the truly unintelligent among us that women who choose not to have children are neither sick nor miserable. She proves that people who choose not to have children are happy and fulfilled and that the excessive attention towards the reasons behind their choice distracts us from more important concerns:

We do not ask questions about the legitimacy of the wish to have children, although we are all aware of the devastation caused by irresponsible mothers. How many children are brought into the world to play roles of compensation or distraction? How many children are abused, neglected, or abandoned? This subject remains unexplored. Society seems more concerned with women who try to assess their responsibilities rigorously than with those who take them on with little reflection.

Badinter’s words are so eminently reasonable that I wonder how anybody can find it in themselves to disagree.

Badinter is a French feminist and, as we all know, Europe is undergoing a demographic crisis at the moment. In Germany, for example, about 1/3 of all women decide not to have children at all. Without in any way condemning that choice, Badinter analyzes the cultural and ideological environment that makes child-bearing unattractive to the growing number of women.

After the great feminist revolution of the 1960-1970, many women discovered that professional and intellectual fulfillment to which feminism gave them access is not without its costs. Fighting for success in a capitalist economy is hard. It is also an ongoing struggle that you never win definitively. The perfect sales this month don’t help you if you fail to produce any in the coming months. Several publications in one year don’t mean you can relax and publish nothing in the future. For many women, the environment of intellectual growth and professional fulfillment is the only one we can survive in.

For some, however, it proved to be too hard. So what do you do when you realize that you haven’t managed to achieve fulfillment through practicing your profession, bettering yourself intellectually, and making money? The answer is simple: you declare that none of these things are worth anything because a woman’s real value lies in her physicality. This was how the “naturalist” movement was born. This movement proposed that a woman’s only goal in life is to be a mother and created a set of pretty unrealistic expectations of what one needed to do in order to pass for a “good” mother.

[To be continued. . .]