Policing Gender Norms

Gender norms are much more fiercely policed within each gender than outside of it.

A male friend shared that he never fears that women will condemn him as not being manly enough for being sensitive, crying in the movies, writing poetry, following fashion trends, and enjoying manicures. It’s the men he knows – his father, brother, friends and male colleagues – who make him feel that there is something wrong with his way of being male.

I told him that I feel the same. I never fear that men will condemn me for being insensitive, obsessed with my career, prone to laugh at sentimental movies, bored with fashion magazines, loud, and brash. Every single voice that told me, “Clarissa, you are such a man!” was always female. Men don’t criticize my body and men never ever badgered me for being single (when I was single) and not having children.  I know for a fact, though, that many of those men who have no problem whatsoever with my lack of gender conformity practically bully their male friends for a slightest deviation from the male gender norm.



The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez: A Review

I never liked hippies. For a year, I lived in Ithaca, NY, a town that had been built up by the hippies and their presence could be felt in everything. Ithaca is a place where  you can see well-off parents in expensive business suits and dresses walk down the street smoking a joint after dropping their freshman off at the dorms. I would often get high just by walking down the Commons to my apartment building. Every eatery has endless vegan options, there is a big hemp store and a coffee shop that serves different kinds of mate, and the food co-op sells the strangest food I’d ever seen anywhere. The hippies were everywhere. I was quite wary of them. They were all so nice, welcoming, relaxed and good-natured that I knew there had to be something seriously wrong with them.

The house where I lived on Ithaca Commons. The red arrow points to my window

The American 1960s fascinate me. I obviously wasn’t around either chronologically or geographically but I figured out very soon after emigrating that something really huge happened in the US between 1965 and 1975 and that we were still both enjoying many of that era’s achievements and experiencing an enormous backlash against it. Sigrid Nunez’s brilliant novel The Last of Her Kind helped me understand the sixties in a way I never did before. The novel is very well-written and beautifully crafted (except from one section that is too heavily influenced by Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.“)

The novel has two female protagonists: Ann, who symbolizes everything that was good and hopeful about the era (the progressive social movements, the rejection of the bourgeois fallacies, the sensitivity to the world’s injustices), and Georgette, the symbol of the post-sixties backlash (the erosion of the rights of women, the return of women to the practice of housewifery, the loss of interest in politics and social justice.)

The relationship between Ann and Georgette is too complex to be addressed in one short review, of course, so I will just mention that it offers a very important insight into why the progressive social and political movements so often fail to connect with the very people for whose benefit they are militating. Ann comes from a rich family but she hates her race and class origins and wants to champion the rights of the downtrodden. Georgette, Ann’s college roommate, is precisely  one of these downtrodden but the gulf of misunderstanding that separates the two women can never be bridged.

Continue reading “The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez: A Review”

Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion

First of all, let’s support these nice people who decided to promote our favorite blog (meaning, my blog, of course) and give them some well-deserved hits.

How you can make good use of those smaller blocks of time.

And this is a great way to lose an election: ““I want to make sure every new computer sold in this country, after I’m president, has installed on it a filter to block all pornography.”” Hello, Nanny State and its presidential candidate who wants to police our morals. Hey, Libertarians, how come there is not a peep out of you on this subject?

National MS advocates are appreciative of Ann Romney’s efforts to help boost the profile of the disease and raise money for the cause, but they are opposing her husband’s campaign health care policy proposals, many of which are mirrors of GOP legislation currently pending in Congress. MS advocates believe many of the proposals would be extremely harmful to most people with multiple sclerosis.” Talk is cheap. It’s the actions that count. Rather than “boosting the profile of the disease” (???), these hypocrites could try to avoid victimizing people with the disease.

Amazon.com is offering to pay up to $2,000 per year towards educational costs for its warehouse employees if they pursue Associate’s degrees in certain high-demand fields, including fields like aircraft mechanics that have no obvious value within the company. ” I have no doubt that Amazon was pushed towards this decision by the relentless exposure of the horrific working conditions at its warehouses. This is yet another instance of bloggers effectuating positive change by their writing.

A beautiful tribute to Robert Hughes.

Missouri is stupid and is about to get even stupider. Don’t believe me? Read this article.

Canada vs the US. Very visual and filled with useful information for online discussions.

The Butovo massacre.

Are you following the show trials in China? I am because they are an eerie reminder of the history of my own country in the 1930s. Here are post 1 and post 2 on the subject.

Let’s feed the trolls! I agree.

Science Education Standards: Can New Recommendations Help ‘Mediocre To Awful’ States?”

In the corner of the world where I grew up, keeping kids from seeing sex always seemed to be more important than keeping them from seeing violence. Today, and in my own parenting, I feel the opposite.” I adore this blogger.

Why men should take women’s studies courses. Very insightful.

It isn’t often that I find a feminist blog I really like but Nerdy Feminist is a brilliant blogger who runs just such a blog. Here is a great post from her on last name changes.

The latest environmental disaster caused by an oil company.

A phenomenal post on the fundamentalist hypocrisies on the subject of love.

Long before I had heard of Prager I subjected my bride-to-be to such a test. . . Dear one took the rigors of that  trip 30 years ago like a trouper, and passed the test with flying colors.  We got married the following summer and remain happily married 29 summers later. When I told the story to a feminazi some years back she gave me a hard and disapproving look.  She didn’t like that I imposed a marital compatibility test upon my lady love.  Bitch!” You refer to her as a Nazi and a bitch and you think she disapproves of you because of your pathetic personal life? Maybe this poor excuse for a philosopher needs to take an elementary course in formal logic.

How fundamentalist women reduce stress. It’s hilarious, people.

How to show Twitter bullies their place.

And for my Russian-speaking readers (who, as I now realize, are a lot more than 3), here is a beautiful post IN RUSSIAN. Special thanks go to reader el who introduced me to this talented blogger.

On Romney’s choice of Ryan as a running mate: “The good news is that this really is a sign of desperation on the part of Team Romney.  Romney’s basically thrown out his entire game plan, and has gone with a veep choice who effectively upstages him the way Sarah Palin upstaged John McCain.  He hadn’t really wanted a campaign about issues; he’d just wanted to be the businessman who would come in and set things right with his business know-how.  Now that his time at Bain’s been gleefully shredded by the good guys, he really had to shake the Etch-A-Sketch and get a reset.” I wanted to say the same thing but this blogger said it much better than I ever could. How do you feel about Romney’s choice of Ryan as a VP?

There is no limit to how stupid and insensitive people can be about certain topics: “It’s a little like a doctor having permission to do things to your body that no other person (maybe a lover) would EVER be permitted to do.  Is there a more explicit and invasive rape than a colonoscopy?” If you say yourself that the doctor has a permission, what possesses you to use the word “rape” in this context? I would hope that in bloody 2012 people were capable of remembering that the difference between rape and not rape is free, uncoerced consent.

The most idiotic post of the week: this poorly written confusing rant suggesting that in order to “afford” art programs, universities need to drill for oil. Or have somebody else drill for oil. Or whatever. Why is it that every ignoramus seems entitled to offer opinions about academia?

And the feel-good post of the week: a mother uses her Kindle to help her with breastfeeding. I warn you, though, the amount of cuteness (in the best sense of the word) in this post is overwhelming. If you don’t feel like letting go of your bad mood at this point, don’t read this post. It is destined to make you start smiling goofily.