Who Gets Custody?

My students read an article by the famous Spanish writer Rosa Montero where the writer argues that giving the custody of the children to the mother automatically in the majority of cases is sexist. Montero suggests that we reevaluate our sexist prejudices and begin to accept that mothers and fathers have equal value.

I asked my students to express their own opinions about Montero’s suggestion, and here are some of the responses:

[I will mark the responses with F and M to mark the gender of the students.]

F: “No, it isn’t sexist to give custody to the mothers in all cases because women are by nature better adapted to bring up children.”

F: “It is very sad that many fathers still have to fight to be with their kids. The writer is right, this is definitely sexist.”

F: “This shouldn’t be about gender at all. The parent who makes more money and has better career prospects should get the custody because this is the parent who will set a better example to the kids.”

F: “I think that fathers should get a shot at custody as long as they are better than my father. But it isn’t that hard to be better than him because all he ever does is yell.”

M: “I don’t think the courts should get involved in the custody decisions at all. Parents can sort it out among themselves.” (This is our resident Libertarian, as you might have guessed.)

F: “If men cared about custody, they would have fought for it. Men normally have no problem setting up laws to favor them. Most men simply don’t need the trouble of caring about kids.”

F: “Women are biologically better at childcare, which is why they should always get custody.” (What is really shocking is that this was written by a black student.)

M: “Granting full custody to mothers in most cases is a way of imposing social control and preserving traditional gender roles. Women end up not growing professionally as well as men do and making less money. Then it is easier to control women.”

M: “What people often forget is that men suffer from sexism, too, and custody laws are an example of that.”

M: “Women are better prepared to take care of children, so giving them custody is logical.”

P.S. I only grade the writing on this assignments, not the opinions, so don’t worry about the students.

The Country of Latin America

I have told my students in the Hispanic Civilization course that anybody who refers to Latin America as “a country” or “a nation” on the final exam will get an automatic grade of zero irrespective of how good the rest of the exam is. I don’t care if they do it simply because of carelessness but I’ve had enough of this, folks. Maybe this will finally teach them how to pay attention.

If this seems too harsh to you, please consider that I spend half of the course explaining the differences between Spanish-speaking countries. I show them a map in every single class meeting. What more can I do?

What Can Spain Do?

The most recent prognosis on the Spanish economy is that the unemployment will rise to 28,9% in 2013 and will stay at 28,8% in 2014. The government will not be able to reduce the national debt.

This is happening after 1,5 years of austerity measures. As of now, nobody has been able to identify any kind of a positive effect for Spain from the austerity measures.

Now, my question is: what do you think could be done to improve Spain’s situation? I’m sure there were similar economic crises in other countries in other times. How were they solved?

I specialize in the literature and culture of contemporary Spain, and I kind of need for the country to keep existing.

Petitioning the President

Reader Observer left a link to a petition some weird folks are addressing to the President of the US asking him to meddle in the internal affairs of Spain. Here is what Observer has to say about it:

I, personally, urge the President to take care of his own people and business and do not promote the US policing role in the world. Mr President, please, are you bored about nothing to do?

I agree with this intelligent reader completely. When will we finally start concentrating on our own massive problems instead of trying to meddle in the affairs of people we know very little about? I mean, how many Americans even know what Catalonia is?

Don’t get me wrong, I care about Catalonia deeply and spend a lot of time educating my students about it. But President Obama has already demonstrated that his understanding of Hispanic countries is egregiously bad and uninformed. He should not interfere with Spain.

Blogging Locations: At Home

I’m now at home, preparing to get a mysterious and huge delivery tomorrow. Want to find out what it is that I’m having delivered and why I’m extremely excited about getting it? Check back tomorrow, and I promise photos.

In the meanwhile, feel free to guess what will be delivered. Hint: it’s very big.

Blogging Locations: On the Bus Home

I’m finally going home after a long day at work. The afternoon section was hopeless as usual. At least, it gave me a funny story to share with you.

We were talking about the economic situation in Spain and I asked students what they think would help Spain overcome the crisis.

“A war!” one student suggested brightly. “I learned in my class on the US history that we had the Great Depression in the 1930s and then WWII started and that ended the depression and was very helpful to our economy. Is there any chance Spain will start a war?”

“With whom?” I asked.

“Well, they could start another civil war,” another student contributed. “Didn’t you tel us that there is still a political and ideological divide in Spain?”

I’m glad to be going home.

Blogging Locations: Office Again

I’m back in my office after talking to the departmental secretary who told me this hilarious story.

A colleague needed pencils to give her students to fill in teaching evaluations. She was in a hurry, so she grabbed a bunch of pencils from the departmental office without looking at them.

When she distributed the pencils to the students, she heard suppressed giggles that gradually transformed into roaring laughter.

It turned out that the pencils were inscribed with the words “Cypress Cove Nudist Resort.” I’m sure it will take her years to live down the reputation as the Nudist Prof.

The secretary tried to find out who had brought the nudist pencils in but nobody is willing to confess. The mystery of “Who’s the nudist?” will haunt our department for years to come.

P.S. A clarification: I’m not the mysterious nudist, in case you were wondering. I’d rather eat onion rings while wearing jeans, drinking beer, and driving a truck with a bear I beheaded with my bare hands than come close to a nudist resort. Yes, the alliteration is intentional.

Blogging Locations: Office

So I’m back in my office after a very successful lecture on Cuba. The students loved my stories about the trips I made to that country. My story about the naked men was especially popular. I’m not sure if I shared this story with you, so I will tell it anyway.

The very first time I traveled to Cuba was in 1999. I was 23 and too naive and sheltered for that age. I was staying at a hotel in the middle of Old Havana because the purpose of the trip was not to have a beach vacation but to discover how the Cuban people really lived. In front of my hotel and very close to it, there was another building. All day and night whenever I would look out of my window, I would see naked men showering in the rooms of that building. There was an endless procession of these naked men who took turns showering.

Finally, I decided to ask my Cuban friend Armando what was happening.

“Is this some sort of a public bath facility?” I asked him. “But then why aren’t there any curtains in the windows?”

“Oh, Clarissa,” Armando said. “You are so naive. You are like a child. These men are renting the shower rooms in the building in front of the hotel where Western tourists are staying. They do that in order to show their goods to tourists who want to purchase sex. If you like what you see, all you have to do is go and stand in front of the building and the man you chose will come down. Then you can negotiate the price.”

Another story the students loved was the one where I was approached by a man in the streets of Havana who offered sex and was shocked when I refused.

“But why not?” he asked. “It’s just $5. Don’t you have $5?”

“Yes, I do have $5,” I responded, feeling desperate. “But I don’t want to buy sex.”

The man looked confused.

“Then why did you come to Havana?” he asked.

“To learn about the culture and improve my Spanish,” I explained.

“This is the first time that I meet such a weird tourist,” the man concluded.

He thought for a while, and then his face lit up.

“Do you prefer girls?” he asked. “Because I have a sister. . .”

Blogging Locations: Bus Stop

I’m waiting for the bus and thinking that it was probably a mistake to ditch my BlackBerry in favor of Samsung Glide.  BlackBerry is a tool for working while the Glide is more of a fun gadget to explore the numerous Android apps. The problem is that I have all the apps I need on my Kindle Fire, so the Glide is kind of pointless.

Many years ago, my father wrote a short story about choices. For a Soviet person, having a variety of choices is torture, the story says. We are used to just grabbing whatever was on offer because it was either that or nothing. People would join queues without even knowing what they were queuing for because being able to buy something, even something they didn’t need right now, was valuable.

I’m slipping into thoughts about the Soviet Union because I’m giving a lecture on Cuba in 30 minutes. There is too much material to pack into this lecture, so I don’t know what will happen.