From Coats to Beach Dresses

People go outside and stand in the street, staring stupidly ahead of themselves. Yesterday, it was winter, and I was shivering in my winter coat. Today, I’m walking around in my short, sleeveless beach dress.

Did my house go traveling during the night?

The funniest thing is that there was the exact same change in temperature in Kharkov, Ukraine tonight.

Men Need Their Own Betty Friedan

American men are trapped in a vicious circle. They convince themselves that their only value is that of money-making robots with no emotions or feelings. They castrate their existences to place themselves on the altar of this belief. Even when a child is born, a man continues working all through the first days and months of the child’s life. The very normal desire to get to know his newborn is stifled in service to the idea that a man who is not making money every second of his life is a loser.

In case of a divorce, children almost always stay with their mothers because the father who was never around can’t claim a significant bond with his kids. So the man continues working and working and working some more, paying and paying and paying for the children he doesn’t really know and whose company he doesn’t have time or energy to enjoy.

Of course, the only way this system can work is by convincing its participants that not only do they castrate their own existences because that is what they want but that they are enormously privileged to be able to engage in this self-mutilation. Yes, making all that money, how amazing. Unless, of course, you don’t even get to decide how to spend it:

BCG’s study reported that 73% of US household spending is “controlled” by women. I couldn’t find if they defined “controlled” as dollars or purchase decisions, but clearly, the overall take-away is that women are the primary buyers, and their spending accounts for far more of the US consumer economy than their representation (51%) in the US population.

This statistic makes a lot of sense because people who kill themselves working to feel some sense of self-worth are too tired at the end of the day to decide where the money should go.

Sixty years ago, Betty Friedan explained to women why their self-castration was making them miserable. Now somebody needs to explain to men that it isn’t by accident that they die much earlier than women in every single developed country and commit suicide more often than women, too. This is the price they pay for their self-mutilation. For now, all men get in terms of defense of their right to a complete and full existence is a bunch of sad, stupid MRAs whose response to every issue is “blame the feminists!”

Men, you represent half of the population of this country. Stop welcoming your victimization. Do something about it. A normal, healthy existence should have space in it for everything: work, love, family, money, children, career, friends, etc. The mentality where your children belong to their mothers a lot more than they belong to you are horribly damaging to you, the children, and the mothers.

Demand equality. Demand paternity leave. Demand recognition of the fact that your role as fathers is absolutely as important as the role of mothers.

Of course, this would only be the very first step. Betty-Friedan-For-Men would also address the horrible issue of gender roles that dominate women a lot less (thanks to the 2 Great Feminist Revolutions) than they do men.

United We Stand

It is really really wonderful to work with human, kind, understanding people whose first impulse is to stand in solidarity with their colleagues. I have seen academic departments that are a vipers’ nest of petty competitions, dislikes, feuds, and general nastiness, so it’s amazing to work with a group that is always on your side and where nobody looks for ways to push you out of the way.

In my specific situation, I’m envisioning a fight with the HR department. My colleague “Emilia” is going through that fight right now. The HR department – that consists 100% of women, mind you – has been so nasty to Emilia in her last weeks of pregnancy that she almost had a nervous breakdown. You really need to be a piece of work to badger a woman who is due to give birth in two weeks.

The HR department is taking the position that one’s maternity leave should start on one’s due date. They don’t seem to be able to process the information that one might go into labor a little earlier than scheduled. Mind you, the maternity leave is of the same duration for everybody (6 weeks paid, 6 weeks unpaid). What is the problem with somebody starting it a little earlier and ending it a little earlier, too, if that does not change the actual number of days one is out of work? Financially, neither the department nor the university lose anything by accommodating the pregnant colleague in this way. And the students only win because even the best pedagogue in the universe will not be able to teach all that well the day before she is due.

You’ll say that the HR people have to follow regulations and don’t have a choice. I get that, of course, but would it kill them to be a little kinder when talking to a pregnant employee? There is a huge difference between saying, “Look, I know these regulations are stupid, I’m really on your side here. Let’s see if we can figure something out” (and actually there is a very easy, completely legal way of resolving this issue) and rolling your eyes, puffing and huffing in annoyance, and refusing to discuss anything in a nasty tone.

“Imagine the Murmansk Area,” the Chair said to me, “February. Sometime during the XVIIth century. That is what the HR department is, climatically and ideologically.”

If we didn’t have solidarity within the department, it would have been very easy for these bureaucrats to undermine us one by one. They have nothing much to do with their amply remunerated time, so they have fun torturing people. (Emilia is SO not the only person they have been persecuting. Retirement age colleagues are their favorite targets.)

P.S. I also have to say that the Chair, a 60-year-old Hispanic male, has been dramatically more understanding and normal towards the issues of pregnant co-workers than 30 and 40-year-old American women. Just saying.