God, I Love Teaching!

I have to tell you, folks, I really love teaching. Even though I’m still sick and can’t hear anything, teaching is so much fun. The students are smart, funny, curious, and overall fantastic.

I’m a very fortunate person to have a profession I dig this much.


Anti-Cesarean Movement as Part of the Sacrificial Motherhood Philosophy

Reader Rimi asked me to talk about the anti-cesarean movement in North America. This movement is part of a wider phenomenon I refer to as “the sacrificial motherhood philosophy.” It started to develop as part of the backlash against the feminist advances of the 1970ies. As we all know, I come from a different culture, one that still believes the myth that everybody is profoundly feminist in North America. It took me a while to discover the main tenets of this philosophy. Here they are as I see them right now. Feel free to add your own.

– You can never do enough or sacrifice enough to be a “good” mother.

– A pregnant woman is a sort of an invalid who needs to renounce many things in order to have a “correct” pregnancy. For instance, the list of foods a pregnant woman is not supposed to touch is mile-long. Seeing that list made me envy my illiterate great-great-grandmother who had 6 perfectly healthy children without ever discovering that tomatoes were supposed to be poison for her.

– There are correct and incorrect ways of giving birth. The correct way is to have a “natural” birth. If you want an elective C-section or an epidural, you are not a real woman. If you do not enjoy getting together with other women or accosting pregnant women in public to share your horror story of shredded vaginas and horrible deliveries, you are not a real woman.

– Breast is best. Which means that if you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed until the child is old enough to walk and talk, you are a vile monster. If you want to use a breast pump, you are also a vile monster. If your kid doesn’t get enough nourishment from your breast milk and you supplement it with formula, you are a truly vile monster. And, of course, there is yet another endless list of foods a breast-feeding woman is not supposed to touch.

– Kids benefit from being around their mother 24-7. So if you return to work while your child is at a pre-school age, you are a horrible mother and your kid will grow up to be all kinds of criminal.

– A pacifier is a horrible thing. I haven’t yet been able to find out why some people have fits when they hear the word “pacifier.” All I have been able to gather this far is that the pacifier is supposed to mess with a kid’s teeth. Permanent teeth normally appear much later in a person’s life, but the pacifier-phobia persists.

– If you don’t strive to occupy all of your kid’s time with activities, you are a horrible mother. Sending the kid to play outside or leaving her alone in the room to play with her toys instead of ferreting her around from one play date to another is a sign of a horrible motherhood.

Of course, there are crowds of people who believe that a woman is perfectly capable of choosing the method of delivering a child that suits her best, deciding whether to breastfeed and for how long, and having a career while being a mother. These same people think that nothing tragic will happen if a kid is socialized through day care and is even allowed to play on his or her own every once in a while. They even believe that mothers and their small children can benefit from spending some time apart from each other every once in a while. However, the fanatics of sacrificial mommyhood are so loud that they are capable of screaming down any reasonable person who doesn’t see motherhood as something that needs to condemn you to endless suffering and sacrifice.

Students Skip Buying Textbooks

A survey has found that many students have skipped buying textbooks for class:

In the survey, released on Tuesday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit consumer-advocacy organization, seven in 10 college students said they had not purchased a textbook at least once because they had found the price too high.

I hate to be cynical but I have to ask: do all of these students also not have a cell phone? My students mostly come from backgrounds described as “poor.” Yet, the number of iPhones, iPods and iPads in the classrooms is overwhelming. Is the price of the textbooks too high in the sense of “I have no money to buy it” or, rather, in the sense of “I’d much rather use the money to buy a new gadget and pay my cell phone bill”?

How do you decide what book to read next?

Joshua Kim’s article in Inside Higher Ed made me consider this question. Here is the answer Kim provides:

I always go first to nytimes.com/books . A good review attached to a subject that I’m interested in, or an author that I like, will almost always result in a purchase (as an Amazon Audible audiobook or a Kindle e-book). A middling or bad review – no sale. Sometimes I’ll do a Google search for “book review (book title)” – and read reviews from other sites – but rarely. If the book is reviewed on IHE, then I’m definitely buying. This book selection process has been seriously disrupted by the NYTimes paywall. Sure, it is easy to get around (just do a Google search with the headline of the article you want to read) – but this is an extra and unpleasant step.

I find this account very curious because it is so different from how I buy books. For me, the main – and I’d say the only – source of reading suggestions is the Amazon. I’ve spent so much time and money there that Amazon really knows me well and always recommends books that will interest me. I’m very familiar with Amazon’s structure and the different ways one can search for reading matter on it. I now try to avoid the site as much as possible because it’s hard for me to leave it without a purchase.

It’s strange to me that Joshua Kim relies on the NYTimes so much for his choice of books to read. I dislike NYTimes and discontinued my Kindle subscription to NYTimes Book Review because, for the most part, the books it reviewed were part of what I refer to as “reading for housewives”: cheesy, overly sentimental fare of the tearjerker variety. The reviews were always dedicated to retelling the plot in as much detail as possible, which is something that even the least bright among the Amazon reviewers know not to do.

In my opinion, Amazon reviews are always going to be more reliable than the ones that appear in print media for the same reason that independent bloggers will eventually destroy traditional newspapers. Amazon reviewers and bloggers can only rely on their own hard work and the reputation they manage to build for themselves among their readers. The NYTimes, however, can manage its affairs right into the ground and then rely upon somebody to bail it out. Besides, there is absolutely no reason to believe that newspaper journalists will offer their honest opinion about books. They don’t seem to offer honest opinions about anything else, so why trust them on this subject?

And how do you decide what book to read next?

P.S. If this passionate diatribe on what might seem like a pretty trivial subject surprised you, I have to confess that I’m one of Amazon’s popular reviewers.