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Happy International Women’s Day, Feminist Coming Out Day, and Good stuff around the ‘Net

March 8, 2011

I haven’t written much here in a while. I’ve been busy, busy, busy living life, reading, working and such, and find myself contemplating the continued utility of this particular blogging space.

While I continue to cogitate on the future of Episcopalifem, here are some things I’ve been reading this week which have given me food for thought and focus and pleasure.

While there have been statistics presented demonstrating the women have experienced far less of a negative impact than men in the economic crisis, that appears to be at an end, especially as Tea Party types look to cut state/federal budgets and end collective bargaining rights as we’ve known them. The New York Times recently published this article His Recession, Becoming Hers to tell us all about how and why this is likely to change, and change for the long haul.

However, women are more concentrated in state and local jobs that are now on the chopping block as a result of efforts to cut taxes and reduce public spending. About 52 percent of state employees and 61 percent of the much larger category of local employees are women – many of them working as teachers, secretaries, or social workers.

Women make up a majority of two important public sector unions, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the American Federation of Teachers.

The economist Randy Albelda asserts that the conservative attack on public-sector unions resembles the welfare reform discussions of the 1990s, in which recipients of public assistance were labeled greedy, lazy welfare queens.

As a recent New York Times article put it, “Around the country, many teachers see demands to cut their income, benefits and say in how schools are run through collective bargaining as attacks not just on their livelihoods, but on their value to society.”

Yeah – who knew? teachers and welfare queens had so much in common, both being life sucking lazy sacks of shit, according to our conservative rabble rousers.

Jon Stewart, in his customary pithy awesome directness, does a great job of showing how teachers need to take the lead from Wall Street, when it comes to making a shared sacrifice, and negotiating out the contractual obligations of their employers in times of economic duress, and should definitely expect to take it across the chin. Wink, wink, jab, jab, since Teachers Have It Too Good (Wink)

Then, I stumbled across this excellent piece by George Lakoff, What Conservatives Really Want. This piece presents the framework in which uber-conservativism lives, the moral platform upon which is rests, and as you might have already strongly suspected, it has a lot to do with Daddy, and that what Daddy says goes. Oh, and they don’t believe in social responsibility, oh no, just individual responsibility alone. Lakoff posits:

The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family (by winning competitions in the marketplace), and to teach his kids right from wrong by disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of force is necessary and required. Only then will children develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And only with such discipline will they be able to prosper. And what of people who are not prosperous? They don’t have discipline, and without discipline they cannot be moral, so they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the prosperous people. Helping others takes away their discipline, and hence makes them both unable to prosper on their own and function morally…
In conservative family life, the strict father rules. Fathers and husbands should have control over reproduction; hence, parental and spousal notification laws and opposition to abortion. In conservative religion, God is seen as the strict father, the Lord, who rewards and punishes according to individual responsibility in following his Biblical word.

Above all, the authority of conservatism itself must be maintained. The country should be ruled by conservative values, and progressive values are seen as evil. Science should NOT have authority over the market, and so the science of global warming and evolution must be denied. Facts that are inconsistent with the authority of conservatism must be ignored or denied or explained away. To protect and extend conservative values themselves, the devil’s own means can be used against conservatism’s immoral enemies, whether lies, intimidation, torture, or even death, say, for women’s doctors.

Freedom is defined as being your own strict father — with individual not social responsibility, and without any government authority telling you what you can and cannot do. To defend that freedom as an individual, you will of course need a gun.

He also complains that the Democrats are awfully good at helping this Conservative world view right along:

…Democrats help conservatives when they function as policy wonks — talking policy without communicating the moral values behind the policies. They help conservatives when they neglect to remind us that pensions are deferred payments for work done. “Benefits” are pay for work, not a handout. Pensions and benefits are arranged by contract. If there is not enough money for them, it is because the contracted funds have been taken by conservative officials and given to wealthy people and corporations instead of to the people who have earned them.

Democrats help conservatives when they use conservative words like “entitlements” instead of “earnings” and speak of government as providing “services” instead of “necessities.”

Excellent points he makes, really. Do read the whole thing!

Another friend (waves to MOI) pointed out an excellent article from America Magazine that discusses the idea of individual responsibility, from a slightly different vanatage point, but one that feeds directly into the cultural world view of the uber-conservative, and that is, The Limits of Positive Thinking. In this article, the author talks about her work with the homeless, and how she winced her way through some workshops that were based on the ideas presented in The Secret – that is that positive thoughts/energy/intention attract positive thoughts, and that negative thoughts/energy/intention beget more negativity. So, you want a nice house with a picket fence, visualize it, and it will come to you! Only the author points out, um, not so much, because they blow off suffering or make that suffering one’s own fault. Is it the negative thinking of a five year old child that brings rape and beating down upon them? Is it negative thinking that causes an accident which brings a brain injury upon one, thereby impacting every facet and interaction of life?

This troubling idea, that affliction is doled out as punishment for one’s negative thoughts and that prosperity is a result of thinking positively, prompted me to reflect on my own understanding of suffering, informed at least in part by the writings of Blessed Julian of Norwich.

In Revelations of Divine Love, Julian offers no causal explanation for suffering. While she acknowledges human sinfulness, she also recognizes an unjust and fallen world in which all people suffer. In Julian’s vision of the parable of the lord and the servant, a lord sends his servant on a journey. While traveling, the servant stumbles and falls in a dell. Trapped in the dell, injured and alone, the servant suffers greatly. Instead of being angry at the servant’s clumsiness or sin, the lord mysteriously loves the servant more than ever. In this radical accounting, suffering is not simply negative, at least not in its entirety. Rather, it is sometimes the means through which humanity is drawn impossibly closer to God’s self.

During my year at the homeless shelter, I was confronted daily with the realities of homelessness, rape, addiction, violence and mental illness. In that space, Julian’s approach seemed not only more compassionate, but perhaps more helpful as well. Yes, our attitudes can and do positively improve our lives, but they do not explain suffering or success. All people suffer. We are not our own creations, tidy products of ideology. We are human beings, hopelessly interdependent, ugly and beautiful, both.

And thank god for that, huh?

Here is another excellent essay I came across today via a facebook friend, I think Elizabeth Kaeton. Debra Dean Murphy sums up the meltdown that is Charlie Sheen, Rob Bell’s version of hell, and the upcoming Ash Wednesday observance in her excellent piece, My Lent: Ashes, Addiction, and the Reality of Hell (Pace Rob Bell) in Religion Dispatches today. She ties these seemingly disparate cultural events up quite readily.

“Lent reminds us that we’re all in the same boat—the sinking ship of our failed attempts to save ourselves, love ourselves, and save those we love. The ashes are not mere symbol; they are not a public sign of our piety (exactly what Jesus …warns against in Ash Wednesday’s gospel reading). Instead, the ashes are as real as it gets—a sticky, gritty, grimy smear plastered to our foreheads, precisely on the same spot that the oil of baptism was applied. For Christians, the juxtaposition is as liberating as it is instructive: we are dying, yet we live. Death may be at our doorstep but it cannot steal our substance.”

And last, but most assuredly not least, PJ, Writer Extraordinaire has a neat little piece of micro-fiction/poetry up over at her place that will delight, called All Filler, No Killer (which, I beg to differ with her on because it’s my prerogative so to do…)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2011 7:59 pm

    I’m glad to see you posting again. It seems like a couple of months.

    On the news this morning, they were talking about women demonstrating at Tahrir Square, in favor of extended rights, and men were shouting them down, saying that women belonged in the home, pointing out that God had no female prophets.

    I thought of the various women I’ve loved. I doubt more than 10% would have allowed me to say something like that without prophesying dire consequences for me. Are Egyptian woman soulless, or is it that Egyptian men dolts?

    Last week, Scott Adams (the Dilbert artist) asked his readers to vote on what they wanted him to write on. They suggested that he vote on men’s rights issues, and named quite a few different areas of concern. Scott wrote on the issue, and within a few hours, he had pulled his post, saying that it had attracted quite a few replies from people who were not regular readers of his blog, and while his regular readers could handle it, the others could not. I wonder if it wasn’t actually regular readers who were replying, after having received prophesies from their female friends.

    The heart of conservatism (as opposed to neocon-ism) is conserving. I grew up in an era when strong women were the rule, not the exception, and timid women bore me. Strong women have a special inner beauty. My God has warned me that the day is long and life is short, so I have little time to waste on the vapid and shallow.

    So I’m not celebrating “International Women’s Day”. It’s a sign of our failures that we need such a day.

    • episcopalifem permalink*
      March 9, 2011 10:30 am

      Well, sadly, the world is still creating women who are maimed, disenfranchised, raped or killed for being uppity prophets – my thinking is that those women may not be feeling particularly soulful or prophetic under those circumstances, hence, as you say, International Women’s Day. I agree wholeheartedly that we should not celebrate our moral failure as a species – the proper words should be PAY ATTENTION to International Women’s Day, perhaps?

      And, I do agree with you regarding the distinction between Neo-con and Conservative. They are not the same animal, despite the Tea Party shouts and the media bifurcation that makes it appear that it is so. This also has me feeling quite grumpy.

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