So I'm teaching this Women's Lit class, as I may have mentioned.
Given where I am teaching it -- the rustiest bit of the Bible Belt, where women still tell me in class that while they believe in equality, a man should be in charge, because that's how God created things; and where last semester in my Octavia Butler class a student gave her presentation over how Butler's stories were emasculating (why, you ask?) because men were not the main characters always and because quite often the main characters, men and women, resolved situations without resorting to violence, because Real Men don't handle the world with negotiation and intellect, they just squint and snort and kick the crap out of dissenters -- well.
It's been fraught from time to time, need I say?
And now we are at the point in the semester when the students give their presentations.
And one of the students started her presentation on Monday by talking about the movie October Baby.
I don't know if you are familiar with this piece of work, but it is on the new favorite topic of the anti-choice crowd, the semi-mythical fetus* that survives the late-term abortion, which the anti-choice crowd is attempting to use to argue that fetuses are, in fact, babies, and ought to be accorded human rights (from the moment of conception on, this student argued).
I do respect this student's bravery in speaking up. I'm the professor, I hold all the power in that classroom, so yes, courage.
On the other hand: everything the student had to present was, basically, propaganda. She had not, that is, bothered to do any research beyond what she had obviously been told by her (not very informed) Pro-Life church.
(1) Life begins at conception
(2) Feminists want to "require" abortion after rape, but this is punishing the child for the crime of the "father"
(3) 40% of all pregnancies end in abortion -- where would we be if 40% of our mothers had aborted us?
(4) Only a small number of rapes result in pregnancy anyway
(5) Some women are now aborting for frivolous reasons, like sex selection or if the baby isn't perfect
(6) The "pro-abortion" position argues the woman's rights should trump the child's right to life
Having said all this, the student opened the floor to discussion, wanting to the class to give some reasons they thought "women" (as though that class was not 99% women) got abortions.
Mind you, I have made the point in that class more than once that 1/3 of all women in America have had or will get an abortion at some point in their lives. The student apparently did not extrapolate from this data and her third point.
Anyway, our lone male chimed in with a comment about slutty slutty teen-age girls who sleep around and then run down for their frivolous abortion (okay, I exaggerate -- a little) and I said, rigidly controlling myself, because that pro-abortion crack had gotten down my neck a bit, "Well, we actually know why women get abortions."
Everyone wheeled to look at me, there in the back row where I was sitting to watch the presentations.
Maybe I wasn't controlling my voice as well as I thought.
"Most of them are actually in their 20s," I said. "Most of them already have a couple of kids. Most of them have the abortion because of birth control failure. Mostly it's because they can't afford or can't care for or just don't want another child. Most of them are, in fact, Christians."
I had put that in because the student had made a big deal out of her religion.
"Richer women," I added, "actually have slightly more abortions than poorer women."
They were all staring at me.
"And some of them," I added, "are for medical reasons."
At that point the student next to me burst out with the story of her abortion, barely able to get through it without breaking into tears: a medical abortion, and how she had nearly died.
Another student then told of her friend who had needed to abort twice, also for medical reasons.
"Well, I didn't mean those," the student presenter said. "Those aren't real abortions--"
"Oh, of course they are," I said. "Come on."
The student who had almost died (in tears now) passionately described how she had been shouted at by protesters as she had entered the clinic, how she had been called a murderer, how she had been forced to undergo hours of "therapy" (basically apparently scolding about how she shouldn't use abortion as birth control, which since she wanted this child she obviously wasn't doing), how she had to write in her own handwriting a letter describing just why she "wanted" this abortion -- all this, in order to attain an abortion medically necessary to save her life.
The student stood there clutching her folder, eyes round: because, I am sure, despite the math, she had no idea that 1/3 of her fellow students had stories just like that one.
Another student said, "This was brave of you. This presentation."
"It was," I agreed. "I do want to disagree with one phrase you used, however. Pro-Choice is not the same as Pro-Abortion."
"Well," she said. "We use Pro-Abortion because it's opposite to Pro-Life."
"I understand that you think that," I said. "But you understand it's not accurate. We don't take away your choice. You don't get to take away ours."
She stared at me. I seriously doubt she understood what I was saying.
"Well, I'm just -- I'm a Christian," she said again. "I believe life matters. That abortion is wrong."
"Well, see," I said, "that's why we call you anti-choice. You're against allowing women to make that choice on their own. We're pro-choice. We say you get to make that choice. You say we don't get to make that choice, that you should get to make it for us."
She kept on staring at me.
Earlier, she had given the Elders quote about getting over the love affair with the fetus: "We really need to get over this love affair with the fetus and start worrying about children" -- and sniffed at it like it was ridiculous.
I've since looked it up and, in fact, many anti-choice sites get ruffled by this quotation, probably because it calls them out so accurately.
As I told her, we know what causes abortions: poverty, failure of birth control, lack of education, lack of time to parent, lack of pre-schools and child care. If the "Pro-Life" crowd actually wants to make abortions less common, why are they not working on those issues?
I know, I know, because socialism.
Meanwhile, other students in the class have talked to me and emailed me and FB me, wanting me to give a rebuttal class, basically -- the real facts, as they put it, about abortion. They are not at all happy with allowing this presentation to be the only thing said in our class about the issue. I'm kind of torn, since it's a woman's literature** class, not a class on women's political issues per se; OTOH, as an educator, I hate not to answer questions when students are asking them.
And one of our books is Our Bodies, Ourselves; so I could assign the portions from that on abortion and contraception and then it's literature. Solution?
*How many fetus have, in fact, survived being aborted? I've had anti-choice people on-line tell me that they are survivors of failed abortion attempts, or that they know people who are, or that their best friend's cousins are, and so on, always without providing any evidence. I've never seen any proof of any infant anywhere who is a survivor of an abortion. Here is the only evidence-based report I've seen, which (no shock) says the anti-choice numbers are propaganda (that is, lies).
**in fact, the student's presentation really fails on those grounds, since the requirement was that the presentation be about a work of women's literature or a woman writer; and unless we count October Baby -- which really was not the subject of the presentation -- this student did not present about literature at all. But I doubt I will enforce the rules that severely -- I seldom do.
Having paid our taxes, we are now so broke I can't afford to buy iTunes, which is making me sad, since Steve Earle and Billy Bragg both have new albums out, and is making the kid sad, since she has just discovered West Side Story and wants to buy the song track so that she can listen to "Somewhere" over and over and over.
I just got the check in the mail for "Velocity's Ghost," my story which is appearing in The Other Half of the Sky, the anthology which comes on on Tuesday, April 23, which all y'all should buy because it is so good.
And once I put that check in the bank, we won't be broke any more. So that's okay then!
So yesterday was Faculty Appreciation day slash Student Research day at our little university.
This means we spend the morning sitting in a big room eating cut fruit and Danish while listening to various deans list faculty accomplishments over the past year, plus usually a speech by someone on the state of the university/universities in general; then in the afternoon, our students have this event, a kind of an undergraduate conference, presenting research they have been working on this year.
That second part is actually very cool, and excellent for the students, many of whom are doing their first conference presentation ever (some are very nervous, even though it's just us, their professors, they're presenting to; others are cool and professional, but it's always lovely).
The first part, the Faculty Appreciation, is less so, I have to say. First, most of us would rather be appreciated with a few extra hours to sleep or get work done.
Second, all most of the deans do is list, in a rapid drone, what everyone has published or presented. This is accompanied with a rapid-fire Power Point list of the presentations, or a bibliography accompanied by each person's photograph. This goes on, mind you, for about three hours. No one is listening: we're all on our phones or iPads or blackberries, getting work done.
Finally, the speaker shows up and makes his speech. (Just in passing, I will not that all these speeches are always about how bad things are about to become in the educational world. Can't we even once have a speech about how great things are about to happen? Why are we always being warned about how our field is doomed, I tell you, doomed?) Yesterday it was MOOCs.
In 1995 it was technology. We had to get technology into the classroom or we were doomed I tell you doomed.
In 2005 it was assessment. We had to start doing assessment or we were doomed I tell you doomed.
Now it's MOOCs. If we don't start doing MOOCs ourselves we are doomed I tell you doomed.
This is after we admit that MOOCs don't actually work all that well (the stats I heard yesterday were that something like 20,000 students signed up for a course and 200 got a perfect score -- no data on how the rest did -- ) and that they have an abysmal graduation rate, with an equally abysmal rate of job placement (that is, employers don't like students who have degrees from, say, Phoenix U) and yet: we're supposed to imitate MOOCs, because...profit?
Listen: I have nothing, per se, against MOOCs as I understand them. My kid right now is running John Green's Crash Course in World History (and so am I) and that is something like a MOOC.
And the whole flipped classroom thing strikes me as a good idea.
OTOH, MOOCs most universities will run them (who can't see this coming?) which will be Phoenix U cash cows -- yeah, no.
I heard about it just as I was going to bed, and I knew it would be bad -- fertilizer, as we've all known since McVeigh, being equal to bomb.
When I heard that this plant was right next to a middle school and a nursing home and apartment houses and neighborhoods, my reaction (like yours, I imagine) was WTF?
And you might remember that I grew up in Louisiana, and that my high school was right next to a chemical plant. So I know from ridiculous city planning.
But a middle school next to a fertilizer plant?
In Loomis's post, there's a link to a father who captures the explosion on camera. His little girl is with him at the time, so it's fairly horrific -- they're not nearly far enough away, and they get slammed by the blast, and she's terrified -- so be warned if you watch it. She's fine, by the way, not hurt at all; her hearing came back a short time later.
He's that tool from Tennessee, the state representative who came up with the charming idea of tying benefits to poor families to how well their kids did in school.
The one who actually thinks this Dickensian notion might propel him to the White House?
Not whether the kids attended school, mind you. Whether the kids got As or Bs or Cs. Your family's level of aid could drop as much as 30% if your kid's math or reading scores were not on grade level, Campfield proposed, though he later amended this to say that the parents could get a waiver to this if they took a "free" parenting class.
I am putting the scare quotes around free because Campfield does not understand, obviously, the life of the working poor. Free means one thing to Stacey Campfield, who has aides and someone to ferry him about in his SUV. It means something else entirely to someone who is working two minimum wage jobs, both 30 hours a week, and who depends on the bus to get her there, and who has two kids at home she has to arrange childcare for.
And now a "free" class she has to attend twice a week or lose 30% of the "free" aid she needs to support those kids.
Well, today Campbell's bill got shot down (even his fellow Republicans ran from it) and worse, he had to actually talk to one of the small poor children he had been dissing so gleefully in the media and on his blog -- one of those moochers and takers he kept spitting on.
I do remember when workers in America would fight back. And over at LG&M,Erik Loomis has a long-running labor history series documenting our history of fighting back. What's changed? Why have we spent the last 30 years just letting ourselves be kicked around and robbed blind and told we have it coming?
Look, I'm all for not speaking ill of the dead. But I've watched over the past decade as the Right-Wing here in AMURICA FUCK YEAH has revised the historical Reagan from what he actually was and what he actually did -- which was fuck our country and our economy and, frankly, the Western World, as far as he was able; which was leave a legacy which is still making 99% of American citizens poorer each year and his buddies at the top more and more and more wealthy each year; which is still destroying the health of most of the citizens in this country and the environment of the entire world -- I've watched the American Right, in one decade, erase what everyone knew about Reagan.
Now, if you ask most people in America, especially the younger people, they tend to believe that Reagan was a great president, a great man, an American hero.
Right up front here, I'ma say I'm for Marriage Equality: if anyone is going to get married in America, everyone should be able to get married in America.
That being said, I miss the days when the debate wasn't over who but if.
Y'all remember (well, surely some of you must remember) those days? When we were arguing for the abolition of marriage as an outmoded discourse? (Which it is.)
It's not that I don't think those who are queer or QUILTBAG ought to be able to share in wedded bliss; I'm arguing that no one ought to want to put on the yoke of marriage: because it's a yoke.
I say this as someone who is married, and who has been relatively happy in her marriage. I love Dr. Skull, and I love my child. I married him because he would not agree to having a child unless I did. Dr. Skull is a traditional boy in some ways.
But I can't think what marriage has done for us, really -- well, it's given me a stick to beat my conservative students with. It's been a kind of a club I can thump them over the head with. Ha ha ha, I can say when they want to think I'm inferior: see, I'm MARRIED, so I'm not the loser you thought I was. (Because feminists are losers, in their minds, you understand, but married women are winners. It's a weird calculus they operate.)
But other than that? Marriage has not kept us in the relationship. Marriage has not made us better people, or better parents. Marriage has not made us love each other differently, or better. Everything we've done in the relationship, we've done ourselves -- the marriage didn't do it. Whatever "marriage" is.
And here's what marriage does do -- it allows people to separate women into winners and losers. Well, people into winners and losers; but mostly women. If women aren't married by a certain age, or if women get divorced, they're losers. (I don't know if this is true everywhere, but it is certainly true in the South.) This causes women to be so desperate to hook up that they will marry the most appalling men just to keep from being losers.
And it turns people into magical thinkers: as if getting married will make people (somehow) happy, (somehow) better parents, (somehow) better able to run their lives, (somehow) better able to make a living.
None of these is true, of course. A marriage ceremony just makes you the same two people, only with a marriage ceremony behind you: The same two people, only now with more legal complications.
I want to argue for not marrying.
(1) Until everyone can marry, until we do have marriage equality, why support a corrupt institution?
(2) Plus, marriage is, in fact, traditionally an arm of the patriarchy. That is, traditionally it was and to some extent still is a way for men to exchange control of women. (Which, really, is why Dr. Skull insisted that I marry him before he would consent to having a kid with me: he knew it was the only way he would have any legal right -- any control -- of our child.)
(3) It was and to a real extent still is a way for a capitalist state to control both men and women. If your sexuality is locked into a dyad, you don't wander around doing what you like; also you can't leave. This stable situation makes for much better workers.
(4) Traditional marriage reinforces the idea that women are a sex class -- that we belong to men, that we are second class citizens, that our lives are secondary to male lives, that everything about us comes second. We can see this in everything traditional marriage does, from the fact that women are supposed to take the man's name, to the way that marriage is constructed (women are given to the man), to the fury that erupts when women want control of their own fertility, even inside their marriage.
(5) Traditional marriage precludes the ability to experiment with other forms of relationships. We hear, endlessly, from the Conservatives that the best way to raise a child is with the two-parent, M/F, married family. They claim that this is the way children have "always" been raised. Which, frankly, is crap, as those of us who have taken an anthropology class in the last ever know. (Read Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's Mothers and Others for a more realistic and frankly fascinating explanation of how human families work, and what influence they had on human evolution.) If we stop locking ourselves into this Calvinistic prison of marriage, what might we be able to create?
This is not to say that those who want those dyads can't have them. Whatever, and go in peace.
But it is clearly also true that for most of human history very few humans have lived in dyads -- and that, clearly, it's an abnormal way to live. The big, messy, extended swamp of humans, living a sprawly group: that's the way most of us have lived throughout history.
My point -- and I do have one -- here in America more than half of these dyad-alt.sex-marriages which we claim are the only "real" marriages fail; something like half of all parents are not married at all; and plenty of people are, in fact, same-sex or other-sexed.
You have a choice when your reality and your theory don't match, as I tell my students: you can put your fingers in your ears and say LA LA LA really loudly.
I'm seeing almost nothing in our media about it, even when I search (the NYTimes, so far as I can tell, has not one word), but Otto Pohl is blogging about the on-going strike of the university faculty in Ghana.
And more details here, as well as elsewhere at his blog.
What strikes (heh, see what I did there) me upon reading this is how unlikely this behavior is for American faculty. I mean, we're being fucked non-stop here in America -- at my university, for instance, we've lost six full-time lines in the ten years I've been on staff here, all of them replaced with part-time workers (that is, we've lost six living wage jobs, which the administration has replaced with markedly less competent, less skilled adjunct labor, whom they pay criminally low wages (less than two thousand dollars, $1950, for a semester's work). Each time we lose a full-time faculty, this is what happens.
Further, we have not had a significant pay raise since 2005. Meanwhile, COL has skyrocketed, as have our medical costs.
We know why we're not getting pay raises; we know why full-time faculty are not being replaced -- the lack of support from our state legislatures is the direct cause. (Legislatures used to fund 80% of the costs of universities, and now they support something like only 25%.) We know if we could compel legislators to give tax dollars to us (rather than spending that money on prisons or frivolous nonsense like passing stupid laws which they will have to defend uselessly and expensively in federal court), we would have better and stronger universities.
And not only do we not strike, here in America, it doesn't ever occur to us to strike.
Further, although we have a union (sort of), the AAUP, (1) most of us don't belong to it and (B) it has almost no power.
This is (mostly) not for religious reasons, although we did have some trouble with fundamentalist Christians relentlessly proselytizing my little Jewish five-year-old in kindergarten, trying to save her young soul from the pits of everlasting hell. That got wearing.
No, the main reasons we pulled her out of school were threefold (1) she was outgrowing Montessori school, and would have had to go to Junior High in public school, which, argh, Junior High and (2) Public School combined with No Child Left Behind has led to an unpleasant focus on standardized testing, from what I understand and MOSTLY (3) my kid has not been raised, as most local kids have, with an unquestioning obedience to authority.
To wit, we raised her to argue when she thinks something or someone is wrong. (Two Jews, three opinions, as the saying goes.) This never sat well with her teachers, even at the Montessori school, and the other she got, the less well they took it. I began encouraging her to let some things go. "Can't you just know they're wrong and keep it to yourself?" I would plead, tired of being called into school every fucking day.
"Ma!" she would exclaim passionately. "Then they would be teaching the other kids lies!"
And really, it was hard for me to argue with her. These were mostly things like a refusal on the teachers' part to acknowledge that Columbus had mistreated the Tainos, or to teach that natural selection actually functioned, or that the metric system was more sensible than our system, or that gay does (in fact) mean homosexual -- all stuff that the kid knew to be so; and probably things the teachers knew to be so, too, I have to believe, but which they were refusing to admit for various reasons.
Well, eventually, the psychic toll was too much for me, and too much for me to watch her going through, and we pulled her out. Homeschooling has been better. She studies on her own a lot, and on the net a lot; I do Latin and writing with her, and we have a tutor for math and art. She gets plenty of sleep, and spends hours -- literally hours -- each day working on drawing. That last would not be possible if she were attending a traditional school. Nor would she be getting the nine to ten hours of sleep she gets each day. I remember when I was her age -- I slept, probably 4 or 5 hours a night, and was miserable because of it.
The one part I could do without is what we did today: homeschooled kids in Arkansas do standardized testing too. It's not as bad as what the schools do, since it's only a half-day of testing, and only covers math and reading. But it means getting up early, going down to the Baptist church, and it means I have to hang out in a room filled with home-schooling parents while the kid does her testing.
It's that part I could do without.
Because my shit are these people special.
I mean I'm sure some of them are perfectly nice, perfectly decent people. Those would be the ones who are reading their iPads (like I was) or their books, being quiet, keeping to themselves.
But about 1/5 of them talk, loudly, to one another, about everything that is Wrong With Amuricah!
Here is what is Wrong With Amuricah! (In case you did not know):
(1) People keep buyin those iPads! And those Phones! You know a phone used to be something you called people on? Now you read books on it! And play music! And watch movies! And do chattin? Everybody always lookin at their phone instead of looking around! Always buying the newest phone, newest iPad or whatnot. Read your Bible! Read your Bible! Jesus has something to say about that.
(2) Little kids need to be out bein kids, runnin around, not sittin in classrooms. Why, 99% of those kids, the teachers force you -- FORCE you! -- to put them on drugs, cause they're too lazy to do their jobs, too lazy to teach, ruther turn'm into robots! Stead of letting them be kids, let'm run around, find a way to use their energy. Just put'm on drugs instead. And if they are ADD or whatever, really ADD, I mean, and not lazy teachers saying they's ADD, why, they's nature's way to handle that, with no Coca-cola, no sugar, natural foods and sunshine, you don't need to be drugging kids into robots!
(3) What we really need is guns. Give ever teacher a gun. Give'm two! Arm those teachers, you won't have anyone shooting up schools. Well, you might, cause you's always gonna have crazy people, but then the teachers could shoot back at least. Put guns in schools, it's not rocket science!
(4) Aliens! Aliens ain't ever gonna invade America and here's why, I'll tell you why. We can't get along with each other now. How's we gonna get along with a bunch of aliens? Naw! Never happen!
(5) Naw, I don't teach my kids all that history. Or biology. Well, I teach'm some. But who needs to know all that? Who's gonna use it? Maybe a bunch of college professors, but other than that?
(6) They don't even teach cursive in the schools anymore. Do you believe that? My kindergarteners are learning cursive! But my neighbor's girl, she comes home from third grade, she's still printing. Naw, they ain't teaching her to write cursive! Just printing!
(7) None of these kids can read maps. Don't even own maps. Don't you have a map? I asked her. Oh, I just look it up on my phone, she says. Now what sense does that make?
(8) Opposites attract, everyone says, but that's just not true. What about magnets? Huh? What about magnets?
(9) That's why they call'm Mooo-slims, you know. Cause they're stupid as cows. I mean, look at that guy, that Mooo-slim's prophet, their leader? Nothing he said made any sense. It's just not logical. He said he was the last prophet! And then he said he was the only prophet! Well, if he's the last prophet, then there must've been other prophets! Right? Right?
(10) Then there's that big fat Buddha. Bringing your big fat Buddha here, demanding we worship him. Saying we gotta worship your bid fat ugly Buddha, and taking our God outta the schools at the same time, making it against the law to have our God in the schools, but forcing our kids to worship your fat Buddha in the classroom? How's that make sense? I say if you come to our country, you learn our language, and you practice our religion. That just makes sense. **** ***** ******
This is when I want to start laughing incredulously, because good shit, how can anyone, no matter how low information and no matter how deranged, actually believe any of that?
I have to believe -- on some level -- that like the kid's teachers and the bit about the metric system and Columbus -- they don't actually believe it: that they are only pretending to for politic or spiritual reasons of their own.
But Holy Cow is it depressing to listen to.
And it's equally depressing to know that when I say I'm home-schooling my kid, this is what people think I am.
So I finally got around to watching the final two episodes of this season's Justified, which I am just going to assume all y'all love as much as I do.
And though it was an excellent season finale, it was a rough episode, with Raylan Givens losing his sweetie, Winona, who returned home to her mama; and Boyd Crowder losing the love of his live, Ava, to prison.
I bemoaned all this to the Kid, and she brightened. "But Ma! That leaves the show wide open for Raylan and Boyd to finally get together!"
I wish someone would explain to me why the Right-Wing has such an emphasis on how angry everyone is.
I swear lately when I talk (or try to talk) to anyone who is Conservative I can't say three things before they start scolding me about how angry I am.
"Why are you so angry?"
"Why is everyone on the left so angry all the time?"
"You're such an angry young lady!"*
(1) As if the anger were the problem, and not the injustice
(2) As if I were too stupid to spot that this tactic is just another variation of objectification: You're-so-cute-when-you're-mad!
(3) As if there has not been, in fact, a long history of those in power denying those they seek to control the right to express -- even to feel -- their legitimate emotions. By which I mean: you are fucking well right I am angry. I have legitimate reasons to be angry. And I will express that anger through my language and through my political activism until you fuck-knobs change your shit-sucking attitudes and start treating me like a human being, and not like some object -- some fetus-containment unit, as one charming little Right-Wing bit described women to me recently -- when you recognize me and the laws of this country recognize me and my child and every other human being in this country as equal citizens? THEN I might calm the fuck down.
Meanwhile you can fuck right off with your oh that's not a nice way to talk, dr. delagar.
I got your civility, right here.
*Also, I haven't been a young lady for quite some time. I am just saying. So calling me this? It's just another attempt to put me in my place.