Women’s Work

Something came up recently that I don’t really want to talk about, but I’m mentioning obliquely here because it’s on my mind and troubling me.

I was reminded of it again this morning when I read this story about a Christian music star who is coming out as gay. The letter he wrote about it is extraordinary–not only because of his honesty about himself and the ways in which he really, really didn’t want to be gay and thought he could just act straight long enough that it would eventually come to him, but because of his honesty about what it did to his wife.

I was also reading recently that it’s very hard for women to get doctors to treat our pain, specifically if it’s related to our reproductive systems, because there’s still this cultural expectation that being a woman is being in pain.

It’s hard to read the story about the Christian music star and not get the sense that his wife is in a very painful spot and that, really, the music star seems to be the only one who is publicly acknowledging that their society has put her in this painful spot–that she’s just expected to mop up after the damage it does to insist gay men marry straight women.

There’s a lot of emotional work that women do that’s mostly invisible. Men get used to this emotional work just happening, I’ve discovered. Most of the most mind-bogglingly strange things that have happened to me in my life have happened because some man needed some emotional work done and didn’t have any idea how to do it himself so he just assumed he could dump it on me and walk away. (And I love processing things with people! So this isn’t “Help me talk this through so it makes sense to me” type stuff. This is something different.)

I don’t know. It’s just troubling. If you hold in your mind the idea that women are always upset, always complaining, then it seems to me it’s easier for you to say to yourself “Well, then, she can just be upset about this, too, so I don’t have to deal with it.”

But you can’t be a whole person if you don’t ever have to deal with your own shit.


The other day on Twitter we were joking around about the latest mini episode of Tanis where Nic’s friend, Geoff, asks him too many pointed questions about who he might be sleeping with. One dude was like “I think Geoff has a little crush on Nic” and I said something like “Hey, you can’t expect a guy to see twenty women eating a cake and not be curious what the cake tastes like!”

And I’ve been thinking about that since then. I was trying to be funny, but I wonder if there’s something to it. We tend to talk about prohibitions on promiscuity being about some kind of evolutionary need to know that the kids we’re raising are ours. And there’s also some talk about fear of women’s agency and pleasure.

All of those thing sound nice in theory, but I guess I think there are kind of fundamental emotions, like raw, primitive emotions, and then more sophisticated emotions.

No thirteen year old boy who calls a girl a slut is worried that her kids aren’t going to be his kids or that she’s got too much agency and pleasure. I think those responses are too sophisticated for him at that point.

So, what’s the core feeling promiscuity engenders in us? And I think it’s anxiety that, if the person we’re with has a lot of experience, they have a lot of experience by which to judge us: i.e. they will know we suck, whereas, if we’re the only person they have sex with, however bad we are will just have to do.

But I also think there’s a mixture of curiosity and shame at that curiosity. If a lot of people want to sleep with your friend, aren’t you curious about what it’s like to sleep with him? But, with strong taboos still on homosexual experiences, how can you satisfy that curiosity?

Best to not have it raised in the first place.

Young Men

When you point out that most community-devastating violence is perpetrated by young men, it’s mostly ignored. We want to talk about what a “dangerous” religion Islam is or how violent white supremacists are or how devastating street gangs are or how nutty the loner who complains about not being able to get a hot girlfriend on the internet is.

But here we are, with another fundamentally inexplicable tragedy.

And I’m just going to say it. We, as a world, don’t know what to do with or for young men. We live in a series of pyramid schemes. Either it’s straight up capitalism where many of the resources end up in the hands of very few which leaves very few resources for most of the rest of us. Or religious structures where power ends up in the hands of a very few and so on. Or political structures or whatever. Etc. Etc.

But it’s a pyramid scheme. You have more people in the structure than can ever get all the benefits of that structure. But, in order to keep people participating, you have to make it seem like everyone in the in-group can get those benefits, if they follow the rules and do what they’re asked.

There are always young men. Every year we keep making more. All our various pyramid schemes can’t fit them all in. Our pyramid schemes have made promises to them the schemes can never fulfill.

The pyramid schemes need violent young men.

That’s the terrible, terrible truth. The truth I can’t bear but is what it is. This state of things is what the world wants and has arranged itself to need.

The schemes need violent young men to drive people to invest in them because they claim to provide order and security and meaning in this chaotic world. The schemes need violent young men to punish the people who don’t invest in the schemes. And the schemes need violent young men because the schemes need a way to get young men out of the way. The schemes need young men dead or in prison or locked in battle. Out of the way.

Because, if young men stick around and refuse to violently impose the schemes, if they, in fact, refuse to participate in the schemes, the pyramids can’t stand. And then all the old powerful farts lose their power.

And we can’t have that.

Today in Rape Culture

This is what I mean when I say that we can’t fix rape culture because we are utterly unprepared to deal with the ways we take control of young men’s bodies and make them prove their manhood through getting into positions where fewer people dominate them than they dominate. Literally the language of being a winner is the language of being a rapist and visa versa.

Who Does to and Who is Done to

This week I read about two different instances where football teams were shut down due to sexual assault–on younger players. As a part of hazing.

This, I think, is the hardest thing to fight about rape culture. I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again. We live in a culture where power is sustained through doing things to others they do not want done to them. The football coach tells you to run up the hill and you don’t want to, but you do because he said so. He has power over you. But you don’t have to be powerless. You can stick a broom up a 14 year old’s butt, even though he doesn’t want you to. You have some power.

I don’t know how we undo a culture like this by only insisting men stop raping women. They are only doing to us what’s been done to them.

It’s depressing.


I would have loved writing papers in college so much more if I’d been able to say back then things like “He eventually realized he’d shit the bed on his historical legacy and it wasn’t going to come clean.”

If you’ve ever seen a young Southern white guy who loves Forrest talking about him, you’ve probably come as close as you’re going to come to seeing the equivalent of the Beauty & the Beast dynamic in a straight guy. “Oh, Nathan, he’s not so bad. I understand him, even if no one else does. Only I can soothe his tortured soul. If I hang out and talk about Nate a lot, my other friends get weirded out, but I love him and I just wish they could see in him what I do. Hell, I only wish Nate-eee-poo could see in himself what I see there.” They can redeem the monster, through true love and books.

Anyway, here.

This Danny Brown Thing

I made the mistake of reading the comments on a couple of stories about Danny Brown’s sexual assault. And I’m really troubled. In fact, if you’re ever sitting around wondering “How easy do female rapists have it?” I invite you to peruse the comments on a story about what happened to Danny Brown. What happened was basically his fault because of how he was dressed or because he was flirting with the women in the front rows or because of his persona. Or it wasn’t really rape because how can a woman rape a man? Or why would a man not love it? Or, even if it was rape and wasn’t his fault, he’s a pussy for being all weird about it.

Here’s what it made me think–rapes by women where men are the victims are probably way under-reported. If this is the cultural message–that it basically can’t happen and, if it does, how can you even want to complain about it–female sexual predators have a lot of cover.

I know we talked before about how our society teaches men that having control of your body is a matter of social status and that low status men both don’t have a lot of control over what happens to their bodies and are taught that the way to rise in status is by asserting control over other bodies and how this feeds into rape culture because it reinforces for rapists that society approves of dominating someone in order to gain status, so it’s cool if your dominance of choice is rape.

But I’m starting to think, too, that a lot of weird, unacceptable shit must happen to men all the time and they just never talk about it, so that when something, like this sexual assault, happen out in front of everyone, the response isn’t “What the fuck? I’ve never heard of such a thing,” but “Well, it’s his own fault.”

I know this goes without saying but it’s not his fault. Like all sexual assaults, his attacker decided to attack him and, like many, many sexual assaults, she decided to attack him under circumstances where he was vulnerable and easy to get to and under circumstances where she thought people would be unlikely to call it sexual assault because they’d want to spread some blame to the victim. Or all the blame.

Judging by the comments… hell, judging by the fat that this was a story on NPR called “Was Rapper Danny Brown Sexually Assaulted?” as if National Public Radio should weigh in on whether a sex act a dude didn’t consent to really counts as sexual assault… we have a really hard time accepting the idea that there’s never some kind of extenuating circumstances that might make it okay to rape someone.

I find that distressing.


I love the word “cross.” Not the object, but the feeling. As in, “I’m feeling cross today.” Feeling cross implies that your brows are knit and that you, while not looking for a fight, will happily get in one if one should cross my… I mean your path.

I’m feeling cross today, mostly because I have a doctor’s appointment on Thursday and managed to lose my insurance card but BCBS’s website is down, so I can’t print out something to take with me. Even though I will be able to do so long before Thursday. It just set a tone for the day. Because it took twenty minutes to navigate the website and then the phone tree to finally get to someone who could help me. Ugh.

Also, I feel like I write the same story over and over again.

Which ugh.

Also, this morning I read some bullshit about how women just naturally love their children more than men do and it irks me. Not just because “naturally” is such a bullshit word, but because there are two things hidden in it.

One is the idea that if a man doesn’t show his love for his children exactly how a woman would, she then feels free to diagnose him as not having the same strong feelings for their children. No, actually, all we can tell is not that you love the kids more, but that you have this weird expectation that love and concern must look just like what you do in order to count.

The other is this idea that there’s always been mothers and children in one pile and men out in the world in a separate pile and men were just never a part of the household the same way women were, so there’s something more tragic–if necessary–about women’s lives changing so that we have to work outside the home and can’t be with our kids. But having the majority of men working outside the home is less than 150 years old. And even when men had careers that kept them away from home for long periods of time–like say fishing or whaling–they often brought a kid or two in order to teach them the trade.

I mean, my god, what the fuck do people think this ongoing nostalgia for rural life is rooted in? It’s not that the country is that great in reality–we all do drugs and get pregnant and cheat welfare and beat our kids and carry on like life is short, brutal, and stupid. But farming used to involve the whole family. Fathers spent a tremendous amount of time with their children because they all worked together to have enough to eat and to sell.

I mean, hell yes, being a mom is important. But it’s weird how often it gets framed as a matter of men just naturally not really being that into being parents.

Dick Measuring

You know that moment when you’re in a meeting or at some kind of public function where the dudes all get sucked into a dick measuring contest? You know what I mean? Some middle or lower status guy will say something kind of insightful and interesting–“I think we should all move into the shade, where it will be cooler.”–and for some reason that triggers not a compliance with his action, but a huge hullabaloo where all the guys who are higher in status than him or want to be higher in status than him have to go on for twenty minutes about how either it’s stupid to move into the shade and here are the eighteen reasons why, which suggester would have known if he’d only been as awesome as dude now speaking, or how they had the idea to move into the shade five hours ago, when, in fact, the shade was over here, because they’re just that cool. Everyone measures their dicks, rearranges social status based on dick size, and eventually they either move into the shade or the meeting mercifully ends.

If you don’t have a dick to wave, this aspect of male socialization is either hilarious or frustrating, depending on how much of the meeting time it’s eating into or how much you wish you’d brought a huge, but otherwise lifelike dildo to slam on the table in order to be permitted to talk and to get your idea in the mix.

My whole life, up until yesterday, I have always been one of the people without a metaphorical dick to swing.

But I woke up, bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night, after pondering how even my post on Timothy Demonbreun could have descended into “you’re not doing it right” in the comments (which, yes, I am failing to not read), realizing that posting at Pith is invoking a dick measuring dynamic for some folks. Since I’m not shutting up and deferring to their superior knowledge (which would be impossible, since I’m the poster. I literally couldn’t bring that dynamic into play unless I didn’t post but somehow made it apparent that I wasn’t posting because what they had to say was more important.), I’m not signaling “proper female.” And so I provoke the dick measuring.

The thing is that I always tend to tune out the dick measuring in real life, since I can’t participate in it. So, I don’t know if I won. I think I did. I mean, when someone is reduced to “what you’re saying is right, it’s just that I don’t like your tone” that’s winning, right?

Do I burp loudly now or what? Is there a prize?

Yes, I know, the true prize would be the piece of mind that comes from not reading the comments. I am trying to break myself.

You Should Absolutely Not Have John Ragan over to Dinner

I read this post today and by the end of it, my all-consuming thought was that no, Johnson should NOT be inviting Representative Ragan over to dinner because, clearly, there is not much keeping Ragan from being a danger to himself or others. Holy shit. Look at this part of the letter he wrote her:

Given that you identified yourself as a college student in political science preparing for law school, I am sure your instructors have emphasized that logic, as a decision methodology, is a far superior all others. Therefore, let’s examine some issues you raised with logic. Additionally, please attempt not to “read anything into my remarks or questions” as being my positions or thoughts beyond that which I explicitly identify as such.

Logically, homosexuality is defined by behavior, i.e., unless one engages in sexual activity with a member of the same sex, he, or she, is not a homosexual. (The term sexual orientation is a description of feelings.) Feelings do not control the behavior of a mentally healthy adult human being.

By way of emphasis, let’s examine a few questions: If a person “feels” so angry with another that he or she “feels” like killing the object of their anger, is that person “controlled” by that “feeling?” Alternatively, can the possessor of that “feeling” choose not to act on it? If that person fails to act on that “feeling,” is he or she still referred to as a “murder?”

Can a person feel so much lust toward another that he “feels” like committing rape? If such is a possibility, is that person “controlled” by that “feeling” or can he choose not to engage in that action? If that person fails to act on that “feeling,” is he still referred to as a “rapist?”

Can a slender person “feel” like overeating, but choose not to do so? Is that person still called “fatty?” Can someone “feel” like not going to work, but get up and go anyway? Is that person still called “lazy?” Can a nun “feel” like engaging in sexual relations, but choose to remain celibate? Is she called a “whore?” Can someone “feel” like committing adultery, but choose not to do so? Is that person still called an “adulterer?”

Can a parent feel so upset with the misbehavior of a child, that he or she “feels” like “beating” that child? Alternately, can a distraught parent choose to merely “discipline” a child with a lecture, a “time-out” or a “grounding” (dependent upon age) to reinforce a prohibition against poor, or dangerous, behavior.

The list of questions about “feelings” that do not control people could go on and on. However, the point is sufficiently made. Mentally healthy adult human beings are not “controlled” by their “feelings.”

Let me just say that I can see why he’d add the “Additionally, please attempt not to ‘read anything into my remarks or questions’ as being my positions or thoughts beyond that which I explicitly identify as such,” because dude has issues.

And let me also just say that this is one way in which I feel really bad for men. Most men don’t rape women or children. They don’t beat their loved ones or seriously entertain the idea of killing people. But the men who do seriously entertain these ideas–who sit around asking things like “but what if she was really drunk, then would it be okay?” or “but what if he said something that made me really mad, then could I hit him?”–as if identifying some circumstances in which any man might be backed into doing what the serious entertainers want too do all the time reaffirms for the serious entertainer of these vile ideas that they have wide-reaching community support, even when they don’t.

You see what I’m saying? With rape, this is really obvious how this dynamic works. A guy whose m.o. is to get women too drunk to fight him off and isolated so that he can do what he wants to those women without being stopped hears discussions about guys who are concerned about times when both people are really drunk and maybe the guy didn’t get an explicit yes, but she seemed into it, as being not about miscommunications between sex partners and a true hope that one’s partner is having a good time, but about reaffirming that all men will have sex with women without caring if the women want to have sex.

But you also see it in discussions about spanking (though theses become fraught enough quickly enough that you see it less than you used to), where people who are having a discussion about a swift swat to a kid’s backside made from a place of fear and panic are joined by someone who believes in blanket-training small infants or hitting children with plumbing equipment. To the people who physically punish their kids every day, talk of the time you just lost control and spanked your kid who tried to, say, kick you in the head in Kroger, it just sounds like they are doing what’s normal because you’re doing it sort of, too.

But I read Ragan’s letter and I think, you know, even if a nun were having sex with sixty guys, I wouldn’t call her a whore. I wouldn’t think to call her a whore. For me, there’s no hypothetical situation I’d recount where I’d call a nun a whore, even in the furtherance of “logic!”

It would also never occur to me that any man might look at a woman with lust and decide to rape her, because most men I know, even if they felt lust toward someone, would not enjoy having sex with someone who didn’t want to have sex with them. The fear and hatred, possibly sobbing, would be a turn-off.

Likewise with murder. Yes, I have, as everyone has, joked about wanting to kill so-and-so. But even feeling enraged at someone would never make me seriously consider killing someone. And, if it ever happened that I had to kill someone, I know I would find that momentously traumatic. I knew a woman once who was in a car accident, which was not her fault, and the other driver died. Not her fault. Couldn’t have done anything to prevent his death. And she still struggled tremendously from the guilt.

So, I have my sincere doubts about the kind of person who could even hypothetically envision that all that’s holding most people back from doing these things is that they don’t act on their feelings.

No, dude, honestly. Most people don’t have the urge to hurt other people.

It’s not to say that people don’t hurt other people. People are jackasses. But if you’re operating from a paradigm in which everyone is vile and depraved and it’s only “logic” or “reason” that prevents us from acting on it, I think you have both those things wrong. And I am a little afraid of you.

I’m also struck by again the lesbian loophole. Everything that he says is wrong with being gay is wrong with being a gay man. It’s as if lesbians don’t exist. But honestly, in all his descriptions, there are some really problematic things about female desire. I’m not sure he even realizes that it’s a thing.

Plus, since he doesn’t believe in homosexuality as a state of being, but only of acting–“Logically, homosexuality is defined by behavior, i.e., unless one engages in sexual activity with a member of the same sex, he, or she, is not a homosexual. “–it can’t be just gay men who have such high rates of AIDS and suicide and such. Following his own statement, there is no such thing as sexual orientation, just sexual action. So, Ragan’s defining certain behaviors and traits as more prevalent among “gay” men fails under his own logical framework, in which there are no such thing as inherently gay men. So, those behaviors and traits can’t be limited to the “imaginary” group of “gay” men, but must be assumed to be traits all men have.  But I notice Ragan isn’t volunteering to quit life and go down and sit at the police station where he can be constantly monitored just in case he ever loses control.

So, while he argues for a world view in which we are all just monsters tightly-reigned in, he seems pretty confident in his reigning-in abilities. I find that perplexing.

Honestly, this is one reason I wish my dad weren’t so homophobic. Because I’d like to have a better idea of how Middle America white guys born in the 40s were socialized. Was the pressure to get married so enormous for so much of your life that you literally never had to confront or consider whether you were sexually attracted to women, because, even if you weren’t, it didn’t change the trajectory of your life (unless it just completely obliterated your whole life)? So, if you couldn’t imagine moving away and losing all contact with and support from your family, you couldn’t imagine a deliberately non-married life?

I mean, I’m trying to understand what it means when someone argues that just feeling like you’re gay doesn’t mean anything unless you act on it.

Does it mean that, within their own understanding of their sexuality, they do what they were told to do, whether it’s what they want or not? I mean, I don’t think that everyone who has these ideas is secretly gay.

But I do wonder if they’re all married to the people they want to be married to, frankly.

I’m going on way too long–I’m drinking a lot of Diet Dr Pepper because it makes my throat feel better and it’s got me a little wired–but, when I look at Ragan’s letter, I do see a guy for whom gay marriage is a threat.

Because getting gay married means, at core, choosing to marry the person who you want to marry, even if the state refuses to recognize it, even if it breaks your families’ hearts.

It means putting your feelings ahead of logic and reason.

And I imagine, for a lot of people who set aside their feelings to do the “right” thing, the discomfort and jealousy from seeing people who took another way can feel like a threat.

It’s one thing to do the “right” thing, even at great sacrifice, if it’s recognized by society as being good. But when you are in the middle of your difficult, “right” thing that has caused you to make great sacrifices and society turns away from your performance and goes to celebrate with the folks who are throwing their lot in with foolish feelings like “love,” that’s got to burn.

What I’m saying is that I respect that it feels like a loss to you.

But it is not even in the same ballpark of loss as what Phillip Parker’s family, for instance, is going through this week.

You should have been able to marry who you wanted, or not marry at all. You deserved real, open love with a person who saw you as a partner, not a bully or a burden. You deserved to not have to contort yourself into someone who thinks his own gender makes him vile in order to fit your community.

And I am genuinely sorry that your own writing seems to show that you did not get that.

But not sorry enough to let you carry on without noting how fucked up it is.

Why I Think all these “Concerns” about Christie’s Health are in fact Just Bigotry

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Chris Christie is fat and this should disqualify him from being president at least until he’s thinner because everyone knows that being fat is unhealthy. Some people wonder if being fat is more of a disqualification than being depressed.

Here’s why I think it is just bullshit “I’m grossed out by your body” disguised as “But I really care about your health.”

Because being fat is not the most telling physical sign that your health is shitty. No, there is in fact a bodily indicator that predicts far better than a person’s weight whether that person will live to adulthood, die early, and suffer from poor health outcomes all along the way. This physical trait correlates to higher suicide rates, more violence, even higher accident rates.

And, it is even possible to mitigate some of the effects of this physical trait through medication or, in some cases, when necessary, surgery.

Medication and surgery to deal with this condition are common enough that, even if you don’t know someone who’s taken those steps, you know of someone who’s taken those steps, and heard rumors of others who have taken those steps.

And yet, no one looks at that physical trait and says that everyone who has it should be making efforts to mitigate it and that the success of their mitigation attempts should determine whether they’re qualified for public office.

People with this condition have worse health outcomes across the board than the rest of the population. And yet, if I were to argue that I wasn’t disgusted by this condition, I merely couldn’t help but notice the person’s body and the physical indicators of this condition, which are so closely correlated with such terrible health outcomes, and, out of concern for that person’s health, I am saying they must change, even if it means pills and surgery, there is not a single person reading this blog who wouldn’t say to themselves, “Wow, Betsy has some real deep issues with men.”

None of you would say “Oh, yeah, totally. We should start when they’re children.”

Because people aren’t grossed out by men’s bodies. So men can be as unhealthy as they want and no one starts talking about the correlation between being men and being unhealthy as something to be solved by trying to change what they look like. But fat people? Oh, that’s apparently a great excuse to let your disgust about a type of bodily appearance have free reign.

And everyone’s just supposed to accept that this prejudice against a type of appearance is different than every other prejudice rooted in a type of appearance, because this time, you have what “everybody knows” and “what science says” on your side. Unlike all those other times before.


This story could not be more bullshitty, at every level, from calling a transgender woman a “cross-dresser” to misrepresenting her gender and so on. But I’ve been thinking about this story since I read it this morning. Often, when transgender women who are working as prostitutes are killed, there’s a kind of “gay panic” defense–“I didn’t know ‘he’ was really a dude and when I find out I freaked out and shot ‘him.'” And it works, because the “gay panic” defense still works.

But I’ve been thinking instead about the “accidental rapist,” the guy who didn’t realize the woman he was raping felt he was raping her. As you’ll recall, they’ve now done a bunch of studies that show that the accidental rapists does indeed know that what he’s doing is rape, because he has a string of victims he uses the same m.o. on and will continue to use that same m.o. to get the type of sex he desires, which is sex in which the person he is with’s opinions about whether she wants to have sex don’t count, unless he’s stopped. The whole “I didn’t know” ploy is about making non-rapist men sympathetic and defensive of the rapist by making it seem like there are circumstances in which the non-rapist man could be mistakenly having non-consensual sex. It plays on men’s empathy.

I’m starting to think this “I had to shoot the cross-dressing prostitute” argument is actually more similar to the accidental rapist. It’s easy for men who don’t frequent prostitutes to imagine a scenario in which they might be “tricked” into picking up the “wrong” kind of woman. But let’s think about how likely this actually is. Transgender women working as prostitutes know that they are at an increased risk of violence from johns (to put it mildly), especially transgender women who’ve not fully physically transitioned. Are they regularly getting into cars or going to houses of johns or hotel rooms without everyone knowing what the situation is? Just from a safety perspective, it seems unlikely. Plus, men who buy sex, you know, buy sex. There’s a reason they’re said to “frequent” prostitutes. I’m sure there are occasionally miscommunications, but not as frequently as transgender prostitutes get assaulted or killed.

I think the truth of the matter is that a small population of men like to have sex with transgender prostitutes in part because they know they can do whatever they want to those women and most people will sympathize. Beat her up? Not pay? Do things to which she hasn’t consented? Shoot her? Kill her? They have the easy “She tricked me” defense. And, in the case of the dead women, who’s around to dispute?

So, while I think it’s important to keep saying that, even if these men were “tricked,” it doesn’t justify violence. I think it’s also time to take a step back and ask ourselves if any trickery has actually happened or if this is in fact the kind of sex these men like–sex with someone who society sees as having so little value that you can do whatever you want to and with her and get away with it–and societal reinforcement of the lack of value of these women, in fact, a part of the thrill.

I think the whole “I was tricked” thing is not about the truth, but about making non-assaulting/non-killers sympathetic to the criminal instead of his victim.

I’m Feeling a Little Cheated by the Bordeaux Library

It’s fine. Really. But I’m just not seeing this kind of behavior among my librarians. Um, I guess that link is probably not safe for work. Unless you work at a library, where apparently things are at a level of sexiness surpassed only by fire stations.

But this begs the question. Why are firefighters sexier than police officers?

If I had to rank public servants, I’d go 1. firefighters; 2. librarians; 3. EMTs; 4. teachers; 5. police officers. But firefighters and police officers are natural enemies, like cats and dogs or peanut butter and jelly. So, perhaps it behooves us to wonder, just momentarily, why firefighters are at the top of the heap.

Here’s my theory: It’s the giant pants. We learn to be positively predisposed to giant pants as children, putting on the pants of our parents, being handed down the giant pants of our older relatives. Giant pants say “there’s room for you.” And then, as we get older, we come to associate giant pants with clowns, which for anyone born in the post-Stephen-King era, means we associate giant pants with heightened emotions, usually terror, and the fun of having that terror relieved. And then you stick good looking people in those big pants? With the hint that maybe we will be able to see down those pants?

It’s just a cultural recipe for sexy.

Edited to add: I should give a shout-out to Rachel for pointing me in the direction of these sexy librarians. Thanks, Rachel.

Traditional Men Via Men Who Wouldn’t Fare Well

One thing that kind of still nags at me about Professional Busybody David Fowler is that his organization is all about “real” family values–basically male-lead married Christian households arranged out of a mixture of love and duty. Here’s what I don’t get. And I’m not trying to be snarky. I genuinely don’t get it. If I were a father and my daughter came home and said “Daddy, I think David Fowler’s going to ask me to marry him.” and I bought into this family values crap, I couldn’t give my blessing to that marriage. When Fowler came to ask me for my daughter’s hand, I’d have to tell him no.

Now, I admit, there may be some cultural differences which need to be accounted for, but hell, even in a fully realized Christian theocratic patriarchy, there’d be some cultural differences. But here’s the thing. If I were a Christian head-of-householder patriarch, my definitions of manly behavior–of behavior fitting of the person who I was handing my beloved daughter over to and saying, yes, submit to him–would not include gossiping or sneaking around, even in furtherance of causes I believed in. I would take someone sneaking around and sticking his nose into other people’s business as a sign of weakness. Depending on the kind of patriarch I might be, and let’s assume I’d be pretty hardcore, I’d see it as womanly.

A man who can’t face the people he disagrees with and who is constantly in his neighbors’ business would, to me, read at the least as someone who is not yet mature enough to have a wife. And maybe someone who’s not spending enough time in manly pursuits.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this, probably more than in healthy, but I don’t think I’m wrong. I think that most of the men who sit around and push for a “return” to a time when men were men would not actually fair that well. They wouldn’t read as “manly.” Maybe with Trace Adkins as the exception.

Otherwise, if you are indeed secure in yourself and what you need to be happy in the world, you make the arrangements you need to make with your loved ones and you get on with it. If you want to be the head of your household, you make sure any potential spouses know that and you find someone who’s like “Yeah, that’s what I want in a spouse, too.” If you want an egalitarian household where you switch who even gets called the husband every other week, find, search that out. Whatever. It’s all good.

I believe we are going through a real upheaval in what it means to be a man, and I don’t envy men who find their ideas about what being a man means challenged not only from all sides, but internally, from what they want for their sons.

But I don’t know if it’s just that I have really cool friends–I do, of course–or what, but I don’t really know anyone who’s like “You must do and be this certain way, B., for the sake of my manhood.” Not literally, not even metaphorically. Whatever upheavals they’re feeling, it doesn’t require me to pretend to be smaller or weaker or needier than I am for their benefit.

And, color me silly, but I find that really manly (heck, I find it a nice trait in everyone)–to be strong enough in yourself to let me be strong enough in mine.

I just don’t experience how David Fowler goes through the world as being very secure or as him being very strong. And I feel like I can’t be alone in noticing this, so I’m still baffled as to how he has so much power in this state. Can it really be the specter of He-Man Jesus which skulks behind David Fowler giving him an aura of masculinity he otherwise wouldn’t have?

But again, if Fowler got his way and everyone was a good Christian according to his definition, that threat would be gone. No one would think Fowler had some inside track on what Jesus wants, because everyone would be on the same track.

I don’t know. The whole thing is weird.

And I wonder if I just have kind of sexist notions of what manliness is that I’m unfairly projecting onto that asshat. But I don’t think so. I think that, if your whole public shtick is about returning Tennessee, if not the nation, to a time when men ruled, you’d better demonstrate traits that would make people think it was a good idea for men like you to be in charge.

And I’m just not seeing it. Even if I were a Christianist asshole, I’d find him off-putting (though for different reasons). He’s just a terrible advertisement for the way of life he’s advocating.

This is the Thought that Scares Me

Okay, we won’t speculate. Who knows what happened? But let’s just throw one more possibility out there. Not saying it’s what happened. Not saying that it’s not. It’s now pretty widely known that you don’t have to have concussions to suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, even mild, but repeated brain injuries can cause it.

So, here’s my question. Do you know who Chris Benoit was? Do you think most people, say most men or most Canadians, know who he was?

If you got the slightest inkling that something in your head could make you do that… You know what I’m saying? Who could blame you for making a preemptive strike?

Obviously, no one can know if that’s the case here, but I hope they check for CTE.

I have to say, as a sports fan, I hope it’s not the cause, because I tell you, it’s ruined wrestling for me. I can’t watch it. I feel like I’m watching men kill themselves in slow motion. And there was a camera angle on a football game the other day that made me worry it’s going to ruin football for me, too. Far enough above them, it still fools my brain into not quite seeing them as human. Too close in, though, and I feel like maybe I shouldn’t be supporting this with my attention.

How could you watch hockey knowing those men are risking their lives and the lives of their children for you?

You can see why I turn the channel past wrestling as quickly as possible.

Either a Front is Coming Through or My Head is Trying to Kill Me

Woke up with a headache. Not as bad as yesterday, but enough to get me down about the prospect of walking the dog. So, I went back to bed and got up only when the dog and I would normally be getting home.

I’ve had two scenes in my head for weeks–one is of a man racing up Front Street (now 1st Avenue) to show a box to Dr Macon. In that box is a heart and, for some reason, the sight of the heart causes Dr. Macon to grab his coat and rush off. No idea what, if anything, is going on there. Just letting it simmer.

The second one though, I worked on fleshing out a little last night. It’s about a guy named Frank who works for a doctor who has gone off the rails and conducts experiments on people. I’m not sure what kind. I wrote Frank up a backstory for the long scar he’s got running down his chest but I don’t think it’s quite right. I think Frank may be a zombie in the actual sense and the doctor may be like if Wade Davis had come back from Haiti with some wrong ideas. If that’s the case, then I’ll have to finesse the start of the story a little bit. But anyway, poor Frank, who doesn’t (perhaps can’t) talk much has a rich interior life for a guy trapped on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, his only job to keep the cute blonde also trapped on the ranch from leaving. That turns out to be easier than he could have imagined. Probably won’t end well for the doctor.

So, that’s fun. It’s kind of thematically similar to “The Witch’s Friend” so maybe I’ll save it for October, too. Maybe not. Who knows? The publishing world is crumbling. I may be left with standing near a bonfire in my back yard reading this stuff to the Butcher’s friends.

But it’s kind of fun to write from a man’s perspective. I have to admit, though, I kind of want every other scene to be him touching his penis or peeing or sticking his penis various places. Maybe actually having a penis isn’t that big a deal, but I have to tell you, it was all I could do to keep from calling up a couple of guy friends and being all “Okay, when guys say they feel ‘hard,’ that’s obviously a physical sensation. But is it also a metaphor? Is it just that your penis feels hard to you? How deep is the hard feeling? Like are you hard from taint to tip or from deep in your belly or what?”

But I did not. Because I chickened out a little bit. But I feel like I can get my head around what it’s like psychologically to be a dude. I still have no idea, none at all, what it must feel like to be a male body.

And I’m not sure it’s something, even if you told me, I could exactly imagine.

Which probably makes “Frank” objectively a shitty story, but man, I’m having fun writing it.

Same Thing, Different Words

Oh, here’s something I noticed while I was away that I wanted to run by y’all. So, say you are dating someone. Say that someone promises you s/he will show up for something you’re doing, but then at the last minute, decided s/he doesn’t want to do that and then gets angry that you don’t cancel your plans, because, if you really loved him or her, you should always choose to spend time with him or her rather than doing something that you enjoy, even if you were planning on doing the thing you enjoy with him or her.

Got it?

While I was away, I finally realized that, in genera, when you’re talking to women, the significant other in this situation might be called “controlling” or “abusive.” But, if you are talking to men, especially about a significant other who is a woman, if you want the man to hear what you’re saying without getting defensive (because he is “not a victim”), that behavior is “manipulative.”

You know women have to be just as jackassy as men, but I was missing the insight that “manipulative” was the female-gendered version of “controlling.” But now I wonder if this is part of the reason it can be hard for straight men to realize when they are in unhealthy relationships–the language used to describe them doesn’t include words straight men recognize as applying to them.

Anyway, I thought I had smarter things to say about this, but I don’t. Just that I was like “Oh!” when I figured it out.

This Should Be Interesting

Remember how there was all that brouhaha about how making the HPV vaccination mandatory for girls would turn girls into giant Slutty McSluttersons? Well, guess who’s getting oral cancer like we’ve returned to the halcyon days of everybody smoking?


I bet the “controversy” over vaccinating kids against HPV quickly and quietly goes away.

The Penis Problem

One thing I want to suss out in this whole “But what if our women have to use the bathroom with someone who  had a penis?!” hysteria (ha!) is that there are a couple of underlying assumptions we should really ask ourselves if we are okay with. One is pretty basic–do we want a small, secretive group of men meeting outside of the purview of the media and then attempting to enact their agenda on the city using the excuse “But what about the women?!”

I, for one, am not that excite about a secretive group of men plotting behind my back, without my input, and deciding for me and all the rest of the women in Nashville policy that directly affects the women of Nashville. Could the Southern Baptist leaders not appeal to even one of their wives to put their names on that piece of shit editorial to make it look like they had even one woman who was directly concerned about this, instead of continuing to give the impression that they, secretive group of religious men, had decided it would be a problem for women?

And then, what, exactly, is the nature of the problem we cis women would face?

And that leads me in to the second point I have. These religious leaders believe that anyone born with a penis is a man and that men, when given unmediated access to women, will be a danger to those women. Like I said, I often have used the same restrooms as men –cis men, transgender men–and women these leaders would like to classify as men. And I have never once felt in danger from the close proximity of those penises.

And I’m supposed to be the man-hating feminist!

Why do we have to act like it’s a given that anyone with a penis is a danger at all times to anyone who doesn’t have a penis? Why do we have to accept the cultural narrative that all men (meaning in this case “people born with penises”) are monsters? Especially when we all know many, many decent people born with penises?

Why do we continue to let men in power lie to us (they can lie to themselves all they want, I guess) about how vile men are and how the mere possession, therefore, of a penis would taint a woman so irrevocably that she would be a danger to other women?

I think it’s sad that they understand themselves and other bepenised people to be monsters, but I think it’s a tragedy if we just accept that as the truth, unquestioning.

Walking with Mrs. Wigglebottom

The other day we were yet again talking about the difference, broadly speaking, between the position straight men are in when they first meet a woman and the position women are in when they first meet a man. Most women, when we first meet a man, start a running tab of “Things he does or doesn’t do that might indicate whether he’s going to fuck me up and/or kill me.” Most women I know talk about how difficult it is, when that’s what’s going on in the back of your mind, to be at ease around a guy you’ve just met and not come off just a hair stand-off-ish.

My straight guy friends, needless to say, don’t meet new women and start thinking “What are the chances this woman will fuck me up and/or kill me?”

Anyway, one of the things that I love about my dog is that I feel like she changes the equation. I notice this a lot when we’re out walking in the morning, because it’s imperative for me to check the faces of the people in the passing cars to make sure that they see me and are going to get over.

And I would say that 80% of the men that pass us either make little acknowledgment of us or they wave because they see us every day. And of the 20% who seem to register “Oh, that’s a woman,” half of them smile nicely or look a little sheepish and that’s it. But on our walks, there’s always at least one jackass who slows way down, as if to sum up the situation.

Yesterday, there was a Jeep full and they all slowed down and stared and then, after the passed, they all war-whooped. Now, clearly, this isn’t about how hot I look at 6:30 in the morning. It’s about them needing to feel a little rush at being a jackass. Fine. But then I have to judge the chances of that escalating into something that’s going to go unpleasantly for me.

And the thing is, with these types of guys, if you seem too “please don’t fuck with me,” that encourages them and if you seem too “don’t even try to fuck with me” that encourages them–I should stop this sentence now just to point out that there is no right way for a woman to navigate these situations. You never know what’s going to come across as daring them more than dissuading. I don’t need guidance in how to better judge fuckers; those fuckers need to behave.–you need to strike the right note of “it’s not worth the effort to fuck with me.”

I believe it’s very hard for a woman alone to carry herself in such a way that strikes that note. But a woman with a pit bull?

We strike that note, I think.

I was thinking about that this morning, as Mrs. Wigglebottom and I were headed out, because I needed to clear the rattle the guys in the Jeep had put in me.

And today, for the first time in ages, we saw someone else on our walk–a woman, jogging, carrying a large, narrow, wooden club.

And I smiled when I saw her, because I recognized that club for what it was, a signal that it’s not worth it to fuck with her.

Two Reviews

1. Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross. I thought it was very well written, but I hated it. Sometimes things just strike me as implausible when I’m reading and I can’t get past it to enjoy the book. Like A Map of the World revolves around the conceit that a Midwestern woman with small children and a screen door that doesn’t latch properly wouldn’t automatically slip the hook lock the second she shut the door behind whoever was out it last. I have known Midwestern women my whole life, been in many, many houses with screen doors that only stay shut if you slip the hook into the eye, and I never have seen them not lock that door when there are children. And I have known some fucked up, dumbass women. If the book had had the child push through the screen or a dog rip through the screen or something so that the child could have gotten out, I would have bought the whole rest of the book. But that one moment just seemed so implausible that I never could buy the rest of the book.

And it’s that way with Mr. Peanut, the central conceit of which is that the main character has an obese wife who dies. And yet, I never bought, for a second, that Adam Ross has any actual experience with fat women. People, she’s 5’9″, built like a softball player, and Ross posits that, when she gets up to 288, that would be so fat that people would gawk at her. Not just the occasional person, but lots and lots of people would turn to stare at her.

He doesn’t establish that she’s become less active. They live in New York City and she’s constantly flitting about. So, 288 lbs on a stocky, athletic 5’9″ frame? I’m not saying she wouldn’t be fat, but she wouldn’t be as large as Ross thinks she’d be. And then, at the end, Ross has the husband imagining her weight stabilizing at 133. On soft-ball player athletic 5’9″ frame. And that this would be beautiful and not sickly looking.

I know it’s a minor thing, and I know it’s not like women go around announcing our weights, so I’m sure it can be very difficult for men to actually know what 288 lbs. would look like on a 5’9″ woman. So, he wants a way to signal that she was so fat, the kind of fat that everyone notices, and he pulled a number out of his butt. Fine.

But it made me feel that I had two choices in reading the book. Either this is a book for men about women and marriage, so I’m not the main audience, so my inability to overcome that detail isn’t a problem (though bleh, for that not being a problem), because it only needs to seem plausible to men, which, I imagine, it will, at least to a great many, or the book just has this one huge fundamental flaw, in that Ross is writing about something he apparently doesn’t know much about–women and our bodies–and it just gets in the way of me being able to enjoy the book.

Plus, at one point, he talks about the folds of a woman’s vagina, and I think he means vulva, which is weird. Are we just losing the linguistic fight to have “vagina” mean “the inside part” and “vulva” mean “the outside part.”

2. The bookshelves I’m staining. I suck at staining bookshelves. Also, as the finish dries, it’s like the wood is somehow becoming rougher. And it hurts my back, so I have to make myself stop every twenty minutes and stretch it out. Because I am old. Also, there are a fuck-ton of depressing country music songs out right now, but that’s all the radio in the garage gets.

I would just like to once again reiterate my offer. I will marry a handyman who will give me free labor in exchange for health insurance. Start by figuring out how I fucked up the bookshelves and fix it, please, dear.

Usually, It’s Not So Obvious

So, they’ve got this show on Discovery in which they have a set of hip scientists whose job it is is to build working prototypes of something in two weeks, called, appropriately enough, Prototype This. I’ve seen a few episodes and they do things like build robot ways of delivering pizzas or a waterslide that’s just a big circle or a six legged all-terrain vehicle.

Yesterday, I saw this episode where they built robots that would box each other.

And here’s how it went. These cute, sweet, male scientists had a task–built robots that would fight each other. So, they went to a gym to get “data” on how actual boxers box. And they met with a golden glove boxer who was a woman, who fought one of them and kicked his ass.  Not even in a beat-down way, just in the way that you’re going to kick someone’s ass when you have more talent and skill than they do at something.

And so the very sweet, charming, quirky male scientist told her that he would challenge her to a rematch and beat her when it was robots boxing.

Which he did.

Because the robots were hooked up to each of them, to monitor their moves, and her moves were so complex that she was overloading her computer with data that they hadn’t even begun to design their robots to replicate. Like their robots could accommodate punches and body turns, but it couldn’t accommodate a punch and a turn at the same time or something. In other words, it ended up being weighted in favor of the crappy boxer who had designed it, because it was too slow to really capture the speed and skill of the real boxer.

And yet, when he “won,” they treated it like a real victory, like it’s any surprise that the guy who designs something that he tests and that is programmed to respond to his movements is going to win over the girl he just straps into the machine and says, “Do what you always do”?

Like I said, I’d watched the show a few times, but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized I was watching a show that only featured men.

Return to the High John the Conqueror Root–High John’s True Identity

I have a new theory about what plant has the High John the Conqueror Root as its root.  I think i. jalapa is wrong, though even cat yronwode says it is and she knows her shit.  But in this case, I just don’t think she’s right.  I. jalapa works because it sure looks like a High John the Conqueror Root and i. jalapa has magical and medicinal properties and has spread all over the world for those properties.

But when we’re talking hoodoo and rootwork, we’re talking a magic practiced for most of its history by rural enslaved Black southerners.  Yes, there were extensive trading networks going on under the noses of the whites in the area.  But at some point we have to wield Occam’s razor and assume that the likely truth is that they High John wasn’t imported from Mexico but was a plant already here and possibly already in use by the people already here.

We know High John is used extensively in men’s magic and is said to resemble a man’s testicle.  It has to be big enough to hold up under being “dressed” and rubbed and carried in a pocket.  We know that there’s some ongoing confusion, even among knowledgeable hoodoo folks, about whether it’s i. jalapa.  But the important component to trying to identify it is, I believe, that it has to be a plant that grows and is common in the South.  If there’s such a strong belief that i. jalapa is the candidate, even though it doesn’t grow widely in the U.S. southeast, then I think we might safely infer that High John might be some other kind of Ipomoea.

Okay then, which?

And, fellow gardeners, I am about to present you with a time-suck so exquisite it will make the soil site from the other week look like child’s play.  Are you ready?

I present you the USDA plant database!

And what ipomoea do we find throughout the southeast?  Ipomoea pandurata, or manroot or man-of-the-earth.  Used by locals already for magical and medicinal purposes by indiginous locals.

And hairy.  Which tickles me to no end.

ippa_005_lhp (image taken from the USDA site linked above.)

What do y’all think?