February 13, 2008

Feminist Obama?

My generation of feminists won some significant battles, and so brilliant younger women need not make feminism their absolute priority. I was 18 when the Feminine Mystique was published, 23 when the second feminist movement began. Belatedly, I have realized this week that feminism is my make- or -break issue. But my absolute commitment to feminist issues would not necessarily make me a Clinton supporter.

Please struggle to understand this. Men and women can be feminists. Clinton, although the target of hundreds of thousands of vituperative misogynist attacks, has not committed herself to a feminist platform. If Obama campaigned as a feminist, spoke out against the sexistattacks against Clinton, and made family issues an essential part of his platform, I would work for him in a heartbeat. I am sure Michelle Obama could write eloquent speeches for him. That he doesn't seem to be considering a potentially winning strategy indicates how thoroughly feminist and family issues have fallen beneath the political radar. I can't figure out why.

I might even prefer to vote for feminist Obama than a beleaguered Clinton. Voters would find it much more possible to understand feminist issues if a younger candidate was explicating them. Even as I type, I am struggling whether I should add "a younger male" candidate.

I was flabbergasted when Obama's aide Jesse Jackson jr. seemed to be competing with Chris Matthews for woman hater of the day. Obama's failure to repudiate or fire Jackson offers me no security he even understands feminism, never mind supports it. Perhaps his daughters need to educate him.

February 11, 2008

Wisdom of Tears

I wonder if all the people, men and women, ranting about Hillary's "fake" tears. react the same way to loved ones crying. Do you accuse your mom, your sister, your wife or your kid of using tears to yank your chain? (I admit my 5 younger brothers did.) Do you tell your son or grandson that big boys don't cry? Do you fight tears at sickbeds and funerals? I have watched people cry for 62 years, and it's bullshit that her reaction was staged. If it was, she should get the Oscar for best actress. . SHE DIDN'T CRY. Her eyes might have been wet, but there were no tears cascading down her cheeks. Good crying is usually noisy as well.

And if she had cried, what the hell is wrong with that? The human experiment with the patriarchy has not proven that bottling up your tears in a gun, a knife, a car, a terrorist attack, or a war, rather than letting them gentle your cheek advances the human condition. I feel very sorry for people who has not enjoyed the therapeutic relief of crying. I have been a shrink and have been shrunk. The most essential equipment in a shrink's office is the box of tissues. You could always sit on the floor. Some shrinks feel you are just wasting time until you are able to cry.

Even Feminist Cats Lack a Sense of Humor

From Feministing.

Confessions of Misogyny

 My four daughters would reassure you that I am one of the worst misogynists they know. Until I became a mother at age 28, I would always join the circle of men, never the circle of women. I was positive the conversation would be more stimulating. I despise women's fashion magazines and all the talk of diets and hair and makeup..

Spending a year in a Catholic girls college in Rochester was the most alienating experience of my life. I was sarcastic, and no one seemed to realize I didn't necessarily mean it. One night my friends and I stayed up all night, discussing politics,sex, religion, what have you. The rumor rapidly spread that we were gossiping about everyone on the floor. Learning that "there was something in the nature of a woman that unsuits her for intellectual debate with men" elicited my jail beak to being the only girl in the political science classes at Fordham.

Working in the female-dominated fields of public librarianship and social work was a disaster for me. I never can accept that is the way it is and you can't do anything about it. I am a trouble maker pure and simple. When I am upset, I defend myself by getting more ascerbic and intellectual. I perceive that men enjoy gutsy women who giggle and smile and tease and insult and debate with them lots more than women do. I have always gone to male shrinks.

My most successful social work job was working with a great group of seriously mentally ill guys who were absolutely trapped in the system. Some had been in jail; most had substance abuse problems. I never was so appreciated by a group of people in my whole life. They were so wonderful to hang out with. I excel at eliciting the sanity in crazy people and the craziness in apparently sane people. There are lots of the latter in social work and public librarianship.

I also did extremely well with male gay clients. One told me I must have been a gay male in a previous lifetime I understand him so well. I Another paid me the greatest compliment I got as a shrink: he said I was his only experience of unconditional love. We had a strange therapeutic relationship. Until I treated him, an Irishmen from an utterly abusive family, I never realized how Irish I was.

I have never been hassled on the street by a guy in my entire life. I do smile a lot. I am perfectly comfortable being the only women in a subway car full of men. African American men and immigrants tend to find older, curvier women attractive, which is lovely fun. In the early days of women's lib, women whined incessantly about street hassles. I wondered if I was the ugliest woman in the entire women's liberation movement. I often have long conversations with homeless men. One street person teased me that I looked very friendly ,approachable, happy to talk, sometimes generous depending upon whether I had exceeded my day's handout limit, but I subtly conveyed that I could turn him to stone if he messed with me.

Posted By Mary Jo Koch to Matriarch at 1/11/2008 02:20:00 PM

Equality Feminism and Difference Feminism

This was written in response to a perceptive critique of my feminist rants. I entirely agree with you "that being a feminist means rejecting some of what feminism had to say over the past 40 years." What has accompanied the success of feminism is less appreciation and support for the vitally important work of caregiving. Years of child care and elder care are not seen as the excellent job qualification they so often are. Christian fundamentalists have valid points about the neglect of children and elders in today's post-feminist society. We cannot abandon this issue to them.

Thank you for bringing up the illuminating distinction between equality feminism (women treated the same as men) and difference feminism (specific role differences require specific protection for women to allow them to participate equally).What is biology and what is learned gender role in the perceived differences between men and women? Because I have 5 very different brothers and 4 very different daughters, I question overemphasis on innate differences. The spread of differences among people of the same sex seem as great or greater as the differences between the sexes. At 8 months, my grandson clearly resembles his adventurous, world-traveling mother; he is as different from two of his aunts as his mother is. We would need several generations of both men and women equally involved in raising young children to make any significant judgment about innate sex differences.

Childbearing shifts the equation. Doctors advocate nursing for a year as the ultimate preventive health measure. So for about two years per child, women do need special accommodations. As you say, Europe in general has much better support for new mothers. They recognize that everyone benefits if new parents can afford to bond with their newborns and children receive as much parental care as possible in the early years. Fathers and mothers are equally capable of parenting young children; exclusive breastfeeding only last six months. Many heroic women now manage to work full time and give their infants only their own milk.

Day care of infants and toddlers, if done right, is usually prohibitively expensive financially. Babies usually get sick far more often in day care, and their parents have to scramble for alternatives just as their babies are needier and fussier. Premature group care is frequently emotionally expensive for infants and toddlers. My oldest brilliantly explained her daily meltdown after full-day kindergarten: "Mommy I used all my goodness up at school." Society needs to make changes so that both parents could work a part-time and/or home-based schedule in their children's earliest years without losing their benefits or harming their possibilities for career advancement. Onsite day care could be an alternative offered by all large enough companies and organizations.

Silence on Family Issues

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama had my enthusiastic support on the family issues vitally important to me. Universal health care, while absolutely essential, will not address most family problems. We desperately need policies that will make it possible for both men and women to have careers and take care of their children and their elders. Maternity, paternity, and aging parent leave is obviously a priority. The medical and family leave act has to be extended to all businesses and organizations, large and small, and the government will need to be involved in funding that.

Excellent day care for babies and toddlers is too expensive for parents to pay for because it requires an extremely high teacher/child ratio. Only the affluent can afford a nanny even at the less than living rates most nannies are paid. The government is eventually going to have to support child care for children under 5 just as they support education for children over 5. Child care workers ideally would have college degrees in early child education and be paid the same salary and benefits as school teachers. Dedicated present child care workers should be eligible for governments grants paying their college tuitions. Public policy should not be biased toward out-of-home care.

Health care proposals don't come to grips with long-term care. Virtually all private health insurance is no good whatsoever for what is dismissed as custodial care, which is care for people who are not going to get better, because they are old and are eventually going to die of their chronic diseases, even if they live 15 years with it. They don't need skilled nursing and they are not going to improve, so Medicare will not help.. Instead they need help with dressing, bathing, toileting, medication, transportation, shopping, eating, laundry, transferring from one place to another. If they have dementia, they need constant supervision so they don't wander off and get hit by a car, fall down the stairs, leave the stove on and start a fire, leave the water running and flood the house.

Medicare covers only very short-term care for people recently discharged from hospitals and capable of recovery and progress. For example, Medicare only pays for physical therapy if your therapist can document that you are making steady progress. They don't care about help that would keep you out of a wheelchair and out of a nursing home. My mother suffered from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a more than Parkinkson's neurological disorder that destroys balance. Medicare would not pay for her physical therapy to avoid loss of mobility.

Many people could stay out of nursing homes if there were government programs that paid for the necessary home modifications necessary to them in age in place. Financing ramps, guardrails , and stair lifts is lots cheaper than paying for broken hips and nursing homes.

ursing homes in New York City and Long Island cost more than $100,000 a year. Home health agencies charge $18 to $20 per hour for home health aides. Medicaid is more likely to cover nursing home care than home care. Desperate, people spend down all their resources and are then eligible for medicaid. Well spouses don't fare that well, but at least they are now able to keep their houses. Affluent families hire lawyers to hide or transfer their assets, so they can go on Medicaid, make the government pay what they could afford themselves, and save their children's inheritance.

Don't think long-term health insurance is the solution. The amount that man long-term health insurance pays is laughable; my mom had a supposedly good policy that only paid for 6 hours a day. Lots of policies seem like a scam; they have so many disqualifying conditions that your only chance of collecting anything is hiring an expensive case manager.
Home health aides are shamelessly exploited by home health agencies supposedly under government supervision. The aide typicallygets less than half of the 18-20 an hour charged by the agency. Yet many long-term health care policies require you to go through a home health agency, instead of hiring the aide privately and paying her a living wage.