Category ArchiveGender Issues
It is both a sad and alarming commentary on the present state of men’s character that so many have objected to legitimate feminist challenges, retreated, and finally lashed back. Instead of rising to the challenge, far too many males have regressed into an infantile and dangerous state combining the worst of traditional and modern masculine roles. For many men, a shameless arrogance thrown together with self-absorption has overwhelmed courage and compassion. This mutation has placed manhood, at least American manhood, in crisis. In the micro, there is the man who murders his wife and children before killing himself. In macro, there are political leaders who would be more comfortable destroying the earth than allowing women’s power to reside with men’s in mutual respect, peace, and benefit.
We need the opposite: men who will take the best of the traditional male, the providing, protecting, serving, and sacrificing, and integrate it with the equality-mindedness of the modern male.
After growing up on a on farm where girls and boys both fed the cows and washed dishes, my more formal, conscious feminist awakening came in college and graduate school. In university classrooms and on the street, I learned two crucial truths about feminism and its relation to male identity and well-being:
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OK, there was this time in college, I was dating a girl named Rhoda, and she invited me home for a weekend, and so I thought … no way am I telling that one.
–Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle
There are some stories that I can’t just change the names and get away with it. Probably the most important part of that is that the individuals involved would still recognize themselves, and it would, despite all attempts at anonymity, still be an invasion of privacy. Some stories are just too intrinsically personal.
Moreover, there are some bits of personal history, that, no matter how much I might try to take all the blame for whatever bad things happen, it wouldn’t be enough, and other people would be shown in a bad light. I’m not always against that, mind you, but sometimes I am, especially when I had too great a hand in the unfortunate events.
And sometimes, making a story more generic removes all its flavor. At that point, there’s no reason to tell the thing in the first place. That’s one of the places where you opt for out-and-out fiction, keeping the flavor, but creating new characters for all the events, and distancing the events by wrapping them in the outlandish, putting them in the future, for example, or having them occur while there is a serial killer on the rampage. Even that is a risk, of course. Sometime people still recognize themselves in your fiction; sometimes they do so before the writer does. Tough. That’s the biz, baby.
The one I’m about to tell takes generification to some sort of limit, I think, but there are some philosophical points that I’ll get at, probably not the most important things in the real story, but the only nuggets that I can pull from this stream at this time.
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Gender Issues Posted by christian h., 22 Aug 2007 04:47 am
Last month, I took the train from Champaign up to Chicago as final step in my move up here. Now I own a little stuffed dog called Albert (less mess than a real dog, and talks more), and I didn’t have the heart to just stuff him into my backpack and leave him in the dark, as it were. So I let his head peak out the top. Now this is of course “something little girls do” - certainly not grown-up men. Or so I realized from the reactions of random fellow passengers.
Some just stared, but a few asked about the dog, probably wondering if I was sane (a fair question, to be sure). This was a good thing, in fact - it got me talking to people, when otherwise we would just have walked past each other blindly. For example, I got to talk to a couple going up to Chicago for their 40th wedding anniversary.
So, did I unwittingly undermine some gender stereotype by openly carrying around a stuffed animal?
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Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier was born in 1743 to Jean-Antoine Lavoisier, a prominent lawyer, and Emilie Punctis, who belonged to a rich and influential family, and who died when Antoine-Laurent was five years old. He was basically raised by his maiden aunt Mlle Constance Punctis, who arranged for his education at the College Mazarin, which was noted for its faculty of science.
Although young Antoine completed a law degree in accordance with family wishes, his true calling was in science. On the basis of his early scientific work, primarily in geology, he was elected at the age of 25—to the Academy of Sciences, France’s most elite scientific society.
In the same year as his election to the Academy, in order to finance his scientific research, he bought into the Ferme Générale, the private corporation that collected taxes for the Crown on a for profit (as you can see, “privatization” is hardly a new idea). A few years later he married the daughter of another “tax farmer.” Her name was Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze, and she was not quite 14 at the time. Madame Lavoisier learned English, in order to translate the work of British chemists like Joseph Priestley and Henry Cavendish for her husband. She also studied art and engraving and illustrated Lavoisier’s scientific experiments.
Lavoisier has been called the “father of modern chemistry” for good reason. He established the principle of conservation of mass in chemistry and physics, and performed a series of experiments which, combined with the work of Priestly and Cavendish, overthrew the theory of phlogiston as an explanation of combustion, and thereafter the swept away the classical theory of the elements (earth, air, fire, and water). Lavoisier’s replacement table of the elements ran to some 33 “irreducible substances” most of which were what we today recognize as elements, such as mercury, sulfur, and oxygen, which he renamed from “dephlogistonized air.” He also performed such flashy experiments as demonstrating that diamond is made from carbon by burning one in an atmosphere of pure oxygen.
During the Reign of Terror in 1794, Antoine Lavoisier was arrested, along with 27 others, by the French Revolutionary Tribune for abusing the office of Ferme Générale by adulterating tobacco with water. They were guillotined the same day. When asked for his defense, Lavoisier is famously said to have remarked, “I am a scientist,” to which the tribunal replied, “The Revolution has no need of scientists.” Then “snick” went the head of Lavoisier.
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I spent Memorial Day weekend at the International Space Development Conference in the Dallas area held by the National Space Society. I’ve never been to one of these space exploration advocate conferences before, but I get notifications of them - a hold over I think from subscribing to something or other in the dim past. I’ve contemplated attending before, but that’s spendy. So why did I go this year? Why clean out the savings account, accost the parents for funds and go to the flattest spot on the continent? My 15 year old son wants to be a space rocket/vehicle engineer, and recent events dictated that it was time to ease him into the realities of conferences and dressing up for dinner and all that grown up stuff. Not to mention opening his eyes to all the options out there in the field so that if he doesn’t end up as an engineer in the end, he won’t feel he’s failed so much as changed directions.
But never mind about him for now. Here’s what I learned:
1. The demographics of the National Space Society as represented at this conference was rather eye opening and could be summed up in the statement, “It’s been a rough 30 years for the hard space enthusiasts.” I counted 4 African Americans - one of whom, Edward McCullough, actually did a presentation I attended which was probably the most impressive of those I witnessed. Otherwise, looking around the huge main presentation room, I eyeballed the crowd as 99.9 percent Caucasian, with men outnumbering women by about 20 to 1. Grey and white hair by far predominated, and one younger member that I’d put in his 20’s actually came up to the mic and put the whole demographics issue on the table - in terms of ethnicity if not concerning the age issue. He said he’d been coming to the conferences for several years and they were always attended by a bunch of middle class white people and what was the NSS doing to attract a wider demographic? The answer was interesting in it’s phrasing. “We’ve seen when we do outreach that a certain demographic grabs their kids and drags them over to our table/display while members of other demographic groups walk by without a glance. We’re working on that.” He didn’t sound too convincing. It might be appropriate at this point to mention that the convention was in a large hotel in the rich suburb of Addison, TX north of Dallas….
2. There are a lot of people in the National Space Society irritated by NASA policy.
3. One of the best ways to get NASA’s attention is to get one of their very expensive Mars rovers stuck in a sand dune…on Mars.
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So I was listening to National Petroleum Radio as Oaktown Girl calls it the other day and heard the news that once again, the never-ending debate over abortion had been ratcheted up a notch due to a recent Supreme Court decision. Nothing sets my teeth grinding like that topic, except possibly driving behind very slow drivers from other nations on Beacon Ave. South in south Seattle when I’m late. I’m late a lot… But I digress.
The never-ending debate over our unwanted children is how I consider the abortion issue. Viability, pain thresholds, visible proof of life, murder, God, responsibility, God, did I mention teeth grinding? I feel the blood pressure rising in my temples just thinking about it - that happens way too much nowadays too - and I’ve come up with my own solution to the issue of our unwanted children. ‘Cause that’s what we’re talking about. Children their parents don’t want. We’ve got a lot of live ones in that category.
Not just in the US. It’s a global, human issue. Unwanted progeny.
Another National Petroleum Radio article a few days later described the living conditions of children in orphanages in Russia. Painful stuff, if you care about kids. Children left tied to cribs, fed, but not changed, not interacted with. Literally left to rot. Better off alive or dead? That’s the real question, isn’t it?
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