Sunday, March 31, 2013

The War on Easter

I'm generally in the tolerant camp -- I'm an atheist, but if you're religious, that's cool with me.

And I'm not just saying that.  I have good friends who are religious, just as I have good friends who are agnostic, and good friends who are atheist.  My husband is Jewish, though he's a reform Jew.  We've raised our kid Jewish -- she started out as a theist, but now (like me) she's an atheist.

I didn't make her into an atheist.  In fact, I always did what I could to present all sides of the issue to her.  We taught her Jewish law and Jewish traditions, and as I said we raised her in the Jewish faith; she also, when she was visiting her Christian grandparents, went to church with them and learned some things about Christianity.  And I did my best to explain Christian theology to her.  I also had her take my Bible as Lit class a few years ago.  When she asked me questions about my atheism, I answered them.  When she asked her father questions about Judaism, he answered them.

I also always have taught her that it's important to respect other people's religions, and their faiths.

Sadly, too often, in today's political climate, that respect is not returned.  We see it, for instance, with the Right's insistence that extending civil rights to LGBT people will (somehow) destroy their civil rights -- because their religion opposes homosexuality.

We see it with the attempt to deny women control over their fertility, because (some) religions say their religions oppose contraception and abortion -- never mind that many of us don't belong to their religions, and don't (therefore) share those beliefs.

And we are seeing a fine example of it today, with Far-Right Conservatives getting all spun up over Google's daily doodle being a picture of Cesar Chavez instead of an Easter Egg: because this is a War on Easter.

Because everyone in America, nay, the world, must celebrate the Christian holiday, or we are attacking Christians.

I have nothing against Easter.  In fact, I'm a big fan of those little malted milk eggs that get sold around this time of year.  Plus the kids in their Easter clothes are really cute.  And when the kid was little, we always dyed eggs and let her hunt for them, even though we're not really Christian.  Because it was fun, and I like fun.  And also (I argued, and Dr. Skull looked pained) Easter eggs aren't really Christian, they're pagan, so.

But on the other hand, here's the probably with shoving your holiday on the public at large:

We went out to buy food today, since finally I got paid (we've been broke for about a week, living on scraps and canned goods, a task made harder because it is Passover, which means our usual tactic of living on rice and peas or beans and rice cannot be resorted to).  Every place we went, the clerks greeted us with some variation of, "How's your Easter going?"

Well, what do we do then?

Your choices are this:

(1) Lie, basically.  Smile and say, Oh lovely, and yours?

(2) Be a dick.  Smile and say, We're Jewish, we don't celebrate Easter.  This embarrasses a poor minimum wage clerk who is only trying to get through a holiday on which she has to work, when she probably wants to be home with her kids.

(3) Be rude.  Pretend not to have heard.  Say something like, How ya doing?

(4) Be even ruder.  Say, how's your Passover going?

I pretty much picked number 3 each time, but it felt very awkward and each time the clerk looked confused and rattled. But seriously, we were buying matzoh.  You would think they'd get a clue.

Not in Fort Smith, Arkansas, though, obviously.  I doubt the clerks here even know what matzoh is, much less Passover.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Who's Making War Against Those Boys?

Yeah, it's the Patriarchy.

Color me shocked.

Over here at Feminste, titog walks us through a report from the Council on Contemporary Families that looks at research on how and why boys are doing well or doing badly in schools these days, and discovers that the problem is not (as some of us have already guessed) that evil feminist teachers are trying to turn little boys into girls; or that boys are being drugged into submission; or that boys are not being allowed to play with toy guns on the playground.

No, in fact, it's the anti-intellectualism of the patriarchal culture which is telling boys that when they study or when they engage with school or when they like intellectual pursuits that they are acting like girls.

In fact, boys involved in extracurricular cultural activities such as music, art, drama, and foreign languages report higher levels of school engagement and get better grades than other boys. But these cultural activities are often denigrated as un-masculine by pre-adolescent and adolescent boys — especially those from working- or lower-class backgrounds. Sociologists C.J. Pascoe and Edward Morris relate numerous examples of boys who strive for good grades as being labeled “pussies” or “fags” by their peers.

Significantly, the report notes, separating boys from girls -- putting boys and girls into same-sex schools so that they can be taught in different ways according to their gender-essentialist needs (the separate-but-equal cry of certain far-right educators) -- is precisely the wrong move.

Commentators who emphasize boys’ special needs usually propose that we make schools more “boy-friendly” by offering single-sex classrooms where “boys can be boys,” by recruiting more male teachers, and by providing more rough and tumble activities. Our research shows that, contrary to what is rapidly becoming “conventional wisdom,” this is precisely the wrong strategy. Most boys and girls learn more in classrooms where girls are present. In classrooms with more girls, both boys and girls score higher on math and reading tests

In fact, what actually works is to improve schools for both girls and boys.

The win-win news is that the same reforms that help more boys achieve college success help girls as well. For example, schools with strong science curricula not only promote male achievement but increase girls’ plans to major in science and engineering. Schools that promote strong academic climates reduce gender gaps in grades and promote healthy, multi-faceted gender identities for both boys and girls.

It's not, the report notes, a zero-sum game (if we help girls we're warring against the boys!  If we help boys we harm girls!) but quite the contrary.  Helping either sex can help both.  Which -- frankly -- is exactly what feminism is about, and always has been.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I'm Feminist, and I Vote

I may have told this story here before -- when my kid was about seven, Dr. Skull took her up the hill to Fayetteville to one of his classes with him.  He was teaching WLIT, Woolf's Room of One's Own.  He asked the class, full of bright young relatively wealthy, relatively educated young students, more than half of whom were women, who among them were feminists.

Only my seven year old daughter raised her hand.

This has, sadly, been my experience down here in the Fort as well -- that is, very few of my students, male or female, will identify as feminist.

Occasionally I will get a student who says something like, "I believe women should be treated equally, but I'm not a feminist."

Or: "I believe in that women should should have equal rights, but I'm not a feminist -- I'm a humanist!"

Or: "Well, I do think women are just as good as men, but really men should be in charge.  Because Jesus!"

So I was glad to see this over at Feministing: a new poll which shows that, while maybe it's so that plenty of people in this benighted land still trundle about spouting those incredible fucknobbish talking points (I'm not a feminist, I'm a humanist, God give me strength), nevertheless among those of us women who actually vote, ha: most of us are indeed feminists.

And plenty of the male voters are feminists too.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Cleaning the house for Passover.

Dr. Skull is making noodle kugel, matzoh ball soup, some sort of flourless chocolate dessert of affliction, and a potato dish to be named later.

I am roasting asparagus and making the charoset.  Also doing most of the cleaning.

Uncle Charger & his family are coming.

Since we're all feeling particularly afflicted this year, it ought to be a fine celebration!

Here's a link in case you're not feeling afflicted enough yourself: the rich get richer, we get poorer.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sexy Lamps! A Supplement to the Bechdel Test

Maybe a week ago, the kid came to me with something she had read on Tumblr, on a site (do they call them sites on Tumblr? Blogs?  I am Tumblr ignorant) called With Rowan Wands and Flower Crowns: the sexy lamp test.

Maya, who writes the Tumblr, says this:

So, there’s the Bechdel test.
I’ve got another test that works just as well. The Sexy Lamp test. If you can take out a female character and replace her with a sexy lamp, YOU’RE A FUCKING HACK.

(She apparently got it from Kelly Sue DeConnick)

And ever since the kid read it, we've been making ourselves ill with glee, as we replace one character after the next in movies and plays and books with sexy lamps:

Cosette (Les Mis): Definitely a sexy lamp! (In fairness, Marius is also a sexy lamp.)

Ophelia: A sexy lamp!

Ripley: Definitely not a sexy lamp

Desdemona: Totally a sexy lamp

Buffy?  Well, she acts...but OTOH she doesn't often make her own decisions.  Quasi-sexy lamp?

Bella Swan: SEXY LAMP (no shock here)

Daisy Buchanan (Gatsby): Totally sexy lamp.  I think Tom even turns her off and puts her away between scenes.

Nellie Forbush: (South Pacific) sexy lamp!

Jill Boardman (Stranger in a Strange Land): Sexy lamp, 110%

All of Tolkein's female characters (from what I hear, anyway -- I've never been able to make it more than 10 pages into any of his work): sexy lamps

You can play too!

Saturday, March 23, 2013


It's cold and rainy here, plus we didn't make it to Tulsa after all.

Plus I have the worst case of insomnia in about 30 years.  I used to (as a kid and young adult) not sleep at all, for 2 or 3 days, and then crash for 16 hours.  This is not quite that bad, but I'm getting to it.  I'm not sleeping and not sleeping, until four or five in the morning, pretty much every night.  And cranky and achy as a result.

Plus moody and depressed, which is probably a factor of the lack of sleep and the fact that the heat in the house is broken.  It's hard to be cheery when you're freezing.  (Not literally freezing -- I am getting tired of being cold, though, which if you know me and how much I like being cold, well.)

Plus two rejections this week.  Both rejections I expected, but still.

Plus nothing in the house I want to eat, and I seriously don't want to go out to the Harp's in this nasty wet chilly weather.

But!  The new Dr. Who is on its way!

Here's a link for you!

Everything will be better soon.

Friday, March 22, 2013

This Makes Me Sad: Right-Wingers React To Coates's Near-Death

Over at Rod Dreher's blog, he writes a nice post about Ta-Nehisi Coates's brush with death.

Those who read him (generally an interesting mix, which is the main reason I follow Dreher's blog -- it's not a rabidly vicious echo chamber, like -- for instance -- the Althouse comment horde) immediately, and I mean from the very first comment, devolve into racist snottiness:

Jeff says:
I don’t mean to hijack this comment thread, but does everything Coates writes seem to be about race? He almost dies from an allergic reaction, which then leads him yet again to ruminate on America’s history of racism?
Every train that guy gets on seems to have the same destination.

Other commenters call him on this -- one points out that he must not read much TNC if he thinks everything Coates writes is about race; another points out that everything Steve Sailer writes is about race, which bothers no one at Dreher's blog, oddly enough (oh yes, Rod Dreher frequently cites Steve Sailer, white supremacist, approvingly): but many more others chime in:

Matt says:
He almost dies from an allergic reaction, which then leads him yet again to ruminate on America’s history of racism?
Well, you do what pays, you know?

MikeS says:
I read only 3 blogs: this one, Andrew Sullivan, and TNC. TNC has a very interesting perspective, but I agree with Jeff it almost always focuses on race, perhaps because his limited formal education leaves him with few other subjects on which to write knowledgeably. I’m glad he pulled through.

Matt in TX says:
TNC is beyond parody. He has a very, very near-death experience and what he notices and chooses to focus on is the fact that he’s black and everybody around him is white.

Sometimes trying to keep my worldview diverse just ends up making me sad.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


The best blogger I know, Ta-Nehisi Coates, almost died yesterday.

Story here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Did You Do For Spring Break, dr. delagar?

Well, Friday we are going to Tulsa for my birthday, to visit the zoo and an art museum there which we've never yet seen.  Except for the cold nasty rain that's supposed to coincide with the visit that should be fun. Unless the car breaks down.  Always a chance, these days!

Otherwise I have been grading papers and cleaning house and grading exams.

And I wrote a new short story.

The heat is busted in our little slum of a house, so we're drinking a lot of hot coffee and tea while we wait for the landlord to fix it.  Which -- since they've got to the Bahamas or Italy or something for Spring Break (they own five or six liquor stores plus several houses here in town) could take a while.  The cat is curled up asleep on the duvet which I have wrapped around me while I write this, give me a narrow-eyed look of accusation now and then.  Make it warmer, hu-man!

Also I plan to make bagels later.

I have to say, I really did plan to have -- not exactly a better life, because I can't think of a better life than sitting about drinking tea and writing stories through long afternoons, with a snarky cat sleeping at my feet -- but certainly a less impoverished one.

Oh, well.  Life in America, I suppose.

Monday, March 18, 2013

On Passing As Normal

Over at Balancing Jane, a post on what it means to pass as normal in America.

Read it here.

This one struck home to me, because she's talking (partly) about the Christian/Atheist divide, and as an atheist in Arkansas, sometimes I just shut up about the fact that I'm an atheist when I'm teaching, especially with my freshmen students.

For instance, right now in my 1213 class, I have a couple of older returning students who have made comments about essays we've read -- side comments, comments that I felt I could pretend not to hear -- but comments to the effect that the author of the essay was not a reliable source because he or she was an atheist.

(No actual evidence in any of these cases that the writers were atheists, btw.  I think what made the students think so was that the writers were clearly scientists and were writing about evolution as factual.  Ergo...)

Part of me wanted to challenge the students.  To wheel on them and go down their throats, drive them to the wall with the force of my logic.

It would have been totally off topic, for once thing; and for another, another part of me knew/suspected that at this point in the semester (two weeks into the class) if they learned I was an atheist, they would lose all trust in me.

So I exercised one of the most important tools in the professor's toolkit, selective deafness, and pursued other issues.

But it bothers me, because if atheists stay in the closest, as it were, then people like these students, who are decent enough people, continue to believe what they believe: that atheists are monsters, that we have no moral compass, that the only good people are people just like them.

Which -- as we know -- could not be further from the truth.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Catcher In The Rye: A Pun, Yeah?

So yesterday I read Catcher In the Rye for the first time in like, I don't know, ever, since I was 22 at least, and WTF.

How did I miss that Holden Caulfield is is gay?

Boy's so far in the closet and so terrified every page shivers with it.

The scene where he's up there on the hill watching the other boys play football and he's lost his sword.

The scene where he goes into the bathroom to watch Stradlater shave -- and comments extensively on his body -- sitting watching him, turning on and off a faucet while he does so, wrestles with him, gets upset about Stradlater having sex with a girl Holden has not himself been able to have sex with, and can't even (at this point) speak to.

The meeting with Carl Luce, his old (and older) friend who is obviously gay, and mentor (mentor into gay sex, obviously, since that's what their old conversations have all been about). Luce is dating/having sex with (he claims) a much older, very rich woman, very like another gay character we are about to meet --

Which is -- Holden's teacher, whom he goes to see, and spend the night with, Mr. Antolini.  Mr. Antolini is Holden's favorite teacher from a former school, who is now married to a much older, and much richer, women.  Mr. Antolini is the only one to care for a student who committed suicide after (apparently) being raped by some other boys at the school.  Mr. Antolini advised Holden it is better to live humbly (as he's doing) than to take a bold stand. Mr. Antolini makes a pass at Holden while he's sleeping.  Holden flees.

Holden constantly comments on the flits, fags, queers, and perverts he sees around him -- he's obsessed with it.  He also constantly comments on men's bodies.  (Also occasionally on women's bodies, so.)

He also comments, just after Antolini moves on him, that this "stuff," has been happening to him since he was a little kid.  Given Holden's propensity to exaggeration, it's hard to know how to read that. Is it a signal that he was molested as a kid?  Or does he just mean that over the past few years (since he went to boarding school, maybe?) his other gay schoolmates have been reading him as gay and reaching out to him, and he's been rejecting them, as he rejected Carl Luce?  (He calls Carl Luce of his own free will, sets up a late night tryst with him, and then sends him very mixed signals during their, um, date. When Carl understandably cuts the meeting short and leaves, Holden drinks himself into a stupor and very nearly drowns himself in Central Park lake.  Then he sits on a bench until ice freezes in his hair.  I mean, whoa.)

And? Here's the kicker.  What's he planning to do at the end of the book? Hitch-hike out west and become a cowboy.  I mean seriously.  How butch do we have to get?

And the title.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Every Day: Review

(X-Posted at FanSci)

I forget where I first heard about David Levithan's new novel, Every Day.

Of course I knew who Levithan was -- he was the other half of the team that wrote Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the book that introduced me to John Green.

(That's also an excellent book, btw.)

Anyway, for a couple weeks or it might be months now buzzing around in the back of my mind has been this notion that I ought to get around to reading Every Day. Then I read on someone's blog (and I forget whose, and a quick google search is helping me not at all) that they were recommending it for a Hugo nom, so I went over to Amazon and downloaded the free sample to my Kindle.

Then I downloaded the rest.

Then I stayed up until two in the morning reading it.

Because wow.  It's just that good.

For those of you who haven't heard anything about it, the premise is this person (we'll go with person jumps, every night at midnight, into a new body.  So they (we'll go with the pronoun they, since A. as they call themself has no real gender) spend each 24 hour period in a new body.  A can "access," as A calls it, the memories of their new body, to a certain degree (for instance, A can remember what the new person did in fifth grade, but if the new person speaks Portuguese, A can't understand it; A can remember what A has learned from body to body -- A's own freshman physics lessons -- but can't play tennis even if the person they're jumped into can).

The person A jumps into is always, more or less, the same age as A -- five when A is five, sixteen now that A is sixteen -- but otherwise it varies: gender, race, religion, physical types, all these vary.  This is one of the most interesting parts of the book, A's view from the inside of all these lives.  The other big plot, though, A falling in love with Rhiannon, a girl they meet in the first jump -- that's the big strength of the book.

A tells Rhiannon the truth, but that -- of course -- doesn't lead to instant bliss.

What do you do when you love someone, and every day you're someone else -- or at least your body is?

On one of the jumps, A jumps into the life of a girl who is in a deeply lovely relationship with another girl.

"If I woke up in a different body every day -- if you never knew what I was going to look like tomorrow -- would you still love me?" A asks.

"Even if you were green and had a beard and a horrible male appendage between your legs.  Even if your eyebrows were orange and you had a mole covering your entire cheek and a nose that poked me in your eye every time I kissed you.  Even if you weighed seven hundred pounds and had hair the size of a Doberman under your arms.  Even then, I would love you."

"Likewise," I tell her.

It's so easy to say, because it never has to be true.

The book is full of great moments like that -- moments that just punch you in the heart.

This one is highly recommended.

Here's a short story from the world of the book.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hey, Here's How To Live Happy, Y'all!

Just read this.

Just read it.

Don't stop until you get to #12.

Why Do Fewer Guys Go (Back to) College?

Over here, Dean Dad wonders why fewer men than women are returning to college -- that is, why, in students over 25, the ratio of men to women is so heavily slanted toward women.

He puts forth a few guesses, none of which seem likely to me (more men in prison, more men able to make a   good living without a university degree, more women having babies straight out of high school), dismissing out of hand research that points to the notion that our culture reads school as girly.

In fact, I think the lack of older men enrolling in universities is partly due to just that -- that (some) men don't see going to school as something (real) men do. It's not that men are anti-learning, exactly; it's more that they're anti the sort of learning that happens in a classroom, the sort where you (a man) have to sit in a desk and get told what to do by some teacher who stands up front; where you have to take tests and get grades; where you have to act like a child, in other words.

Of course, I'd argue that's not what we're actually doing in any university worthy of the name, but most people who haven't (yet) been to a university don't know much about what actually happens in them.

Women (lacking issues about their status, or at least not having the same sort of issues about their status) are more willing to subject themselves to this for the sake of the goal -- for the sake of learning what they need to know to get the degree which will let them advance in their lives.

And that's the other point: men, much more than women, tend to believe they already know everything they need to know.  Much more than women, men tend to be confident in their knowledge base (even if -- or especially if -- that confidence is not justified).  So men, much more than women, don't think they need to get a degree.

Oh, they might know that they need the degree to qualify for some given job.  But they see it as a hoop they have to jump through or a base they have to touch -- they don't actually believe going to the university is necessary in any real sense; that it will teach them anything they need to know: because they believe they already know everything they need to know.

Men see education as a con game, in other words.

Women, being as a whole much less confident in their knowledge base, are willing to believe that they need more education, and are much more willing to attend a university and get that education.  They are also willing to work hard, believing that they need to work hard (because they are less confident) while men as a class tend to believe they already know everything they need to know, and so don't work hard.

All this is a massive generalization, of course.  I have plenty of male students who are excellent students, who work very hard, who have come to the university to learn and who understand perfectly the reason why they need a university education; and I have plenty of female students coasting their way through the semesters.  Further, I can go down any street in this city and find you a dozen women who would tell me education was a scam.

But if we're looking for an explanation for the gap, I think the socialization of our genders, and the attitude we as a culture take toward education, might serve.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Effects of Education on a Woman's Brain

One of my ex-students posted this on FB.

I shared it, and got an outraged response from another student, who was horrified that I endorsed such a video's politics.

Poe's Law, I guess.

(Can I just add that I am so impressed with myself for figuring out how to embed videos?  I know, I know.  But you have NO IDEA how tech-ignorant I am.)

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Update: Good People / Racist People

This essay, Being White in Philly, by Jeff Deeny, which was linked by Mike the Mad Biologist (my new favorite blogger) is a responsible to that reprehensible White Philly essay.

You have got to read it.  No, I mean it.

Stop what you're doing and go read it now.

It's that good.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Update Here

Just a brief post to note that I have updated my bibliography, which can be found here.

"Just don't date black men."

Over at Ta-Nehisi Coates' place, he's written another fine post, expanding (more or less) on the NYTimes editorial he had up the other day, about "good" people and racism.

(Here's the link to that column in case you missed it.)

In the post, Coates explains further what he discusses in the column, which is the way good people -- people who see themselves as good, people who we have been accustomed to seeing as good, will do racist things, or act in racist ways, while claiming they aren't doing or acting racist at all.  He mentions a Louisiana judge, a case I recall, who refused to marry an interracial couple, saying, "I'm not racist.  I just don't believe in mixing the races that way."

Over at LG&M, a discussion of this column exploded when one gentleman claimed racial profiling wasn't racist, since (obviously) "people" tended to expect black people to be more likely to be criminals.

And today, as I was walking down the hall in my own building at the university, I heard a  (white) student excoriating another (white) student, "Well, we warned you!  Didn't we say just don't date black men?  But you wouldn't listen!"

She wasn't joking, either.  It wasn't a teasing thing -- she meant it.  This gave me flashbacks to a student who wrote me an argumentative essay, a couple years ago, arguing against white people dating black people.  When I gently pointed out that "could be perceived" as racist, she argued with me, quite earnestly.  That wasn't racist.  It was just what she believed.

I guess the reasoning process goes like this:

(1) I believe this.
(2) I'm not racist (which I know because I'm a good person and only bad people are racist)
(3) Therefore this thing I believe can't be racist

Why Is Everyone Interested In Dennis Prager's Gay Cow Sex?

I only recently even realized that I could access my blog's stat page (or that my blog even had a stat page -- that's how tech-backward I am) and so I've been kind of obsessed, rummaging around and learning all sorts of things I probably would have been better off never knowing.

For instance: the most popular post I ever wrote, apparently is one I wrote back in December 2005, on Dennis Prager's divorce.  In case y'all don't keep up with Right-Wing asshats, Dennis Prager is a Right-Wing asshat, a conservative misogynist who, at least in 2005, had his own talk radio show and used it to hold forth on all the things that were wrong with America, which was basically women getting uppity, when it wasn't liberal women getting uppity.  Plus we wore trousers.  That was bad too.

I am fairly sure this post is coming up in searches run by all of Prager's fans.  He has legions of fans.  I am thinking this because they have left hurt comments on the post in question, telling me I have no right to misjudge dear Mr. Prager.  (Since I hadn't gone back to the post since 2005, I had missed all this scolding.)

The other most popular post, though, is one I wrote in March 2005, on Hot Gay Cow Sex.

That one, I think, obviously, is being found by people hunting for, um, a certain sort of niche porn.

(Boy, are they disappointed.)

The third most commonly read post is one that references the Sopranos.

So!  Obviously what I need to do if I want to increase traffic is write a post about Dennis Prager having hot gay cow sex with Tony Soprano!

In trousers!

I'll be A-list in no time.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Government Is the Solution

America really has changed over the past 30 some years, and not (always) for the better.

It's a truism among my students as among many people in this country that if we get the government involved in anything, the government will screw it up; that the government makes everything worse; that the government is the problem, not the solution.

This traces right back to Ronald Reagan, of course.  It's the fat lie that has been pushed by the Far Right since the end of the 1970's, and it's the lie that has allowed them to -- no other word for it -- destroy this country.

Here is Jon Stewart (a very bad clip, sorry) talking about one aspect of this.  At one point in this country, we were winning the war against hunger (despite what the far right will tell you, we were).  We had a social safety net, run by the government, that fed the poor, took care of those without work, made sure those without medical resources had medical care, put homeless kids in foster homes.

Was it perfect?  No.  And if you look back at the films and the novels and the literature being written in the 1960s and the 1970s, everyone knew it wasn't perfect.  But it was working.  People were fed, people were cared for -- in fact, according to the Right Wing haters of the time, cared for too well.

(At the time, we got Urban Myths about women who had been three generations on welfare, women on welfare who had 21 kids, women -- Welfare Queens! -- driving Cadillacs down to pick up their welfare checks, usually three different welfare checks, because of course they were defrauding the system. Now we get the same sort of stories, but its "these girls marry the government!" sort of thing.)

(In actual fact, of course, most people who use food stamps or any other form of government aid use it for less than two years total; most of those people have an average of two children; fraud is less than than 3% of all cases; Reagan's Welfare Queen and her Cadillac was totally made up.)

Then Reagan and his ilk decided that government was the problem, not the solution.  That by allowing government to feed the people -- feed those hungry children -- we were "creating a culture of dependency," and this was evil.  That, worse, we were depriving other people of a chance to feed those kids through charity: that the private sector would do a much better job of feeding those hungry kids if government would just get out of the way (and somehow this would...not created a culture of dependency?).

Never mind, of course, that the private sector cannot feed the hungry in this country, as multiple studies have shown, not in boom times, and clearly not now, when the Right Wing have broken the country with their ridiculous economic policies.

(Here's a study on hunger costs during this recession.)

So what's happened is we went from a system that was working well enough, if not perfectly, to a system that's broken, but that is letting a small number of people get richer and richer each year.  The 1%, those who created this system, they've got most of the country convinced this is moral and right, that there's no better way to build the system, that the "government" is always bad, always corrupt, always going to get it wrong, so what can you do?

But some of us know this isn't true.  We remember the time before Reagan.  We know a different world.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Makers: Watch It Here

If you missed the PBS documentary Makers, about the history of feminism, which aired on February 29, 2013, it's available here, though I don't know for how long.

It's three hours long (three parts, each 55 minutes long), so it's an investment; but it's well worth your time.

I knew some of these things, but I'll admit I didn't know half of them, and I didn't know the scope or depth of them at all.  I watched this Friday night and at one point I was yelling very bad words at my computer (I had my headphones on) and the kid came running out of her room.

"What? What?"

"Nothing.  Oh.  Just -- oh, these horrible --"  I said the word again.

"Well, don't call them that.  Mama!  You should never use that word."

"It's what they are!  Jesus!"

She was right, of course.  But OTOH.

I remember, vaguely, the Anita Hill hearings.  I remember my fucking brother telling me that Hill was lying.  I remember asking, "Why would she be lying?"  (I was not a feminist then.  I was barely anything then -- I knew nothing about politics.)

"Of course she's lying," he jeered at me.  "She's doing it for the attention.  To take down the man.  To make money.  To keep the Republican off the bench.  A hundred reasons."

"But..."  I knew, even then, that these things did happen to women.  Because they'd been happening to me since I was around eleven; because they happened to every woman I knew.  "But if he did do what she's saying--"

"Oh, bullshit.  Why wouldn't she have said anything before this?"

Yeah.  Why wouldn't we ever tell anyone?  I mean, it only happens like nine or ten times a week.  Why don't we tell people about it?

Oh, wait.  That's right.  We do.  And they tell us we're lying, or we're making it up, or we're hysterical, or we should be flattered, or why were we even out that early in the morning or that late at night or dressed like that, or we know we love it or if we can't stand the heat we should get out of the kitchen or we should be glad he didn't actually rape us, that's just how guys are, or we were asking for it, or he didn't mean it that way, can't you take a joke?

That's the trouble with you feminists.  No sense of humor.

Then last night, I watched North Country.

It's been a very rough weekend here at the delagar household.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

On Scalia and the Voting Rights Act

One of my friends posted this on her FB:

From Melissa Harris-Perry's open letter to Scalia:

"Here is what you miss, Justice Scalia. A great thing occurred in the 1860s when Congress had to grapple with how to include the formerly enslaved within the circle of citizenship. That effort led Congress to articulate due process, equal protection, and a federally protected right to vote. Those pillars of citizenship apply to all. 
It is the opposite of a special entitlement."

Friday, March 01, 2013

Scenes in My Classroom

I come to class (uncharacteristically) early.

Me: Hey, y'all.  S'up. (Looking around) Where is everyone?

Class:  You're early!

Me: (looking at the clock) Whoa.  How'd that happen?  (Pause, while I take in the oddity of this.)  I guess I can't teach until everyone gets here.

I sit on the desk, chatting with students about the upcoming assignment.

Student in front row, messing with his android: dr. delagar.  We've got five minutes.  Name a song you like.

Me: You got any Ganstagrass on that?

Student: I can look it up on You Tube

Other Student: Any what now?

First Student: What song you want?

Me: Big Branch.

(Student starts it playing.  Everyone listens.)

Third student: What is this?

First Student: Is this what you listen to?

Me: It's hot, ain't it?