Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tampon Art: Or, Everything You Didn't Know About Menstrual Aesthetics

This just *HAD* to be circulated immediately! I found this online museum of Menstrual Art via the Feministe blog. Kate Goldwater's pieces are actually quite moving, despite the fact that I'm very scared to look in a film container ever again. I mean, in the movie Quills, the Marquis de Sade is represented as using his own feces to create text: shit writing on the walls of his cell. If this representation is accurate (which it may very well not be, but who knows?), then the idea of using one's bodily fluids to create art has been around for a long time. And I personally know of a girl I went to school with in my M.A. program who, believing in the power of pheromones, sent her own body odor out into the world with the hopes of it attracting her biological mother. She used other women as satellites, and they were not to use deoderant, perfume, or lotion of any kind. Nothing that would deter from the adopted girl's pheromone-soaked swatches of clothing or fabric they would wear strapped underneath their armpits and in other pulse point areas. But I digress... Anyway, the point is that FGM (female genital mutilation) is a horrific violence to young girls, and any attention that can be drawn to it is energy well spent.

Be sure to check out the other artist listed on the left side of the online museum site...interesting stuff.

Things to Post About

Yeah, so, when I actually get some "free time" (a.k.a. time I take out of writing a dissertation simply because my head is about to explode), there are a few things I'd like to post about. I'm putting them here lest I forget:

* the Thinking Blogger award/meme and the people I want to tag
* my dinner with my father and his, um...girlfriend?
* dissertation writing & funding
* smart, sensitive, independent, academic women who end up in abusive relationships
* dissertating spouses & fighting for time
* Mom issues (I know she loves me, but does she like me?)
* a third child (no, I'm not pregnant or trying to be)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Epic Family Road Trip

Right after my father's visit last week, hubby, Hurricane H, Baby E, and I loaded into the car for the trip to my home state. During this time, Baby E had a relapse and was prescribed yet another antibiotic for a sinus/ear infection that had possibly moved into her eyes?? She started getting green matter in the corner of her eyes, and the doctor suggested that antibiotics don't always circulate evenly in the body, and her eyes might not be getting adequate treatment from the current antibiotic. He prescribed her some eyedrops, and luckily my dad (my stepdad, but I call him my dad) is a pharmacist, so we got the srip filled super fast on Monday. She started feeling better pretty quickly, which was great, because on Tuesday we hit the road again.

Along with my mom, we headed up to Missouri for my cousin's graduation. The trip was fairly uneventful, and the baby was the best traveller of all!! It was a whirlwind of a visit, and keeping up with all the baby gear, medicine, and accoutrements was a freaking chore of itself! We headed back to home state on Thursday, just in time for my husband to come down with a stomach bug --- I know, I know, it just keeps getting better, huh? While he spent almost the entire day in bed yesterday, I took care of the baby, got H ready to go to her dad's for the weekend (her natural father lives in home state), washed bottles, did laundry, etc. and tried my best to keep my distance from hubby and his germs! I banished him to another bedroom for sleeping and wouldn't let him come near the baby.... Too bad my mom didn't follow the same protocol :( She's in bed now. Has been all day. She caught the bug.

Now, H is at her dad's, hubby is better and watching some stupid History Channel special on dogfighting-warfare, and the baby is napping. I'm already ready to be back home in College Town, working my usual schedule and getting back in touch with friends. But I'm stuck here for now, so I think I'll treat myself to the rare treat of reading some Glamour magazine :)

Law of the Father - Part II

Well, the visit from my father went as well as it could. He's reached the point in his life where he realizes that anything he can do to have some kind of relationship with me and my family is worth doing. Other than dealing with his usual lack of awareness of anyone else's normal schedule, obligations, etc., I didn't have to go too far out of my way to accommodate him. He didn't seem to realize that I had to take off work (my dept. funded "office-y" work) with virtually no advanced notice to stay home and hang out with him, and I'm sure it doesn't register with him what it meant for me to have to take the next day off of dissertation work to do the same. The baby was sick the whole time, as well, which made things a bit more exhausting, but my husband was great about being the one to get up with her most nights.

My dad stayed Thursday morning through Friday evening, and I could tell that he was just happy to be there. Hurricane H LOVES to have visitors, so she was especially happy about having an extra Papaw to spoil her. He took her to school (accompanied by my husband) on Friday morning, had lunch with her (accompanied by me), and then took her to Wal-Mart to pick out a new back-pack and a few goodies. Watching her with him, I realized that she's the exact age I was when I thought he hung the moon. He made her laugh by acting silly, and she loved hearing his stories about me as a little girl. Even the baby was willing to be held by him for a few brief minutes. Hell, even my husband - who is an urban, granola guy from Philly - got along just fine with him.

I remained guarded. I consciously put on my I'm the Boss of My World hat, and never hesitated to let him know this when he suggested that he grill steaks for dinner rather than me cooking. He kept making offers to meet us for a campout at this town, or arrange a fishing trip at that place, or to take us around the state where he works if we could make the trip. It was clear that he's desperate to just Be Involved in any way he can in our lives. But, like I told my husband...Baby Steps please. I'm not ready for this. I'm not ready for "family" vacations with the father who took me to my first bar at 12 years old and made me the designated driver while he and my WESM (Wicked Evil Step-Mother) got drunk.

I am glad that my daughter has now created some good memories with my father, and I hope she can make more in the future. How many more? I don't know. I want to protect her as much as possible, and I'm afraid that one day, she'll start asking questions. Questions about my relationship with him. About why he isn't around us very much. Or maybe she'll pick up the vibe between he and I (kids are so perceptive), and she'll just ask point blank: "Do you like Papaw D?" There's no way for her to understand the answer to that question, and there's no need for her to know our history right now. I'm just not sure how far into my life I want to allow this person. I don't think I'll ever trust him completely again. I'll never trust him the way a child should be able to trust a parent. In many ways, I don't at all consider him a parent. My step-dad was/is much more of a parent to me than my natural father was or can ever be.

I don't know what my father wants. For that matter, I'm not sure I want to know what he wants. I don't think I want to ask that question, because it implies caring what the answer is, and I don't think I care. Or maybe it's that I don't want to care? I'm not sure. I want to theorize it all. That is, I have this weird, but obvious, urge to put it all in terms of the Law of the Father because then it will make sense to me. I'm somewhat of a Theory-Head. Not in the everything-is-just-theory sense, but in the theory-can-be-a-useful-tool sense. I get theory; it makes sense to me as a way of thinking through systems of power, ideology, identity, and teleology. But I don't know if thinking this part of my life through the lens of theory is possible right now, much less helpful. Part of me is hoping he'll just go away like he always has, and this won't be an issue. Part of me is wondering if this is a spiritual opportunity in which I'm being tested, and there is a clear lesson to be learned. I'm trying to get a handle on what God would have me do. All of me realizes this is a clear, blaring, neon sign in a metaphorical fork in the road. But I can't read what the sign says just yet.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Law of the Father - Part I

This will be a brief intro post to what will, I'm sure, be several posts on the Law of the Father, in both theoretical and literal terms. The Reason: for the first time in almost a decade (and only the second time ever), my natural father is coming to visit.

The Immediate Context: My father came to my wedding in 2005, and I'd seen him once before at my brother's college graduation in 2004. Before that, I'd only seen him an average of once every year or so, at best.

Broader Context: My parents divorced when I was 10, and my father re-married WESM (Wicked Evil Step-Mother) within a year of the divorce, thinking he'd have a better shot in a custody battle if he had a wife at home to take care of my brother and I should he win. He didn't win, not at first anyway. My mother was granted full custody of us, but several months after the divorce, she was struck with a rare viral illness called
Guillain-Barre Syndrome. She was flown to Capital City Hospital, where her lungs collapsed, paralysis set in, and she was put on a respirator. We were automatically put into my father's care while she was in the hospital for the next six months. I lived with my father and WESM for about 2 years before finally moving back in with my mother, who made an almost full recovery from her illness.

Some Details About My Father:
* he cheated on my mother, nobody knows how many times though, but he wasn't terribly good at hiding it
* when he was home (which was often only a month at a time b/c he works in the oilfield), he was always the Good Cop, giving my brother and I lots of junk food, taking us fishing, hunting, etc. During my childhood, I was a Daddy's Girl; I was the son he didn't get until my brother came along four years after me.
* he has only a high school education, is from the south, and was the local football star/bully in my hometown (his nickname: The Animal)
* when my mother divorced him, he held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her; stalked her; broke into her house and burned holes in all the clothes in her close (this list is not extensive by any means)
* one time he head-butted me for opening a can of soup to eat for a late morning breakfast
* he is a Master Manipulator
* he is now divorced from WESM, though not after putting her through even worse fear and manipulation than he inflicted on my mother
* when I left his house at almost 13, he told me to take every picture of me with me because he didn't want anything to remember me by

I'm sure you're wondering why the hell I'd let this person into my home with my family. The answer, the short answer anyway, is that I forgave him a long time ago for all his past offenses, and I no longer give him the power to create fear in me. I forgave him as part of my own healing process many years ago. I confronted him about his affairs, I demanded an explanation, and I told him I wasn't afraid of him anymore.

The funny thing about The Law of the Father though, is one never really escapes it. Not completely. There's always that thing in the back of your head that knows The Law's potential to surveil, control, and punish: in theory, culture, and paternal law. I know I'm in a safe space with my husband and children. And my father and I have talked more in the past year over the phone, though the conversations are brief. He's come to recognize himself, in part, as an old man who will be leaving behind very few people who love him. He knows he fucked up with me. He knows there is no way to ever make it up. He knows (I think) that I will never trust him again the way a child should be able to trust a parent. I think he's very alone. He continues to work in the oilfield business, like he has all his life, yet he's got nothing to show for it. No home. No retirement plans. No social life. No goals. No close family. Right now, I think he's grateful for whatever he can get, and if that's just a two-night stay at his daughter's house to visit with me, my husband, and his grand-daughters, he'll take it. Even if it's tense and awkward. I know he'll die with a long list of regrets. I think this is the best I can do for him right now.

He's coming tonight, so we'll see how it goes. I'll be posting more about him, the visit, and my take on the Daddy-Daughter link to The Law of the Father in the next few days. This is one of the few times where I wished I had lots of readers who could totally relate and could offer tons of helpful advice.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mothers and Daughters

Yeah, so as a caveat, you can tell I completely forgot about the whole Mae West quote I was fairly certain I would. Anything out of the routine doesn't fair well, and it takes a lot to actually become part of the routine. C'est la vie!

Today is Baby E's first day at the Montessori! Hubby and I tag-teamed her drop-off this morning just to make things easier. And, since she has more of a tendency to cry when I do the drop-off, but I couldn't stand to not be there, I left first but Daddy stayed for a bit longer to comfort her in case she got upset after seeing me go. He's really such a fantastic father!

Mother's Day was uneventful - just like I'd hoped! Church was nice, lunch was equally nice, and I even got to watch a movie (Last King of Scotland) - whoohoo! (Note: An aside, great movie, but lots of violence! If I'd known it would be that brutal, I probably wouldn't have put it in the Netflix queue.) Like a total loser, though, I didn't get/take the time to call my OWN mother until 9:00 p.m., by which time she was already in bed. Aside from movie time, I spent the whole day with one child or the other in my arms or in front of my face (I gave H a manicure), so I just kept saying "As soon as I get done with ___, I've gotta call my mom." Yes, I'm sure you see how this works.

Speaking of H, I see the Hurricane coming. I mean, she is the Hurricane - Hurricane H. Somehow, I've managed to reproduce what is almost the exact same dynamic between her and myself as what existed between my mother and I. People say H is just like me, and that I'm just like my mother, so this should come as no surprise. And many of the ways my mother parented, I've also adopted (because, hey, I think she did alright for the most part). Hurricane H is more sensitive than I ever was as a young child, more social, and not nearly as sneaky and manipulative, but she has my head-strong nature, a mouth that won't stop, and a reason, excuse, and/or explanation for everything (especially why she should get what she wants or isn't doing something she's been asked). This creates a storm effect, and I foresee it getting worse as she gets older.

This weekend, in preparation for going with a friend and the friend's family to a local outdoor & family-friendly concert, I caught the Hurricane trying to "sneak" clothes out the door!! GASP!! Yes, she had on a black tank top and jeans, but was trying to sneak out the door with a denim skirt, which I'd already told her wouldn't be appropriate because she'd be outside playing (skirts are not play-friendly). Then, she came out in the same black tank top and a long black peasant skirt!??? It was like 90 degrees outside?!! She didn't care...The only thing she cared about was looking "a certain way" (my emphasis). I don't know what "way" this is, but I'm pretty certain it has something to do with boys, and I'm absolutely sure that I don't like the idea of this already. Her third outfit - the same black tank and some denim shorts - was approved, and off she went.

Is this inevitable? Are mothers and daughters just born to do this Dance of Emerging Identity and Independence? Or is this something I can chalk completely up to the early onset of "tweenness?" Not that it's an either/or scenario, but I want her to value herself (and others) outside of appearances. I want her to not be interested in looking "cute," especially if she's just trying to look "cute" for boys damn it! Should I be worried? Frantic? I'm bordering on frantic thinking about this... I don't want to be an over-reactionary mom, or a Puritanical, Carrie-esque mom either, but this is way too freaking young!! Isn't it?

I'm fairly radical when it comes to my own feminist beliefs, especially in terms of recognizing and respecting my daughter's body and her right to control it. I have no issue with her piercing, coloring, tattooing anything on her body - those are battles I have no intention of picking. And generally, she goes to school in mismatched outfits (usually just a t-shirt and jeans) that she chooses for herself. So how do I explain the ugly fact that in this culture, in today's world, if a girl dresses "a certain way" people (especially boys) will think "certain things?" They will assume "certain things" about her, and whether or not those "things" are true, she will be treated differently. Differently in a way that may even appear good or positive, but is not so in reality. How do I explain this to an 8-yr old girl?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Can't Be Quiet

It's rare that I talk about abortion with anyone other than my husband, mother, or very close friends, or unless I'm in a safe space and among people with similar beliefs. My main reason for this is because the issue of reproductive rights in general is my button. My thing. The thing that is at once so very personal, political, and critical to my life, values, and belief system that discussing it with anyone outside of those mentioned above is treading on dangerous and often unproductive ground. However, after reading many blog posts, blog comments and web articles, and watching several news reports about the Pope's most recent comments on the consequence politicians who legalize or enable the legalization of abortion should face, I can't be quiet right now.

This image, found at the Feminste blog, is one I've never seen. I wish I had seen it before now though. It's moving in a very unique way to me, as it reminds me how truly blessed I am to currently have the sacred, God-given right of controlling my own body. It reminds me of how precious that right is and how many people would like to see it taken away in the name of God, life, or morality. It reminds me that He was watching when I had my abortion five years ago. He was listening as I asked for guidance. He was forgiving when I asked for forgiveness without regret. I do not apologize for my decision to have an abortion, just as I do not apologize for my beliefs in a God who understands my humanity, has compassion for my frailties, and grants mercy to those who seek it with a pure heart and committed spirit.

What I'm sorry about is that I live in a culture that values one life (or potential life) over another. A culture in which some people truly, seriously believe that someone or something gave them the right to control my body, my uterus, my decision about when to become/or not become a mother. And it's not simply about abortion. This belief is connected to the broader, systematic structuring of reproductive rights, which includes (among many other things) access to affordable birth control, adequate funding for rape prevention, culturally-supported and media-sponsored solutions for erectile dysfunction. But the idea of someone else - anyone else - telling my what I can/cannot do with my body???I think of myself (on most days) as a smart person, yet I'm still not able to wrap my head around this one. No, I take that back. I understand it. I'm just very sorry about it.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

TAs Fired for ???

As I see it, these two TAs were fired for doing precisely what they were trained to do: think critically and challenge existing hierarchical structures of power.

But, I leave it to you to read the story and come up with your own answer. If you're a graduate student, faculty member, WPA (writing program administrator), or planning to be any one of the above, you should definitely check this out: Inquiry or Indoctrination? And for some really good reading, check out the comments that follow the article. Ooh, especially the one about how colleges should stop using so many "graduate student field hands." Yes, that's the answer... because soooo many universities can afford to just let go of all their graduate student teachers. And sooo many tenured and tenure-track faculty are just dying to teach entry-level composition and writing courses!