Tag Archives: children
“Portions of the post first appeared in Role Reboot.
In her recently-released memoir, Democratic nominee for Texas governor Wendy Davis writes about two abortions she had many years ago. A National Review Online contributor would like her to prove it. Like Erin Gloria Ryan, who wrote about this yesterday in Jezebel, I won’t link to this article, which included the following sentence, “The Davis campaign did not respond to questions about whether Davis’s highly unusual abortions were matched by any medical evidence, doctor statements, or public verification from her ex-husband or two daughters.”
This “wink, wink — we all know women lie” masked as journalistic concern isn’t just about Davis, but all of us. Words like “highly suspect” “evidence” and “verification,”used in circumstances like this, leverage a diffuse and atavistic suspicion of women.
Women’s credibility is questioned in the workplace, in courts, in legislatures, by law enforcement, in doctors’ offices and in our political system. People don’t trust women… not to be bosses, pilots, employees. Last year, a survey of managers in the United States revealed that they overwhelmingly don’t believe women who request flextime. Until relatively recently, in order to hedge against the idea that women lie, many U.S. police departments had “corroboration requirements” for rape reports, unlike any other crime. Pakistan’s controversial Hudood Ordinance still requires a female rape victim to procure four male witnesses to her rape or risk prosecution for adultery. Bias is particularly pronounced when it comes to women’s bodies and who does what with them.
Several months ago, a man in France was arrested for raping his 14-year old daughter. She’d gone to her school counselor and then the police, but they needed “hard evidence.” The recently-revealed Rotherham abuse crimes, in which more than 1,400 girls were subjected to rape and other violence, were largely enabled by authorities who thought girls didn’t deserve to be believed. They aren’t alone. Studies show thatcollege students and, even more disturbingly, police officers, believe that up to 50% of women lie when they accuse someone of rape, despite wide-scale evidence and multi-country studies that show the incidence of false rape reports to be in the 2%-8% range. As I will forever point out, as late as 2003, people jokingly referred to Philadelphia’s sex crimes unit as “the lying bitch unit.”
Everyone lies. However, people expect different kinds of lies from men and women. Women are frequently considered trustworthier except when lies include another person, in which case confidence in the veracity of what women say plummets. In other words, women can be trusted to talk about themselves, but not anything else. Even when people surveyed say they think women are more honest as individuals,despite themselves, they cannot trust them as leaders. In Davis’ case, she’s not even extended this courtesy, being believed when she is recounting the facts of her own life.
You know what a memoir is? Testimony.
The words testimony, testify, testis, testicle, attest, intestate, testament and contest are related etymologically. Yup. That, historically, you could not give testimony if you did not posses the balls to do so is not a metaphor. Apparently, men in ancient Rome cupped each others’ testicles, as a sign of trust and truthfulness, when taking oaths. Today, men no longer do this, at least not that I’m aware of, nor do they place their right hands on their testicles in order to swear to tell the truth in court any longer. (Someone will tell me that I’m lying, in which case they should contact theUniversity of Chicago.)
While this delicious historical tidbit may seem like a quaint oddity, and it’s fair to assume that most people are not overtly linking men’s crown jewels with the truth, the fact remains that we live with this legacy. This semantic cluster provides interesting insights into who we, culturally, choose to believe and how we, systemically, regulate narratives and prioritize experiences. There is a certain self-fulfilling ideological logic to the notion that the vast majority of women are, quite literally, not fit to have their words taken at face value or their concerns taken seriously.
Take courtrooms, and their proxies — media, school rape adjudication boards and public judgment. Myths about gender and truth don’t stay at home when jurors, judges and journalists go to work. In courtrooms, not only are men considered more credible, but they are particularly thought more credible if they are talking aboutcomplex subjects. Are Wendy Davis’ abortions, and the ethical and moral considerations that led to them, complex? Conservatives in particular have a hard time recognizing women’s moral competence.
As Dahlia Lithwick so richly documented a few years ago, the GOP’s destructive, ruinous anti-woman “social policy” agenda is being pursued under a rubric that insists women need “permission slips” and “waiting periods.” The government shutdown last year? Conservatives holding the country hostage because they wanted to add anti-abortion “conscience clause” language to legislation. Whose consciences? All the lying, morally incompetent and untrustworthy men who need abortions and health care?
It’s not just what women say that people find in-credible, but studies also show that women are allowed an exceedingly narrow band of how they are allowed to say it. If a woman expresses righteous anger, she is less likely to be believed. If she expresses herself in a combative way in response to a hectoring lawyer or reporter, she is going to be disliked. If she is silent, she will be distrusted. If she talks too much, she is thought to be making stories up. If she is a woman of color, well, all of that on steroids plus some. What are Jezebels and welfare queens if not, first and foremost, myths about liars?
People don’t just turn 18 and start doubting what women say, their competence or authority. This struck me clearly three years ago, when, in fly-on-the-wall fashion of parent drivers everywhere, I listened while a girl in the back seat of my car described how angry she was that her parents had stopped allowing her to walk home alone just because a girl in her neighborhood “claimed she was raped.” When I asked her if there was any reason to think the girl’s story was not true, she said, “Girls lie about rape all the time.” She was 14 and very sure about this.
We don’t need to though. It’s in the air. Lessons about women’s untrustworthiness are in our words, pictures, art and memory. Women are overwhelmingly portrayed in media as flawed, supplemental, ornamental objects, or unattainably perfect. It’s easy to find examples of girls and women entertainingly cast as liars and schemers. For example, on TV we have Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, Don’t Trust The Bitch in Apartment 23, Devious Maids, and, because its serpent imagery is so symbolically basic to feminized evil, American Horror Story: Coven. Backstabbing women are astaple of reality TV.
Movies, too. PG and G-rated movies are filled with “women lie” precursors to their R-rated versions. Tangle‘s “Mother Knows Best” is a delightful ditty that takes particular aim at… mothers. Or, how bout Shark Tale, which features the song “Gold Digger,” a catchy tune that kids sing along to that describes women as scheming, thieving, greedy and materialistic? The vast majority of mad people in films are untrustworthy women and the entire Film Noir genre is filled with manipulative gals. What does the failure of most films to even allow two women to be named or speak to one another about anything other than the male protagonists say to kids?
In the music industry, hip-hop most frequently comes in for well-deserved criticism, but there is no shortage of music lyrics in all genres that convey distrust of and disdain for women. Pop culture has nothing on religion, though.
Here’s a two-for-one example! Delilah, a renowned biblical avatar of female untrustworthiness, made it into the lyrics of JT Money’s “Somethin’ ‘Bout Pimpin'”:
I got a problem with this punk a** b*tch I know
Ol’no good skanlezz switch out ho
An untrustworthy b*tch like Deliliah
Only thing she good for is puttin’ d*ck inside her
Ew. However, line for line, this is an updated version, albeit more catchy, of:
Honestly, what’s the difference? While most religious leaders aren’t going around spouting overtly denigrating opinions (does calling us “penis homes” count?) about women, many, through default and tradition, casually and uncritically expose children to religious texts, systems and cultures rooted in misogyny.
The United States is among the most religious of developed countries. There’s a straight line between catchy, contemporary expressions of the distrust of women andthese guys, who shaped the Judeo-Christian canon, and who continue to shape children’s imaginations. As a matter of fact, the quotes above represented a tradition that some consider an improvement for women. There is a strong family friendly heritage of sexism here. And, unlike pop culture, religious misogyny that inculcates children with a disrespect for women’s words is tied to institutional power in ways that mean women continue to be impoverished and die, including because women are denied access to safe, legal abortions when they need them.
Most importantly though, when it comes to religion, the dangerous and destructive effect that the everyday ritual silencing of women has on children, and what they think about women, cannot be overstated. Personally, I won’t allow my children to participate in religious conventions were women are barred from speaking as leaders. If women aren’t allowed to speak with ministerial authority, it’s because they cannot be trusted to. Children aren’t stupid, they’re just young.
A seemingly simple statement, with its barely contained innuendo, such as “only Ms. Davis knows the truth about her alleged abortions,” ripples widely and resonates deeply in the cultural imagination. When you see this language, these ideas, don’t tolerate the insult. Name it.
As Ryan said, “Are you sure you want to do this? Is this the message you want to send? …This seems wrong.””
“Seven-year-old Penelope Day needs both hands to pick up the power drill.
“Go ahead, turn it on,” says Deb Winsor, who’s working with Penelope on this project. “You might want to make it go faster.”
As she does, Penelope feels the rush of air from the motor. “The wind is blowing right on you,” she says. “You can feel the vibration of the drill bit going in.”
Penelope is spending the week at a day camp run by Construction Kids. The Brooklyn-based program offers building classes throughout the year for kids as young as 2 years old. It’s one of a new and immensely popular wave of programs trying to shift kids away from computer screens toward actual, hands-on activities. Like building things from scratch.
With help from a team of adults, the children in this program will design and make their own game boards, foosball tables and models of cities. Even the Brooklyn Bridge.
Winsor began Construction Kids five years ago. She’s a woodworker who came up with the idea after giving a lesson on building to her 4-year-old son’s pre-K class.
Last year alone, she says, 12,000 kids signed up. Winsor thinks these programs offer an antidote to all the time kids spend on their screens.
“There’s just an incredible demand on the part of parents to have their kids do this kind of learning,” she says. “The schools can’t do it for a lot of reasons. It’s expensive; they don’t have the insurance that covers it. It’s a big step to train your teachers.”
Not to mention the fear of putting power tools in the hands of 5-year-olds. Winsor says her biggest obstacle was finding an insurance company. But she says her staffers keep a very watchful eye and there haven’t been any serious injuries.
“Sometimes we have splinters. Every now and then someone will, you know, hit their finger,” she says.
Winsor says the program is so popular she’s creating a nonprofit foundation to serve more public schools that can’t otherwise afford it.
Educators say building is an important way for kids to learn by doing — just look at the enduring popularity of blocks and Lego.
Eric Bogner says his 6-year-old son, Skyler, is loving this camp.
“I think it’s extremely important to build with your hands and really embrace craft,” Bogner says. “And feel like you can build things and construct what’s in your mind, rather than trying to search for it on the computer.”
At Construction Kids, there’s a lot of excitement about the first big project of the week. It’s a gigantic marble run, 18 feet of wooden ramps leading to a maze made out of nails. But the staff members have to hold up the planks to keep it working.
Seven-year-old Max Rhodes thinks he has a solution.
“We need to build stilts all the way down to the ground,” Max says. “But if we work all together, this might take, at least three days, not the whole week.”
For a lot of parents, that’s a good use of time.”
It is unfair of Florida to ban all doctors (including pediatricians) from at least asking their patients if there are guns in the house and if they or anyone else in the house has access to them.
AUG. 9, 2014
“YAMHILL, Ore. — ONE delusion common among America’s successful people is that they triumphed just because of hard work and intelligence.
In fact, their big break came when they were conceived in middle-class American families who loved them, read them stories, and nurtured them with Little League sports, library cards and music lessons. They were programmed for success by the time they were zygotes.
Yet many are oblivious of their own advantages, and of other people’s disadvantages. The result is a meanspiritedness in the political world or, at best, a lack of empathy toward those struggling — partly explaining the hostility to state expansion of Medicaid, to long-term unemployment benefits, or to raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation.
This has been on my mind because I’ve been visiting my hometown of Yamhill, Ore., a farming community that’s a window into the national crisis facing working-class men.
I love this little town, but the news is somber — and so different from the world I now inhabit in a middle-class suburb. A neighbor here just died of a heroin overdose; a friend was beaten up last night by her boyfriend; another friend got into a fistfight with his dad; a few more young men have disappeared into the maw of prison.
Rick Goff, 64, of Yamhill, Ore., makes ends meet these days with odd jobs and his disability benefits. CreditSusan Seubert for The New York Times
One of my friends here, Rick Goff, 64, lean with a lined and weathered face and a short pigtail (maybe looking a bit like Willie Nelson), is representative of the travails of working-class America. Rick is immensely bright, and I suspect he could have been a lawyer, artist or university professor if his life had gotten off to a different start. But he grew up in a ramshackle home in a mire of disadvantage, and when he was 5 years old, his mom choked on a piece of bacon, staggered out to the yard and dropped dead.
“My dad just started walking down the driveway and kept walking,” Rick remembers.
His three siblings and he were raised by a grandmother, but money was tight. The children held jobs, churned the family cow’s milk into butter, and survived on what they could hunt and fish, without much regard for laws against poaching.
Despite having a first-class mind, Rick was fidgety and bored in school. “They said I was an overactive child,” he recalls. “Now they have name for it, A.D.H.D.”
A teacher or mentor could have made a positive difference with the right effort. Instead, when Rick was in the eighth grade, the principal decided to teach him that truancy was unacceptable — by suspending him from school for six months.
“I was thinking I get to go fishing, hang out in the woods,” he says. “That’s when I kind of figured out the system didn’t work.”
In the 10th grade, Rick dropped out of school and began working in lumber mills and auto shops to make ends meet. He said his girlfriend skipped town and left him with a 2-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son to raise on his own.
Rick acknowledges his vices and accepts responsibility for plenty of mistakes: He smoked, drank too much for a time and abused drugs. He sometimes hung out with shady people, and he says he has been arrested about 30 times but never convicted of a felony. Some of his arrests were for trying to help other people, especially to protect women, by using his fists against bullies.
In that respect, Rick can actually be quite endearing. For instance, he vows that if anyone messes with my mother, he’ll kill that person.
A generation or two ago, Rick might have ended up with a stable family and in a well-paid union job, creating incentives for prudent behavior. Those jobs have evaporated, sometimes creating a vortex of hopelessness that leads to poor choices and becomes self-fulfilling.
There has been considerable progress in material standards over the decades. When I was a kid, there were still occasional neighbors living in shacks without electricity or plumbing, and that’s no longer the case. But the drug, incarceration, job and family instability problems seem worse.
Rick survives on disability (his hand was mashed in an accident) and odd jobs (some for my family). His health is frail, for he has had heart problems and kidney cancer that almost killed him two years ago.
Millions of poorly educated working-class men like him are today facing educational failure, difficulty finding good jobs, self-medication with meth or heroin, prison records that make employment more difficult, hurdles forming stable families and, finally, early death.
Obviously, some people born into poverty manage to escape, and bravo to them. That tends to be easier when the constraint is just a low income, as opposed to other pathologies such as alcoholic, drug-addicted or indifferent parents or a neighborhood dominated by gangs (I would argue that the better index of disadvantage for a child is not family income, but how often the child is read to).
Too often wealthy people born on third base blithely criticize the poor for failing to hit home runs. The advantaged sometimes perceive empathy as a sign of muddle-headed weakness, rather than as a marker of civilization.
In effect, we have a class divide on top of a racial divide, creating a vastly uneven playing field, and one of its metrics is educational failure. High school dropouts are five times as likely as college graduates to earn the minimum wage or less, and 16.5 million workers would benefit directly from a raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Yes, these men sometimes make bad choices. But just as wealthy Americans inherit opportunity, working-class men inherit adversity. As a result, they often miss out on three pillars of middle-class life: a job, marriage and a stable family, and seeing their children succeed.
ONE of Rick’s biggest regrets is that his son is in prison on drug-related offenses, while a daughter is in a halfway house recovering from heroin addiction.
The son just had a daughter who was born to a woman who has three other children, fathered by three other men. The odds are already stacked against that baby girl, just as they were against Rick himself.
This crisis in working-class America doesn’t get the attention it deserves, perhaps because most of us in the chattering class aren’t a part of it.
There are steps that could help, including a higher minimum wage, early childhood programs, and a focus on education as an escalator to opportunity. But the essential starting point is empathy.”
Posted: 07/29/2014 11:47 am EDT Updated: 07/29/2014 2:59 pm EDT
“It happened yet again. As I was sitting at the table for dinner with my children, I noticed my daughter’s hand fishing around under her skirt.
“We don’t play with our vulvas at the table. Go wash your hands and finish your food,” I scolded. She nodded, ran off to wash her hands, and resumed picking at her dinner instead.
Small children, they touch themselves. A lot. It’s fascinating to them. And when you’re a small child, you have no sense of shame or disgust or fear of your body. Your body is what it is. It does what it does. And everything that it does is kind of amazing, because you’re not old enough for lower back pain. It’s not sexual, it’s just… fact.
The first time I caught one of my kids playing with their genitals, I said absolutely nothing. I was momentarily paralyzed with indecision. One thing I knew for a fact I did not want to do was to shout, “No!” or “Stop!” What good could that possibly do? Sure, I would be spared the awkwardness of catching my child playing with her genitals on the living room floor, but what kind of lesson is that? To fear or ignore your own vagina?
I thought about it almost constantly for two days, and of course she gave me a second chance to react.
“Sweetie, we don’t play with our vulvas in the living room,” I said. Which sounded ridiculous and strange, but nonetheless true. Why is everything with little kids “we” statements? “It’s OK to touch your vulva, but people are private, and it’s a private thing. The only places where you should touch your vulva are in the bathroom or in your bedroom. If you want to play with your vulva, please go to the bedroom.”
And she smiled and did, without question, because compartmentalizing where you do certain activities makes sense to little kids.
“We don’t eat in the bathroom, and we don’t touch our vulvas in the living room,” became the new mantra. And yes, eventually it became, “We don’t touch our vulvas at the table.”
I’m what some people call “sex-positive.” That doesn’t mean I talk with my 4-year-olds about how great sex is and how good it feels. It means I don’t pretend it’s something other than it is.
As parents, we lie all the time. About the Easter Bunny or Santa or the Tooth Fairy, about how long 10 minutes is, about whether or not we remembered they wanted to have grilled cheese for dinner again… We lie a lot. But one thing I never lie about is sex.
I don’t want them to grow up ashamed of their bodies or confused about what they do. I don’t tell them about cabbage patches or storks; I make an effort, always, to be honest about human reproduction. Every aspect of it.
I’ve had talks with lots of other moms about having “the talk.” I don’t think my kids and I will ever have that particular talk, because they already know. And we talk about it often — kids are obsessive creatures. We read Where Did I Come From? andWhat Makes A Baby, which together cover every aspect of the subject. We can talk about IVF and C-sections, because both of those are part of the story of their births, and we can talk about the fact that yes, mommy and daddy still have sex regardless. And when they’re older, we’ll start talking about contraception.
Because lying to your kids about sex helps nobody. Telling them that sex is “only between mommies and daddies” is a lie that leads to confused, hormone-charged teenagers. Telling them that sex is “only something that happens when two people love each other very much” is a lie that causes hormone-charged teenagers to confuse “love” with “lust,” or “obsession.” It leads to leaps of logic like, “If I have sex with this person, we must be in love.” Or worse: “If I love this person, I have to have sex with him or her.” And how many teenage tragedies are based on that misconception?
The truth is that human beings, almost universally, like sex. It feels good. And it’s supposed to feel good. If it didn’t, the human race would die out. The truth is that sex isn’t special and magical just because it’s sex. The truth is that you can have spectacular sex with strangers whose names you don’t even know. The truth is that just because you can, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
And that’s what sex-positive parenting really is. Not telling my kids lies about sex to keep them from behaviors I don’t think are healthy. It’s telling them the truth, the whole truth, and letting it sink in so they can make their own good choices.
It’s telling them that sex is good, but that it’s dangerous if you’re not careful. It’s teaching them to require their partners to use condoms, to buy their own condoms if they’re planning on having sex. It’s teaching them that while sex feels good, they can feel good on their own too. (Just not at the table.) That while sex combined with love is often the best sex — transcendent sex — that grows the bond of love and builds a closeness that is almost impossible to find otherwise, sex isn’t always like that, even with people you love. That sex can lead to pregnancy, even with protection, so engaging in it is a commitment to deal with any consequences.
It’s telling them they’re not wrong, or sinful, or bad, if they have sexual feelings. Or even if they have sex. It’s teaching them that sex happens, whether people always make good choices or not. And it’s giving them the tools to ensure that when they’re ready, they’re smart and cautious and conscientious.
There’s a lot of black-and-white comparisons when it comes to sex education. Some people think that once kids hit puberty, if they don’t have a strong fear of sex they’ll have as much as they can, as often as they can. There’s a lot of abstinence-only sex education, based on telling kids, “SEX IS SCARY! DON’T DO IT!” and it appears to be about the least successful program anyone has ever invented.
Telling children the truth about sex isn’t giving permission for them to have it — and this is the most important part — because when the right time comes, nobody has the right to deny them permission for sex but themselves.
And that’s the thing I try to keep in mind when I say things like, “We don’t touch our vulvas at the table.” Sex is something that ONLY happens when both people WANT it to happen. And that means that the only people in the entire world with any kind of say over whether or not my daughters have sex is them.
I don’t get to tell my daughters they have to have sex, but I also don’t get to tell them they can’t. They’re in charge. Your body, your decision.
I never want to be responsible for setting the precedent that another person gets to tell them what to do with their bodies, and especially with their sexuality. I don’t want to be the gateway for a manipulative, potentially abusive boyfriend.
So I teach boundaries. Appropriate places. Hygiene. I teach my children that nobody is allowed to touch their bodies without permission. When we get in tickle fights and they say, “Stop!” I stop.
And when we talk about pregnant friends, we talk about uteruses and sperm and eggs.
And most of the time, it’s not uncomfortable. Most of the time, I’m verifying information and the conversation lasts 15 seconds.
And someday the conversation is going to be a lot uglier. Someday, we’ll have to actually talk about rape, and explicit and enthusiastic consent, and contraception. Someday we’ll have to talk about healthy masturbation and pornography and realistic expectations of sex and sex partners and body image and a lack of shame for their bodies. And those conversations are not going to be as brief or straightforward.
But I’m ready. Whenever that day comes, I’m prepared. Because the groundwork is there.
“We don’t touch our vulvas at the table.” It’s absurd, but it’s got all the important pieces. It’s a micro-lesson in safety and consent and social propriety. I don’t think I’ll be able to say “We don’t lose our virginity in the backseat of a car after a prom party” with a straight face, but I will be able to say, “We don’t have sex without thinking long and hard about it first, and we certainly don’t do it without being careful, and being safe, and being totally confident in the maturity of our partner and our ability to handle the repercussions if we get a disease or get pregnant.”
Because it’s true. We don’t.
But I like that when that time comes, I’m part of the “we.” Because if I can tell my girls, “we” have to be careful, they’ll know that no matter what happens, I’m still in their corner. I’ve still got their backs. Even if “we” make bad choices, I’ll still be there to help make things right again.
Posted: 07/22/2014 10:33 pm EDT Updated: 07/23/2014 10:59 am EDT
“As the White House took steps to accommodate religious nonprofits wanting to opt out of contraception coverage, HBO’s “Girls” creator Lena Dunham took to Twitter Tuesday evening with a simple question:
I need birth control because I have endometriosis and it helps manage pain. Why do you?
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) July 23, 2014
The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling last month dealt a major blow to birth control coverage. At the time, Dunham tweeted her stance that “Women’s access to birth control should not be denied because of their employer’s religious beliefs.” Last week, Eden Foods’ CEO revived a case to deny coverage of all birth control from employees’ healthcare plans.
Within minutes of Dunham’s tweet, both women and men were sharing the many reasons, from health concerns to family planning, that birth control is important to them:
@lenadunham Because I am not physically, financially, or emotionally prepared for parenthood.
— Casey Rae (@cgarci21) July 23, 2014
— Maria Yagoda (@mariayagoda) July 23, 2014
@lenadunham because women have the right to enjoy sex without the confines and fear of a unplanned pregnancy, just as men do
— B (@brattybeeee) July 23, 2014
@lenadunham I need birth control because it is my choice to stop having kids after having had two that I planned and love to pieces.
— Romina Linnell (@RominaML) July 23, 2014
@lenadunham because I have a future jam packed with finishing college, starting a career, and traveling. A baby doesn’t fit into that yet.
— breanna ☮♡ૐ (@BreannaB) July 23, 2014
@lenadunham because I want every girl I ever love to feel safe with every guy they ever love. And bc could help.
— eric (@yungg_dad) July 23, 2014
@lenadunham I don’t want a baby yet and my periods were stupid heavy and now they aren’t 🙂
— Rebecca (@shragger) July 23, 2014
Dunham concluded by thanking the “brave women and sensitive men” and encouraging readers to follow the Planned Parenthood Action Fund to learn more. And then, in typical quirky Dunham fashion, she added:
Oh, one other reason I need birth control: cuz once when I was menstruating real bad I said “my grandma only likes me cuz I’m on TV”
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) July 23, 2014“