Monday, September 29, 2008


Ever played that game where you make everything funny (movie titles, book titles, fortune cookies) by adding the phrase "in bed" after it? I've decided it would be great discipline for everyone involved in any kind of public discourse to add the phrase "according to whom?" after every assertion. It might make us more aware of ourselves--our limitations, our assumptions, our presumptions, our false characterizations, our general epistemic laziness.


Clare's learned how to tattle: after I returned to Dallas from Abilene, she told on her Grandmom for taking away her duckies in the bathtub (they were soaps, and she was about to rub them in her eyes). Imagine piteous toddler voice: "Grandmom TOOK soapy duckies. Clare sooo SAD."


Had a successful dissertation day today: a section that gave me so much trouble months ago that I moved on without finishing it, leaving it in a mess, is now in a more-or-less final shape after incorporating an insight I gleaned while teaching the ACU Cyborgs & Olive Trees class. Current goal: get this chapter presentable enough to send off to my advisor by AAR, and after AAR's presentation on transhumanism and the body, turn my attention (finally!) to the theology part of this theology and science dissertation.


I realized tonight while talking to my sister that I'd actually be a LOT happier if I could feel some pride in Sarah Palin as a respectable adversary. Part of me would be very satisfied to see her finally do well on the national stage--to give some solid answers, not just insults and roundabout BS. It would undoubtedly suck for the Obama campaign if she did. Nonetheless, part of me--you know, that part--would feel quite satisfied to see her justify her presence on the national stage, rather than continue to occupy it on the basis of someone else's whim, (um, I mean, calculated strategic choice based on her symbolic value to certain demographics).


I read an interesting article recently on Obama and the infanticide charge that keeps appearing in those blasted youtube comments that I find so ridiculous. I don't agree with everything in the article, but it does make the point that the difference between the law as it stood and the bills Obama voted against hang on viability; and that makes the ethical situation parallel to end-of-life situations. To call Obama a supporter of infanticide is like accusing people with living wills and DNRs of being suicidal, or calling family members who make the decision to remove medical support murderers. (Of course, there are people who say stuff like that, I guess.) The bottom line, though, is that this is one of those gray-area disputes misleading crammed into very black-and-white categories. Is it really moral to "save" a non-viable life? I find this the wrong point for drastic intervention in any case: if we could reduce unwanted pregnancy with preventative measures like birth control and effective sex ed, if we could reduce the perceived necessity of abortion by making it possible to carry unwanted pregnancies to term without shame and unbearable economic/social consequences, then we will have intervened at points which are actually effective for averting this tragedy.


I've started re-reading books from my Brit Novel course back in my Harding days. It's an interesting exercise, one that proves that I was truly clueless back then. I didn't notice at the time how many of the protagonists were women: Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, Excellent Women, A Passage to India (there were more books, we did a book a week, I think, so the pattern may not hold all the way through--I'm not sure how to verify, since I no longer have the syllabus). I'm also horror-struck in my re-reading of Jane Eyre: it begins with a scene I can only read as a euphemistic rape scene and I know I didn't see that when I was in college. But what really threw me was the character of St. John: reminiscent of the missions type I dated, the result of which was a two-year depression and a whole hell of a lot of emotional baggage. Thank God Jane knew enough to run screaming away back to Rochester! Then, of course, Wide Sargasso Sea retells it all through the eyes of Bertha, the mad wife in the attic; and then Rochester's no prize either.

Excellent Women is much funnier now that I'm a theologian married to an Episcopalian almost-priest; I even get the John Henry Newman jokes and the references to the Oxford Movement along with all the chuckles about the indispensability of excellent women with their ready-to-hand cups of tea.


Had sincere intentions of blogging more about ACU Summit but honestly, I can't remember any of the things I had mentally tucked away to blog about at this point. Except that, it's wonderful to return to a place where everyone seems to remember you fondly and says outrageously nice things about/to you. Like "she's one of my favorite people." Whaaaa? Really? The gathered-up collective ego-boost from such outrageousness is going to keep me going all the way to next year.


Looking forward to the arrival of Anna and Sylva tomorrow! Toddlers Unite! (Mothers, cower?)

Friday, September 26, 2008


Go visit Feminary and read awhile. She is always consistently interesting but her last three posts raise some major questions, and quite coincidentally, dovetail with the issues I've been thinking about and discussing the last few days: white privilege, "otherizing" Obama, and the censorship (or attempted obliteration from existence?) of women clergy. Wow. Are we experiencing some weird hormonal synching up of our mental flows?

Clare and I fly back home tomorrow after a couple days hanging out with Granddad and Grandmom and Unkie Brandon. Hopefully, I'll be able to blog a bit about ACU's Summit after arriving. There was some impressive stuff happening there this year, not all of which I was able to attend (sometimes parallel sessions suck! how do you choose btw classes on violence, women & politics, and racism & white privilege? or when friends are teaching simultaneous classes?).

And a shout out to the Kendall-Balls for their hospitality and excellent scotch. Gracias!!! Hope to return the favor someday.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

just asking

  1. What one personal thing do you like most about Governor Palin?
  2. What one personal thing do you dislike most about Governor Palin?
  3. What one political thing do you like most about Governor Palin?
  4. What one political thing do you dislike most?
  5. Favorite line from convention speech? Least favorite?
  6. Most revealing or significant Q&A exchange with Gibson?

Monday, September 15, 2008

messed up all around

The real measure of entrenched sexism in our society and political discourse?

My own unquenchable desire to mock Palin's prom hair.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

don't miss it

Buried in the comments of the supermom post is a link to a legitimate article (as opposed to my personal meanderings) on Palin as supermom. Don't miss it. (Thanks, Steven!)

"Whine Not."


I haven't confessed this to too many people, especially since moving to NJ and spending time in NYC. But I have never felt the kind of intense, personal, emotional impact most people seem to have in response to 9/11. It's not that I'm unaware of the horror of it, or the extent of the tragedy for those involved. But something about the insistence on grieving pushed me firmly away, emotionally. I resisted being drawn into it. Part of it is probably just my personality--I think abstractly, in terms of systems and patterns and ideas, and not people. And part of it may have just been some kind of perverse coping.

But today after dropping Clare off at "school," as we call it, I switched off our favorite "Music Together" cd and tuned the radio to 93.9, one of NYC's NPR stations. And listened to part of the memorial ceremony, and some of the commentary. And what hit me was a keen sense of the emptiness that must have been present in those last moments, when everyone realized the craziness was past the point of no return, and I wondered: could anyone feel the sense of religious fulfillment being sought after in the act? Isn't there something about the nature of that deed that would belie the sought-after goal, even for the most zealous, the most committed? I can't really know. But I hope so. I hope that God has arranged this creation such that when such confusion about who God is and wants from us, God's own creatures, leads to horrors, that even the most confused experience a moment of revelation about their actions.

It took seven years to feel something, and in the end, I don't even know what this emotion is.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

how it works

After Palin's acceptance speech, which I watched live and then reviewed on youtube while writing the supermom post, I was irked and curious enough about her statements re Obama's policy positions that I put them on to see how they would get rated for accuracy & relevancy. In particular, the one that really got me was the statement that Obama didn't want to produce more energy to meet the nation's needs. That seemed so ludicrous that it almost didn't need to be considered, but then again, I thought, she was addressing people who were probably ready to believe it, and (like me) not able to spend the time trying to research what evidence might undergird that conclusion, or search out what Obama might have said to support or belie it.

So here are the results: "America needs more energy. Our opponent is against producing it." Accuracy: .6 out of 5; Relevancy: 2.8 out of 5. There are 15 votes so far, and one assessment contrasting Palin's statement with news sources quoting Obama on the offshore drilling included in his energy plan.

I've added Ameritocracy to the sidebar of the blog, and a widget featuring the quote of the day. Anyone can join, and add quotes, vote regarding a quote's accuracy and/or relevancy, and add responses challenging, supporting, assessing or giving context for a quote. Users build a reputation that reflects the community's consensus on their reliability, as do the sources.

Palin's a bit low right now at 2.6 out of 5.

The more people who join, the more informed the communal judgment is. Or you may be like me, rather unsure of your own ability to make an informed judgment about the reliability of political statements in most cases, and use the site by adding quotes and benefitting from the accumulated judgments of others. I expect I'll be relying on this site more and more, as the campaigns get underway.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

SP: Supermom vice-Pres

Sarah Palin's acceptance speech was followed up by another night of so much Mother-worship that, if you didn't look around and see the obvious white male presence of the RNC, you might have mistaken it for a grand coven of Wiccan goddess-worshippers or something. Seriously; Sarah Palin's aggrandizing of the hockey mom, PTA persona was underscored by Cindy McCain's blunt assertion that nothing else she's done in her life has fulfilled her like being a mother; and the star of John McCain's biography video was Roberta McCain.

I was already convinced there was something going on with all the mom-talk Palin was doing in her acceptance speech. I know that part of what happens in these speeches is a sort of introduction of oneself as person and candidate, and that Palin had a lot of this to do, given that she'd been under wraps at the convention until that point, and all the true and untrue things swirling in the media with regard to her family. Even so: the hockey mom line grated.

But now that the role of Mother has been so elevated in successive RNC discourse, I am all the more firmly convinced that this is simply the only way that this voting constituency can even comprehend strong women. Palin has to present herself as "just your average hockey mom..." because that is only category in which women are allowed to be legitimately aggressive, and is attached to the only sphere (the home) in which women are allowed to be leaders. Palin has to distance herself from the frightening feminists, like Hillary Rodham Clinton (who may also be mothers but who don't run for political office by listing their wombs as assets), by making her political activity an extension of her mothering: "...and signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids public education even better" flows smoothly into "and when I ran for city council..."

There are many other things that bug me about the deliberate positioning of Palin as mom, including my feeling that Palin's children are being used as political props in the same way that the adopted daughters of McCain and friend were used the night before (and Bridget was, again, made the object of that repeated narrative last night). I've already blogged about that, so that's all I'll say about it here.

Laura's expressed her reservations about Palin on her blog. This is less a critique of Palin as potential VP than it is a question about her priorities as a mother. Normally this might be out of bounds--certainly people are playing the sexism card about it (Guiliani's comment prior to her acceptance speech, and Carly Fiorina's complaint to Charlie Rose, for examples)--but given that Palin is billing herself as Supermom, I think it's actually quite fair.

Now, don't read me as saying that I don't think any woman, or any mother, should consider accepting a nomination for vice president (or any analogous type job). But mothers who do take on those responsibilities have the obligation to make sure that their kids are adequately cared for by someone--dad, grandmom, nanny...someone. Because it's simply not true that the mom can do it all. If Sarah Palin would come clean about that--that there will be others taking on the role of primary caretaker--then the criticisms of her mothering priorities would lose a great deal of force. Of course, she can't; because to come clean about that would mean walking away from the supermom image.

And this brings me to my biggest complaint. Sarah Palin made the pseudo-feminist claim in her acceptance speech that every woman can walk through every door of opportunity. And to that I say, bullshit. Forget the obvious example of poverty stricken female heads of households who are scrabbling for enough wages to put food on the table and pay the rent, let alone childcare. I'm talking about me: affluent (well, you know, relatively), educated, white, privileged, for whom opporknockity tunes twice an hour. And I say, bullshit. The Supermom myth is one of the most pernicious lies about women that we tell ourselves and get told, and here's Sarah Palin lying to us all on a national stage: I'm just a hockey mom who can raise her five kids and be Vice-Pres too.

Well, I'm just a mom of one toddler, and all I'm trying to do is maintain my sanity, take semi-regular showers, and write a dissertation. I've been trying to achieve this for two years now, and so far, my daughter's healthy and happy, I've not showered today, and I'm still writing the same chapter of the dissertation I was two years ago when she was born.

Oh, and the sanity thing is questionable; I'm starting therapy soon.

Why? Because quite frankly, I am tortured at every turn with guilt. Supermom taunts me. I should be able to mother my toddler, feed her nutritiously, stimulate her intellect and curiousity by constant interaction, keep my house decently clean, cook dinner every night, look beautiful, lose those last torturous 12 pounds I'm still carrying, support my husband in whatever way he needs, be involved in church and in other people's lives and have friends, AND enjoy a successful academic career. I should be, because I am a smart and capable and strong woman, and this is what smart capable strong women do: they do it all, without breaking a sweat. Because women are not only innate nurturers, they are natural multitaskers as well. Well, I suck at all that, and because I can't kick the feeling that I should be able to do it, I constantly just feel like a loser. I'm a bad mom, because I can't do the ideal stay-at-home-mom thing the way it should be done. I'm a terrible student, because I'm not making any visible progress and my committee probably has forgotten I even exist. I'm a rotten wife, because I'm so bummed and guilt-ridden and exhausted that I don't want to go out or have fun or do anything other than stay at home, have a glass of wine and spent a few hours asleep trying to forget how bad I feel about everything. And I no longer sleep so well.

Sarah Palin's use of the hockey mom image as a major part of her public persona is therefore pissing me off, because I know it's a big fat lie. And instead of being able to see a woman on the national stage as a triumph for American women, I am experiencing it as a betrayal. Sarah Palin's carefully constructed hockey mom image may reassure those voters who have no category for strong women other than "mom." But in pandering to those who are unwilling to see women as simply other human beings, free to follow any number of possible paths through life, she has also condemned women who are struggling to liberate themselves from the tyranny of unmeetable expectations placed on them by the Supermom.

live blogging Palin at the RNC

**NB: this is belated because Brent's laptop is not on internet, had to retype it all on my desktop this morning.

Giuliani: "how dare they ask if she will have enough time with her children--they would never ask this of a man"--fair point--but unfortunate cut to Cindy McCain holding Palin baby...irony? of course not.

cancellation of the intro video? whaaaa? no maudlin scenes of childhood and gummy music? what on earth for? what's in there? who wants to bet some unscrupulous person gets hold of it and makes a big splash?

No introduction...Giuliani barely mentions her before going back to McCain and then bam! There she is on stage.

how many shots of Bristol Palin can we get? should I be keeping a tally? let's start here at 1.



Brent notes catcalls in audience.

she hasn't started speaking yet...still saying "thank you."

hey, good lookin' man she caught there.

"I will be honored to accept your nomination" fool. I wouldn't touch it with a 39-and-a-half-foot pole.

BP 4

BP 5

other kid 1

BP 6

baby 4

She does speak well. She's got some edge.

BP 5

getting the slogans in: country first.

wow, MUST she emphasize the word MAN so strongly? "he's a MAN." is this some subliminal message like, "don't worry folks, you're not really voting for a woman"?

fist mom ref: "as a mother of one of those troops"...oldest son Trask gets his first shot.

...extended mom riff...

introduces her whole family: girls stand up to beauty queen wave at cam, boys stay seated. all part of the RNC daughter pawn strategy?

emphasis on "perfectly beautiful" baby boy Trig a little heavyhanded IMO. I don't disagree; I don't think Down's is a reason to abort, esp. considering how many false positives those diagnostic tests get. Just don't like the way the RNC trend of showcasing one's offspring as evidence of one's superior virtue is continuing with Palin.

BP 6


short resume of hubby: something about snow racing? who cares, let's just get him on camera, the hottie. met in high school, "still my guy." Yeesh.

"every woman can walk through every door of opportunity"? really? just not get paid as well, but we better not whine about it? (and what about that teen mom halfway house whose budget you slashed--they don't have a door to walk through because now they don't have a house.)

hmmm..shot of boy not in uniform. other son? [no--turns out to be BP's fiance]

small town, working class, I'm one of you, so is John McCain...

here it is! "average hockey mom" followed by PTA ref in one breath!

it gets better! a hockey mom joke! "what's the diff btw a hockey mom and a pitbull? lipstick!" great! here's another: what's the diff btw a hockey mom and a VP? credentials?

Okay, NOW we're finally getting to making a case for mayoral experience as exec experience, and cred for VP. AFTER spending how much quality time on SP as MOM? what's more important, that she's a mom or used to be a mayor and is now a governor? is there a reason we lead with the MOM bit and not the professional cred? (Oh believe me, I think there is.)

crowd chanting "Sarah." Is Palin too hard to say? Or do we insist on being on a first name basis with ALL our women politicians? ah well. it's not like their last names are really their own anyway, right? so the presumptive first name basis really doesn't show a condescending familiarity in place of respect, after all, right?

who is that? protester led out by security?

Obama slam. I'm one of you, McCain is one of you, the other guy sucks because he said a mean thing about you in CA (guns and religion line, very unfortunate. I guess an NRA member has special contempt for someone who would think clinging to guns is a bad thing).

MAN, again. "he's the same MAN..." this is so not an accident. very clever. disturbing.

"I'm not a member of the permanent political establishment though some in the media take this as lack of experience"--crowd boos that naughty liberal lefty media for far too long. she's just standing at the podium while the crowd boos. cut it off, SP! you don't want to stand there the sole object on stage with a bunch of booing. uncomfortable.

what is this weird accent? Alaskan? it's got this down-homey twang that should be Southern but isn't. (reminds me of that article on Texas accents I read a few years back that noted a study that length of residence in TX had nothing to do with strength of TX accent; loyalty to identity as Texan did, and cited GW as case in point.)

camera catches woman in audience mouthing to neighbor: "I love her."

Why is Mount Rushmore in background while she refers to fighting the "good ol' boys?" I'm sure it's an accident but that is just hilarious!

ah, the luxury jet. you know, if I were in the position of having to divest myself of such an inconvenient object, I would certainly choose the people's way: eBay. so much better than that classist method of parking your unwanted junk in your front yard and haggling...

other proof that she's no elitist: drives herself to work, fired the gubernatorial personal chef. kids regretted that. good line: mentions fam again and also implies that she continues to cook family dinner after all the governing nonsense is done for the day.

uses the above as smooth transition into her record on budget; defends her use of veto power to control "wasteful spending" (like that Covenant House for teen moms thing, I suppose.)

now energy independence: the natural gas pipeline as first step to independence from foreign sources of oil. energy is cast as a SECURITY issue, not environmental one--an American issue, not a global one. Oh, and the tragedy of Gulf Coast hurricanes is that they make us more dependent on foreign oil. (how about, um, deaths and devestation and homelessness?)

"they keep telling us drilling won't solve all our problems, as if we didn't know that"--well we know drilling won't solve all our problems, but there's not reason not to do it in the meantime? what? was that supposed to be a logical argument?

Obama as Moses slam. dudes (and dudette), I would stay away from painting your opponent as divinely inspired and powerful. but that's just me. maybe it really does incite some kind of self-righteous rage against supposed Democat idolatrousness. I mean, after all, we all know we're supposed to be worshiping the FLAG, not some guy.

"Our opponent" is against producing more energy???

Victory in Iraq is within sight???

Obama wants to raise taxes? Why not just out with it and call him a liar?

Boo! Hiss! crowd says, whatever you do, don't take MY $$. bottom line voters.

MAN alert: "chosen the right MAN."

"the American Presidency is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery"--she got applause for this line--WTF does that even refer to? Obama as hero of Bildungsroman?

"only one MAN has fought for you in places where winning means survival and defeat mean death." oh, is this a criterion for Presidency? have the rules changed, the loser gets shot or something?

MAN. MAN. fellow.



Ah, POW story.

[pause to note my gratitude that shots of family, even BP, seem to have ceased. Thanks be to God.]


Thank you and God bless America. Just once, I would love to see a politician break out of that xenophobic prayer formula and ask that God bless the whole damn world. Or all people. Or all creation. Or something, but all of that something and not just our petty little piece of it.

Why is she still all alone up there? She looks abandoned.

finally here comes the she's holding baby. I wish I felt like that were a triumphant thing, but I just feel like it diminishes her and every other woman to "mom AND."

BP holding hands with boy. Boy chewing gum.

Finally, here's McCain. Hug. Of course, you can't shake hands with a woman. Seemed awkward though.


last line of night, John McCain: "and what a beautiful family." why? because that's the most important thing about her.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

what I don't want to be when I grow up...

...A daughter of the Republican party.

I'm not talking about Bristol, either, though it pains me that the one thing NOT being considered is what her own desires and goals for her life might be. That doesn't mean I think she should consider aborting; but it does mean that her parents' assurances that she will marry the father of her baby shortcuts around the complicated issues of what her (and his) wishes might be, and any pragmatic issues attending a shotgun teen wedding. (blog post in the making, why all the discourse on Palin as mother pisses me off)

No, I'm talking about how I saw two other daughters paraded in public just now--silently, not even allowed their own voice--as props for establishing the beyond-divine goodness of the wife of the candidate for President. I'm very unsure how this is relevant to the Presidential race, unless it is a strategy for proving that by-association-John-is-holier-than-Barack. It's a great thing to rescue a baby from neglect and statistically probable death; believe me, I admire that with a fervor that is more than theoretical. And I'm willing to grant that there's nothing trumped up about this story of Cindy McCain snatching these children from the final embrace of the Grim Reaper. But is the quid-pro-quo getting dragged out onto a national stage to be the poster child for someone else's upstanding moral character? The final straw was waiting for this girl to speak, and at the end, HER story was READ by her father, whom she continued to gaze up at adoringly, rather reminiscent of the adoring gazes Cindy mutely gives John while standing at his side on stage. Appropriate, I guess, for a story in which she stars purely as a passive object from start to finish--helpless baby grown up into powerless pawn. Why do I suddenly feel like I am at a CofC devo listening to the mediated testimony of a girl to a mixed audience? There are no scriptures preventing the public speaking of a female at a political convention that I know of, (unless, well, we want to consider the RNC a de facto ekklesia?) Why am I subjected to yet another image of pliant American feminity as the ideal?

But maybe I'm just steaming because the woman who did address the RNC just prior to the daughter debacle kept referring over and over to her "fellow man." Or maybe that's just knowing your audience.