Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reproductive Choice Goes Both Ways

One of the ways I waste time on the internet is posting on a few parenting-themed message boards. A topic that pops up every few weeks is "my parter/spouse and I can't agree on how many children to have - what do I do?", and lately I've seen a trend that bothers me, where it's assumed that women should be the sole person to decide how many children to have.

Recently, there was a discussion where a man decided that he didn't want to father more children, so he scheduled a vasectomy. At the last minute, his wife started panicking and having second thoughts about not being able to have more children, and asked for advice. Some of the responses surprised me - telling the woman to call the hospital and beg him not to do it, to drive down there to get him to try to change his mind, reminders that he likely still has a few months of good sperm left so she can get him to try to change his mind and get pregnant again soon (or have some swimmers frozen for possible later use) , and several posters flat out said that they didn't think that this was a decision that he should be able to make without her permission.

First of all, why would you want to create another child with someone who absolutely doesn't want one? Why the assumption that he'll automatically have a change of heart and step up to the plate and be Super Dad (or even Adequate Dad) if she gets pregnant again? Shouldn't he commended for taking charge of the situation?

Surgery usually isn't something that is done lightly and it can't be done on a whim - you have a pre-surgery consult, and then usually a few weeks before they can get you into the OR, and pre-op testing to go through. At any time through that process, you can stop. So I think it's safe to assume that someone who goes through the whole shebang is pretty serious about wanting it done.

Reading through all this, I thought of the outcry if the situation was reversed. If the woman had decided she was done for whatever reason - health, finances, already having a child that needed a large amount of care and attention, or just realizing that her childhood dream of having 6 kids would make her crazy - and decided to get a tubal, or even an IUD, people would be up-in-arms at the suggestion that her partner should be able to veto it, or change his mind at the last minute and demand that the surgery be canceled or postponed. (And remember, in the not-so-distant-past, husbands had to sign consent forms for a tubal ligation!)

Yes, marriage is a partnership, and ideally two people should be able to agree on reproductive choices, but sometimes it doesn't happen and we should not fault anyone - regardless of their gender - for taking concrete steps to end their own fertility if it's what they truly want.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sexism Against Women by Other Women

I've been stewing over this for a few days, so I guess I should just write about it and get it out of my system.

Little Circus needed some dental work done, and because of work schedules, it was easier for me to take the her to her first 2 appointments (a consult, and then a filling). The pediatric dentist is a woman around my age, which at first made me happy. In general, I try to select female doctors for LC whenever I can because she's generally much warier of strange men than strange women, and I want her to be comfortable.

As soon as she had her exam and xrays at the consult, the dentist told me that LC had several cavities that needed to be filled. "I know," I said, "she has my teeny little teeth, and it makes it extremely difficult to floss. I had the same problem when I was a kid. Also, she drinks a lot of filtered water so she probably doesn't get much flouride." (I grew up on well water, so we got flouride treatments at school every so often - the dreaded "swish".)Dentist pretty much rolled her eyes at me and said "Her teeth aren't that small, and neither are yours. It's not genetic, you just have to do a better job of flossing, Mommy!"

First of all, wtf? Is my name "Mommy?" Can't you read the chart in your hands and see my name? Didn't I introduce myself by name 10 minutes earlier? How hard is that?Secondly, I DO have small teeth. Every. single. dentist. and. orthodontist. I have EVER seen has commented on it. My teeth are so small that when I had braces, the brackets almost covered my entire tooth. Needless to say, the dentist did not score any brownie points with me.

LC, on the other hand, loved her, so I bit my tongue. You'd be surprised at how hard it is to find a pediatric dentist who doesn't try to insist that you wait out in the lobby while they take your kid back by themselves (like I'd ever let THAT happen), who takes your insurance, and has reasonable hours. Seriously. It's like winning the lottery.

Last Friday, FormerMrC took LC back for another filling, and got a totally different response from the dentist. I was both totally unsurprised and totally pissed off by this. Suddenly, the reason for LC's cavities is "she has really small teeth, must be hard to floss really well. It's genetic, you know. Just gotta try to stay on top of it." Then she asked "So does she get her small teeth from you?" (MrC has big, sturdy Korean peasant teeth) "No, her mother." "Oh, LC must get her good looks from you, then." (And, no, she didn't call him "Daddy". Believe me, I asked.)

I'm so sick to death of being treated like a terrible mother - and an idiot - by women who then turn around kiss men's asses. I mean, what's the point in arguing with me about whether or not my teeth are small? I'm 33 years old and can easily compare the size of my teeth to other adults around me. And also? Just because my kid is biracial doesn't mean she doesn't have ANY of my traits, lady.

I'm tired of it. I'm tired of being treated like the enemy by other women; that I must not have 2 brain cells to rub together, and that anything wrong with my daughter is moral shortcoming on my part, while the men around us get praise and compliments for doing the most basic things when it comes to childcare. Yay, you got the kid to the appointment on time, sit down and let me give you a backrub, you poor over-worked man! I'm sick of the bullshit. How do we get it to end?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What's the Big Deal About a "Butt Slap"?


I want to start off by saying that I think labeling these kids as sex offenders is overkill, and that jail time is overkill too.

Now, let me rage.

I'm fucking sick to death of the harassment of women and girls being minimized like this. I'm sick of the "boys will be boys" attitude that pervades our culture. I'm sick of people using cutesy words like "butt slaps" instead of "groping" or "assaulting". I'm tired of the assumption that teenage boys are hardwired to act like assholes, and the people who refuse to believe that boys do this shit because they know they CAN- that they can shame girls into silence by threatening to call them a slut, or by threatening to do worse things to them, or tell people that the girl liked it. I'm tired of girls being told that they have to look the other way or wait for guys to grow out of it, and that they're overreacting, or worse yet, telling an adult that a boy grabbed your breast and hearing "That just means he likes you! (chuckle) You should take it as a compliment!"

THIS SHIT IS HOW IT STARTS. The groping and bra snapping and comments are the first concrete steps of teaching girls that their bodies are not their own, that they have to put up with unwanted touching, that even people they don't like can touch them and there's not a damned thing they can do about it.

I can recite a whole laundry list of incidents like this that I went through - the earliest starting in 5th grade, and stretching through college. Nowhere was safe: the school bus, the skating rink, the hallways in class, during classes, out in the neighborhood, at parties, even in my own home with my brother's friends. And I bet every woman reading this has their own stories.

This is one of the things that scares me about raising a daughter. I know some day, she'll be faced with this shit, and I hope to god that she will trust me enough to tell me, and that I will have the strength to help her deal with it like a grown up (and not pull a Molly Weasley, "Not my daughter, you bitch!" KABOOM!, which would be my first inclination). I want her to be confident and know she doesn't have to tolerate it. I want all girls to know that. But most of all, I want the boys to know it too.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Learning to Feign Deafness

I thought I was used to catcalls and come-ons by now. I'm in my 30's and it's been happening to me for over 20 years, so I thought I was at the point where I could roll my eyes and brush it off, but I guess I'm not.

Yesterday evening, we ran to Target to get a new swimsuit for Little Circus. I hate looking for clothes (for anyone), so MrCircus took the kid to the children's department, and I headed straight for the pharmacy so I could find insoles for my new boots. After I settled on the ones I needed (the men's ones, since the women's all seemed designed for high heels) I cut back through a few aisles rather than go out to the front of the store.

I stopped to pick up a few of those little bags of Jelly Bellys for Little Circus to take to school for special treats (located on the lowest shelf, of course), and heard footsteps come up behind me.

"Ooh, those are my favorite!" (sound of bin opening)

I stood up, turned, and found myself face to face with 2 boys around 16, pilfering gummy bears and looking pissed that I saw them. I couldn't care less that they were absconding with gummy bears, I just wanted to find the rest of my family so we could go home and I could take a hot bath and try to relax.

I walked past them, towards the children's section, and heard one of them say, in that "I don't know if I really want you to hear this, but I definitely want my friend to so I can prove what a badass I am" tone that most woman can identify, "Hey baby, wanna fuck?"

I kept walking, a million scenarios running through my head in a matter of milliseconds. Should I turn and laugh at them and say "You wish, buddy, and by the way I'm old enough to be your mother!", do I tell them to fuck off, do I kick them in the shins with my shiny new boots, say "You kiss your mother with that dirty mouth, asshole?"

So I just kept walking, feigning deafness. It wasn't worth the fight, and there's always an element of danger to me in situations like that. You never know what lengths a guy will go to in order to show off his machismo to his friends, even if it is in the middle of a suburban Target on a Friday evening, and not on a dark street in the wee hours.

The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got, for various reasons.

I felt like couldn't say anything to MrCircus, for fear of a)him wanting to go chase the guys down or b) blowing it off and telling me to ignore it. (All men should be required to watch War Zone for a look at the shit women encounter on a regular basis)

I knew that it happened because of a reaction to being seen stealing the candy. It felt like the boy was trying to scare me into being intimidated so I wouldn't rat them out.

I knew it had nothing at all to do with how I was dressed (jeans, tshirt, combat boots, hair in a ponytail, glasses) and everything to do with my size, gender, and perceived age.

How do you deal with shit like this? What's been your worst experience? What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned over the years?

Monday, July 09, 2007

What Do You Mean All Women Don't Live to Shop?

Over the weekend, I went on a little roadtrip with a girlfriend. We ditched the kids and the husbands and drove out of town to go to a concert for a friend of mine.

Yesterday morning, Friend and I were in the elevator going down to the lobby for the free (but terrible) breakfast when a man got in the elevator with us. Friend and I were talking about when we might leave, and when we might call the husbands to tell them we were on the way home. I can't even recall specifically who said what, but the gist of it was that we decided not to call home until we were ready to leave, in case our plans changed.

All of the sudden, the man pipes up, "Oh, I see, gonna go shopping and not tell your husbands?" (snicker)

Um, what?

It made ZERO sense in the context of the conversation she and I were having, neither of us had mentioned shopping in any way, shape or form (we were talking about possibly seeing an old friend of mine), and who the hell invited him into our conversation to begin with? And seriously, what the fuck is with the assumption that all women love to shop, and that it's the only thing women can come up with to pass the time? There were a zillion other possible things for us to do in the area we were at, so why the knee-jerk reaction that women=shopping, plus the assumption that even if we were going shopping that we'd be sneaky and hide it from our spouses?

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Ever since I saw this post on Pandagon, I've been thinking about just how aware I am of my surroundings. This morning, as I was preparing to go for a walk around my neighborhood, I realized just how much more mental preparation and attention it takes than when my husband does the same thing.

MrCircus goes running: He puts on running shorts and shoes, no shirt. Ipod is strapped to his arm, volume is turned up high to get him pumped and help his adrenaline flow. According to him, he only pays attention to what's going on around him about half the time. The rest of the time, his focus is entirely on himself and his running.

This is such an alien concept to me, the amount of freedom and the assumption that no one will bother you.

This is how my morning run/walk went:

I put on running shorts, shoes, and a red sports bra top. I debated on whether or not to put on a shirt, even though it was already 80 degrees at 10:30 in the morning (we live in Florida), and decided against it. I knew that anything that made me hotter would make me wimp out and cut short the distance I wanted to go.

Should I take keys? There's no need really, since MrCircus and CircusKid are home and the door would be unlocked, however, I could use them to stab someone if I needed to.

Cellphone? I'm only going around 2 miles, but you never know what could happen.

ID? See above.

Ipod? I put in my headphones, but keep the volume down really low so I can hear everything going on around me.

So I leave the house, and head out on to the sidewalk, into our nice planned community. I saw 4 other women walking/running and all of them are more covered than me. One is even wearing long exercise pants and long sleeves, despite the heat. We all look at every single car that goes by to see who is inside, it's not even a conscious thing at this point.

I reach the part of my walk that goes by a lake, and take a quick peek into the bushes to see if anyone is there, even though there are no woods or anything else around that obscures the view.

When I reached my halfway point, I turned around to head home and found myself behind a mom and her 2 kids, a daughter around 10 and a son around 8. The boy was on a scooter, and seemed impatient, so after a minute he zoomed ahead of everyone else. When he was about a block ahead of us, a light blue minivan came along and started driving slowly beside him. My brain started calculating if I could run to the van in time if I needed to, and I tried to make out the make and license plate number (impossible, even with my glasses on). Ends up it was the kid's father, but believe me, that wasn't my first instinct and my body and brain immediately prepared for the worst.

I'd like to think that I'm unique, way more paranoid than other women, but I just don't think it's true. MrCircus is a high school track coach and tells me that his female runners, 14 to 17, already know the drill: they run in groups, even though they're some of the fastest runners in the county and in fabulous shape; they overdress, despite the heat; they always have a cell phone; they watch who's around them and look for potential dangerous spots.

I think of myself at that age, and I can still remember the first time I was followed home from the park (I was 13) by grown men in a car, and how much that scared me. It's been twenty years and I can still remember how that last little bit of my childhood was ripped away, the idea that I could go somewhere as simple as the neighborhood park without being a target. When I go back to the old neighborhood, I still can still point out every single house I avoided because the guy that lived there was creepy, or the bushes were too high, or there was a tall wooden fence with a gate that was always ajar and someone could be hiding behind it.

Anyone else ?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dieting as Bonding

Last Friday, Little Circus' preschool class had an ice cream party to celebrate the end of the school year. Because LC is both vegan and allergic to dairy, I decided not to risk the teachers giving her anything with milk in it (which has happened more than once, unfortunately) and skipped out of work to attend the party, a pint of Soy Delicious in hand.

After all the kids had been served there was a ton of ice cream and assorted toppings left over, and the teacher invited all the parents to fix themselves a bowl. The men didn't hesitate to go over and start scooping up ice cream and load up on sprinkles, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and maraschino cherries. The women, however, all physically took a step or two back and started reciting a list of why they couldn't have any. South Beach. Atkins. Not enough Weight Watchers Points left. Summer is coming. Bikinis.

I offered some of our soy ice cream. No takers. I fixed myself a bowl, topped with bananas and strawberries, and felt uncomfortable while the other moms made comments and watched me out of the corner of their eyes.

Here was a group of women that for the preceding half hour had litttle to say to each other, even though our kids spend every day together and talk about each other constantly. As soon as food was brought up, though, it was like Old Home Week. Women were talking about all the different ways they had tried to lose weight, giving specific numbers for current weight and goal weight, and comparing notes.

I don't get it. Why is it so much easier - and socially accepted - for women to talk about what size their pants are and how much they miss eating food they like as opposed to talking about anything more substantial? I'd rather know that Suzy's mom is a nurse who likes to kayak on the weekends rather than know that she's happy she's in ketosis and has to eat Metamucil wafers. Or know that Sam's mom organizes a yearly clothing drive to send things to her relatives back in Cuba, not that she only has coffee and toast for breakfast and only eats one meal a day.

Are the conspiracy theorists right? Are we conditioned to sidestep meaningful (or at least not totally fluffy) conversation and focus on how we look so that we don't organize and overthrow the patriarchy?