Archive | February, 2011

Wedding Rings Stamp?

16 Feb

Today I went to a branch of the United States Post Office because I needed some stamps. I asked what my choices were, because I like a little variety in my correspondence. The amazingly pleasant postal clerk told me that there was only one “choice.” She hands me the wedding rings stamp; for a second I thought it was a joke. In many other countries, the images on stamps are actually artwork, and mostly collectible. Okay.

So I ask her: “Why wedding rings? Is there a theme?”

She says: “Yeah, the theme is wedding rings.” Looking at me like I am not only a ridiculous marriage-hating fool, but possibly insane.

So I spent $8.80 on assisting in the propagation of something that I have less belief in than almost anything else (save the humanity of most Republicans). But, whether I dig marriage or not, why the fuck is the only available option for postage at a main branch of the Richmond, Virginia United States postal service an image of conjoined wedding rings?

Possible reasons:
1) It’s wedding season.

2) It’s a subversive proponent of gay marriage.

3) It’s a hateful opponent of gay marriage.

4) The celebration of mundanity is in season.

5) They couldn’t think of anything else.

6) It’s open season on spinsters.

The “Tiger Mother” Myth

10 Feb

Yale Law School professor and author Amy Chua recently caused an enormous stir when her article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” was published in the Wall Street Journal. The article’s presence was–along with multiple interviews and booktalks–intended to draw attention to Chua’s most recent book, “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” The short article seemed to draw on the primary and provocative talking points collected in the book, and began with the following list of activities no child of Chua’s would ever be allowed to do:

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a play-date
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin.

Chua seemed to believe that it was because of these prohibitions, her “meanness,” her absolute inflexibility and her “Chineseness,” that her two daughters have excelled to the degree that they have.  Chua equivocates a bit on her generalizations, adding that any mother can be a “Chinese mother,” the term isn’t reserved solely for the native Chinese. Also, any mother can be the converse–the dreaded “Western mother,” i.e. the pliant woman who lets her child play sports, learn how to blow a horn, and maybe even watch television.

Chua’s manifesto-in both article and book- has caused an enormous stir; thousands of comments have been added to the Wall Street Journal webpage, the New Yorker recently included an article concerning both the book and its reception, hell, she even appeared on the Colbert Report (claiming she’d been taken too literally).

Okay, if Chua didn’t intend to be taken literally, let’s then suppose that her manifesto was intended as hyperbole. If taken as such, does the weight of her words lighten at all? Let’s see….China contains nearly one and a half billion people. Nearly one-half of these people are female; I would guess that at least half of these females have given birth. So, if taken literally, around 1/3 of a billion Chinese mothers rule their tiny kingdoms with iron fists. If taken analogically….how would this be taken at all? I don’t know that these musings of Chua can be taken as exaggerations; because to be taken at all they must already be assumed as such.

Chua’s comments are so unprovable, so ridiculous, so categorically generic as to become meaningless. Consider the following:

  1. Does Chua possess first-hand knowledge of a majority of the Chinese mother population?
  2. Is Chua considering Chinese-American mothers in this equation? And, if so, how does the American-ness not render them the dreaded “Western”?
  3. How does the one-child rule still extant in China affect her declarations?
  4. What are the sex differences at work in such “parenting”? i.e. if Chua had boys would they respond the same way to her dictatorship as girls?
  5. If Chua intends to be describing the general state of mothering in the Republic of China, is it correct to assume that most families can afford music lessons, possess televisions, attend high schools (that contain drama departments)?
  6. And, most importantly, if any mother can be “Chinese,” just as any mother can be “Western,” how can any of this ultimately be deciphered? Who’s creating the glossary of terms? Who’s deciding what makes the best mother? Is the simple fact that Chua’s a “mean mommie” make her an expert on anything?

Punting, Tackling, and Headbutting

2 Feb

“34% of NFL viewers are female”…explains the caption placed above a young woman in a football jersey. Last weekend’s NYTimes Magazine posted an article by Katie Barker, “The XX Blitz,” which stated that female viewers of footballs games have exploded recently, and it expressed a curiosity as to why, in light of the recent rampant sexism that has been reported of players both inside and outside the locker rooms, women are still turning up in droves to watch the games.Why, Barker asks, would women watch Monday Night Football more than, say, “Glee”?

She speculates that perhaps it’s the human interest aspects of the games, teams and players: the melodrama of it all. “It’s the soap-opera aspect of the NFL that makes it so broadly appealing.” Really? Do so many men watch football because it’s akin to watching “All My Children”? Further, even if this aspect was verifiable, is that really what’s drawing female viewers?

I started asking around: one woman said it’s because that’s what her boyfriend sitting on the couch next to her was watching, and he had the remote. Another said that just because it’s playing on the television doesn’t mean she was watching it. Another added that he knows that if she lets him watch football, he has to have sex with her afterwards.

Regardless of the reasons, Barker’s essay doesn’t begin to shed light on the upsurge. She mentions that the sport’s extreme levels of violence are not any reason to assume that women won’t watch. Granted, but this perspective does not also allow the counter-point that perhaps it is the very violence crunching across the television screen that is drawing some of these women to become avid followers.

It’s curious, but I really have no suggestions of my own. I myself am an extremely avid soccer fan. Why do I watch the “beautiful game” and love it so much? Well, for starters, the pace, the skill in passing, strategy, and teamwork, and the amazing rush of seeing the absolute joy and passion on the players’ faces after scoring, winning, and just playing the field.

 

The No-Sex Preemptive…

2 Feb

A few times recently I have heard girlfriends begin their tales of new-found romance with “I let him know beforehand that I wasn’t going to sleep with him.” This forewarning is relayed as if a no-brainer: “I told him before we started anything that it wasn’t gonna be tonight.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s either party’s prerogative to opt for or against the sex act; but the idea that the forewarning holds simply because it’s put out there seems odd to me. It’s a kind of card that seemingly only the woman holds. (Or at least those are the stories I hear…) Perhaps it rings false to me because it rests on the assumption that the male member of the duo will always opt for sex than not. But is this necessarily the case? And doesn’t the far-ahead-of-time declaration seem fairly presumptuous?

I’m sure that I have been guilty of these assertions: hooking up with someone new–inebriated and restless, wanting to mess around but already foreseeing post-hook-up regrets, it seems rational to state ahead of time “there’ll be no sex tonight!”

Interestingly, it’s the feminist in me that both sees the need for such warning and finds the very warning disingenuous. Yes, a woman always must maintain the right (both physically and verbally) to say no. But when engaging in the beginnings of seduction it just seems downright contradictory to brandish the declaration. An empowering canard, if you will, where actions are declared to be null and void, if they reach a certain point.

Maybe it’s the idea that messing around is a linear movement that can only reach sexual intercourse–rather than being a sexual continuum, that sticks in my craw. When a friend was confiding in me about her recent meeting, and used the declaration mid-story, I asked her what the point of it all was. She said that she thinks that it’s really what most men (who are interested in more than a one-night-stand) what to hear. To screw at the first meeting/date/drunken escapade is to not leave the man with something else to look forward to; it makes the man think the woman’s a slut.

If this is really the thinking behind the speech than no wonder it bewilders me; the structure is suspect: women have to hold their cards to their chest at first, because to show their hands on the first date is to bare all. To want to see someone again, and to sleep with them right away, cannot be done.