Category Archives: gonzo political ramblings

Reflections on men and feminism (long and rambly)

The short version of this particular set of musings is: it’s complicated. My feminism is inflected and informed by a 60’s childhood raised in contradictory but powerful influences. I’m the product of at least two (and most likely more) generations of strong and opinionated frontier farm women (Grandma was a chicken farmer; Mom could grow one heckva garden, can, and raise a good flock of layers and fryers). I also got exposed to a particularly toxic form of fundamentalist Christian repression of women in my late teens through school Bible groups and the Christian college I attended–Basic Youth Conflicts, one of Bill Gothard’s groups (go here for the Wikipedia TL:DR version). However, I never quite fell within the lure of Basic Youth, especially after I went off to college and discovered Ms. Magazine. Various adventures with conservative religious boyfriends which usually ended up with me being handed things to mend also had an influence, plus growing up in Springtucky and getting hassled by men for being blond and big-busted.

My family followed rather traditional roles that I viewed with a jaundiced eye as I got older. It didn’t help that during my high school and early undergraduate career, any boyfriends I had soon got chased away when we decided it would be romantic to take classes together. Um. Yeah. The first time I got a better grade than boyfriend did, it was bye-bye. I had three boyfriends in my college years who took me seriously as an intellectual; I married one of them nearly thirty-three years ago.

But there was more to the man I married than just taking me seriously as a thinker. One of the light entertainments of politically oriented students at the University of Oregon during my era was engaging with the different right-wing preachers who ranted at U of O students as part of their ministry. Of course, what they didn’t know is that about half the students arguing were liberals from the neighboring Christian college who were honing their theological arguments…but I digress. The man I married took extreme exception to one of these preachers personally threatening me by getting into that preacher’s face. He also did things like cook for me when I was working as an organizer on the previous boyfriend’s campaign. He wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but he “got it” (in the terms of a recent internet discussion about men and feminism) at an early age, in part because, like me, he was the son of a working mother who carried quite a bit of weight in the family economy. The personal was political for him at a very early age. He had a personal stake in understanding feminism because he saw it on a daily basis.  Was and is his feminist awareness perfect? Nope. Neither is mine, and I don’t think anyone can make that claim about themselves.

Way back when my son was little, we attended an indoor park for toddlers. It was all female, until a single at-home father started attending with his daughter. Many of the women were feminist. Did all of them embrace his attendance? Um. No. But enough of us did that we banded together over the others’ attempts to exclude the father and got ourselves elected to the governing board. I remember being heartily annoyed by complaints about insensitive spouses, but then the rejecting shoulder to a father walking the talk.

As part of the upbringing my husband received, he’s a nurturing male who has no qualms about doing housework. Our housework divisions in past years have fallen either into skill areas (yours truly doesn’t have chainsaw skills and arthritic hands mean if I do, it will be with a light saw; I still end up doing the sewing) or allergy areas (water used to irritate my eczema and dust irritates his sinuses). He likes cooking, while I like baking and canning. Our son was raised to be nurturing and with the model that the men do the housework. He likes cooking, and when he’s had a partner, part of what he does is cook.

That’s one reason why I get grouchy with those who complain about men who apparently don’t Get It about feminism until injustice touches their wives, their daughters, their sisters. If you look back far enough, every man who Gets It had that little spark of feminist awareness fanned by some sort of personal stake, whether it was watching his mother struggle or his sisters struggle. Somehow, somewhere, personal connection fueled awareness. That’s how people learn and develop politically. That’s why consciousness raising is such a crucial task in developing and maintaining a movement, and sitting back to think that it’s all done is folly. That’s why, no matter what the issue is, dear God, we have to have basic Feminism/Racism/Ageism/Ableism/etc 101, because there will always be someone new who Doesn’t Get It, until the personal becomes political and awareness flares into being for that individual. It would be nice if people were born with their consciousness raised, alleluia, alleluia, but by golly, unless we all suddenly get raptured into some sort of progressive heaven, it ain’t happening (Let’s listen, for example, to how men talk about what they’ve lost by never being able to express their nurturing sides due to traditional male roles. We have to be honest and listen to that oppression as well).

Until we reach the understanding that we are all people together, and that we should respect each other, we’re not going to get anywhere. Slamming folks for not immediately developing advanced awareness is foolish. Awareness is a learning process. We don’t expect kids to enter school reading at a twelfth grade level (at least not yet), nor do we expect to be immediately proficient in a new language. The same is true for all forms of awareness. So yes, there will always be a need for Basic Consciousness Raising, and excluding or condemning people because they are insufficiently advanced is just another form of exclusionary arrogance. It’s acceptable to be annoyed about it sometimes, as long as you take a deep breath and acknowledge that learning is hard for both student and teacher.

And with that, I’m not only tired and have probably bored everyone, but I wanna go play with my new sewing machine. Curtain-making awaits. I’m gonna go be creative in a new way.

Have fun, y’all, and remember to pay it forward. That means being patient when it’s time to trot out the 101 learning. Everyone had to start there sometime.

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Super Bowl reax

I’m not a football fan, but like many Americans with connections to football lovers, I end up seeing some portion of teh Big Game on Superbowl Sunday.  I remember watching the famous original Mac ad and feeling goosebumps; also remember a lot of forgettable halftime shows before the halftime show turned into A Major Vegas Production.

And oh yeah, I do always catch a few plays.  For me, watching the game itself is usually more about “did they do something I can marvel over athletically” rather than who’s actually scoring the points (I reserve caring about the points for Oregon Duck games, primarily the Big Bowl Games.  Even then I tend not to watch just because I’m superstitious about jinxing The Game).

Gotta say, this year I didn’t get disappointed.  I was amongst those eager to see what Madonna would turn out for the Super Bowl halftime show.  I’m an unapologetic Madge fan, have liked her for years not just because of her clear love for music and dance but because she’s one of those sassy tough females who has been in charge of her own life for a long time.  Sometimes her choices are–well–not the choices I’d make but still?  All good in the long run.

So when the first strains of “Vogue” broke out and I spotted the gladiators, I broke out laughing with joy.  Because it was clearly a lovely little Madonna twist on some of the biggest Super Bowl tropes out there.  Roman numerals?  Check.  Football players as gladiators?  OH HELL YEAH.  Love letter to the cheerleaders?  Yep.  Tongue planted firmly in cheek the whole time, a nicely ironic combination of the Midwestern girl paying homage to one of her daddy’s favorite traditions while lovingly putting a snarky twist on it.  Madonna singing (some lip synch, clearly a couple of moments though where the mic was cutting out.  Stuff happening) and dancing and, y’know?  Not too bad for a 53-year-old with a hamstring issue.

Was she chewing on the scenery?  Girl, you betcha.  Come on, that’s part of the whole performance!  When I see a Madonna performance I expect an over-the-top spectacle which integrates scenery, costuming, images, song and dance.  Sometimes it flops, and sometimes it works.  Madonna always plays with her sexuality and sometimes the choices are rather like a not-so-good date.  But you know, that’s what happens when you choose the role of the sexual trickster firmly in control of your own sexuality.  Sexuality is not always predictable and sometimes things just don’t work.

That didn’t happen on Sunday.  The songs came out pretty well (didn’t hurt that her old favorites were some of my old favorites), she had great guest performers, the dancers….happy sigh…and it was quite lovingly and ironically over the top.  No, it wasn’t all red white and blue I-luv-Amerika-mindlessly-let’s-play-Nuremburg-visuals game that some folks really wanted to see.  I’m not a fan of such spectacles just because that kind of mindless patriotic froth sends me wanting to run the other way.  It reminds me too damned much of the Third Reich, and that’s not the country I want to be a part of.

My form of patriotism showed up in the Clint Eastwood commercial.  Quiet.  Proud.  Acknowledging the hardships and talking about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, working together, and moving on.  As a team.  No fireworks, no huge spectacle, no waving flags.  Just calm, let’s-get-the-job-done, no heroics, no flash.

And anyone who has a problem with that has a problem with working America.  Spectacles are all well and good in their proper place, but they don’t get the job done.  The Eastwood commercial to me reflected a lot of what is good about the US and why it’s good.  We were built on a foundation of independent thinkers and hard-working folks from many different ethnic, cultural and religious traditions who came together cooperatively to build something bigger than we could on our own.  Maybe it’s time we reached back to that community cooperative tradition in our civic lives, instead of embracing the I-Got-Mine Go-Galt libertarian worship of the Independent Man who treads on the lesser folk around him.

In many ways, the Madonna-Eastwood coupling was oh-so-reflective of what’s best about the American tradition.  I’m still unpacking this thought, so enough for now…but let’s just say that I liked them both.

What do you think?

(fyi, on the home blog I’m controlling comments pretty tightly of late.  Spam swarms and all that.  If you’re reading this on Facebook, please comment on LiveJournal or back at Peak Amygdala.)

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So Gingrich won South Carolina….

Does anyone else feel the stirrings of old ghosts?

Damn, I think the peacocks have to be screeching in Woody Creek as the unquiet shadow of Hunter S. Thompson stirs from his scattered ashes.  Likewise, the grinning specter of Ken Kesey is rising in the fogs of Elmira (or was he a Veneta boy?  Us Eugene/Springfield natives get confused by that there section of South Springfield–wink to all my local friendz and readers….).  And Ed Abbey’s bad self decides that maybe it’s time to bid farewell to his fellow buzzards deep in the desert Southwest……

Abbey, Kesey and Thompson.  Damn, that could be an interesting set of commentaries on the Gingrich win in SC….or, for that matter, this entire circus of the 2012 Republican primary.  Add in a backing band of Jerry Garcia, Jim Morrison and John Lennon, with Janis Joplin as lead singer…well, could be quite interesting.

But I digress.

Nonetheless, the uncanny feeling that those three Pranksters (in spirit if not formal title, save for Kesey, of course) are stirring and itching to comment on this year’s political scene isn’t going away.  More in-depth commentary, including a disturbing conclusion about the Palin-Gingrich axis, later.

I’ve a date with the slopes this morning.

Who knows what uneasy shadows I’ll see walking the cold mists of morning there?

More later.

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Going dark for the day.

Snow day again, back to work tomorrow most likely.  Lots of writer stuff to do.  See  you tomorrow.

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The Long Tail of Hunter S. Thompson Shows Up in South Carolina

First, before you get too far along, I’m going to give you a little bit of assigned reading from the New York Times Magazine:

The Tea Party’s Not-So-Civil War

Done that?  Good.  Now let’s sit down and chat about this phenomenon.

For those of you who’ve not listened to me pontificate politically or haven’t the faintest clue as to why I might have a wee bit of cred when it comes to politics, let me give you some background.  Years ago, waaay back in the dark ages of my early twenties, I hooked up with a political guy.  Ended up being an activist in local Democratic Party politics on the county and state levels, got involved in boyfriend’s City Council campaign…and met the man I eventually married.  Spent a bit of time bouncing around various partisan and issue campaigns in the early Reagan years, did two sessions in the Oregon Legislature as an intern, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Oregon.  Somewhere around the house I think I still have my notes from my observations of a then-new phenomenon of the involvement of religious conservatives in politics.

I didn’t continue writing up my notes and I sure as hell didn’t try to parlay my observations into a political writing career, which I now vastly regret, because I was sure set up to do it, between the U of O background and the two years I spent at Northwest Christian College (now Northwest Christian University).  The NCU background exposed me to the movement’s theoretical foundation in its early days and I’m pretty sure that if I pull the old yearbooks out and start comparing names, I probably know more than a few of the players that are movers and shakers in the Religious Right political leadership, both out front and behind the scenes.  But I digress….

At the same time, I developed a fondness for the writings of HST.  While many of my contemporaries went for Thompson’s drug writings and embraced the bad craziness, I resonated with Thompson’s 1972 Presidential campaign coverage, even the gonzo rants and ramblings, because he sure as hell put his index finger right smack on phenomena and behaviors that I had seen in the free-for-all world of cutthroat local political campaigns and in the presidential primary of 1992 (let me tell you, I spent a lot of time with my dog-eared copy of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail that spring).

Well, Thompson had played the same sort of games that I had, and being that he lived in Aspen, another one of those sneaky little local incubators of Big Political Impacts, he nailed some trends that we are still unfolding.  I still think HST is underestimated as a political analyst, mostly because of his popular culture image as a drug-addled gonzo writer, and not taking him seriously is a big mistake on the part of many political thinkers.

Especially when I encounter a quote like this in the NYT:

“You’re starting to see some of the Tea Party folks getting into that realm, becoming political consultants,” Bill Connor, a Tea Party activist who’s backing Santorum, told me when I visited his home in Orangeburg. An Army Ranger who was the senior American adviser to local forces in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Connor looks a bit like Roger Clemens and projects a stern sobriety. “Being around politics, it’s like a drug,” he said. “People love having their name in the paper, getting attention, having people suck up to them. And that’s happening with the Tea Party.”

(Emphasis mine).

Um.  Folks?  This is what HST wrote in Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie:

Not everyone is comfortable with the idea that politics is a guilty addiction.  But it is.  They are addicts, and they are guilty, and they do lie and cheat and steal–like all junkies.  And when they get in a frenzy, they will sacrifice anything and anybody to feed their cruel and stupid habit, and there is no cure for it.  That is addictive thinking.  That is politics–especially in political campaigns.

We talk about religious conservative dog-whistles.  Well, that little quote from the NYT is a dog-whistle to me, and what that tells me is that this 2012 presidential campaign year is gonna be taking us all on a ride, the likes of which we haven’t seen since 1968 and 1972.

When you have a Tea Party activist either consciously or unconsciously referencing HST, you need to sit up and take notice.  This ain’t the lace glove type of political activism.  This is all out bad craziness.  The Tea Party is moving from being a manipulated tool of consultants to its own self-conscious, self-aware movement with leadership that’s going after the brass ring for their own gain.  The monster is starting to wake up, and it’s turning on those that would manipulate it for its own ends.  It’s already devoured and consumed Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich’s getting ready to join Sarah in the shadows of history.  The manipulators are now becoming the manipulated, and while they may not like it, well, that’s the way it shakes out.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to those cynical manipulators who funded the movement that created the Tea Party.  It’s also going to be interesting to see what those of the Tea Party who survive this spring’s brouhaha end up doing as they swallow their stiff jolt of the realities of practical political activism and governance.  Because it does appear that, rhetoric aside, some of the more thoughtful and less corrupt members of that crowd are waking up to realize that it’s one thing to talk about slashing taxes and another thing to actually govern.  Especially in a government eviscerated by the ideology they originally espoused.  The transition from ideologue to pragmatist can be traumatic for many and, if they aren’t getting the cash incentive to stay an ideologue, well…that sort of cold dark night of the soul leads to some damn painful awakenings.  It’s damn easy to tear the structures down, but if you tear them down and then have to try to run the damn place after you’ve ripped it apart, suddenly the siren call of a weak ideology is much less appealing.

For right or wrong, many of the Tea Party activists had genuine concerns and passions fueled above and beyond simple reactionary bigotry.  Getting into office is the best damned wakeup call some of those activists could have encountered.  In retrospect, 2010 may not have been the triumphant prelude to domination that the covert funders of the movement hoped for, but the beginning of the end.

Let’s hope that it really does lead to a greater awakening.

(And why do I sense that the ghost of HST is cackling maniacally from beyond the grave?)

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