Feminism

Cankerworms

Cankerworms

Mothering is not only gathering together; it is also letting go, dropping one’s grasp—accidentally, ideally, but dropping it nevertheless.

“Here I was, enjoying a continuity of being.” The big sphere of my baby’s head was very much like a circle, and when he felt like he was falling, his little arms and legs jerked upwards, like their propulsion could push him back to his starting point. Because I was not a not-good-enough mother, this didn’t happen very often, but I winced every time it did, nevertheless. The difficulty of maternal gathering is that it is always going to fail. To grow—to become a person—the baby must get past his earliest, balloon-like self. He must separate himself into a head and a body, then a head, a body, and arms. The project is not solely separating the baby from his mother; it is separating the baby from himself. Building a version of self that can acknowledge its hands and feet. Its mind, within, and its skin, without.

Converts to Abortion Rights

Converts to Abortion Rights

Dr. Willie Parker’s new book attempts the unusual and difficult task of reconciling support for abortion rights and abiding religious belief.

The word “conversion” fits the abortion-rights cause awkwardly. There is no progressive equivalent to Priests for Life, a website cataloging the stories of sidewalk protesters-turned-Planned Parenthood donors. Abortion rights were, in the beginning, a public health issue. Opponents started framing the cause in moral terms—something that defenders were at pains to avoid. The president of the Association for the Study of Abortion, Jimmye Kimmey, is credited for coming up with the phrase “pro-choice” in 1972. She preferred, she wrote in a memo, because “what we are concerned with is, to repeat, the woman’s right to choose—not with her right (or anyone else’s right) to make a judgment about whether that choice is morally licit.”

No One Thinks of Rilke in the Recovery Room

No One Thinks of Rilke in the Recovery Room

All mothers die eventually, but it doesn’t follow that motherhood is like dying.

But while birth can lead to being close to death, it seems wrong to think that the crisis of birth is anything like death. All mothers die eventually, but it doesn’t follow that motherhood is like dying, even if one almost dies—or does die— while becoming a mother. What makes the comparison inviting is that the work of laboring is such that the versions of yourself you held dear until labor begin to dissolve. There’s no quality to the thought or feeling while laboring or immediately after giving birth. One just is. No one thinks of Rilke in the recovery room. The child, once born, is human, no more, no less. No one is truly quiet giving birth.

Monstrous, Duplicated, Potent

Monstrous, Duplicated, Potent

On Donna Haraway

By the end of the book, we’ve learned all manner of detail about the Acacia tree genus, made up of fifteen hundred species, living in climates ranging from desert to tropics and found in ice cream, beer, and postage stamps. We learn about the Pimoa chthulu spider, Haraway’s neighbor in the North Central California redwoods and another inspiration for the Chthulucene. We learn about the history of Premarin estrogen tablets, made out of horse urine, and their effects on both midcentury reproductive politics and Cayenne Pepper’s bladder.

While the Iron Is Hot

While the Iron Is Hot

The case for the Women’s Strike.

This is what is meant by the phrase “the feminization of labor”: not simply that men are handed more jobs that seem effeminate in nature (menial, slogging work like data-entry or cleaning), but that men are treated poorly as workers—that is, like women. The more people find themselves indirectly employed, for instance by tech companies and temp agencies, the more they can learn from the women’s labor movements of the past, in sectors once believed to be “unorganizable” such as domestic work. In degrading women’s labor, we degrade all labor.

Woman Problems

Woman Problems

One moment, walking. The next—am I real?

When my son was almost 4 months old, I was walking down the street with him strapped to my chest. He was big—nineteen pounds—and alert. I was walking slowly, in loping, elephantine strides, trying to take as long as possible, and to walk as securely as possible. It had taken me a long time to get this confident—if that’s what you could call it—walking with him, but the thread of fear still lived in me. I was still anxious. Then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t tell if I was real or not. That was how rapidly it happened, and this is what it was like. One moment, walking. The next—am I real?

Enter the Pussyhat

Enter the Pussyhat

On the Women’s March, Disrupt J20, and #IWillGoOut

How much did I have in common with my fellow marchers? Maybe not much. The demands I did see were good—No DAPL, a $15 minimum wage, clean water for Flint, an end to private prisons and mass incarceration, affordable health care, reproductive rights, and so on—but there were too few of them, lost in the sea of vulvas. Still, never in my life have I seen so many women gathered under any political pretext. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t move me.

What Women Used Before They Could Use the Law

What Women Used Before They Could Use the Law

Or, an incomplete inventory of methods and means to abortion—undertaken with varying levels of success and the ever-present possibility of death—in America before the passage of Roe v. Wade

Hands (made into fists, then used to strike the stomach repeatedly)
Heavy weights (lifted repeatedly or applied to the stomach)
Herbs (picked or purchased, then swallowed or forced through the cervix and into the uterus)

I Voted for All of Them

I Voted for All of Them

I thought I would watch the results and drink champagne with women I love, and then we’d wake up the next day and begin our dutiful critique.

I watched my Facebook feed fill with friends dedicating their votes to their mothers and grandmothers and daughters. Despite my disillusionment, I began to feel sentimental.

Kiddie Porn

Kiddie Porn

In the sexual counterrevolution, Ginsberg was the antiporn Gettysburg — the battle that turned the tide.

Once in a while, my parents allow some critically authorized highbrow “erotic” periodical like Eros or Evergreen to breach our doorway. But they draw the line at Playboy, in spite of its long, left-leaning pieces by and about important men like Vladimir Nabokov and James Baldwin. Mom and Dad aren’t prudes, they’re snobs. They consider comics, Mad magazine—even mysteries—degraded forms of literature. What would they think of Man to Man? I don’t have to ask.

Where the Boys Are

Where the Boys Are

When we look at Bernie Sanders, what do we see?

I Still Love Hillary Clinton. I Still Don’t Want to Vote for Her. My own profile in political emotion, all but impossible in the eyes of the Clinton campaign, is not a march toward reason but a deepening of continued convolution. It’s not just that, having enthusiastically cast my first ballot for Bill Clinton in my second-grade class mock election in 1992, I have a lifelong affinity bordering on Camelot-style adoration for both Clintons. It’s also that, having hit puberty at exactly the right time to learn everything I know about sex from news coverage of the Starr report, their collective role in my constitution as a sexual subject is second perhaps only to that other pair of baby boomers who gave birth to me. Hillary’s incredible pathos, her depths of ambition, the abuse she has borne, her inability to keep her feelings off her face—all the supposedly unlikeable personal qualities that Hillary-lovers love about Hillary, I love too. I challenge you to watch her Oscar lifetime achievement award-ish montage from the 2008 Democratic National Convention—the one where she talks about writing to NASA to find out how a girl can become a lady astronaut—and not cry. I could look at her all day, would love to crack open a campaign-trail Bud together (she is supposedly very funny in person), if I were in therapy right now I’m sure it would not take long to concur that I still want her to fuck me. Yet for all the reasons of policy and ideology that leftists who don’t want to vote for Hillary don’t want to vote for Hillary, I don’t want to vote for her either. I will grant that in its details, this profile may be idiosyncratic. But in its general contours, I don’t think what I am saying is unrepresentative so much as, within our current discourse, simply unrepresentable.

Year in Review: 2015

Year in Review: 2015

When the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in December for the first time since the onset of the financial crisis, the feeling around the decision was one of somber, even funereal, inevitability. It was hard not to think of the mayor of Amity, assured of the water’s safety, reluctantly leading his citizens back down to the beach. Incidentally, Jaws was released in 1975, the last year that real wages rose. We all know the water isn’t safe, but an economy organized like Amity’s has no choice but to act like it is.

Cankerworms

Cankerworms

Mothering is not only gathering together; it is also letting go, dropping one’s grasp—accidentally, ideally, but dropping it nevertheless.

“Here I was, enjoying a continuity of being.” The big sphere of my baby’s head was very much like a circle, and when he felt like he was falling, his little arms and legs jerked upwards, like their propulsion could push him back to his starting point. Because I was not a not-good-enough mother, this didn’t happen very often, but I winced every time it did, nevertheless. The difficulty of maternal gathering is that it is always going to fail. To grow—to become a person—the baby must get past his earliest, balloon-like self. He must separate himself into a head and a body, then a head, a body, and arms. The project is not solely separating the baby from his mother; it is separating the baby from himself. Building a version of self that can acknowledge its hands and feet. Its mind, within, and its skin, without.

Converts to Abortion Rights

Converts to Abortion Rights

Dr. Willie Parker’s new book attempts the unusual and difficult task of reconciling support for abortion rights and abiding religious belief.

The word “conversion” fits the abortion-rights cause awkwardly. There is no progressive equivalent to Priests for Life, a website cataloging the stories of sidewalk protesters-turned-Planned Parenthood donors. Abortion rights were, in the beginning, a public health issue. Opponents started framing the cause in moral terms—something that defenders were at pains to avoid. The president of the Association for the Study of Abortion, Jimmye Kimmey, is credited for coming up with the phrase “pro-choice” in 1972. She preferred, she wrote in a memo, because “what we are concerned with is, to repeat, the woman’s right to choose—not with her right (or anyone else’s right) to make a judgment about whether that choice is morally licit.”

No One Thinks of Rilke in the Recovery Room

No One Thinks of Rilke in the Recovery Room

All mothers die eventually, but it doesn’t follow that motherhood is like dying.

But while birth can lead to being close to death, it seems wrong to think that the crisis of birth is anything like death. All mothers die eventually, but it doesn’t follow that motherhood is like dying, even if one almost dies—or does die— while becoming a mother. What makes the comparison inviting is that the work of laboring is such that the versions of yourself you held dear until labor begin to dissolve. There’s no quality to the thought or feeling while laboring or immediately after giving birth. One just is. No one thinks of Rilke in the recovery room. The child, once born, is human, no more, no less. No one is truly quiet giving birth.

Monstrous, Duplicated, Potent

Monstrous, Duplicated, Potent

On Donna Haraway

By the end of the book, we’ve learned all manner of detail about the Acacia tree genus, made up of fifteen hundred species, living in climates ranging from desert to tropics and found in ice cream, beer, and postage stamps. We learn about the Pimoa chthulu spider, Haraway’s neighbor in the North Central California redwoods and another inspiration for the Chthulucene. We learn about the history of Premarin estrogen tablets, made out of horse urine, and their effects on both midcentury reproductive politics and Cayenne Pepper’s bladder.

While the Iron Is Hot

While the Iron Is Hot

The case for the Women’s Strike.

This is what is meant by the phrase “the feminization of labor”: not simply that men are handed more jobs that seem effeminate in nature (menial, slogging work like data-entry or cleaning), but that men are treated poorly as workers—that is, like women. The more people find themselves indirectly employed, for instance by tech companies and temp agencies, the more they can learn from the women’s labor movements of the past, in sectors once believed to be “unorganizable” such as domestic work. In degrading women’s labor, we degrade all labor.

Woman Problems

Woman Problems

One moment, walking. The next—am I real?

When my son was almost 4 months old, I was walking down the street with him strapped to my chest. He was big—nineteen pounds—and alert. I was walking slowly, in loping, elephantine strides, trying to take as long as possible, and to walk as securely as possible. It had taken me a long time to get this confident—if that’s what you could call it—walking with him, but the thread of fear still lived in me. I was still anxious. Then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t tell if I was real or not. That was how rapidly it happened, and this is what it was like. One moment, walking. The next—am I real?