Sunday, March 30, 2008


I was in Florida visiting friends last week. Why, you might ask, would someone who lives in a place where it's 75 degrees and sunny in March go to Florida? I guess the answer is that escaping from bad weather isn't the only reason to get away. The friends in Florida are really good ones, and I love being with them. I even managed to pick up one check while I was there; it was a small one and I have a sneaking suspicion that I might have been allowed to grab it for just that reason, but still...

The trip was replenishing and good for both my ego and my perspective. The temp there was the same as the temp here, but the feeling was utterly different.
I don't like humidity one bit, but ocean breezes and the sound of the surf go a long way toward making up for the dampness in the air. It's also fun to be in a place where someone who is 53 years old is routinely considered a kid. While swimming laps in the gorgeous pool at my friends' condo, I found myself easily lapping a man swimming with flippers and a snorkel mask. I felt quite vigorous as I completed three lengths for his every one. (Actually, he was going so slowly that I'm not exactly sure why he didn't sink altogether. I doubt he burned a single calorie per lap. But he was in the pool when I got there, when I finished my laps and when we went back upstairs, so maybe he makes up in time for what he lacks in speed.)

My friends have some relatives nearby whom we visited in their beach house steps from the ocean on a cool, breezy afternoon. The relatives were warm and sharp and funny, and they reminded me of my parents' relatives, whom I rarely see. The visit was an unexpected pleasure and incredibly fun in a wonderfully benevolent and nostalgic familial sort of way.

And in the "there's no place like home" and "this really is now my home" categories, I've discovered that I now feel truly clean only when I'm in the desert. I've noted before that it's always weird to have to actually dry one's legs after a shower when in other climates; in the desert, by the time you've dried the rest of yourself, your legs are already dry. I know the dry air isn't for everyone, but it's most definitely for me. It has a purity that makes me feel as crisp and clean as a freshly laundered white shirt.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Opening Our Eyes

I have written before (here and here, e.g.) about how distressing and shocking I find it that many younger women appear to believe that we live in a postfeminist world. We most certainly do not, and this superb article from last weekend's New York Times Week in Review suggests persuasively that current events might have crystallized this reality for younger women who mistakenly thought otherwise.

It's fascinating to consider that what it's taken to accomplish this revolution in thought - if indeed such a revolution is occurring - was the introduction of the Eliot Spitzer mess, which is about not just sex trafficking but also the deeply sexist and evidently obligatory eyes-downcast stoicism of the betrayed political wife standing by her fallen husband, into the already boiling cauldron of "sulfurous emanations" about Hillary Clinton's candidacy, those being the criticisms that are based entirely on deeply rooted and widely tolerated gender bias.

The article quotes Katha Pollitt, who wrote:
"The hysterical insults flung at Hillary Clinton are just a franker, crazier version of the everyday insults - shrill, strident, angry, ranting, unattractive - that are flung at any vaguely liberal mildly feminist woman who shows a bit of spirit and independence, who puts herself out in the public realm, who doesn't fumble and look up coyly from underneath her hair and give her declarative sentences the cadence of a question."

Well said, Ms. Pollitt - and what a great paragraph!

The article also crystallized for me why, despite my admiration for Barack Obama, I continue to feel a deep pull to support Clinton. All the sexist crap we've seen in connection with this campaign, and - not insignificantly - the media's amused tolerance of that crap, make me certain that this decision is about more than whom one would choose for president on policy grounds in a perfect world. The media is a powerful tool for creating cultural reality, but it also reflects the prevailing winds of that reality. For me, the fact that the media and a sizable chunk of the populace remain either blind to, or willing to tolerate, misogyny and gender stereotyping demands action.

Regardless of which Democrat wins the nomination, I hope with all my heart that the article is right in suggesting that younger women are getting radicalized by the reception to Hillary Clinton's campaign. We will not live in a postfeminist society - let alone one characterized by equal opportunity - until they do.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

The flap over Geraldine Ferraro's comments about Barack Obama has me mystified. Why is it inappropriate to say that he wouldn't be in the position he's in were he not a black man? It's actually rather wonderful that his race has offered him this opportunity after the disgraceful history in the United States of people being denied opportunities by virtue of race. Are we now not allowed to state either opinion or fact if the statement will hint that race is an issue? Is there anyone who sincerely thinks race is not an issue relative to opportunity?

This whole business of pretending we're all one happy family where race is concerned is political correctness taken to an absurd and dangerous extreme. Problems don't get solved when we sweep them under the rug and pretend they don't exist. And any disparity between what we say and what we do is at best wishful thinking and at worst a slimy lack of integrity. (Think about this week's other big news story: New York's crusading Mr. Clean toppled by an $80,000 involvement with hookers.)

Geraldine Ferraro included in her comments that she was on the 1984 ticket as VP because she was a woman, and she's right about that, too. Obama's comeback that her comments are "divisive" is ridiculous. There is undeniably a racial divide where opportunity is concerned in this country, and it wasn't created by Geraldine Ferraro. Much as he downplays his race, Obama is indeed benefiting from it - and that's a good thing. I don't know personally what it's like to be black in America, but I do know what it's like to be female, and I loved having Ferraro on the ticket in 1984, just as I love Clinton's run for the presidency this go-round. I think it says an incredibly positive thing about the United States that our two serious Democratic contenders are a black man and a woman. We need to build on that cultural progress, not let it get missed or ignored in a flurry of politically correct silence.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I'm fascinated by how differently men and women experience and are shaped by forces like ambition, brains, beauty, work, sex, love, marriage, etc. It's one of the central themes of my novel, and I'm consistently intrigued by how it's both reflected in - and prompted by - the media. There's no shortage of illustrative articles, and I collect and comment on the ones that strike me. If you enjoy reading my blog, check out the collection on my website for more fun, thought-provoking and frequently updated commentary - mine and others. You can get to my Relevant Articles page by clicking here or by clicking on the Commentary button that's on every page of my site.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Enough Already

I have a habit of reading headlines on CNN, Yahoo and AOL, but not clicking on the stories unless I'm really interested, which doesn't happen often. I'm not a news junkie, and most of the stories I do end up reading irritate or infuriate me for one reason or another. Sexism, obvious political bias or social agenda, poor grammar and diction - there are lots of reasons to dislike news stories. And I kind of like the impressions I form of what's going on by reading only headlines. It's like reading a poem; a great deal of what I get out of it has to do with my own personal filters, perspectives and ideas, as opposed to what some spin-meister is trying to shove down my throat.

So when I read a headline along the lines of "Is Angelina Jolie addicted to motherhood?" I marveled as I have before over how determined the media is to define women negatively or, at best, restrictively. And notwithstanding a cultural reverence for motherhood as a concept, newspapers, magazines, TV outlets and the like love to find fault with mothers. Not parents, but mothers. The headline did not read "Is Brad Pitt addicted to fatherhood?" now did it? And I seem to recall that the original Mrs. Pitt got slammed for not wanting to have kids. So I guess the deal is that no kids is not enough, but more than 4 raises questions about possible addiction.

How stupid. It's arbitrary and unwarranted to insist that women have to do any particular thing or make any particular choice. If Angelina Jolie wants to use her personal fortune to take care of a zillion kids, adopted and biological, why shouldn't she? There is no one right way to be a woman or a mother. Just like men, we are who we are. And no apologies or justifications are necessary.