GENDERING

fullsizeoutput_623Men and Women – —Power and Equality — Sex Roles — Work Roles — Stereotyping  What does it mean to be a man or woman —  to be fluid or gender neutral?

My daughter is having a baby – finally! Well, she is only 32, it was me waiting till I was 39 to have her that really put us on the late bloomer’s path. As we began the process of dreaming of the new baby, we did, as countless mothers and daughters have done, shopped. Or at least started looking on line at baby clothes and things. Did you know that most stores and websites categorize clothing as “baby girl” or “baby boy”?

Of course at an early age, or for that matter any age really, there is no real difference in clothing needs. Who declared it is pink for girls and blue for boys? And, why does this silliness persist? Trucks for boys; princesses for girls? The list could go on.

The point is that finding gender neutral clothing for babies and kids is difficult. Even the nursery decor follows this pattern. And why? Society seems to want to be sure to give all kinds of appropriate clues about what it is to be male or female. Most people don’t even stop to question these norms.

If you speak a romance language you have another form of sexual identity thrust on you constantly. Every noun is classified male or female — La Rose, El Corazon, La Luz. And the pronouns are even more “classified” than in English. So many clues to one’s sexual identity.

And so much worry about those who do not follow the “norms”. Gender neutral? Gender fluid? Equal rights for same sex couples? Equal pay and advancement for women. These ideas scare the traditionalists and conservatives. How will they know how to behave?

Truly what does it mean to be a man or a woman?

Listening to NPR this morning — men complaining about being molested by other men when teens. Is this the same power struggle? Does anything having to do with sexual force come under the same heading of abuse? Abuse. With all the various attitudes towards sexual idenity and sexual freedom, aren’t we all abused? Anyone is fair game to accuse. A witch hunt atmosphere. On a scale of 1-10 how abusive was Dustin Hoffman to a 17 year old he saw backstage? Does anyone with only 2 or 3 incidents get a pass? As with so many of these culture wars — only the Lawyers will win.

Because of our gender, women have been held back. We have not and we do not have equal rights in the workplace or in many relationships. There is a power dynamic surrounding sexual differences that plays out every day in the classroom the office, the street and any place where men and women are together. Through recorded history roles have been prescribed for men and women; it is a rare society that is matricarical.

Women are to wait to be courted and women wait to be selected and chosen by men. Maybe the game is rigged from the beginning. Fix yourself up to be beautiful so you will attract men. But don’t attract the “wrong” attention or you might be “asking for it”.

And now we go from never believing a female accuser to believing every female
accuser. The pendulum swings too far. If people’s livelihoods are at stake, where is Due Process? Where does rude cross into abuse?

We are All too obscessed about gender and gender norms and roles. We must learn to be kind to one another regardless of race, GENDER, or ethnic origin — or class or religious belief or length of hair or prominence of tatoos or whatever. In a world where physical strength counts for less and less, any biological differences are not important. We will all have the robots and other AI to do the heavy lifting.

What does it mean to be a woman trapped in a man’s body or the opposite? How do you know what it is to be a woman or man when our social constructs or biological givens are only part of the equation. If a boy wants to wear a dress or play with dolls does this make him transgendered? Is my identity determined by who or what I am attracted to?

I hope that we are, as some have suggested, moving towards open ideas of sexuality and fluid gender identity. I admit that I am overloaded and somewhat confused by all of these messages. But I am hopeful that real change is coming and real acceptance of people for what and who they really are will be the new norm.

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Rebecca Solnit is my new BFF

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Mansplaining is genius.  I love her writing – her focus.  Since my blog is Mindfulness at 70, I find her commitment to mindfulness exemplary.  She is always looking and listening and monitoring how she really feels about what she sees and hears.  She is a watchdog for feminists and environmentalists; she is a very interesting person.

She is, of course, not my real BFF.  I just wish I could spend some time with her.  I read her current posts and have read some of her books.  I don’t agree with everything, but her opinions are always thoughtful and grounded in fact and observation.  She seems to have lived an interesting life full of unique and common experiences.  She’s an intellectual with a lot of street cred.

I really got into Ms Solnit when I stumbled across “mansplaining”.  I’ve been railing against it since I was 10 years old and now I had a great name for it.  Men always taking the floor and explaining (in many wrong ways) to women in all aspects of life.  Hogging all the comments in a meeting, forcing Elizabeth Warren to shut-up in the US Senate, interrupting women.  The list goes on and on.

This “mansplaining” is, of course another embodiment of aggression against women.  It is not physical and it does not involve sexual violation — yet it is part of the culture’s categorization of women.  We are second.  The man needs the job more than you.  She would not shut up and listen.  She was asking for it.  All part of the on-going war to keep women in their place.

Can “mansplaining” be that much of a problem when we have so many incidents of sexually inappropriate behavior and sexual violence?  Yes, it all comes from the same place.  Men are entitled to behave this way.  To speak this way, to touch this way.  To demand they remain in charge. To hang onto power.

Solnit states,  Are people finally making the connection between sexual misconduct and men’s perpetual domination of most professional spaces. I do hope that sometime someone who’s having a high-profile creep masturbate at her takes out her camera-phone and makes the career-killing humiliating video or even livestreams it. The perps do this to prove that they’re powerful and she’s powerless, powerless too often even to get people to listen and believe. That they are invulnerable and beyond accountability, and too often they have been right.

I hope we are making the connection and that we concentrate on overall equality rather than punishing individual “famous” men who transgress.  We need , we must, do better.

 

 

 

I BLOG AND HOPE TO DISCOVER WHO I AM Reflections on Is it too late to save the world? Jonathan Franzen one year of Trump’s America The Guardian, November 4, 2017

I never thought I would look to Jonathan Franzen the popular writer for writing advice. I really have not taken to his work and find his prose overblown and obtuse. But, I found myself taking notes on an essay he wrote about many things including writing essays.

The essay is a form I am drawn to and it fits the style and length of a Blog well. Further, in the new journalism or literature or literary journalism, very personal obsevations — reference to the “I” are no longer frowned upon.

In his recent article in The Guardian, Franzen postulates,

Writing or reading an essay isn’t the only way to stop and ask yourself who you really are and what your life might mean, but it is one good way.

I Blog because I do want to discover who I really am and what life means to me. I wish to consider ideas and events that have importance to me and codify my own thoughts and feelings about them. Writing is a voyage of discovery.

Franzen goes on to state,

One of the mysteries of literature is that personal substance, as perceived by both the writer and the reader, is situated outside the body of either of them, on some kind of page. How can I feel realer to myself in a thing I’m writing than I do inside my body? How can I feel closer to another person when I’m reading her words than I do when I’m sitting next to her?

This feels true to me. I feel close to the writers that I read and am always interested in their life and career, process and purpose. I believe I have been privy to something “real” about them and I respond to their voice. I know that finding my own voice is paramount in any writing.

The answer, in part, is that both writing and reading demand full attentiveness. But it surely also has to do with the kind of ordering that is possible only on the page.

Every essay, even a think piece, tells a story. There are two ways to organise material: “Like goes with like” and “This followed that.” Sort it into categories, grouping similar elements together: Like goes with like. This is, at a minimum, a tidy way to write.

And suddenly I felt I had taken a tutorial on essay writing and was more at home with the format than ever before. I’m making sense of my world; I’m asking questions that resonate with me and I’m finding my way through the answers.

With the advent of the internet anyone and everyone can offer their thoughts, wishes and dreams to the public. But I believe substantive responses to other writers and questions is called for. Don’t just like or thumbs down something. Why do you think this way? Disect the information and organize your answer with your own voice and find out what you really think — or maybe who you really are.

YOU NEVER RETIRE FROM YOUR JOB AS A MOTHER — and that’s good

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Yes, yes, I know. Everyone says that, but what does it really mean? And notice that I used Mother not parent. Obviously I’m female and in most cases would be a “mother”. That’s what I know. But I suspect it is different for men – fathers. Although some changes have been taking place in sexual role identification, and some men are definitely more nurturing, I believe always showing up and being there has traditionally fallen to the Mother.

I just returned from a six week trip to visit my daughter in Florence, Italy. Nice, huh? Well it would have been nicer if it had been a more leisurely trip. My 32 year old daughter just moved to Florence to work for UNICEF, leaving her husband of one year in Bangkok to finish an assignment there before joining her. She had been having digestion issues, and before she took the new job, they had been trying to start a family.

All of a sudden, I get an IM with a picture of a pregnancy test that is positive. (To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure what it was a picture of, I thought it was some kind of funny paint brush. In my day, “the rabbit died.”) This is good news, right? Well yes except the digestion issues have continued and been diagnosed as gall bladder problems – she has attacks. Pregnancy is not a good time to have surgery, especially in your lower abdomen. So they start her on a stringent diet to prevent another episode. It doesn’t work.

She is taken by ambulance late at night to the hospital. Knowing very little Italian they tell her that the gall bladder is about to errupt and they must perform surgery. She explains that she is pregnant – gravadanza is one word she knows in Italian. They take every precaution and remove a gall stone nearly the size of an egg and her gall bladder using an ectopotapic technique that works through her belly button.

I was planning to visit her the next month, but someone has to be there to assist her after she leaves the hospital. Her husband is traveling in Southeast Asia, and she wants her mommy. I quickly change my flights and throw things in bags and fly from Albuquerque to Dallas – Dallas to Rome – train to Florence. Thank god, I’m met at the train station by an executive from her job who takes me to her in the hospital. (Thank you, Noboko).

I arrive just in time to help her check out and we take a cab to her apartment – the one where she has lived for less than one week. I begin my crash course in getting around central Florence and buying groceries and medicine. Talk about on the job training. My Italian is non existant; fortunately I speak fluent mime and the Italians will meet you half way. I found myself making clucking sounds in the grocery store when I wanted chicken.)

She is now well into her 2nd trimester. Ultra sounds indicate that the fetus is fine. She has recovered from the surgery and is back at work. I stayed on through my original departure and to go to the Rolling Stones Concert in Lucca, Italy – a long-planned event for my daughter, her mother-in-law and me. It was a bit much for all of us but we made it and Mick is still strutting.

I am not complaining; it is nice to be needed. As one gets older one is less crucial to the important things in life. It was nice to be her mommy again.

Now I just need to try to remember anything about the births of my children and their very early months. Nature has a way of turning it all into a blur. I would like to be helpful with my new grandchild.

NOBODY LIKES A BULLY: The loneliness of the would be leader of the free world

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How can no one at the G20 want to talk to President Donald Trump?  I tell you, he STILL gets NO RESPECT!  Why bother to try to talk to him.  He doesn’t listen.  He cannot and will not evaluate himself or others.

I would have thought that this picture would have outraged him.  It catches him “down” and not on, not performing for the camera.  Alas, pay no attention to that man there; he is only an “act”, a performance, a con man delivering his schtick; he is empty and without consequence.  No matter how much power he accumulates, he never feels like he is in charge and on top — and he never will.

A leader is someone of substance.  The Donald is all smoke and mirrors.  Inevitably there is no one there.  No positive life force — no moral compass — no integrity and no curiosity and intelligence.  Unless he thinks someone is watching, he is not there.

How could the American electorate be so vulnerable to this con man?

CENSORSHIP: The Public Theatre’s Julius Caesar

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In many ways I’m glad that Shakespeare in the Park in New York City is causing such a fuss this summer.  It has been some time since we have had the arts’ nazis out in force because quite frankly our exhibits and productions were not controversial or even very interesting.  I hope we have finally passed that early part of a new century where we look back – a nostalgia fest – and are finally moving forward.

Of course Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is hardly a new work.  The Public’s artistic director, Oscar Eustis,  has made some production choices that propel the play into today’s headlines.  Caesar looks a lot like Donald Trump with the bouffant blonde hair, the long red tie and the bulky physical presence.  Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife,  is tall and thin and speaks with a Slavic accent.  And Caesar’s assassination on the floor of the Roman Senate is bloody and graphic.  The liberal New York City audience loves it.  The Conservative Media is up in arms and demanding the play be censored as treason.

Ms. Sheaffer, a sales manager for Salem Media, a conservative-leaning media group, saw a performance on June 3. She described her dismay over the production in a conversation with the conservative radio host and comedian Joe Piscopo, then voiced her concern again to the media and politics site Mediaite, declaring “I don’t love President Trump, but he’s the president. You can’t assassinate him on a stage.” Mediaite made the most of the story, posting it with the headline “Senators Stab Trump to Death in Central Park Performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.”

Bank of America and Delta Airlines then got on board by withdrawing funding support for the production, with American Airlines and the National Endowment for the Arts clarifying that none of their funds for the Public Theatre had been used for this production.  It was CYA all the way!

Conversely NYC’s department of Cultural Affairs who also partly funded the production;  stated they are against any censorship. “Threatening funding for a group based on an artistic decision amounts to censorship,” said Tom Finkelpearl, the city’s commissioner of cultural affairs. “We don’t interfere with the content created by nonprofits that receive public support — period.”

Theater provokes a discourse, and we accept that — not every theater piece can please everybody,” stated a Board member of the Public Theatre.  “It’s an upsetting play, but if there’s a production of ‘Julius Caesar’ that doesn’t upset you, you’re sitting through a very bad production,” said Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

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Art as protest is important. We need these lightening rods now and then to remember how important freedom of expression is — especially in the theatre. A graphic murder on stage is very powerful. This makes me want to fly to NYC to see the production and give $$ to the Public. When Joe Papp died I thought, oh dear there goes another important institution. But they seem to be carrying on the tradition of reaching for that which is new and provocative. Corporate funding IS problematic. When you get in bed with Delta Airlines or Bank of America you might be getting more than a good night’s sleep.

This “Julius Caesar” is a deeply democratic offering, befitting both the Public and the public — and the times. If in achieving that goal it flirts a little with the violent impulses it otherwise hopes to contain, and risks arousing pro-Trump backlash, that’s unfortunate but forgivable. Mr. Eustis seems to have taken to heart Cassius’s admonition to Brutus when Brutus is still on the fence about taking action. “Think of the world,” he begs. It’s a line that cuts two ways.

The Delacorte production, vividly staged by the Public’s artistic director, Oskar Eustis, bears the same message and, for good measure, comes with careful usage instructions. “Those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic methods,” Mr. Eustis recently explained in a statement, “pay a terrible price and destroy their republic.”

CAN ONE LEARN TO LOVE THE ARTS?

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For most of my career I was involved in arts education. As a drama educator I taught children creative dramatics; I studied with several leaders in this field, and eventually I helped create a program for young people at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

Arts advocacy was a part of my life. Conferences and retreats, lobbying federal, state and national politicians for arts funding and speaking at community events about the importance of the arts was part of my life. And, I never questioned the axiom that the arts are important. On the other hand, I never felt that I really converted anyone with talk and graphs and what have you.

Experiencing and appreciating the arts is intrinsic to the human experience — man meets and examines his image. We believe that artistic impulses and creativity are intrinsic, but are they also learned behavior? Do we learn how to listen to music and drama or appreciate a fine painting, or are we just BORN THIS WAY. Nurture or a Nature?

And why is the History of the United States so full of responses to the arts that blow hot and cold — acceptance and rejection. Why is it always a hot potato, a lightning rod of public political opinion?

My life has been a circle of enlightment – obscession – advocacy and now despair for the arts in our lives. Americans are unique in their distrust of the artistic. Most claim it descends from our Puritan heritage — Nothing Frivolous! What is it for? What will it do? Participating in and creating the arts is ephemeral, non- linear,too much fun, certainly not necessary.

For years arts educators have been trying to justify the arts in a public school curiculum by trying to develop and measure the contributions of the arts for children — to quantify what one really gets out of the arts. Of course, this is VERY SUBJECTIVE.

So is there any answer to getting the great unwashed to appreciate, nay even demand the arts in their lives? No one answer, I believe, but many answers.

Children who grow up to go to the symphony tend to be kids who were taken to the symphony by their family and are also kids who learned to play an instrument
People who appreciate the plastic arts usually have some experiences of going to see art in museums and galeries and in making art as they grew up.
Actors came to drama through the written word or through experience with improv and dancers came through movement and yes improvisation.

The key is familiarity. We are more comfortable with what we know. Where we may all possess the impulse to create, the appreciation and the doing is learned behavior. It is like reading. If you were read to and taken to the library; if your children saw you read — they will likely become readers.

So then, arts education is not just k-12; it is multi-generational. It does require an open mind and the ability to understand divergent thinking, but then shouldn’t all education require this?

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The arts are where man meets his image and contemplates his place in the universe. The arts bring us joy and reflection and greatly enhance the quality of life. Oh, if only we could all get to this place! I despair, but then I see a play or hear a piece of music and my heart is lifted and I have hope.