Her Bad Mother

Friday, August 17, 2007

Weathering The Storm

A boatload of thanks to you all, for your wonderful words of support. How very, very sweet to hear, sshhh, we don't need to hear, to give our support, to extend our arms. And how very, very generous of so many of you to open your virtual homes to me as places where I might tell my story, share my upset and my anxiety, secretly.

I can't do that, I don't think, because my vow to not share stories that are not my own extends beyond this space, here. Perhaps I'll spill my guts, one day, anonymously, in such a way that the story cannot be traced back to me - which pains me, yes, because it is still so much my story, and I hold onto it, possessively, despite its weight and darkness - but for now, I have to swallow my silence.

Still - I am so grateful. Stormy seas feel much safer when so many arms hold you afloat, in a life-preserving embrace. Thank you.

When the storm rolls in, just sit down with someone you love, and watch, and think about how beautiful the sky and water can be, when they go dark, and about how that darkness, that rolling greyness, is always only fleeting.


Meanwhile, as HBM continues to struggle valiantly to keep her blood pressure down...

* I had to rant about something, so I did it over here. More tardage from our nation's 'national newspaper.'

* Also, did you know that some people take David Caruso waaaay too seriously?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

No Port In The Storm

Today has been a bad day. A very bad day. And I cannot write about it. And it sucks.

I flatter myself that this space is not a diary. That it's a space for writing. No, wait - that it's a space for Writing. With a capital W.

Then I have a bad day, a very bad day in which very bad words are spoken and very bad feelings are provoked and, just, bad. But it's a bad day involving persons whose stories I have no license to tell. And so I feel the constraints of this "space." I am bursting, busting, to work through the bad feelings by writing about them, but. But. I can't. I can flirt with those words in the Basement, but even that space remains unprivate, for me.

And here's the thing (sweet Flutter advised writing on paper and then burning that paper) - I don't want it to be private - the effectiveness of the therapy that is this blog resides in large part in the openness of this blog. In the fact of the audience. In you, who would tell me if I were crazy, or unjustified in my frustration. I don't want to scratch my feelings out in ink, and then burn them into oblivion. I want to tell my story, and hear it echoed back, and hear the responses, the reactions, of friends.

But I can't. So I'm having a martini, and hoping that my heart won't hurt so much tomorrow, or the next day.

Bah. Sorry for the blithering rant.

Too stormy. Far too stormy. And no rudder for the storm.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Where Dora Don't Go

WonderBaby has discovered her nether regions.

She's known that they were there for some time, of course, but she hadn't really done any, um, exploring. But she's recently discovered what a fascinating area it is, and has been checking it out at every opportunity.

The character of her exploration, however, is not the idle tourism of which I've sometimes heard other parents speak. It is not the casual, inattentive perusal of parts hitherto unknown, the distracted poke or prod, the almost accidental discovery of something only mildly interesting. No, WonderBaby's discovery of her nether regions has the character of World Historical Discovery of Continents, Peoples and Artifacts. It is Pytheas, Marco Polo, Columbus, Ponce De Leon, Indiana Jones and Jean Luc-Picard. It is Thule, Xanadu, the undiscovered Americas, the Fountain of Youth, the Holy Grail, the Next Frontier. It is accompanied by hoots and hollers, exultant cheers and the unrestrained brandishing of flags.

It really is quite something to witness. It goes something like this:

(Tear off diaper. Probe unexplored regions.)

Lo! What is this? A cavern? A tunnel? A secret passageway to Teletubbylandia? Whatever could it be? Wherever does it go?

(Rubber Ducky is dispatched to investigate.)

Lo! Ducky cannot proceed! What prevents his passage?

(Run to Mommy.)

"Mommy look!"

(Squat. Point.)


(Attempt to get hand into hole.)


(Withdraw hand, which, for better or for worse, does not fit.)

(Demand explanation from Mommy.)

"Whassat?!?! Whas DIS?!?! HOLE?!?"

(Mommy has lost her words.)


With all of the authority of Columbus proclaiming Cuba to be India, she decides that it is, indeed, a hole, and proceeds to investigate, by standing with legs splayed and head bowed in an ineffectual effort to get a firsthand look. There are more hollers and shouts and proclamations of discovery, and then, finally, she loses interest until the next time she rips off the tearaway pants that are her diapers and discovers - LO! - that there is still - OMG MOMMY LOOK! - a hole there. At which point we repeat the same scene.

It's a scene that is, for me, at once heart-lifting and heart-lightening and all-out discomfiting. It's funny, obviously. And touching: her discovery of herself as a living, breathing, sensual being is a wonder to behold, a reminder of the miracle that is life. But it's disconcerting, too - largely because, I think, I (we?) have forgotten how simple and natural it is to take joy in the miracle of our physical beings. For WonderBaby, the discovery of her nether regions is exciting - but so too was the discovery of her elbow, and the daily re-discovery of the elbow, and the ongoing experience of discovering what the elbow does and how the elbow works and oh, look! Everybody else has elbows, too! The hole is pretty cool, but oh man have you seen the elbow?!? And - wait what's this? - THE BELLY-BUTTON!

(Ah, the navel. It is by far her favourite body part and it is an ongoing source of great delight for Wonderbaby to discover that other people have belly-buttons, too. If you meet her, she will invariably shout Button! and lift her shirt or her dress to display it, proudly. And then she will expect you to do the same. This goes over very well at parties.)

(We are very much hoping that she does not invent a similar game for The Hole. That might not go over quite so well at parties. Well, at least not at the sorts of parties we attend. It would, however, have brought down the house at BlogHer.)

Wonderbaby's body is, for Wonderbaby, a vast, underexplored landscape, full of fascinating turns and corners, peaks and valleys. There is nothing dark or scary or shameful there - it is all miracle. It is all wonderful. It is all fun. If I get discomfitted - beyond the mild maternal discomfort at the prospect of Wonderbaby exposing herself under inappropriate circumstances - it is because I have forgotten the joys - those simple, natural joys - of the body as simply body. It is because I have lost those joys, perhaps, beneath the many, many layers of maps of shame, imposed by a culture that regards the body solely as an object, something separate from our natural being, something to be sexualized, commodified, or mortified.

This, then, is just one more lesson from my child: reject the maps. Be your own explorer. Exult in what you discover. Visit - and celebrate - the elbow, and the button, and the hole, and all your other parts, and then visit them again, and again, and again.

Just be careful about sending Ducky in. Ducky doesn't know his way around. Dora might, though.

Made in China.


Other stuff that does a body good:

1) The Purse-Voyeur master list is up. Let me know if I've missed yours.

2) My Baby Can Read. Sort of. Mostly, she just dances.

3) BlogHers Act Canada is narrowing down its list of environmental causes and needs your opinion.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Desperate Feminist Housewife Moms Rule The World!

Last week, a Canadian journalist wrote an op-ed piece on what she referred to as the prevailing "culture of porn" in Western society. You know: desperate housewives and panty-free celebs and Bratz Dolls and silicone, silicone, as far as the eye can see. We face an onslaught of skank every single day, she said, and this relentless onslaught of skank is teaching our daughters that their worth resides only in their bodies and in their willingness to skank it up with their peers.

And who do we have to thank for this onslaught of skank, this culture of porn? Hollywood? The Entertainment-Industrial Complex? The post-modern condition imposed by late capitalism, wherein everything solid melts into (J-Lo endorsed) air?

Nope: feminism. And, more generally - lest you think that she's singling people out here - the matriarchy.

"Which is the greater oppression?" asks Barbara Kay: "Sexual virtue imposed by the patriarchy, or sexual libertinism imposed by the matriarchy? They call it empowerment, but in fact the decade-long cultural vogue for "girl's gone wild" - "bad" as the new sexual "good" (hey! she stole my line!) - is just another form of cultural tyranny. Except that now the oppressors are post-morality theorists (among whom, she specifies later, 'radical feminists') and "desperate housewife" moms (?!?!?!) urging public "hotness," rather than stern moralistic fathers suppressing it."

I don't even know where to begin. There's a matriarchy? And the skankomania that breeds Britneys and Lindsays and Parises and Bratz Dolls is promoted by this matriarchy? Really? (Actually, it's worse than you think: it's a cabal of post-moral feminist desperate housewife moms who are in fact a global matriarchy, running the world and maintaining secret societies at Ivy League universities - you know them by their Juicy Couture yoga pants and cunning little secret society pinky rings with skull insignia embellished with little daisies. Trilateral Commission? Ha. It's the Triclitoral Commission, and they're the ones who are really pulling all the strings. Now you know.)

Seriously. I spent seven-plus years in graduate school studying political philosophy and social theory and sat in on more than my fair share of seminars on 'The Gender Politics of Late Capitalism' and 'Feminism and Post-Modernity' and 'Men: What Are They Good For?' and I don't recall hearing about a single feminist theorist (never mind post-moral theorist, a term that I have never heard before), radical or otherwise, who encourages the wholesale pornification of society and/or sexualization of children. They may well be out there, but if they are, they're on the fringe. The extreme fringe.

It may be that Ms. Kay means to argue that the so-called sexual revolution - with its bra-burning and Pill-promoting antics - is the mother of what she sees as the pornification of Western culture. That argument isn't particularly new. But careful analysts of that argument know to point out that it is deeply, deeply contentious in feminist circles, old and new. Many mainstream feminists - such as Diana Russell, Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Susan Brownmiller, and Robin Morgan - have long argued that the hyper-sexualization of women (never mind girls) is always oppressive. But even those feminists - such as Susie Bright (who I really wish that I'd met at BlogHer) - who argue for a more sex-positive feminism stop short of promoting sexualization in any and all forms: such feminists usually agree that promoting sex can become oppressive to and exploitative of women if it is not in the hands of women. Is there a feminist out there who really believes that Britney Spears is currently empowered in her sexuality? A feminist who is pro-Bratz Baby? If there is, please point her out to me, because I'd love to hear the argument.

The fact is, however much feminists (to the extent that one can lump them together as a homogenous group, which I don't think one can) promote more open discussion and awareness of female sexuality, they do not and have not ever promoted the wholesale pornification of femininity, let alone the (oh my heart) pornification of childhood. To the extent that there has been any 'pornification' of the culture, feminists and feminism are not to blame. And in attempting to lay such blame, Ms. Kay obscures the following fact: that the more heinous examples of a 'culture of porn' in our society are the result of a hyper-commercial culture, one in which the key decision-makers are most often men. The creator, promoter and owner of Bratz Dolls? A man. The creator of "Desperate Housewives"? Man (also? Self-described conservative homosexual republican. Parse that, Barbara.) Ludacris (cited, inexplicably, in her article as evidence of this "matriarchal" culture of porn) - last time I checked? Man. But I'm not going to lay blame for skank dolls and misogynist rap music and Teri Hatcher at the feet of the "patriarchy" or the "post-moralists" who pull the strings at Fox Television or who program Ann Coulter or whatever. Why not? Because it's much, much more complicated than that.

As a mother, I am deeply, deeply anxious that my daughter might come of age in culture where the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan are offered up as quote-unquote role models. I am terrified that she'll face all manner of peer pressure toward identifying herself as a sexual being before she's ready. I don't know any mother of girls who does not worry about these things - and none of the mothers that I know is a "desperate housewife." But even if we were, would that matter? Ms. Kay compares the imagined "matriarchal" imposition of loose sexual morals (which, again - from what fevered imagination did this come?) against the sexual oppression imposed by the patriarchy and finds the former more insidious. But isn't there something oxymoronic in the claim that liberation (even if imagined) is oppressive? If there is - and I must stress again that I think that this is entirely the stuff of fantasy - a matriarchy that is encouraging free love and open sexuality, and if this has yielded some unpleasant cultural phenomenon and disagreeable mores, is this worse than a culture that demands that women live their lives behind veils and curtains and doors? That they deny their sexuality?That they put modesty (sister to shame, and handmaiden to piety) before all else? Is this what we want to teach our daughters - that their sexuality is something to be hidden or denied?

As I said, it's complicated: I fear and celebrate my daughter's future as a sexual being (mostly fear, at this point.) I hate that we live in a culture that has turned her sexuality - and the process of her sexual development - into a commodity. Into what seems, at times, to be a commercial freak-show. But would I rather be subjected to the "stern moralism" of patriarchs than have to navigate the sometimes harrowing waters of "public hotness"? Is that a serious question? Really?

I hate Bratz Dolls, I really do. But I hate narrow-minded (and intellectually sloppy) moralism even more.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Good, The Bad, And The Bloggy: A Weekend In Review

The Good:

We think that my hard drive lives. It - the dark, preshus heart of my techie being - still beats, and where there is heartbeat, there is hope.

The Bad:

We need to pry it from the cold, dead body of the laptop that housed it, a laptop that has, otherwise, totally flatlined. (But! More Good: After we pry it from the cold, dead body of the old laptop, it will be transplanted into a shiny new body - a body with all the youth and vigour of a gazillion gigabytes.)

The Bloggy:

Am dazed and confused from nearly three days of limited pluggedness (which is to say, effectual unpluggedness.) Cannot keep track of life without that little metal heart-brain, that chippy little mini-me that contains my secrets and memories and all the little virtual scraps of paper by which I organize my life. The life-support that the desktop computer has provided is the bare minimum by which I can live - it maintains the heartbeat and provides a morphine drip, but not much else.

So it is that I have fallen behind on my virtual and not-so-virtual to-do's, and so it is that you get to spend four precious minutes (less if you're a fast reader) of this sunny summer Sunday reading what amounts to a chicken-scratch to-do list (albeit an important one, so don't click away):

1) Those of you who flashed me your handbags, I'll add your links to that post tonight or tomorrow. Thanks for sharing your tampons, your shopping receipts, your lipgloss, and your random antacid chewable tablets. Much have I learned on this purse-voyeur journey. (And, if you still want to share the contents of your handbag, I'd still like to see them.)

2) This week is Rainbow Connection week over at BlogRhet, which is a totally WonderBread way of saying that we're still talking about race and identity politics in the blogosphere over there, but will be broadening and deepening the discussion this week by bringing in some guest writers and listening in on and discussing Kristen's podcast on the same topic (this Wednesday) and really encouraging everyone to join in and have their say. It's been a really, really challenging discussion so far, but an incomparably worthy one, and you should at least check it out. (To get up to date on what people have been sayign so far, check out Tere's BlogRhet post from last week, and visit Julie's place for a great list of links to recent posts on the topic.)

3) The wonderful Miss Zoot is raising awareness - and cash - for the cause that is closest to my heart, and it would do my heart good if you went over there and lent your support. What else can you do? Go back and read (or re-read) my most recent post about my nephew Tanner and the disease that will kill him, and follow the links there to a couple of places where you can put your chequebook where my heart is (also, you can still sign my online comment-petition there to convince my sister to start a blog to raise awareness of MD.)

If you're a fellow Canucks, you will not be able to donate to MDA through Miss Zoot, but you can donate to MDA Canada HERE.

American OR Canadian, you can also donate to Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (my sister's personal favourite, because it specializes in Duchenne's MD, the specific, terminal muscular disorder that Tanner has) HERE.

And, if you do nothing else, please help spread the word by posting and sharing this button:

E-mail me (herbadmother@gmail.com) for the code if you can't lift it. (Thanks to Katie for her mad button skillz.)