Gone but Not Forgetting

OK -- I really am working on something right now for the blog. I think you'll agree, once you see it, that it was worth the wait.

It's also the end of the month, and I have two (count 'em, 2) websites to update before the first, so I'm squeezing things in here.

Think of me and my computer fondly. Back tomorrow.

PD

Posted byPortlyDyke at 3:16 PM 0 comments Links to this post  

Happy 5 Gs to Me

Sometime today, this blog, started in June of this year, greeted its 5,000 visitor.

Yeah, yeah, I know -- for some, this may be nothing -- in a blogosphere where Shakespeare's Sister topped Three Million (well-deserved) hits last week, and KOS gets 53G+/day -- but Hell -- I'll take a thousand hits/month average on a baby blog!

So, whoever you were, my 5,000 visitor -- Live Long and Prosper.

Oh, OK -- and the rest of you, too -- actually, to the first 4,999 visitors, I wish you extra-long life and prosperity, and much success with your own blogs, if you have them.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 9:02 PM 9 comments Links to this post  

Parental Responsibility-Sharing: Phase 2

Ok, let's assume that you've accomplished your mission for Phase 1: Keep the Baby Alive.

Let's say the Baby is no longer really a "baby", but now, rather, a "toddler" -- it is no longer entirely dependent on mother's milk, and it's entered Phase 2.

During this Phase, I still think that all parents who have not signed their rights/responsibilities away have mutual responsibility for their offspring.

One (or both) of the parents might go off during the day to make $ (USofA western culture version of hunting/gathering).

If both are off hunting/gathering, offspring must be placed in the care of someone who takes on the parental protection/nurturing role while parental units are away.

There may be a very direct physical-resource swap involved for this care (ie. Paid Child Care -- "I'll give you some of the stuff I hunt/gather today ($$) if you protect my offspring while I'm gone" OR "I'll protect your offspring tomorrow while you hunt/gather, if you protect my offspring today") -- or there may be a vaguer, more esoteric swap involved with a close family member ("I'll continue to acknowledge you as part of my tribal system and give you access to your grandchild if you protect said grandchild while I go out to hunt/gather $$").

If only one parent goes off to hunt/gather during the day and devotes their time and energy specifically to that activity, and the other parent remains "in camp" (at home) to do "childcare" (nurturing/protecting), then I consider that they have made a swap for that period of time ONLY.

When the hunting/gathering parent returns to camp/home, I believe that the shared parental responsibility is back in place.

And therein seems to lie the rub. I cannot tell you how many parents that I know (regardless of gender-mix, blended family status, or sexual-orientation) -- who have clearly chosen to have one person go out into the world to "make a living" while the other remains in camp/at home to "mind the kids" -- that seem to have the same fucking argument over and over and over again.

Here are the two sides of this argument:

"S/he doesn't understand how stressful it is to go out and hunt/gather all day. When I come home, I just want to relax. I want a break from having to "do" things."

"S/he doesn't understand how stressful it is to be in camp with the kids all day. When the s/he comes home, I just want to relax. I want a break from having to "do" things."

See how vastly different the two sides of this argument are?

If both parents considered that the protection and nurturing of their offspring was their full-time, 24-hour-a-day/7-day-a-week responsibility, for which they have simply swapped specific responsibilities for a certain period of time, then I think that, at the end of the swap part of the day, they would realize that the kid(s) are still there, as a mutual responsibility, and NO ONE gets out of that (without making a further swap).

Of course, if some people considered that the care/nurturing of their offspring was a 24/7 responsibility, they might choose not to have children at all.

Which might be bad for the human species. Or not.

But once again, I digress.

What I'm about to suggest is, I believe, effective for any period of child-rearing where the child is not survival-dependent upon the specific milk from a specific mother:

  1. I suggest that both/all the parents who agree to raise the offspring together (whether they are "bio" parents, "foster" parents, or "adoptive" parents) think of the nurturing and protecting of the children they choose to make or raise as a 24/7 responsibility -- from the moment the child is conceived, taken on for fostering, or adopted -- until the child is an adult.
  2. I suggest that, if one parent wants to take on a specific, partial set of responsibilities around the protection/nurturing of the offspring, that these "responsibility swaps" be made consciously and, if possible, before the kid hits the planet or arrives in the home. (While acknowledging that these responsibility swaps will need to be monitored and adjusted throughout the entire period that you are parenting.)
  3. I suggest that wherever one parent takes on a certain set of responsibilities, that they also be granted power over how those responsibilities are carried out (IOW -- if I'm going out to "get the apples", I get to decide how the apples are gathered unless we make a different agreement about that -- if I'm staying in camp to protect the offspring, I get to decide how the offspring are protected, unless we make a different agreement about that).
Now, all this means that you're going to have to think about some things, and talk about some things, and keep an eye on whether your exchange with other co-parents is balanced and satisfying for everyone involved, while you're assuring that the kid is safe, fed, and learning how to be a fulfilled human being.

It's my belief that parental responsibility for your kids' protection, nurturing, and training to successful adulthood has to be prioritized ahead of "making the kid happy".

Personally, I believe that your kid's happiness is, essentially, none of your damn business -- it's been my experience that if kids are safe, well-nourished, and surrounded by adults who are modeling self-fulfillment, they learn to create their happiness for themselves, which is, in my opinion, a much more important talent to develop than learning to have someone else "make" you happy.

Evidence of how protect/nurture trumps preservation of childhood happiness is this: When the toddler is dashing toward the blazing hot wood stove with both hands outstretched, you do not hesitate to sweep the little tyke up in your arms, or shout "NO!" in your most authoritarian voice, and you ignore the shrieks and howls of outrage as the three-year-old will is thwarted. You don't think at that moment: "I'm a bad parent." Quite the opposite.

Back to my point. I think that a lot of the confusion that arises in present day society around child-rearing responsibilities actually stems from the fact that the USA is truly a cultural "melting pot" -- each of us has inherited or learned child-rearing traditions from parents who may have come from vastly different socio-cultural or ethnic backgrounds, and the ingrained ideas that we have about the roles of "mom" vs. "dad" may be entirely unconscious for us. Add to this changing ideas about the roles of women and men in society, what constitutes a "family" in the first place, etc. -- and then give yourself a comforting pat on the back if you sometimes experience complete befuddlement about it all.

The thing is that rearing children from a stance of mutual responsibility requires that you come to agreement with the other parents about a few things:
  1. What is our intention in creating "a family"? (Or even a relationship with one another, for that matter.)
  2. What roles do each of us want to take in the process?
  3. Are we both committed to sharing the responsibility of raising our children equally?
  4. What do we want to model to our children? (Anyone who has actually raised children will confirm what I'm about to say: "Children do not actually listen to what you say -- they watch what you do". Given that, being miserable in your job, even if you say that you "have to do it for the family", is probably not the model for a fulfilled life that you want to demonstrate for your kids. Just sayin'.)
  5. How are we going to handle child-rearing when one or both of us is too tired/sick/whatever to manage our responsibilities well, or to do them with enthusiasm?
  6. What responsibilities do we agree we must fulfill as parents, regardless of how we're feeling about one another (or the kids) at the moment?
  7. If we make a swap during the day (I go to work, you care for the kids), does that include other stuff based on cultural assumptions? Like, do "you" also do the laundry, cook, grocery shop, clean the house for everyone in the family? Do "I" handle all the finances, fix everything that get broken, take out the garbage, mow the lawn for everyone in the family? If so, make these agreement clearly!!!! (This is where that bleed-over of "optional-imperatives" can get messy and confusing -- a lot of those assumed responsibility swaps are "gender-fied" in ways we're not consciously aware of -- and may actually have little or nothing to do with child-rearing -- but they seem to emerge when the mommy vs. daddy roles come into play.)
Here's a real-life scenario from the intentional community I live in (it doesn't, at the moment, involve children, but I think it's a good basis to start from before you have children):

We have a list of agreed-upon needs and optional-imperatives (we all agree that we want to eat organic food, that we want our clothes to be clean, that we want bathing facilities available, internet access for everyone, etc.).

We then talked about the tasks involved in that list, and we split them up equally, starting by having people who actually like doing some activities take those (I actually enjoy paying the bills and keeping the community accounts, another person loves cooking, another likes certain aspects of housework). The shit that nobody really "likes" to do (dish-duty, duh!), we rotate on an equal basis. One person is responsible each week.

Our community is amazingly functional (I've lived in relationships and communities that were not), and I believe that one of the reasons is that we all come to it with the understanding that, if we weren't living together, we'd each be responsible for fulfilling all of these needs for ourselves. We don't have the "replacing the toilet paper" argument -- ever -- because we've already had the talk about it, and agreed that we'll all be responsible for changing the roll if we use that last bit.

You might say that that's kind of ridiculous, but people actually argue about this shit -- I've seen tiny stuff like this mount up and crush marriages, communities, and friendships.

So, if you're going to be a parent -- a job that is both one of the most complex and rewarding experiences that I've ever had -- why not get the "little" agreements handled? -- 'Cuz it's a 99.99...% probability that you're definitely going to stumble into some more complicated conundrums down the road.

I welcome any questions. I'll be posting later about Phase III.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 12:25 PM 0 comments Links to this post  

Parental Responsibility Simplified

[Blogger's note: If you haven't read the previous post, you're probably not going to have any idea what the fuck I'm talking about, so you may want to click that link.]

PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY SIMPLIFIED:

If you are a human being, you are a mammal.

One of the characteristics of mammals is that they (mostly) give birth to smaller, fairly defenseless, DNA-modified versions of themselves that must be cared for, fed, and protected by their parent(s) for a period of time. (Don't go all "Oh, she's heartless and detached about children!" on me at this point -- we have a lot of ground to cover, and I've actually parented three children in my life.)

In the case of human offspring, there is Phase 1 --the Entirely-Defenseless period -- this lasts one - two years (the actual time-period is fluid for each new human). During this Phase, I believe that providing all of the "List #1: Survival" needs for human offspring is the responsibility of the parents of the offspring. (Yes, I said "parent-s").

(I want to acknowledge at this point that I believe that humans are probably "hard-wired" to reproduce. However, I don't think that reproduction necessarily belongs on List #1 from my last post, given the fact that the reproductive systems of humans shut down pretty quickly if List #1 needs are not fully addressed.)

If you are a parent, I believe that, during Phase 1, protecting and nurturing that entirely defenseless child is the secondary duty of both parents (primary duty being: Attending to List #1 for yourselves first: making sure that you eat, maintain survivable body temp, and eliminate - cuz if you're both dead, baby ain't gonna stand a chance).

In my belief system, if you made a human child --specifically -- if you contributed either the egg or sperm that made the child, you have a mammalian responsibility to protect and nurture your offspring.

In some human cultures, you can, by various forms of agreement (tacit or written) sign away both your mammalian rights and responsibilities for any offspring you create -- most human cultures have extensive agreements about fostering, adopting, and rearing children -- but until/unless you actively participate in such agreements, I believe that you still have purely mammalian rights/responsibilities for your offspring.

(Now, before you go all . . . . . "But what about Teh Lionz!? Male lionz don't stick around to protect and nurture their offspring!" -- Wake up. Snap out of it. You're not a lion, OK?)

After the entirely-defenseless period for humans (Phase 1), there is the mostly-defenseless period (Phase 2).

During Phase 2, offspring is now able to:

  1. Put things in own mouth,
  2. Coordinate eye/hand enough to open cabinet under kitchen sink, locate deadly chemicals and put in own mouth,
  3. Ambulate well enough to explore surroundings and locate all available precipices from which is it is possible to fall to one's death.
However -- during Phase 2, offspring is generally NOT: Big enough to fight off predators, strong enough to build shelter during snowstorm/hurricane, or tall enough to reach apples on tree.

I believe that, during Phase 2, the parents of the human child are responsible for protection, food- and shelter-sharing, and providing as much training and information as the child is able to assimilate about how to fight off predators, create/obtain shelter, and get apples off a tree even if you are too short to reach them (just in case the parents both croak before the mostly-defenseless offspring enters Phase 3 -- keep reading).

Phase 3 -- The "Big-Enough/Strong-Enough But Not Yet Truly Adult" period (aka pre-adolescence), where children, naturally enough, spend a lot of time experimenting with fighting off predators (engaging the "Bubbas" or "Heathers" at school), creating their own shelters (sign posted on offspring's bedroom door: "_____'s Room. Keep Out"), and getting their own apples off the tree (sometimes this means shoplifting bags of Lay's potato chips at Subway . . . . . please don't ask how I know this --*sigh*).

During this Phase, I believe that the major parental obligation/responsibility is to teach children about how to do all of these things without getting killed/incarcerated.

Then there is Phase 4 -- when the "child" becomes capable of making other children.

Actually, "Phase 4" is not a stage of childhood at all.

That's right -- Sorry Folks! -- When your offspring reach Phase 4, you are no longer actually necessary as protector/nurturer/trainer anymore -- in aboriginal cultures, once a girl begins her menses, or a boy begins to grow a beard, they are initiated into adulthood, and the "training" duties pass to the community, which collectively teaches the new adult how to be an adult within that particular culture. (Just because western culture fucks this up entirely by attempting to keep young adults as "children" until they are 18/21/[fill-in-an-arbitrary-age here] doesn't mean that the little mammal that you gave eggs/semen to help create doesn't realize exactly what power they possess as a newly-minted possible-progenitor of future generations.)

So, how does this relate to my previous post on Equal Relationship?

In my belief-system, even though you are individually responsible for your own survival (List 1) and thrival (List 2) -- once you make a child, you and the other DNA-donor (whether they have donated egg or sperm) have now entered your first truly "joint" venture-- a human being which is your mutual responsibility -- at least until it reaches Phase 4.

Once again, you can swap areas of responsibility (like: "You go out and find some apples while I stay here and keep the kid from being killed or accidentally killing itself" [insert your own "falling down the stairs/getting into the wrong cabinet" story here]) -- but in essence, I believe that, for humans, the overall protection and nurturing of offspring is a joint responsibility of both the DNA donors unless negotiated otherwise by mutual agreement.

I believe that a lot of the diversity that is demonstrated in various human cultures in terms of gender roles is probably a result of enculturated agreements about this "responsibility-swap" as regards child-rearing (in addition to cultural belief-systems about pregnancy and nursing).

I want to be very clear that I am speaking from my own experience in one culture -- specifically, the United States of America version of "western culture" -- and I am completely aware that my conclusions are biased by that culture, and also by regionalization within that culture.

That said, let's start with pregnancy.

When I was growing up, pregnancy seemed to exist in a completely schizophrenic state -- it was both "Blessed Event" and "Dire Disease".

On the one hand, anyone who didn't have children was assumed to be either slightly weird or pitiable (as in the hushed whisper: "They can't have children, you know." "Oh, that's so sad!") "Raising A Family" was touted as the be-all and end-all of human existence, and was constantly misrepresented glorified by "Leave It to Beaver", "Father Knows Best", and "Ozzie and Harriet".

On the other hand, women were supposed to "hide" the fact that they were pregnant for as long as possible with blousy maternity-wear, and once they were really "showing", they were supposed to stay out of sight as much as possible. You could not use the word "pregnant" or "pregnancy" on television. ("I Love Lucy" used the word "expecting", and Lucy's on-screen pregnancy was only the second ever hinted at on TV. All this, in a "family-happy" society -- weird, huh?)

Child-birth was an event that was to be handled strictly by doctors, in a hospital, usually under anesthetic. It was a procedure.

The only pregnant woman that I remember actually seeing "up close and personal" prior to 1967 or so (age 11 for me) was my aunt, even though my daily life was packed with families who had, on average, at least 4 children (I was the youngest of four, so I never saw my mother pregnant). A pregnant woman was, in effect, regarded as being "ill".

Times have changed since then, in the culture I inhabit (Thank God!). However, I was raised by people for whom these assumptions ("You must have children, but you must not actually acknowledge the "icky" process of having children.") were un-questioned "What Is So"s.

To deny that I absorbed part of these taboos and attitudes would be completely ridiculous (even if my reaction to them was to reject most of them out-of-hand).

But I digress.

My point is this: I think that there actually is a sort of "responsibility-swap" in pregnancy that is governed by Nature -- a man and a woman swap DNA equally in the act of conception, but the woman serves as the incubator for the actual body of the child (in most cases).

During pregnancy, depending on how everything goes, the mother-to-be may be partially or wholly unable to do some of the things on List #1 and/or List #2, while the father-to-be is generally not hindered in these activities by virtue of the pregnancy. The mother-to-be incurs impacts on her physical health and well-being that the father-to-be does not share.

If the woman chooses to nurse the child to weaning, physical impacts may continue for months or years (depending on whose theory of nursing you choose to follow). If the child is living primarily on mother's milk for the first part of its life, there is the proximity-to-milk issue that has to be addressed, which may also hinder the mother's ability to take care of all of her List #1 and 2 responsibilities -- there are also nutritional and energetic concerns that arise when you are literally feeding another being through your own body's processing system (I could include some particular anecdotes here, but I won't unless you ask about it in comments).

During this time, from a "pass-your-DNA-along" hard-wired perspective, it's clearly an advantage to the father to make sure that both mother and baby stay alive. He will probably end up picking up some of the slack on mom's "lists" (both #1 and #2, but certainly #1), if he wants his progeny to survive and his partner to be around for further progeny-making/child-rearing and/or the various joys of relating to that particular partner.

That's the swap that Nature imposes on our male/female reproducing system.

However, it's my hypothesis that this swap mostly has to do with List #1 - Survival, and that since List #2 is a randomly-shifting array of optionals that may be profoundly shaped by our social/racial/class/religious, etc. backgrounds and/or our current circumstances, we're probably going to be way better off if we negotiate List #2 separately.

Case in point: When the baby arrives, ever notice how everything but List #1 seems to fly out the window? I have watched, time and again, parents-to-be awaiting their bundle of joy with wide-eyed idealism, thinking that they are going to be the "perfect parents" and maintain an immaculate house. Ha!

In those first months, new parents usually find that their revulsion for dust-bunnies dwindles to naught as they discover that finding time to eat, take a shit, keep warm/cool, and get some fucking sleep! (Oh yeah -- sleep -- how did I forget about sleep on List #1? -- Duly Noted: Probably need to add "Get Some Fucking Sleep" to List #1), while simultaneously making sure that this tiny, completely defenseless human being also eats, urinates/takes a shit, keeps warm/cool, and sleeps -- constitutes a full time job for two -- and then some.

(Did that last paragraph seem like an endless stream of sub-sentences? Welcome to parenthood.)

The first three months of parenthood is a fantastic tool for figuring out just how "optional" your optional-imperatives really are -- you find that you really can go on living if there is a stinky diaper-pail in your previously febreeze-fresh or incense-saturated abode, that you will not perish if the dishes don't get done, and that you have suddenly developed the ability to say "Hey! I have a swell idea . . . . . fuck off, won't you?!" -- when someone criticizes your housekeeping.

Oh, wait a minute. I think I was trying to express "Parental Responsibility SIMPLIFIED", right?

Suddenly, I realize that I may have to take this in "phases".

OK then.

Phase I -- Entirely Defenseless Human:

Parental Mission (equally shared by sperm and egg donor, unless one of them has signed away their rights/responsibilities):
  1. KEEP BABY ALIVE (and by inference, keep anyone whose breast-milk is keeping the baby alive, and anyone who is supplying food to breast-milk provider alive, and anyone who is providing temperature maintenance/hygienic elimination services to all involved alive).
That's it for the Phase I -- Now doesn't that seem simple?

Oh, don't freak out. I'm not nearly done yet. Stay tuned for Phase 2.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:59 PM 5 comments Links to this post  

Equal Relationships -- A Rational Model: Part I

Let's begin with the basics, as I see them:

If you are a single, independent, adult human being, there are a few things that you need to take care of on a daily basis, namely:

  • Feeding/Watering yourself
  • Keeping yourself warm-enough/cool-enough -- which may include (depending on where you live): Obtaining or creating Shelter and/or Clothing
  • Eliminating urine and feces in a way that doesn't compromise your food and water supply ("Don't shit where you eat" and all that.)
Let's just call that: "List #1 - Survival Needs".

Once you've attended to "List #1", and depending on how deeply you are involved in traditional western society, you may also participate in a number of optional activities on List #2 -- such as maintaining a certain level of:
  • personal hygiene (wash your body, hair, and clothes)
  • physical appearance (iron your clothes, get a haircut, purchase clothing that is considered "appropriate" to certain circumstances, etc.)
  • culturally-accepted housing (a nicely-appointed and/or clean, free-standing house or apartment, rather than a refrigerator box)
  • culturally-accepted places to eliminate (a bathroom rather than behind the dumpster outside a local big-box store)
I'll call this: "List #2 - Optional Cultural Imperatives".

Now, I'm sure that there will be people who read this post and think that my description of that second list as "optionals" reflects a truly radical way of thinking on my part -- but I believe that List #2 represents activities which are, in fact, not "needs", but choices -- because if you don't choose to do them, you, as a human being, will probably not die.

Yes, there may be people who refuse to interact with you if you don't wash/launder, iron your clothes/cut your hair, wear the latest fashion or the "wrong" fashion, and/or live in a cardboard box.

However, there are many people in our society who don't do things in the optional imperative lists, and they are still alive.

Eating, maintaining your body-temperature within survival levels, and eliminating with an eye to sanitation are not optional, if you want to stay alive. (Well, actually, elimination can become less problematic if you're not eating, but then there's that whole inconvenient starvation thing -- which will become a problem, eventually).

How you eat, maintain your body-temperature, etc., is a series of options.

That's my starting point in this rational approach to equal relationship. If you want to argue about my initial assumptions, we're probably going to need a whole 'nother post just to deal with that discussion. Drop a comment, and I'll consider it. If you don't comment about these assumptions, I'll assume that you are with me so far.

So, let's say that I've chosen to participate fully in a specific set of "Optional Imperatives", based on the status quo beliefs of western society -- I'll start from a personal, anecdotal scenario:

Say I have a "regular" full-time job at a social service agency.

In order to "keep" this job, I need to arrive at a certain time, can't leave until a certain time, and am expected to wear a certain type of clothing, which is expected to be neat/clean (and ironed, in my situation).

Throughout the day, my human non-optionals (List #1) are part of my concern -- I need to stay nourished, warm/cool-enough, and eliminate. If I'm single person, able-bodied w/out dependents, when I'm not working, and depending on the particular optional imperatives I select, I may choose to: do my laundry, shop for groceries and housing articles, clean my house, cut the grass, pay the bills, etc.. As a "single unit", most people in traditional western society will hold the basic assumption that I, and I alone, am responsible for performing each and every one of these "expected" tasks.

Let's say I meet someone I like very much, and/or grow to love. We decide to move in together.

From my basic perspective, you essentially now have two "single units", with all their attendant individual needs and optionals, joining forces. In many ways, this is energetically efficient -- "two can eat as cheaply as one" and so on (I've actually found this truism to be true over the long haul).

It's at this point that the negotiation of responsibility-swap for fulfillment of the needs and the optional imperatives generally begins.

Maybe one person loves to cook, and the other person hates to cook (or is less than a stellar chef whose main cooking skills consist of two or three amazing dishes, the ability to open a can with panache, and baked-potato wizardry -- *ahem* -- that would be me). Maybe one person has a huge attachment to "correct" laundry-folding techniques, and the other person is of the toss-and-wash persuasion, with mad ironing skillz and am obsessive love of spray-starch (again -- me).

Or maybe, just maybe (I know this is a stretch -- stay with me) this newly-joined couple consists of a female who grew up in a society where females are trained to be home-makers and care-takers, and a male who grew up in a society where males are trained to be home-fixers and bread-winners.

Never mind that the female who grew up being trained to cook, clean, and launder might despise cooking, cleaning, and laundry, or that the male who grew up being trained to fix, take out the trash, and win the bread has a revulsion for fixing, taking out the trash, and bread-winning.

It has been my experience that, unless subliminal training about gender roles (which most of us have been saturated with from day one of our lives) are brought to consciousness and dealt with directly, they can set in pretty quickly, even in people who consider themselves to be "evolved", "enlightened", or (dare I speak the word?) "feminist".

So it is that many bright, progressive young couples that I know personally, or deal with professionally, end up having the same tired old arguments that I heard my parents having about whose "job" it is to do what.

In my humble fucking opinion, each of these individuals entered the relationship with their own list of "needs" and "optional imperatives". If they weren't together, every one of the needs, and all of the optional imperatives that the individual had opted for would be theirs to do.

They would both be bread-winning in the day and bread-making, lawn-mowing, laundry-doing in the evening/weekend (or hiring someone else to do their "optionals" for them, if they had the means). Even the very wealthy who can hire others to do all of their optional imperative activities still have to eat, keep warm, and take a dump for themselves (and don't plague me the rare exceptions, please).

The concept of gender and genderization is enormous, complex, and constantly evolving. Anything that I would state as "global fact" about this subject would almost certainly be arguable, so I'm going to state the following purely as my opinion, and cite why I think my opinion is informed:
  1. The vast majority of people living in western society (at this point) view gender as a two-stroke engine: You are either Male, or you are Female.
  2. This two-pillared system of gender classification is fully institutionalized in US culture (when you fill out your medical forms, driver's license, census data, etc., etc., etc., you get two choices -- Male or Female -- most clothing stores have "Mens" and "Womens", and "Boys", and "Girls" sections -- and don't even get me started on public bathrooms).
  3. Genderization role-training begins in our society from the moment we are classified into one of the two "physical" genders by those with whom we interact (whether that gender identification is accurate, or not). This is borne out by studies where subjects where shown a film of, or interacted with an infant, and were told that the infant was either male or female. The study subjects were then asked to describe the infant. Consistently, the descriptors used fell into stereotypical gender-roles -- boys were "big, strong, active", and girls were "soft, little, quiet" -- even if they weren't actually boys or girls.
  4. Most (not all) little girls and little boys are given "gender-appropriate toys", nudged (or shoved) to gender-appropriate activities (in this area, I think that boys have it tougher in some ways, as a sissy is going to catch way more flack on the playground than a tomboy, generally -- but I think this, too, is a reflection of male-dominant thought -- cuz, of course a woman would want to be a man, but a man who wants to give up his male privilege is a traitor -- I could go on and on about how I think this influences the severity of the bashings gay men experience -- but I won't).
I'm not saying that this has not changed over my lifetime. The strictness of gender-roles has definitely shifted over the years. I'm just saying: It's not gone yet.

I'm also not saying that there are no physiological differences between males and females that might not contribute to them behaving differently.

I'm saying that I believe that, even if there are physiological differences that might contribute to people with higher levels of of a certain hormone tending to act in certain ways, I do not believe that testosterone makes you biologically destined to change the oil, or that estrogen makes you biologically engineered to cook a smashing souffle.

I believe that the definitions of "gender-appropriate" activity around the house is 99.999999999999.....% cultural training.

And that this training may not always show up clearly until you pair up with someone of the opposite gender.

It's been my experience that these days, while people are single, they (usually) realize that they are responsible to fulfill their own needs and optional imperatives. This hasn't always been the case -- a friend of mine who is now in her early 60s once said, when I asked her why she married immediately after High School: "Well, it was just what you did. You couldn't hope to make it on your own".

That's why I'm often shocked to hear my enlightened, evolved, feminist friends having some kind of weird argument with their spouse about who is "supposed" to vacuum under the sofa/screw down the loose bolt on the shaky front stairs railing based on a status-quo rendering of "gender-appropriate" roles.

Even lesbians are not necessarily immune to this. In lesbian couples where there is a self-identified butch/femme dichotomy, I've actually heard things like: "Well, you're the butch/femme -- you do it!"

Then there is the common problem of a couple coming together whose optional-imperative set doesn't match up all that well (often affected by class-background, family-of-origin training, and/or political views). Spouse A thinks that a salon-cut is imperative, while Spouse B thinks that a home-cut is just fine. Spouse A thinks that dust-bunnies on the basement landing are fine, but crud on the wall behind the garbage can is unthinkable, while Spouse B thinks that dust-bunnies will soon grow to dust-elephants regardless of their location, but believes that crud on the wall is just a sign that you are eating well. And on and on and on it goes.

And all this arises from the seemingly simple equation of just two independent units coming together.

Shorter PortlyDyke:
  1. I believe that when you come together with another human being to share resources, whether they be food, housing, money, whatever, that you come together as two individuals who, prior to entering your resource-sharing arrangement (whether you call this "marriage" or "living together" or whatever), have the innate human responsibility of managing your eating, temperature-control, and elimination needs.
  2. I understand that you may also bring other optional-imperative desires with you.
  3. I believe that you remain responsible to fulfill all your survival/optionals for yourself until/unless you make clear agreements to swap some of these responsibilities (ie. "I'll cook and you'll do the laundry. Agreed? Agreed.")
  4. I believe that frequently, relationships crash and burn around swapped responsibilities that are not based in conscious agreement, but rather on cultural entrainment and assumptions. I believe that this type of dysfunction affects relationships of all types, from opposite- and same-sex couples to nuclear or complex families and communities.
Does all this seem too simple? Want something even more complex? Just add CHILDREN (next post).

Posted byPortlyDyke at 8:30 PM 3 comments Links to this post  

A Modest Proposal: The Thorny Issue of Sexual Consent

There's been a lot of discussion about what constitutes "consent" in terms of sexual encounters. Personally, I'm a strong proponent of just asking my sexual partner (even after we've been together for years) the simple question: "Do you want to have sex with me?"

Figuring out what to do after asking this question is a very easy If/Then statement:

IF Answer = "Yes", THEN *sex ensues*, ELSE *sex does not ensue*.

Now, when I've proposed this solution to rape-apologists some people, they have challenged my programming sequence with a very thorny "ElseIF" equation: "But what if she changes her mind in the middle of it and then accuses me of rape?" -- because according to these rape apologists people, this apparently happens all the time -- just every time you turn around, I guess (on some planet).

These rape apologists individuals also say that getting clear consent before gettin'-it-on is a "mood-killer", and one of them stated "unless a woman is chanting "Yes' over and over for hours without interruption . . . . any woman can then claim withdrawal of consent."

And that's when it hit me -- my fool-proof solution to the thorny issue of "consent":

1) Get a clear "yes" from your partner before engaging in sex AND 2) BECOME A BETTER LOVER

See, I've never really thought of it as a problem if my lover was chanting (or screaming) YES! YES! YES! "over and over for hours without interruption" during sex. ("Don't Stop!" and "Keep doing whatever it is you're doing!" also do not disturb me in the slightest.)

In fact, this situation has been so common for me that I had simply assumed that it was par for the course.

You may be wondering: "But PortlyDyke -- How do I become a better lover?"

So here are PortlyDyke's Quick Tips for Better Consensual Sex:

1. ALWAYS get consent from the other person(s) involved before engaging in sex. Awkward as it may sound, I have found that most people who want to have sex with me actually enjoy being asked. (I still ask my partner of many years, and y'know what? -- it tickles her pink! -- no pun intended) Yes, this means that you may have to deal with the inconvenient fact that your prospective partner is too drunk/unconscious to either comprehend your question or answer you -- but in that case --DO NOT PROCEED. See? Isn't that simple?

2. If, at any time during the sexual engagement, your partner says "Stop", "No", "Don't" -- then stop, no, DON'T! If your partner resists you physically -- stop, no, don't. Immediately. DO NOT PROCEED. (There are some exceptions to this rule if you are engaging in consensual S/M, but if you're playing those games without talking it over first and employing "safe words", you deserve whatever fallout you get, AFAIC.)

3. Now here's where the "better lover" part comes in -- If, at any time, you perceive that your partner looks uncomfortable, apathetic, disinterested/disengaged about what's going on, stop and ask them questions like: "Are you enjoying this? Is there something else you want?", etc.. Then listen to their responses and take creative, consensual action on what you hear. I suppose that having apathetic, listless sex may be a turn-on for some people, but if you want to hear that resounding and enthusiastic consent (YES! YES! YES! over and over for hours without interruption), then continuing without enthusiastic response maybe isn't such a great strategy in terms of building your sexual mojo. Jus' sayin'.

(On a totally serious note -- if you are having sex with a stranger, and both of you aren't sober or conscious enough to at least have a coherent talk about STDs and birth control before you make the beast with two backs or commence with the muff-diving/sword-swallowing -- maybe you should consider exchanging phone numbers, going home alone, and having a nap. Seriously.)

Posted byPortlyDyke at 3:17 PM 10 comments Links to this post  

So. Very. Busted.

This morning, my partner sent me an email after reading my last post. She told me she thought I might need an intervention, and I agree with her.

She pointed out to me that I had said that I hadn't found the strength of will to stop reading toxic crap which made me ill, and that I had come to the conclusion that I would just practice "soul-puking" as a remedy.

She suggested to me that this was like having psychic bulimia (and also mentioned how I had violated about five of my own clearly-stated personal principles in the way that I wrote the post --among them -- "what you resist, persists", stating opinions as if they are "what is so", my judging of other people in ways that are a precise mirror of the judgments I don't like in them, etc.).

You know, I fucking adore this woman. She has the strength to tell me the truth, even when it's uncomfortable, and a clarity of insight that I treasure.

Sure, I shuffled my feet a bit while we talked about this, and had a (very slight) internal pout that my spiritual integrity won't allow me to just rant and spew with impunity anymore -- but in fact, these thoughts had been nagging at me, even as I wrote the post.

I won't "take it all back". In truth, those thoughts are in me, or I wouldn't have written them. However, I want to take responsibility for them, and if I rant, I want to at least be fully conscious that I'm ranting.

So, I want to state that I think I spoke in a way that was irresponsible yesterday. I judged and separated from and tantrumed in a way that doesn't reflect the world that I want to create. I did that. No one "made"me do it. There is no justification.

I'm still puzzling over this conundrum -- about how to effectively shift the toxic energy that I see in the dialogue between humans.

I realized today that a lot of the stuff that I see in the pundit-sphere that gets under my skin is really a triggering of un-resolved shit with my own history -- Christians pronouncing edicts from the high ground while acting in ways that aren't consistent with what they claim as their morality, blatant lies being told (and then denied or discounted), etc. -- I think the "danger, danger!" that rises up in me when I witness this stuff is the numb horror of a child who was abused while the "Happy Christian" facade was fastidiously maintained.

I don't want to ignore the voices of bigotry and hypocrisy.

I don't want to become them either.

I want to respond and not react.

So, I'll go back to my puzzle. I won't give up.

When I was thinking it through yesterday, I was actually aware that "soul-puking" was probably not a great solution in the long run -- I mean, you don't keep eating the poisonous mushrooms once you've been in for a liver-transplant, after all. It's one of those times when my wit-demonz got a hold of me, and I opted for a nifty, witty wrap-up rather than a long, thoughtful analysis.

Damn. And. Not Damn.

I now raise a flagon of the Champagne of Beers to my stalwart, thoughtful, and brave mate -- who helps to keep me on track. I am a very fortunate dyke.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 7:35 PM 9 comments Links to this post  

Ipecac Soup for the Soul

I've been trying to figure out an effective strategy for dealing with the absolutely astounding out-pouring of venom from the likes of O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Coulter, Malkin, etal..

I'm a firm believer in the concept that every challenge that arises in my life is a puzzle for me to figure out, and I choose pronoia to the best of my ability, opting for "the suspicion that the universe is a conspiracy on my behalf".

Honestly, however, the recent bilious overflow from my not-favorite pundits involving: severely injured children from working-class families being portrayed as deadbeats, children being blamed for their own torture, soldiers characterized as phonies because they had the temerity to exercise their freedom of speech, and Jewish people portrayed as needing to "be perfected" -- and the resultant cluster-fuck of hateful commentary (which has scorched my retinal ganglia right back to the visual cortex because I was stupid enough to actually visit some of the gall-bladderesque websites from whence this bile emerged) -- is challenging my pronoic capacity to its limit right now.

What to do, what to do?

How do I solve this puzzle?

I want to retain my integrity and ethics no matter what faces me. How then, do I deal with someone who seems to have absolutely no concern for ethics or integrity? How do I have an honorable engagement with someone who has no honor? How do I "work with them", if they are willing to pull out the vilest bilge, lie, cheat, steal, edit tape, and redact testimony? How do I have a discussion with someone who is completely dedicated to "being right" rather than having a discussion?

Today, Michelle Malkin (I will not link to her blog, I will not, will not, will not, will not, will not link to her blog) wrote about . . . . " the continuing campaign to silence the right".

Apparently, Malkin wants us to feel sorry for us.

Funny thing is -- I actually do feel sorry for her. And O'Reilly. And Limbaugh. And Coulter. Et Al.

I feel sorry for them because I know that, as I listen to their broadcasts and read their writing (and the commentary that follows these communications), I can feel a distinct toxicity that pervades my body, mind, and consciousness, and I believe that they probably feel this too (probably more keenly, as the authors of such a toxic flow) -- whether they are conscious of it or not.

To my mind, this denied toxicity would account for all the loofahs, pain-killers, anorexia, venom, lack of logic, hypocrisy, double-standards, and the continuous, insane, performance-art renditions of "do as I say, not as I do".

But even knowing that doesn't really answer my question -- how do I solve the puzzle of "If I've welcomed this into my reality and I don't like it, what is the response that will change my reality?"

I really want to solve this puzzle.

I don't think that complete avoidance is the answer, because, truthfully, I haven't actually found the strength of will in myself to completely avoid it.

Thankfully, I think I've discovered a hint in the many, many posts and comments that I've read recently that begin with, or include these words: "I think I just threw up in my mouth a little".

Yes, I think that Soul-Puke is the answer.

If I ingested something toxic into my digestive tract, my good old discerning stomach would bring it back up my alimentary canal and save my life and health in the process.

So, from now on, when I read, hear, or hear of any of this toxic, inane crap, I'm going to take a big dose of Ipecac Soup for the Soul and just have a spew. I'm not going to try to restrain it. I'm not going to hold back. I'm going to say things like: "This is completely unethical and lacks integrity and it's un-Constitutional and hypocritical and if you say you're a "Christian" and do shit like this you are going to burn in a hell of your own karmic invention and furthermore - - I WILL NOT STOMACH IT!

There. I feel better now.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 8:50 PM 2 comments Links to this post  

If You're Not White, You Must Be Black

Today, after reading Melissa McEwan's post about this incredibly racist remark made by a gov. official in charge of protecting minority voting rights . . .

"It's probably true that among those who don't [have Photo ID], it's primarily elderly persons. And that's a shame. Of course...our society is such that minorities don't become elderly. The way that white people do. They die first." - John Tanner, Chief of Civil Rights Section, Voting Unit, U.S. DoJ
. . . . I quietly mopped my brains off my monitor, and went hunting some stats -- as I was almost certain that not only was this remark racist . . . . . but factually incorrect.

I recollected that Hispanic and Asian populations actually had longer life expectancy than whites in the US (turns out I was right about that) -- but as I sought credible evidence to support my post , a funny thing happened -- I found that it was very, very (no, like VERY!) hard to find detailed life expectancy statistics that display information on all the racial minorities in our nation.

Nearly all the "Life Expectancy by Race" data available online at the Census Bureau and the CDC presented data only about "Whites" and "Blacks" (subdivided by gender in these two races.).

Much as it may shock Bill O'Reilly and John Tanner (our champion of civil rights at the DOJ), the minority races that comprise 31% of our population are not a monolithic group of African Americans who keel over early after screaming for their m-f-ing ice tea.

Our national racial profile is more like the chart at right, with Asians and Hispanics (who outlive white people by 3-6 years) comprising 16% of our population, and Native American women outliving white women by an average of 2 years.

And, of the minority populations that do not typically live as long as whites, (Black men and women, and Native American men), there are vast disparities in life-expectancy depending on where these people live, and their income levels (just google "Eight Americas" to see what I mean) -- cuz, you know, sometimes . . . . (I'm not stating anything definitive here -- just positing a theory) . . . . just sometimes, being kidnapped and forced into slavery, enduring nearly complete racial genocide, and then dealing with several centuries of ongoing crap and present-day institutionalized oppression and endless betrayal and broken promises can be like, kind of stressful, ya know? 'Jus sayin'.

Back to my post title, however. If Tanner's comment didn't clue you in to just how deeply racism is institutionalized in our country, I want to impress upon you the fact that this man (who is, supposedly, assuring the civil rights of minorities in our nation's elections) took a statistic about one race (an appalling statistic) and used it as a broad and sloppy brush -- to justify the further marginalization of anyone who is not white!!!!!!! (Here, let me add a few more outraged exclamation points to that,) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

To me, when I plumb the underlying racist assumptions demonstrated in this kind of comment (can't you just hear the not-so-faint echoes of "whites are fundamentally stronger and healthier". . . "people of color don't really matter anyway"?), I honestly ask myself: "What year is it again?"

The 31% of our nation who, according to Tanner, "don't become elderly the way white people do" currently outnumber the dwindling number of people who still support the president.

So, if 29% of The People can keep the Homicider Decider in office, why can't 31% of The People (and their myriad allies) get rid of asshat, racist, government flunkies, "pundits", and elected officials?

(Oh, and while we're at it, how about addressing and amending the factors that decrease the life-span of Black and Native Americans?)

I'm ready to take on the task. Are you?

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:05 AM 4 comments Links to this post  

Blog Vacation

Well, I'm off tomorrow to teach in the big CITY!!!!

I rarely go into the city, if I can help it. It disrupts my chi and I get the angsties -- however, there are some lovely people there who want my loveliness there, so I am going.

I hope you won't feel abandoned.

I've left these links to help you through the long weekend (chances are that I won't be blogging until Tuesday the 9th) -- try to make them last:

Incredible Brains:
http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=i85su1w6uz

Cats (Ok, this should take care of my cat-blogging for this week -- oh yeah, as if):
http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=6574lby27w

and/or
http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=fj8fy46629

For the more cynically and/or hopefully inclined:
http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=jox3871zdd

and
http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=br69tkm55t

And just because I actually play the piano, with little hands:

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:10 PM 4 comments Links to this post  

Oh where, or where has my Portly Dyke Gone?

Don't worry, my stalwarts -- I'm prepping for a trip to the big city, where I'll be teaching this weekend.

Blogging may be sparse from the 5th through the 9th.

Meanwhile, watch this:

http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=0f68b0wwmq

Posted byPortlyDyke at 5:31 PM 4 comments Links to this post