Ex, stupid people

Some men are really threatened…

This morning, as I was enjoying the pancakes Mr. Bill made us for breakfast, I happened to see a post in the Duggar Family News group about The Transformed Wife– aka: Lori Alexander. It was about how Melania Trump is the “best” first lady because she keeps her opinions to herself and is a good “help meet”.

I don’t pay a lot of attention to Lori Alexander, who preaches incessantly about how women belong at home, raising babies and baking cookies, rather than working or studying at a university. Lori Alexander is, at best, a hypocrite. Obviously, she thinks it’s okay to share HER opinions with the masses via Facebook and YouTube. But it’s not okay for a first lady to speak out about anything. Of course, Melania Trump did some rather powerful non-verbal communicating when she posed nude… and when she wore her infamous jacket that read “I really don’t care. Do u?”

I decided that I wanted to see what Lori’s followers had to say about her post. The people in the Duggar Family News group are pretty much against Lori and her ilk. But before I had a chance to find the post about Melania Trump, I ran across this post:

To be fair, Lori didn’t write this; she just shared it.

Now… before I go any further, I want to state that I agree that not everyone needs to go to college. I also agree that it’s ludicrous to saddle young people with five figures worth of debt. However, although I ended up not using my education in the way I’d planned, I can’t say college or graduate school was a waste of time or money. I don’t think my degrees made me “dumber”, either. I got a lot of value out of both of my university experiences.

I am immensely grateful that we were able to pay for my education and I no longer have to worry about student loan debt. I don’t envy today’s young people, who are still mostly expected to earn degrees, but will have a harder time paying for them as the chasm between poverty and wealth continues to widen and the middle class disappears. When I think about how much money I borrowed for my education, I think I got a pretty good deal. I was very lucky, especially since that debt is now gone.

I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the comments on this thread, particularly from men who think like Lori does. Behold, the unedited comments below:

Men should attend a college to attain a degree that enables them to work. Women should make the house a home.

The first step, perhaps, is to remove Federal guarantees for student loans, and allow banks to discriminate based on the degree to be earned.  That, of course, will spoil gender equality in the outcome.

Universities/Collages don’t teach real education anymore and haven’t for a long time. They indoctrinate students with worldly teaching that only hurts the student, especially later in life, more than they help. Some are good, but the majority of the crap they teach are so ungodly it is dangerous. The kid doesn’t stand a chance, because the public school education is the same way. UNGODLY EVIL is taught in both school and collage. When they are teaching kids the garbage of homosexuality and that God makes mistakes and makes some a sex they were never supposed to be, like he’s an idiot or something, it will only harm kids more than it will help them in life.Truly pathetic. I am so glad that my sister Home schools.  But unfortunately, even seminaries don’t teach true biblical education much either. There was a report that came out a few years ago that stated some seminaries are teaching the bible as a theory and not a face. That is the saddest thing. It IS fact and they should be teaching it as such. It is truly sad how this country is going down the toilet. (ETA: Collages? Sounds like he made a lot of them in school.)

But the real beaut of a comment comes from a guy named Ben who wrote this tripe…

Sounds like he read Princeton Mom’s book and took it to heart… except he doesn’t think women should go to college at all, even to find a mate.

When a woman confronts Ben for his misogynistic opinions, he posts this:

This post was not for you, snowflake, move along.

Wow… what a dick. So then a woman named Mary confronts Ben, and he continues…

You mean someone was impregnated by this insulting shitgibbon? She must not have been very smart.

Unfortunately, I’ve run into a lot of men who are intimidated by smart women. It’s a very common attitude, particularly within the military. I can’t even express how many times people from the military community have given me shit over the name of my blog. Personally, I think the attitude that education isn’t worth pursuing and that smart women are unattractive really reveals a lot of insecurity and outright fear that some men have. They can’t stand the idea that a woman might be in charge at some point. And some men think the more educated a woman is, the less “feminine” and attractive she is:

I’m going for my PhD. It’s funny how so many women in my class are older and single. These women feel that they deserve an educated man but my male classmates and I feel that as educated men, we deserve someone younger and more feminine.

When I read these kinds of responses on Facebook, I feel even more grateful that I found a husband who values intelligence in a woman. His first wife was a high school dropout and finally finished college after about twenty years. I don’t know if the extra education helped make her a better person. I just know that her lack of education wasn’t a good thing when she and Bill were married. Ex isn’t a dumb person, per se, but she lacked a lot of sophistication, common sense, and basic knowledge. She and Bill would have been mismatched even if she weren’t narcissistic. They had vastly different interests and Bill is way more intellectual than she is. In fact, I think he’s more intellectual than I am. He’s definitely better read.

I suspect Ex was spurred to get her degree because she knew Bill had married someone who is educated, and she couldn’t stand that. Because suddenly, after many unsuccessful fits and starts with school, she was talking about getting a PhD… in education, of all things! I think the PhD dream was eventually overcome by events, but I heard she did evidently take a stab at graduate school. I don’t know if she finished or what she’s doing now. I don’t even think about her much anymore, since younger daughter finally started talking to Bill again.

Bill did look up his still estranged older daughter and was dismayed to see his ex wife posting, especially since he thought he’d had her blocked. It turns out that Ex now fancies herself a “public figure” and was apparently posting to her daughter’s Facebook page with her “public figure” account. Bill took a peek and noticed that Ex is now into sea glass and purports to be highly educated. Maybe she is. Maybe that education has improved her. I can’t see how it would hurt, unless she found new ways to be manipulative and cruel. Ex used to tell Bill that she was the smarter one and she should have been the one to have a degree. And she also claimed that she was offered a full scholarship to Rice University and had gotten into West Point. Both claims, I suspect, are 100% bullshit, especially since she blamed other people for the fact she wasn’t able to take advantage of those opportunities. It was her adoptive father’s “fault” for not paying for her room and board at Rice. As for West Point, I’m not sure what her excuse was there. I doubt she would have lasted five minutes on that campus.

It doesn’t necessarily take education to make someone intelligent. I’ve known a lot of really smart people who never went to college. I’ve also known stupid people with PhDs. I just think that higher education should be a choice for those who are capable of pursuing it and want to put forth the effort, and yes, that includes fields that other people think are “worthless” or “stupid”. I wonder if it ever occurs to the folks who disparage fields like gender studies, theater, or modern dance that those fields do provide jobs for some people. After all, someone has to teach those classes, right? And if we stop letting people study those fields, more people will be out of work.

I don’t think college is just about becoming employable. For me, it was a valuable rite of passage, and I left school with many wonderful friends, enlightening experiences, and more knowledge and maturity than I had when I started. Maybe I could have had similar experiences if I’d just taken a job in my hometown, but chances are good I’d still be living in that hometown if I’d taken that route. That was not where I wanted to spend my life.

I don’t regret going to college or graduate school. I’m sorry it’s so expensive in the United States. I think a lot of that has to do with the capitalistic mindset that so many people have in the U.S. Many people think that the more you spend on something, the more valuable it is. A lot of people think the United States has the best healthcare in the world. They’re surprised when they find out that the U.S., for all its spending on healthcare, actually has pretty poor healthcare outcomes when compared to countries like France and Italy. Likewise, a lot of people think spending more money for an education at a private school is better than going to a community college or a publicly supported school. In some cases, maybe it is better, but private universities often come with a much higher price tag unless a deal can be struck or scholarships are earned.

Count me among those who value higher education for everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a college education. There’s a lot to be said for trade school. I do think that everyone, male or female, should have skills that can be used in paid employment. Plenty of women planned to get married, have babies, and stay home to be “help meets” like Melania Trump (snicker), but then something happened to their marriage. There’s more than one way to get through life, but I think it’s best to prepare for disaster. I see becoming educated as a way of taking care of oneself… and I think it’s very foolish for women to opt out of preparing to be independent. And if some guy doesn’t think that’s “feminine” or “attractive”, then that’s a sign that he’s probably not someone whose DNA should be mingling with those who can get pregnant.

Yuck. Exhibit 1 of an untalented white man who is scared to death of an accomplished woman with a brain…

Anyway… I really think the core issue is that a lot of men– particularly white men– are afraid that women and people of color will eventually make them less relevant. And that scares the hell out of them. So they preach about how women should stay home and raise babies instead of using their minds. It’s pretty sad, if you ask me. Almost as sad as the above video. Gotta watch some Keb’ Mo’ to clear my mind…

That’s more like it.
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book reviews

Repost: Jessica Valenti’s The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity Is Hurting Young Women…

I originally wrote this book review for Epinions.com in July 2009. I reposted it on my original blog on September 5, 2015. I am reposting it again as is.

Pros: Points out how women’s rights are affected by legislation regarding sexuality.

Cons: A little too rabidly feminist for my taste. Not that well written.

When I was a teenager, it seemed like everyone was having sex except me. As a 13 year old, I vividly recall a girl in my 8th grade English class telling me about how she’d gotten “laid” by her boyfriend the previous weekend. At the time, I didn’t even know what “getting laid” meant. As I got older, I learned more about euphemisms for having sex and watched as my friends gained an unnatural appreciation for turtlenecks, thanks to the hickeys left by their boyfriends. On my high school graduation day in June 1990, three of my classmates were so pregnant they could have given birth on the football field as we collected our diplomas.

Once I got to college, I truly did feel like a minority because I wasn’t having sex. On more than one occasion, I walked in on a roommate who was in the middle of intercourse. More than a couple of my friends had pregnancy scares. And there were a couple of times when I found my friends crying in the bathroom, despondent over a sexual relationship gone bad. Strangely enough, I still felt like a freak for not having those experiences when I was in my 20s. I waited until I was 30 years old before I finally gave up my virginity. Now that I’ve done the deed, I couldn’t be happier that I waited. Not having sex made my life much simpler.

Jessica Valenti, author of the 2009 book The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity Is Hurting Young Women, did not wait until adulthood before she had sex for the first time. Indeed, Valenti lost her virginity at the tender age of 14. Her then boyfriend marked the event by drawing a heart on the wall with the couple’s initials and the date. Soon after their sexual union, Valenti found herself the object of derogatory remarks. Suddenly, because she’d had sex, Valenti was considered “at risk”. When Valenti’s mother found a condom in her purse, she warned that no man would want to marry her if she was promiscuous.

Now an adult, Jessica Valenti is a blogger and a feminist who has written articles for Ms. Magazine and The Guardian, as well as several books on feminism. In The Purity Myth, she takes on the supposed attitude that girls who have sex before marriage are somehow “damaged goods” and that the virginity movement is somehow hurting women. She rails against abstinence only education, the religious right, and misogynistic attitudes that she claims reduce women to mere objects, vessels that are only as good as their ability to carry babies.

Valenti’s prose is indignant as she highlights cases in which women are treated as second class citizens because they’d had sex. She cites one case in which a woman tried to get a “morning after” pill when her boyfriend’s condom broke and was subjected to the third degree by the medical establishment. The woman ended up getting pregnant and had an abortion.

Valenti writes of another woman who was attempting a home birth and went to a hospital for fluids. When the hospital staff saw that she had a scar from a c-section, they told her she couldn’t leave the hospital to give birth at home. When the woman snuck out of the hospital anyway, a police officer was dispatched to her house. He shackled her and brought her back to the hospital against her will, where she was forced to submit to another c-section. The woman sued, but lost. Apparently, according to state law, the fetus’s rights trumped her own.

Valenti discusses purity balls and “daddy/daughter dates”. Purity balls are father/daughter dances in which young women “pledge” their virginity to their fathers, promising to wait until marriage to have sex. Daddy/daughter dates supposedly show young women that they can be loved by a man, yet not engage in sexual activity. Valenti seems to think that both concepts are creepy and, I have to admit, on some level I agree with her.  Even though these events are supposed to discourage girls from having sex too soon, there’s something about them that strikes me as innappropriate and vaguely incestuous.  

Valenti also writes a great deal about how difficult it is nowadays to get an abortion and how so many of the laws regarding abortion were created by men. Indeed, Valenti seems pretty damned angry at men, whom she seems to think still subjugate and oppress women. She jeers at the sex education offered in schools today, which focuses only on abstinence and, by the way she describes it, serves to keep young people in the dark about how they can have healthy sex lives as teenagers.

I’ll be honest.

As someone who did wait a long time to have sex, I have a hard time swallowing Valenti’s assertions that teenagers should be having “healthy” sex lives. I don’t feel this way because I’m religious. I feel this way because I think it’s impractical for teenagers to have sex. Sex complicates relationships and, let’s face it, can cause problems on a variety of levels from health-related to legal. However, I also understand that many young people are going to have sex regardless and I agree with Valenti that a person’s decision to have sex should not define their goodness or moral status.

Like Valenti, I bristle whenever I read a news story about women who get in legal trouble because of something they did while they were pregnant. Valenti cites one memorable case from 2004 in which a Utah woman was charged with murder because she refused to have a c-section and one of her twins died. While I think it’s sensible for pregnant women to follow competent medical advice, I also think pregnant women are starting to become a special class of people in which others feel it’s perfectly okay to protect them from themselves, all because they’re nurturing another life inside their bodies. It seems the rights of pregnant women are starting to slide down a slippery slope, as some legislation is drafted to protect the rights of unborn children over the rights of their mothers.

I agree with a lot of what Valenti writes… so why does this book rub me the wrong way?

First off, I don’t think The Purity Myth is particularly well written. Valenti’s prose reads as if she’s standing in front of a crowd, angrily ranting about the oppression of women. She uses a lot of repetitive phrasing that I found a bit irksome after awhile. She also uses a lot of distracting footnotes and endnotes. The footnotes mostly consist of secondary comments that she could have either omitted or included within the paragraphs. The print is double-spaced, which may make it easier for some people to read, but also serves to pad the book a bit.

Secondly, while I agree that sometimes women still get the short end of the stick, I also think that life can be just as unfair for men. I don’t really like the very angry ranting tone of The Purity Myth because I don’t think it really strengthens Valenti’s case. While I can see and agree with Valenti’s points regarding the rights of pregnant women, I have also witnessed firsthand how men’s rights are often trampled on once those kids are born.

Valenti writes a lot about rape and how many people (women included) think that rape victims somehow “ask” to be raped. But she also seems to imply that most men subscribe to the attitude that women ask for rape. I have known a lot of males who take a rather piggish view toward women, especially regarding rape. However, I’ve also known a lot of wonderful, sensitive males who don’t take that attitude. I don’t like to see an entire gender get painted with the same broad brush.

Finally, while I agree that there’s nothing “dirty” about sex and it shouldn’t be a shameful act, I truly believe that teenagers are better off if they don’t have sex and it shouldn’t be encouraged. Valenti refers to her graduate school years a lot when she makes her points. With that in mind, I will refer to my graduate school years, when I worked with pregnant teenagers and teenaged mothers. While most of the young women I worked with loved their babies, they also had a tough time finishing their adolescence as they took care of their children.

Overall

I agree with some of Valenti’s points about women’s rights, particularly when it comes to reproduction. But I don’t like her excessively angry tone and I don’t agree that America is obsessed with virginity. In fact, given my personal experiences growing up in America, I’m inclined to think that just the opposite is true. Moreover, I don’t think virginity hurts young women. If a young woman can have casual sex outside of marriage or a serious relationship and avoid the baggage that can come with it, more power to her. But I have seen with my own eyes how casual sex can be complicated and make life difficult. And I managed to live just fine without sexual intercourse for a good portion of my life. For me, the best part about waiting is the fact that my husband truly is the best lover I’ve ever had.

I think The Purity Myth is worthy reading for those who are interested in women’s studies and sexual politics. I have no doubt that a lot of women will agree wholeheartedly with Valenti’s viewpoint. I just don’t happen to be among that group of women. I guess I’m just not as liberal as I thought I was.

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book reviews

Reposted: I finally finished The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood…

I am reposting my review of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, because it’s relevant to today’s fresh content. This post was originally composed on July 7, 2017. Enjoy!

I don’t know how I missed Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, but I swear I had not heard of it until a couple of months ago, when I happened to read an interesting article on Medium.com about a woman who had grown up fundie Christian.  She had gone to a Christian college and a literature professor had assigned the book, letting the class know that Atwood’s 1985 novel was pro-feminist and a reaction against the religious right.  For that reason, the professor said the class may not enjoy the book.  It was a statement against everything fundamentalist Christians stand for.

I was myself an English major from 1990-94.  The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985. Somehow, in the 32 years since this book was published, I had not heard of it.  However, perhaps as an explanation, I will admit that I kind of quit reading most novels after I graduated from college.  I prefer to read true stories most of the time, except when I stumble across an author who is especially engaging. 

Having just finished Atwood’s book, I will say that I found The Handmaid’s Tale frightening and depressing.  And while it was written in the 1980s, I have seen some distressing signs that our world may one day regress to a state in which certain women are relegated to being simple brood mares.  It seems like more and more people are either turning to militant atheism or extreme religions as a means of navigating life.  Although I am sure there were plenty of fundie Christians back in the 80s, it seems like there are so many more of them now.  Maybe it’s just because we have the Internet.

Anyway, The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of a young woman who is “re-educated” by a totalitarian, fundamentalist Christian government.  As a handmaid, she wears a bright red dress and is of a lower rank than other women.  Her purpose is to make babies with an old, high ranking, married man.  She is a surrogate and worth nothing more than her ability to produce children, which will then be raised by the wife.

The woman’s name is Offred (of Fred)– her original name was stripped of her when the government turned fundie.  She lives in the Republic of Gilead and is old enough to remember when times were different, but young enough to have feelings of lust and desire.  Offred remembers when she had a husband, a child, a job, and money of her own.  She remembers when she was allowed to read.  Now, she is forced to rely on pictures. 

Offred is forced to visit a gynecologist monthly, to check the status of her womb and whether or not she is fertile.  At one visit, a sympathetic male doctor tells her he can “help her” if she wants.  He says she’s physically ready and he is able to provide what the old fart she’s forced to fuck cannot.  Her value is wholly determined by her ability to make babies.  Once her ovaries stop working, her worth plummets to nothing.

Margaret Atwood’s book may seem like a fantasy, but she based this book on things that have already happened in history.  She wrote her novel in Berlin back in 1984, at a time when Germany was still divided and the Soviet Union still loomed large as a nuclear threat.  She based the novel on 17th century Puritan traditions, times that seem archaic and backwards to many readers.  But look at what’s going on right now.  That old puritanical mindset exists all over the world and it’s spreading. 

Given phenomenons like the Duggar family and Warren Jeffs’ fundamentalist Mormon compound hitting the airwaves, Atwood’s novel may not be as “out there” as it might seem to the average reader.  The truth is, there are already populations out there that are trying to breed themselves into majority status.  There is already a “holy war” going on, with people believing wholeheartedly in the black and white thinking that can lead to revolutions.  And while the Soviet Union is gone now, there are other populations in the world that would love to see women relegated to mere vessels for new life and a powerful force behind a totalitarian regime.

To be honest, I had some trouble getting through The Handmaid’s Tale.  It’s definitely a dark, disturbing, and ultimately depressing read.  While I’m sure that the future will never be exactly as Atwood describes it in this work of fiction, I do see why The Handmaid’s Tale is now a show on Hulu.  People are relating to it.  Every day, there’s something else in the news about how the government is trying to control women’s reproductive abilities and police women’s behaviors.  Although women have been fighting for equality for decades, there is still an extreme segment of the population that wants to “make America great again.”  They want to regress to a time when life was better for certain segments of the population, forgetting that it really sucked for others.

Although I found The Handmaid’s Tale a difficult read, I am glad I persevered and finished the book.  I think it’s an important novel for today and would recommend it, especially to young people who are coming of age at this time of lunacy.  We have a man living in the White House who admits to “grabbing women by the pussy”.  And a significant faction of our population thinks he’s an awesome guy– perfectly appropriate as the Commander in Chief and world leader.  This is a man who is openly sexist and abusive toward women.  He’s in a position to influence laws.  And, scarier still, is the fact that right behind him are at least two more men whose ideals are even more frightening and oppressive to women.

Young people should read this book and do some heavy thinking about what they want their futures to be.  Although The Handmaid’s Tale is over thirty years old, I don’t think the subject matter could possibly be more timely.

For more on this…

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