healthcare, politicians, politics, rants

The Party of Family Values, my ass!

Last night, I read a New York Times article about how the Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court to block the Abortion Law in Texas. The Biden administration is planning to challenge the law, giving the Supreme Court Justices the opportunity to take another look at it.

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of people commenting about the article. Quite a few comments came from conservative white men, many of whom wanted to know why women didn’t simply “abstain” from having sex. I had to have a laugh at that. In my experience, it’s usually not the women who are wanting sex the most. I mean, yes, there are lots of women who enjoy having sex, but I think men are the ones who are mostly driven to have it.

As we all know, when a woman gets pregnant, she’s usually pregnant for nine months. A man, on the other hand, can do his part in creating babies with a woman, then do the same thing with another woman the next day… and the day after that… and the day after that…

So why are we so focused on women when it comes to stopping abortion? Why aren’t we more focused on the men?

No… I don’t support forced vasectomies, just as I don’t think women should either be denied or forced to have abortions (and when I was a social worker, I did have a minor client who was forced to have an abortion she didn’t want). But I do think a lot of men need to be shaken up a little bit and reminded that if they’re so against abortion, there are things that they can do to stop them. For one thing, they can stop having sex for fun. Do you think that’s extreme? It’s what the men often tell women when this issue comes up. So many of them seem to think pregnancy should be punishment for what they deem as immoral, “slutty”, behavior. They don’t seem to think of the aftermath of what happens to the poor child who could be born into that situation.

A lot of men want to blame women for “getting themselves pregnant”. But no woman gets pregnant by herself. I’ve never seen a man’s name on a medical bill for a pregnant woman’s care, though. And I’ve never head of a biological man having to be on bed rest during a pregnancy. And when the baby is born, the man often has an easier time of going back to work. There’s no healing involved… no breastmilk coming in… no postpartum health issues.

Anyway, I managed to restrain myself from commenting too much on that particular piece, although I did comment that sometimes abortions are medically indicated. I added that at no time is it anyone’s business when someone else chooses to have one. A lot of women were adding their thoughts, and one guy was taking them on, one by one. He asked me what medical conditions might require a woman to have an abortion.

Seriously, guy? My response was that I wasn’t wasting my Friday night to teach this dude about obstetrics and gynecology. Instead, I directed him to the excellent video by Mama Doctor Jones that I’ve already shared in this blog more than once. She very clearly spells out why this new law, Senate Bill 8, is very bad news. Here’s the video again for those who missed it.

As Mama Doctor Jones pointed out, people who are pregnant are always at a higher risk than people who aren’t.

But, in short terms, someone who is pregnant and happens to have any kind of chronic disease, like diabetes, or lupus, or cancer, or someone who has mental health or addiction issues, or someone who can barely support themselves… those are all people who might benefit from having the choice to have an abortion. And there are other situations that may make someone consider terminating a pregnancy. At no time is it anyone else’s business.

I finally navigated away from the infuriating comments from the men on that thread and went to sleep. Then this morning, I woke up to this headline from the Washington Post— “Republicans fault Buttigieg for time off with newborns. Democrats say he’s showing the need for paid parental leave.“. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, became parents of two newborns in August. They spent over a year trying to adopt the babies, often coming close to success, only to have their hopes dashed. They finally got their wish, and now the couple is rightly taking parental leave.

Republicans, who often refer to themselves as The Party of Family Values, apparently don’t think it’s cool that Buttigieg is taking time to bond with his new babies. Tucker Carlson, of Fox News, actually mocked Buttigieg for taking paternity leave, saying

“Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child. Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went…”

So… basically, the Republican Party is all for family values, as long as they’re “traditional”. All of these Republican men are so against abortion, but then they mock two dedicated parents for taking time off to nurture their new families? Republicans want to force women to give birth, but they object to allowing new parents time to actually care for their babies? That doesn’t seem very “family friendly” to me.

Many Republicans probably just don’t like the idea of homosexuals raising families. That’s a real shame, since most of my homosexual friends and relatives are some of the finest people I know and are wonderful parents. They certainly understand the importance of a loving and supportive family. Too many of them have been cast out of their families simply due to who they choose to love.

Now… I’m not saying that all Republicans are homophobes. I’m sure there are plenty of people who identify as conservative, but aren’t actually homophobic. The trouble is, too few of them are in public office. The United States is unusual among developed nations for not recognizing the need for parents–both male and female– to be able to take family leave. Slowly, things are changing. Bill told me this morning that even the Army is allowing new dads to take leave. I’m sure the positive effects of that policy will become apparent in the future.

President Biden is trying to introduce new policies that will make the United States a more family friendly place. Maybe if we had more policies that made having babies and raising children easier, there would be fewer abortions. Just a thought.

Republicans want women to have babies no matter what, but they don’t support allowing parents to actually take care of those babies. So what does that mean? The baby goes to a child care facility while the parent goes right back to work? Aren’t these the same people bitching about socialism and government overreach? Okay, so maybe the child care facility is privately owned and run… and super expensive! Wouldn’t it be better if we allowed the parents of babies to actually take care of their babies when they’re super young?

Recently, Buttigieg has been more present on the job. He recently commented about his new role on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”:

“It’s been wonderful,” Buttigieg said during that appearance. “It’s everything people tell you to expect and more. I think the biggest thing that has surprised me is just how much joy there is, even sometimes in the hard parts. Don’t get me wrong — it’s the most demanding thing I think I’ve ever done, that Chasten and I have ever taken on, but it’s just amazing.”

He sounds like a good dad to me. A good, and present, dad makes for a healthier family.

Even Fox News gives new parents six weeks of leave– which is not enough, in my opinion. But, in March of this year, “Fox & Friends” co-host Todd Piro took six weeks of paternity leave after his daughter’s birth. Piro was grateful for the time to spend with his new baby girl.

“I cannot thank Fox enough for providing all fathers who work here with such a generous paternity leave,” Piro wrote in an op-ed in April. “This experience has changed me in a profound way and in ways I won’t fully comprehend until my daughter is older. But for now — that smile coming from the crib each morning, immediately followed by morning snuggles — is what I will cherish the most.”

And other Fox hosts have also praised having the chance to take leave. When his third child was born in April 2021, Fox News host Jesse Watters admitted that he now supports paid paternity leave.

“Now I am pro-paternity. I used to mock people for taking paternity, I used to think it was a big ruse, but now, you know, I wish I could take six weeks,” Watters said.

But Republicans are still bitching about Pete Buttigieg’s “gall” at taking parental leave. They’re criticizing his leadership potential and making personal insults instead of working with him to make policies that actually benefit American families. They’re trying to force women who aren’t ready to have babies to stay pregnant, while denying them any assistance that would help them have healthy babies and actually raise those babies into well-adjusted and well-prepared adults.

Meanwhile, Democrats are lauding the idea of parental leave, as well as leave that would allow people to care for their sick and aging parents. Bill and I are in the “sandwich generation”– that stage of life in which we might have been really squeezed if we’d had children. So far, we aren’t affected the way many of our peers are– I have friends who are caring for their children, as well as their elderly parents. It really puts a strain on middle aged people and, frankly, makes them vulnerable to chronic diseases themselves.

I don’t think Republicans actually are the The Party of Family Values. I think they are The Party of Greed, Sexism, and Racism, and trying to control women’s bodies. There’s much more to living than working and making money. The conservative men, many of whom are drunk on their own toxic masculinity, ought to step aside and think about this for a minute. They say they’re against abortions because it’s an assault on the “sanctity of life”. They say adoption is a better choice. But Pete and Chasten Buttigieg have adopted two babies, and now they’re getting their chops busted by Republicans who mock them for wanting to have a family…

I guess “family values” for Republicans only apply to traditional couples. What a shame. I think Pete and Chasten Buttigieg are going to be fabulous parents. I wish them well, and I’m glad they took some time to adapt to their new life roles. All Americans should have that opportunity. Republicans should embrace the idea, especially if they’re serious about wanting to curtail abortions. Stop the slut shaming and moralizing and actually make some policies that would make the prospect of having children more workable and feasible.

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book reviews, homosexuality, religion

Repost: My review of The Cross in the Closet, by Timothy Kurek…

I posted this review on my original blog on March 25, 2014. It appears here as/is.

Today’s review is about Timothy Kurek’s 2012 book, The Cross in the Closet.  I don’t remember why I downloaded this book.  I think I heard about it somewhere and decided it sounded interesting.  Right now, it’s selling for about $5 on Amazon, so that might have also had something to do with my decision to buy.  I read Kurek’s book in a matter of hours…  and when I was finished with it, I was kind of reminded of this video.

This video is definitely NSFW, but it’s funny… 

The Cross in the Closet is the true story of how Timothy Kurek, like several authors before him, decided to fake something in order to develop empathy.  Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By In America, faked being poor and uneducated so she could write about what it’s like to be poor and having to work at minimum wage jobs to get by.  I read her book in the early 2000s and enjoyed it the first time I read it.  Then I read it again and it kind of pissed me off.  Ehrenreich wasn’t really poor and knew there was an end to when she’d have to fake being poor.  She had an escape from poverty– there was a light at the end of the tunnel that she could use to bolster herself when things got really hard.  That’s not to say that I don’t think she learned anything.  It’s just to say that her experience wasn’t all that authentic.

In a similar fashion, Timothy Kurek, who grew up near Nashville in a conservative Christian home and spent a year at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, faked being gay for a year.  At the start of his book, Kurek writes about how Jerry Falwell had preached against homosexuality and how people who are gay or lesbian are living sinful lives.  When Kurek is confronted by a gay activist who calls him “brother”, he calls the man to repentance.  He is very sure of his position; that homosexuals are hopeless sinners who lead disgusting lives.  He treats them terribly.

After a year at Liberty, Kurek goes back to Tennessee because his parents split up.  He starts hanging around a karaoke bar in Nashville, where he becomes acquainted with some homosexuals.  One of his dear friends, a young woman he knew from church, comes out to him.  She is devastated because her parents have disowned her.  As Kurek awkwardly comforts his friend, he can’t find the right words to say.  He realizes that he’s been bigoted.  He starts to realize that homosexuals are people too.  Then, he decides he’s going to experiment.  He hatches his plan to come out as gay to his family and friends, even though he is straight.  He will spend a year on this charade, learning something about the homosexual community.

Kurek’s family seems to take his announcement with shock and dismay, but they still talk to him.  His pastor at church sends him a rather hateful missive about not condoning the sinful gay lifestyle.  Some of his friends quit talking to him.  Kurek goes to a gay bar and is immediately hit on, which makes him uncomfortable.  Fortunately, he has a gay friend from the karaoke bar who serves as his boyfriend during the year to keep him from being hit on by interested men.  The friend, whose name is Shawn, is black, handsome, and a very gifted singer… and he doesn’t have a problem playing “boyfriend” at first.

I was intrigued by Kurek, who claims to be a conservative Christian, but does things that I wouldn’t expect from a lifelong conservative evangelical Christian.  Though Kurek writes that he spent a lot of hours in church, he smokes clove cigarettes.  At the start of the book, he claims to have only tasted beer twice, but by the end, he’s very much a drinker.  He dances.  He also swears a lot for someone who is so apparently Christian.  All of these things go against what I’ve been taught about the evangelical Christian community and what they think is okay.     

As the year passes, Kurek finds himself becoming more involved and therefore more knowledgable about the LGBTQ world.  He makes many friends, works in a gay cafe where he learns how to make excellent lattes, and goes to a lot of karaoke bars.  He learns that many homosexuals are wonderful people and some are not so wonderful.  He makes some very dear friends, even as he fights his natural attraction to women.  He even discovers that homosexuals can love God when he stumbles across a transvestite singing “Awesome God” at a karaoke show.  In short, Kurek seems to learn that in the most important ways, homosexuals are really not so different than straight people are.  One thing I noticed from Kurek’s book is that the gay community he was briefly a part of seemed very tight knit and caring… not unlike some church communities.  Although knowing what I know about some churches, I bet the gay community’s caring was more genuine.  From what Kurek writes, most of the homosexuals he befriended during his gay year were still friends when he came clean.

Actually, Kurek’s description of the karaoke bars was interesting to me, since Bill and I once went to one in Key West, Florida.  I happen to love karaoke and they had a great show going.  We went; I sang; and the people there were really great.  We had a blast… though I would be lying if I said Bill wasn’t very uncomfortable at first.  He didn’t know how to behave.  Bill has an adopted “half-sister” who is a lesbian, though she’s 19 years younger than he is.  He doesn’t know her as well as he’d like to, but through Facebook we’ve discovered that she’s a truly wonderful person who is very involved in her community.  But despite having a lesbian sister, Bill hasn’t been exposed to members of the gay community nearly as much as I have and really felt out of his element in a gay bar.  For that reason, I could empathize with Kurek’s first experiences visiting establishments that cater to the homosexual community.

Kurek’s year of being “gay” was difficult, though his experience being “gay” definitely wasn’t as difficult as it was for most of the new friends he made.  Again, Kurek knew his condition was temporary and could count down the months before he could be straight again.  His family and friends were by and large decent about it… until his brother and his wife found out halfway through the year that Kurek had lied about being gay.  It caused a huge rift that Kurek describes rather poignantly.  Kurek is close to his brother, so his brother’s anger was very painful for him.  Unrequited love on the part of Kurek’s “boyfriend” Shawn, seems to make Kurek’s experiment more difficult for Shawn.

I was surprised by how Kurek’s homosexual friends took the news when he told them he wasn’t actually gay.  They mostly seemed okay with his experiment.  I’m sure that to many of them, what Kurek did was pretty bold and maybe even kind of cool, especially since it led to Kurek being more empathetic.  However, I couldn’t help but realize that Kurek’s experience with being gay was not as authentic as it might have been.  In fact, it was a bit contrived and what he did is nothing new.  And I wondered if any of his new friends were offended by Kurek’s decision to be “fake and gay”.  He doesn’t mention any that I remember, though.

Kurek’s writing is basically okay, though there are some typos and misspelled words in his manuscript.  Kurek’s dialogue also sometimes feels a little scripted… like something I might hear on a soap opera.  He seems very young, too… which I believe he was when he wrote this book.  The youth seems to inject his writing with the kind of testosterone that makes young men single-minded and dogmatic about certain things.  The writing got a little preachy at times.  That being said, I thought The Cross in the Closet was basically an interesting book.  I would recommend it to anyone who thinks reading about Kurek’s experiment might interest them.  You could certainly read worse.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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bad TV, Netflix

Tiny Pretty Things is cringeworthy viewing…

Once again, I’m going to avoid some of the serious topics bouncing around in my head today. The news is chock full of potentially explosive things to write about– everything from the fact that Mitch McConnell and Vladimir Putin finally recognized Joe Biden as our next president to a haunting story I read about a middle aged adoptee from Romania, born during Ceausescu’s reign of terror. And, of course, COVID-19 is a topic for every day, too… but I’m sick of writing about that, and much of what I would write is stuff I’ve already written.

Instead, I’m going to write about Netflix’s latest “YA” series, Tiny Pretty Things, which was made available for streaming on Monday. Now, I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for years. I started when I was in graduate school, at Bill’s prompting, when the service involved renting DVDs that were sent in the mail. I quit for a few years when we had cable TV, then enrolled again when we moved back to Germany. I quit again for awhile, when I couldn’t get around the VPN filters and all of the content in Germany was in German. Then, when 13 Reasons Why came out, I resumed my membership. I hated 13 Reasons Why, by the way. I thought it was vastly overhyped and never bothered to watch the second or subsequent seasons.

If a ballerina falls in the forest when no one is near, does she make a sound? Oh brother… (that’s not what she actually says, but it’s kind of close and just as stupid…)

However, even though I have Netflix, I don’t watch it as much as I should. I often go months without logging in to watch anything. I have yet to see a single episode of Orange is the New Black or Stranger Things. I have seen The Crown, but I just now watched all four seasons of it in a massive binge. I frequently get reminders from Netflix to log in and use my membership. This week, I was lured by an ad for Tiny Pretty Things, a drama supposedly aimed at teenagers about very dysfunctional teens studying at The Archer School of Ballet, a “prestigious” ballet school in Chicago.

The first episode made me groan. The writing was very cheesy and melodramatic, with lots of hackneyed expressions that were intended to be clever, but came across as dumb. The storyline was ridiculous. Talented dancer, Neveah Stroyer (played by Kylie Jefferson), from Englewood, California is plucked from obscurity to learn how to dance for the big leagues. Her mom is in prison for killing a man who “hit her baby”, Neveah’s older brother, who is now in a wheelchair.

Lauren Holly, who is 57 and looks like she’s had work done, or at least a few collagen injections, is a ballet madame called Monique Dubois who is running the school. She comes off as snooty, fake, and kind of cruel. The kids are multicultural and there’s a veritable rainbow of boys and girls (who are actually all in their 20s) of all shades and sexual orientations. Many of the “actors” are actually dancers in real life, and they are much better at dancing than delivering their lines. I think Kylie Jefferson is a pretty decent actress, and she’s also a legit dancer, but most of the rest of them are not very convincing in their roles. They don’t look like they are the teens they’re supposed to be, and they aren’t good actors.

What really gets me, though, besides the ridiculous storyline involving a dancer who was pushed off a fourth story building and survives, languishing on life support to be the narrator (a la Mary Alice Young in Desperate Housewives), are the huge number of sex scenes, copious nude scenes, drug references, and, yes, I’m just gonna say it– the language. Everything I’ve read about Tiny Pretty Things indicates that it’s intended for a YA audience. That means it’s for teens, and teens encompass an age group ranging from 13 to 18. In most cases, there’s a huge difference in the maturity level of a 13 year old and an 18 year old. And yet we’re supposed to be okay with kids watching a very dark and macabre series about a ballet company planning a dance about Jack the Ripper? Meanwhile, there’s also a cop with a French braid sniffing around, trying to figure out who pushed Cassie Shore, the ballerina narrator who is actually in a coma, from the roof.

I don’t have children, but when I was growing up, my parents let me watch almost anything I wanted to watch. Every once in awhile, my dad would attempt to stop me from watching something he found inappropriate, but most of the time, I watched anything and everything that interested me. Consequently, I saw a whole lot of stuff that I wouldn’t want a child of mine seeing. I don’t know how different the world is for kids today… I can only imagine that it’s very different now. Still, it does seem a bit much for 8th graders to be watching a nude gay sex scene and listening to talk of blow jobs. When I was 13, I didn’t even know what “getting laid” meant, let alone what a blow job is.

There are some rather gory dream sequences and, at this point, I’ve also seen a closeup of a pretty necrotic looking injured foot that I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing. Aside from that, one of the choreographers is very pervy and sleazy. Watching him makes me think of Larry Nassar.

I suppose it’s a good thing that the cast is so inclusive of people who aren’t white or straight. I do enjoy watching the dancing, too, much of which is beautifully done. But all watching this show has shown me so far is that you don’t have to be a rich white kid to be shown as really fucked up and on TV. It also makes me think that if I’d ever had children, I would not want them to be involved in ballet, even though my sister was involved in ballet when she was growing up and this adaptation probably doesn’t even venture close to representing the norm.

I didn’t think I would get past the first episode, it made me sigh so hard. But I did end up watching several more episodes, mainly because I had nothing better to do yesterday. I’ll probably finish this season, but if it gets renewed, I probably won’t bother with any subsequent ones. Besides the gratuitous sex scenes, the acting is pretty cringeworthy, and the storyline is both very cliched and rather implausible. I’d rather watch 80s era episodes of Fame, which included plenty of cheesy acting and dance numbers, but at least it was somewhat clean.

Tiny Pretty Things is based on a YA novel, which has just got to be better than the show is. It’s just got to. It appears that the authors, Sona Charaiprota and Dhonielle Clayton, have made it into a book series that got popular, hence Netflix’s decision to turn it into a series one can stream. It appears that, as usual, the books are better than the on screen interpretation. I might one day be persuaded to read one of the books, just to see how far the streaming series has sunk.

I have a lot of tolerance for bad TV, but this series is really pretty awful, and it makes me roll my eyes a lot. As an adult, the sex scenes don’t trouble me too much, but I don’t think they’re particularly appropriate for young teens. I might have had less of an issue with that, though, if the quality of the show was better and the sex scenes didn’t feel like they were added to flesh out a thin and ridiculous premise. And the acting and writing both suck enough that I wouldn’t recommend Tiny Pretty Things to almost anyone else, either, at least not if they’re looking for something that is legitimately high quality. On the other hand, if you want to watch something cringeworthy, Tiny Pretty Things might be just the ticket. I think I’d like to watch it with my friend Joann, who has a real knack for critiquing bad TV in a hilarious way.

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