book reviews, celebrities

A review of Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma, by Karen Grassle…

If you were growing up in the 70s and 80s, it’s a fair bet that you might know who Karen Grassle is. For eight years, she played Caroline Ingalls– Ma– on the hit NBC show, Little House on the Prairie. I was born in 1972, so I was a child when that show was airing on prime time. I remember watching it on Monday nights, probably starting at the time I was about eight years old or so. By then, the show had been airing for some time, and was starting to jump the shark a bit. It wasn’t until I started watching reruns on TBS during my college years that I really became a fan.

Although I loved Little House, I wasn’t necessarily a fan of Michael Landon’s. I always thought he was kind of weird. One time, I saw a comedian do a hilarious imitation of the way he smiled, screwing his eyes a bit and twitching his jaw, as if he was trying to keep from crying. The comedian had him down perfectly, and every time I see Landon on screen, I’m reminded of it, as well as why he never came across as particularly handsome to me. Edited to add: I think the comedian might have been Jim Carrey. Here’s a clip.

When I got older, I started to understand why people found Michael Landon so charismatic. He had this “saint like” image that he tried to project in his projects. A lot of people were fooled by him, thinking that he was much like his saintly characters, especially Charles Ingalls– which was probably his most famous role. He was well-known for being generous and he certainly had a gift for making television programs that appealed to the masses. A lot of women thought he was “hot”, too, although it’s clear to me that he knew it, which I find kind of repellant.

As Karen Grassle points out in her recently published memoir, Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma, there was a lot more to Michael Landon than met the eye. And he was no saint. But then, neither is she. I just finished her eye opening memoir last night, somewhat surprised by her story.

Karen Grassle talks to Megyn Kelly about her book and working with Michael Landon. In this interview, Grassle says Victor French was a “wonderful actor”. And he was. But he also had a problem with alcohol.

Karen Grassle’s life started off normally enough. She was born February 25, 1942 in Berkeley, California. She grew up in Ventura, the daughter of a real estate agent and a teacher. She also has a younger sister named Janey and an adopted son named Zach. When she was very young, Grassle was captivated by her Baptist faith. She studied ballet, acted in school plays, and was popular among her peers.

Her first year of college was spent in New Orleans, Louisiana at H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, which was the women’s branch of Tulane University. Grassle couldn’t hang in New Orleans. She found the atmosphere too offensive with the rampant racism in the South during the early 1960s. With help from her mother, Grassle went back to California and enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, from which she graduated in 1965, with bachelor’s degrees in English and Dramatic Art.

After college, Grassle won a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to London for a year. Living in London gave Grassle the chance to travel around Europe, and she writes a bit about her experiences seeing the continent. She even includes a passage about riding on a train with a young Italian man and his father and having sex with the Italian guy while his father snored beneath them. I could relate to the train experience to Italy, minus the sex part. I once rode in a sleeper car with an Asian family on my way from Vienna to Venice and listened to the dad of the family snore all night. A little sex might have done me some good.

Grassle later moved to New York City, where she struggled financially, and picked up roles at the many theaters there. She drank a lot and smoked too much, and picked up interesting odd jobs to make ends meet, including a stint working as a size eight model for garment makers. Although she worked steadily, she didn’t really become financially successful in any sense until she moved back to California and auditioned for the role of Caroline Ingalls. The rest is history.

Yesterday, I wrote about Betty White, and how I think sometimes people mistook Betty White for her characters. I think the same may be true for Karen Grassle. On Little House on the Prairie, Grassle portrayed a beautiful, God-fearing, kind, gentle woman. Michael Landon portrayed a male version of that same ideal. But, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, actors are often not at all like the roles they play. That is apparently very true of Karen Grassle and Michael Landon. Grassle writes that the two of them didn’t get along very well after the first year of the show’s eight season run. Although on screen, they looked like they were deeply in love, they really were just acting…

In Bright Lights, Prairie Dust, Grassle gives readers a glimpse of what was going on behind the scenes on Little House, but readers shouldn’t expect an exhaustive tell all about the show. This book is really a book about Karen Grassle. The title is a bit misleading, which is why I think Grassle got some low ratings from Amazon readers. I think a lot of people read Grassle’s book hoping for stories about Little House on the Prairie, and what they got is a book that is pretty much just about Karen Grassle’s life, with only a little bit about the show that made her a star. There’s also quite a bit of throwing Michael Landon under the bus and airing of “dirty laundry”. As someone who also often airs dirty laundry, I can understand why she wrote about these things… but I can also see why other readers found the revelations off-putting.

I mostly enjoyed reading Karen Grassle’s story. I don’t judge her for her life choices or mistakes. We all make them. Karen Grassle admits to being an alcoholic who had many difficult relationships with men, including an unfortunate tryst with actor Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers) that led to a sexually transmitted infection. She’s been married a few times. She’s had a couple of abortions. She turned away from Christianity. She didn’t get along with Michael Landon and, in fact, even judged him for infidelity, even though she had herself been unfaithful to at least one of her partners. I’d say she’s pretty much the antithesis of Caroline Ingalls, a role she played so convincingly.

Karen Grassle writes that she loved working with Scotty MacGregor, otherwise known as Mrs. Oleson.

I’m sure a lot of readers will judge Karen Grassle for not being Caroline Ingalls. I guess I can understand why they might, since the title implies that she’s going to impart wisdom the way “Ma Ingalls” did. But again, I think readers should understand that actors are human, and memoirs are the ultimate project in self-promotion. Of course the book is about Karen Grassle, and Karen Grassle isn’t “Ma Ingalls”. That was just the most famous one of the many roles she’s played over her long career. I, for one, was interested in reading about Grassle’s lesser known work on the world’s stages.

I appreciated reading about Karen Grassle’s work toward promoting women’s rights. She grew up in a time when racism and sexism were rampant, and anyone who wasn’t a white man had less power simply because they weren’t a white male. I think it’s pretty clear that Grassle is politically very liberal, and she feels very strongly about protecting women’s rights, including the right to have an abortion. Grassle had two experiences with abortion. The first one happened when she was 20 years old. She had to go to Mexico, and it was done secretly. The second one was done ten years later, in New York, where in 1972, abortion was legal. She compared the experiences, which I found interesting, and a bit frightening for today’s young women, who may soon lose the right to privacy and bodily autonomy. Some readers may have less sympathy for her, later in the book, when she laments how she eventually wanted a baby of her own. She did eventually adopt a son.

Grassle is also very involved in Jungian therapy, which I found intriguing, since my husband is also into Jungian therapy. She writes a bit about dream analysis, and some of the cool insights she got from some of her therapists. I probably wouldn’t have noticed that part of the book if Bill wasn’t working with a Jungian therapist. If I had read Karen Grassle’s book a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have cared about her revelations regarding Jungian psychology. But I guess it just goes to show you that as one’s life evolves, so do one’s interests.

The one thing I distinctly didn’t like about Karen Grassle’s book was a certain contrived quality it had. It was like she was trying really hard to write in an evocative way that came across as insincere. Her writing wasn’t terrible; it just seemed to lack some authenticity. Like she was trying too hard to turn a phrase or something.

I do think the title of the book is misleading. I’m sure it was purposely given that title to make sales, but plenty of people who bought it for the potential of Grassle’s “spilling the tea” about life on the Little House set will “spill the tea” that the book is only a little bit about the show. There’s very little about the children who played the Ingalls’ children, but she does include a couple of less flattering comments about Victor French (Mr. Edwards), as well as a few more positive comments about Scotty MacGregor (Harriett Oleson) and Charlotte Stewart (Miss Beadle). I think a lot of people will expect much more about the show. They won’t necessarily get that information in this book, which may disappoint some readers.

The last comment I want to make is that the book ends rather abruptly, just as Karen Grassle has married her second husband of three. I’m not sure why she chose to end the book at that point. Maybe it’s because it was just as the show was ending, in the early 1980s. But the book is clearly not just about Little House on the Prairie. Grassle wrote a lot about her young life, her years as a struggling actress, and what led up to her turn as “Ma Ingalls”. If the book had been more about the show, I might understand why she ended in the early 80s. But it’s clearly NOT just about the show. Again… I think a more accurate title would have served her better.

There are some photos included, though they aren’t so easy to see on my Kindle app.

I’m glad Karen Grassle was able to quit drinking, since it clearly affected her in a negative way and was problematic, particularly regarding her relationships with other people, as well as her image. As a fellow adult child of an alcoholic, I could relate to some of her comments about what it was like to grow up in that particular brand of dysfunction. I respect Karen Grassle’s talent, and some of her insights about working with Michael Landon. A lot of her complaints about Landon were about money, and how he allegedly wouldn’t agree to pay her what she felt she should be earning on a hit show.

This book could have been better, and should be retitled… and maybe even retooled. But overall, I’m not sorry I read it. I would just caution prospective readers not to expect a book that is just about Little House on the Prairie, containing heartwarming, homespun, words of wisdom from Ma Ingalls. Bright Lights, Prairie Dust is definitely not delivering much of that, in spite of its title.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, healthcare, LDS

Repost: Fat fighting 70s Mormon style…

I am reposting this entry from September 28, 2016, because it relates to the other repost for today. I used the same BYU film for both posts, but they are about different topics.

Yesterday, while screwing around on YouTube, I came across a most bizarre film from 1971.  It was evidently put out by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Behold…

A film for “sweet spirits” who could stand to lose a few… or more.  The music on this is nightmare inducing…   

The LDS church has a long history of producing audio visual learning aids.  If you were around in the 70s and 80s, you probably saw some of their ads on television.  I hesitate to refer to them as PSAs, because they were really put out as a means of attracting people to Mormonism.  As someone who was born in 1972, I vividly recall several different ones that were regularly rotated on daytime TV.

I must admit, watching this video makes me cringe.  I’m embarrassed and humiliated for the women who are in it.  Having never been LDS, I can’t really speak to what this film was really intended to do, other than remind women that they need to be thin and pretty for the Brethren, so they can find a temple worthy husband who will take them to the Celestial Kingdom.

One woman talks about how she still gets “dates” even though she’s fat, so she has no motivation to lose weight.  How sad that is.  The only reason she could possibly have to want to lose weight is to find a man?  What about losing it because you want to?  I also find it very strange that this film makes these women out to be binge and compulsive overeaters.  Yes, it’s true that many people are heavy simply because they eat too much, but that’s not always true.  The truth is, being overweight is a complex problem that can be caused by a variety of factors.  I am myself overweight, but I don’t eat three bowls of ice cream in a sitting, as is depicted in this film.  

As the film continues, the male announcer says…

This is part of our commitment action approach to weight control.  The girls meet weekly in therapy sessions where behavioral change is emphasized.  Overweight people tend to be dishonest, inconsistent, and irresponsible.  How often have we said or heard people say, “I don’t know why I can’t lose weight.  I hardly eat a thing.” or “I was nervous and upset.  I just couldn’t help myself.”  All kinds of alibis and excuses.  Our sessions together tend to debunk these excuses and instead focus on behavioral consistency, control, and commitment with an emphasis on action.

How sad it must have been for the young LDS women who watched this video.  They are automatically considered “dishonest, inconsistent, and irresponsible” simply because of the way they look.  And consider the fact that the church is very food oriented.  Women in the church are encouraged to be excellent homemakers and cooks.  

The very sexist announcer goes on to say…

Group members help Judy improve the consistency between what she says she wants to do and what she actually does.  If Judy wants to be thin, she has to engage in thin activities, such as eating less and exercising more.  Sometimes she sees the problem as impossible to control.  We try to help her refute this.

Notice too, that it’s a man leading this group and he has all the answers.  As if a man really understands why a woman might feel compelled to overeat.  He keeps referring to the women as “girls”, too, and talks about them like they’re all a bunch of simple minded twits.  

The horrible music continues and they show video footage of heavy women swimming, their fat rolls jiggling underwater.  They show twin little girls laughing openly at a heavy woman biking past them.  Nowadays, someone would be calling CPS on the girls’ parents for letting them walk alone in a neighborhood!  They show a fat woman diving into water and when she hits, there’s a sound of gunfire, as if the sheer volume of water displaced has moved the earth somehow.  One woman is doing stretches only to get exasperated and give in to the temptation of potato chips.  It’s as if the filmmakers are saying “Shame on her for being so weak!”

A woman named Dawn says that she was sick all week and had a sore throat.  She ate ice cream to make her throat feel better.  And, don’tcha know, that’s why she’s fat!  She could have used ice cubes, you know… as the announcer tells us.  What a dick.  He says, “We try to help her see herself through the eyes of other group members.  To realize her self deceit.”

The video is rife with closeups of heavy women eating, shoveling fattening foods into their mouths in a way that is supposed to be disgusting.  I could continue to quote from this nasty little film, but I think you get the picture. 
Apparently, the answer to getting thin is to start dating.  A man will fix everything.  Get yourself a good man and you’ll have all the motivation in the world to lose weight.  “Being ‘feminine’ can be fun.'” the announcer says.  It’s a load of nasty bullshit.  

I know this film is 45 years old.  Since I’m 44, it doesn’t seem like it’s that old.  I guess it is, though.  I have my doubts that the attitudes among church members has necessarily changed a lot, although they are almost certainly less “in your face” about it than they are in this offensive film.  

Here’s another film from BYU…  

More fat shaming, though at least this one isn’t leveled strictly at women.

There is certainly nothing wrong with eating right and exercising.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight.  What I find offensive is the attitude that a person’s character is being judged by what size clothes he or she wears.  It’s offensive that a person’s worth is being measured by how heavy he or she is. I don’t know that a film like this would be made today, but it sure is cringeworthy to see that it was made around the time I was born.  

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book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart write their life stories in Kicking & Dreaming…

I am reposting this May 2014 review I wrote of Ann and Nancy Wilson’s, book Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll. For some reason, I never shared it on my blogs, so technically it’s not a repost from them. It was originally published on PopRockNation, and appears here as/is.

I have admired Ann and Nancy Wilson, talented sisters from Seattle, for as long as I can remember. These two women are among the most respected women in rock & roll. They have enjoyed a career that has spanned over four decades and are longstanding members of a band that has had chart topping songs since the 1970s. Heart is one of a very few bands that has enjoyed that kind of success and Ann and Nancy Wilson were integral to making that success a reality.

Since I am myself a singer and I do love my rock & roll, it seemed natural that I’d want to read Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll. The book was published in 2012, but I just got around to reading it. This book was a lot of fun to read and made me like the Wilson sisters even more than I did before. Ghostwriter Charles R. Cross did a masterful job in making this book sound as if it came straight from the Wilson sisters. When I finished reading, I felt like I’d love to know them as friends.

Back in 2008, Ann Wilson released an album called Hope & Glory. It consisted of duets she did with a number of different famous singers like Elton John, Alison Krauss, Gretchen Wilson, and Wynonna. I remember thinking at the time that the album was very left wing and political, since the songs were mostly covers of anti-war songs. I am married to a man who is about to retire from the Army, so the subject of war is a personal one for me. I bought this album when it first came out and listened to it fairly regularly for a time. At the time, I had no knowledge of the Wilson sisters’ own history with the military. I didn’t know they were Marine brats.

Ann Wilson covers Neil Young’s “War of Man” with help from Alison Krauss.

Ann, Nancy, and Lynn Wilson were the three daughters of John (Dotes) and Lois Wilson, a Marine and his wife. As kids, they had the typical military brat upbringing, with constant moves stateside and abroad. They spent time in Asia, with a couple of years in Taiwan, then came back to California, where Ann had been born in 1950. Eventually, their father left the Marines and became a teacher. The family made a permanent home in Bellevue, Washington, where Ann and Nancy Wilson blossomed into talented musicians who would one day be world famous rock stars.

Kicking & Dreaming is a very engaging book. Each chapter starts with an amusing rundown of what the chapter is about… kind of like a synopsis one might read in a TV Guide. Each sister’s voice is identified before she spins an old story of growing up in the Pacific Northwest, then growing into a music career. The Wilson sisters were fortunate enough to attend schools that promoted the arts, and that helped lead them to learning their craft.

At the age of 12, Nancy Wilson was a good enough guitar player that she was teaching others how to play. Ann was becoming a notable singer, with a big voice that seemed custom made for singing rock & roll. She and Nancy cut their teeth on songs by Led Zeppelin and Elton John. In Heart’s early days, the band’s bread and butter was capably covering songs made famous by other people. They would sneak their original material into their set lists at high school proms and in clubs. Many of the earliest shows were in Canada, because one of Heart’s original members had been a Vietnam draft dodger and couldn’t be in the United States. Consequently, Heart was originally more of a Canadian act… and they even got to play Michael J. Fox’s prom!

Heart sings Magic Man, a song they explain in their book.

The Wilsons are both big fans of rock music, too. There are some charming stories in Kicking & Dreaming about Ann and Nancy growing up, going to concerts, and going on quests to see certain rock worthies in concert. In one chapter, Nancy relates the story of how she borrowed money to buy a ticket from a scalper to see Elton John in concert. The ticket turned out to be fake and she almost got arrested when she tried to use it. Undaunted, she scaled a fence and snuck into the venue to see Elton anyway… and many years later, he became a friend and was the very first person to hear their 2012 album, Fanatic, as they were producing it in a hotel room! Another anecdote is about how Nancy and a friend went on a fruitless quest to find Joni Mitchell’s farm in Canada. Ann and Nancy eventually did meet Joni years later. What struck me about the Wilsons is how grounded and normal they seem; here they are big stars themselves, yet they write of being starstruck when in the presence of people like Paul McCartney.

Kicking & Dreaming doesn’t shy away from the more painful topics, either. Ann and Nancy Wilson had to deal with sexism from music business executives and fellow rock stars alike. In one anecdote, the Wilson sisters write about touring with Lynyrd Skynyrd and, because they were women, being tasked to watch the young son of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s drummer, Artimus Pyle. Pyle basically dropped his kid off with Ann and Nancy and expected them to babysit while he went out on an “errand”. The boy ended up spending the night with the Wilson sisters. Artimus Pyle was later in the 1977 plane crash that killed several members of Lynyrd Skynyrd; he was seriously injured, but ultimately survived.

I also read about Ann Wilson’s struggles with obesity and alcoholism and the health problems that came from those issues. I read about both sisters’ quests for motherhood, which they both achieved, though not through giving birth themselves. They share details about their love affairs and friendships, some of which were with fellow famous people. It made for fascinating reading. I have a lot of empathy for both of them, even as I realize how lucky they are to be so talented and successful. Of course, being talented and successful is no barrier to personal demons and psychic pain; they have both dealt with their fair share. Fortunately, they are close to each other and their older sister, Lynn. They also have many lifelong friends, including Sue Ennis, a songwriter they met when they were just girls. Sue Ennis is a member of the Lovemongers, a band the Wilson sisters formed in the 1990s. She also teaches songwriting and music business classes at Shoreline Community College in Seattle, Washington.

An energetic Heart performance of “Straight On”.

I got a big kick out of the chapter in which Nancy Wilson writes about Sarah Palin’s political campaign ripping off Heart’s big hit, “Barracuda”. When Sarah Palin was a teenager, she played high school basketball and was so aggressive on the court that she was called “Sarah Barracuda”. Naturally, Heart’s big song seemed perfect for her campaign, except Heart never gave permission for her to use the song. No one in the band agreed with Palin’s Republican ideals. Moreover, the song, which was written in the 70s, is about the sleaziness of the music business. Nancy notes that it was kind of ironic that Sarah Palin’s camp would want to use it to promote Palin as a potential Vice President of the United States. In the long run, it turned out Palin’s use of “Barracuda” was lucky, since it got new people listening to it and wanting to know what the song meant.

“Barracuda” in 1977.

Kicking & Dreaming is a fantastic read for Heart fans or for anyone who just likes a rock & roll memoir. Ann and Nancy Wilson have dealt with all kinds of adversity throughout their long careers, yet they still seem like really cool women from Seattle who just want to rock and roll and are lucky enough to get paid to do it for millions of people. I highly recommend their book.

According to Nancy Wilson, Ann and Nancy got paid a lot of money to make this ad!

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complaints, healthcare, rants

Hey guys… periods are none of your bloody business!

Obviously, this post is going to be TMI for some readers. Proceed with caution.

A couple of days ago, The Atlantic ran an article about how menstrual periods are now “optional”. The article was entitled “No One Has to Get Their Period Anymore”, with the tag line, “Why Menstruate if You Don’t Have To?” As I sit here wondering where my period is, and hoping it doesn’t strike this weekend as I celebrate my birthday, I think back on the many days I’ve spent “on the rag”. Starting New Year’s Eve 1985 and continuing to this day, I’ve mostly been very regular. It’s only been within the past few years– 2017 or so– that my body has occasionally taken a month off. I’m pretty lucky, though, because my periods have always been mostly bearable. Yes, they’re messy, stinky, and kind of gross, but I’ve never been bedridden because of that time of the month. The most I’ve had to deal with is cravings, crankiness, and the occasional ruined pair of underwear.

Some of my friends have not been so lucky. I know women who have had to deal with excessive pain and lengthy menstrual periods. I know other women who are busy and don’t have time to deal with the monthly bill. Some of those women have decided that they would rather not menstruate. They visited their doctors and got help. From the article:

Today, any doctor will tell you there is no medical necessity for periods unless you’re trying to conceive. The body preps for pregnancy by thickening the uterus’s lining, like a bird building a nest for her eggs; hormonal birth control prevents pregnancy, in part, by keeping the uterine lining from ever building up. Many of the roughly 19 million Americans who rely on the pill, the shot, IUDs, implants, patches, or rings see a change in their period—often it’s lighter, but it can also disappear altogether. In clinical trials, more than 40 percent of the Liletta IUD’s users no longer menstruated by the end of the product’s six-year life. More than half of people who get the Depo-Provera shot every three months will become amenorrhoeic within a year, and almost 70 percent in the second year. And anyone using the pill, patch, or ring can safely skip scheduled withdrawal bleeding.

Sounds awesome! I have never used birth control myself. In fact, Bill has never even used a condom. He has never needed to. Again, my period isn’t really that onerous. I’m not a career person. It’s not a big deal for me to menstruate, although it can be inconvenient and annoying. But like I said– I do know women who have suffered a lot due to menstruation. And so, if they don’t want to menstruate, why should they? More importantly, why is it that some men feel the need to opine about such a personal decision?

In the comment section on The Atlantic’s Facebook page, I was surprised to see a lot of comments from men about this topic. One guy, who wrote that he has daughters and worries about their health, queried “How is this healthy?”

And my response was, “Men seriously need to STFU about periods.” I could tell by the reactions to my comment that a lot of women agree with me.

Fellas, I appreciate that you worry about the women in your life. I like that you want to know how her body works. But, unless you are a physician and it’s your job to deal with women and their periods, I think this is a subject on which you shouldn’t offer too much input. I, for one, am very grateful that my husband’s wonderful mom, Parker, taught Bill so well. When Aunt Flow comes knocking at our house, Bill comes home with red wine, steaks, and chocolate. And that’s all that needs to be done… except for a little cramp relief.

It’s been my experience that most men don’t want to know the gory details of the monthly menstrual period. They aren’t there to comfort their wives or daughters when they accidentally leak through their pants. They may not be too appreciative in the middle of the night, when their wife or daughter wakes up with a gush of bleeding that has pooled and leaked on the sheets. They don’t know the sorrow of a destroyed pair of favorite underwear. They don’t understand the special fatigue and icky feeling that comes from having periods… not just the actual bleeding, but also the bloating, sensitive breasts, sleeplessness, irritability, and odors that come from that time of the month. Some men love to joke about such things, but they don’t experience it, and they can’t fully appreciate the unpleasantness of it.

Another example of a man getting involved in a conversation about something about which he clearly knows nothing.
And another… There were more, but in the interest of not boring people, I’m not going to post them. You get the idea.

Now, in fairness to the guy who asked, “How is that ‘healthy’?”, I did see a few women also posting about how they felt it was better not to mess with Mother Nature. And frankly, I kind of agree with those women. I don’t have a need to mess with the natural process of things, so I don’t. But– just as I probably would never choose to have an abortion but support legal abortions for other women, I fully support the rights of other women to make the choice not to menstruate. That monthly ordeal is truly a pain for a lot of people. Unless a woman wants to get pregnant, there’s no need to deal with the mess.

Another thing the article points out is that sanitary products are potentially very expensive, plus they don’t do great things for the environment. Of course, if money is an issue regarding sanitary napkins or tampons or the other products available, then it would probably also be an issue in paying for birth control, particularly for those who can’t pay for health insurance. And for some people, not having a period is a medical necessity– people who are missing an intact uterus or vagina, for instance. Not having a period can also be a psychological necessity. The article mentions a transgender man who suppressed his period because he didn’t want the monthly reminder that he was “born in the ‘wrong’ body”.

On the other hand, some people are comforted by the presence of their periods. For instance, some people use the presence of their periods to know that they aren’t pregnant. The period can also be a marker for recovery from an eating disorder or another health condition involving the pituitary or thyroid glands. When menstrual periods resume in someone who has had severe anorexia nervosa, that’s a sign that the body has healed from malnourishment and, perhaps, has regained fertility. Other people just like the rhythm of the period. It makes them feel “in touch” with their bodies.

Whatever… the point is, now that science has made a period free life possible for people who would ordinarily menstruate, it should be a choice that can be made without a bunch of chatter and mansplaining from those who don’t have to deal with having periods. I think the only time this should really come up with a man is if he’s raising a female child alone. I do have a male friend who is raising his daughter… and I don’t think he’s prepared for when she hits puberty. I hope he has some female friends who can help him out, because it’s just around the corner.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about periods… and how men really need to be quieter when it comes to discussing them. Back in 2017, George Takei shared an article about how menstruating women were being “price gouged” at an airport– $15 for a box of tampons. Lots of men were making stupid comments about that, too. Because that was an interesting post, here’s some of what I had to say about that situation reposted here:

An anonymous woman happened to be at Calgary International Airport when everybody’s least favorite aunt arrived.  She found herself unprepared for her period and the vending machine in the ladies room was empty.  When the woman went to a drug store to buy the necessary supplies, she was ripped off.  It was $15 for the tampons.  So the woman paid the money and left the box in the restroom for other women, along with a note of explanation.

A screenshot of the tampons Carlee Field found at the airport.

Carlee Field came across the box of tampons, snapped a photo of them and the note, and posted to Reddit.  Apparently, the outrage was enough to spark a response from airport officials, who promised to stock the vending machines.  The drug store, likewise, lowered the price of the tampons.

The story was interesting enough, although the comments were especially stimulating.  It always amazes me when men want to weigh in on subjects regarding menstrual periods.  To their credit, many men were surprisingly understanding and even empathetic.  On the other hand, there were quite a few comments from guys who felt the need to lecture us women about bringing the necessary supplies with us. 

Here are just a few comments from males who think they know what it’s like to bleed from the genitals every month…

Maybe she should be a responsible adult and bring her own…? Or should we treat women like helpless victims?

Airport price gouging is not unique to tampons. It’s a huge price gauging enterprise. It’s why I make sure I have what I need, along with “just in case” items, before I leave my house.

Oh please. This is the problem nowadays. People stop looking at reality in favor of talking points and PC bullshit. The topic was price gauging. My comment was that the gauging isn’t unique to this particiular item, and that planning ahead could prevent the expense. Am I really wrong about that? Really?  (someone should teach this man how to spell “gouging”– actually, this word is curiously misspelled several times by different people)

I’m confused. A lot of women are saying they have irregular periods, heavy periods, etc. as an excuse for being caught off guard. That just seems counter intuitive. I would think that if you had irregularities in your cycle and that you likely COULD have a surprise…. Isn’t that more of a reason to always be prepared and to carry fem Hy products? Because you know there’s a likelihood of having a surprise?

Of course the socialist thinks everything should just be given to her.

Fancy that.

I can see how youd assume most men take such a drug, your sex life must be dull.

Wait… Youre female and you said something logical…. My mind is about to explode! Welcome to the wonderful world of getting yelled at by the mob of women with pitch forks and torches!

Quit getting so butthurt because guys are calling women unprepared for not packing a few extra while traveling 🙄you know you’re away from home for days at a time and that it could happen at any point. Unpreparedness is just the truth here. Sensitive much?

I could probably sit here all morning and read the comments, but I’ll stop with the ones above.  

I have already written this story a few times, but I’ll repeat it for those who don’t want to read old posts. It was the end of November 2012. Bill and I were in Scotland on Hebridean Princess, a ship that generally caters to the elderly set. I had just gotten new luggage and, for whatever reason, forgot to stock my bags with feminine hygiene supplies. I usually have several tucked away just in case, but I guess I forgot to stock up in the excitement of packing.

On the last night of the cruise, we not only found out that our sweet bagel, MacGregor, was dying, but I had also started my period and was completely unprepared. Fortunately, the assistant purser, a very lovely lady named Valeria, was able to score me a few items from crew members to get me through the night. I doubt this is a problem they deal with too often, since most women on that ship are past menopause. Nevertheless, I will never forget that kindness.

Since that experience in 2012, I have been very careful to make sure I am ready in case Auntie Flow arrives when I’m on the go.  But even though I am now especially sure to pack the essentials, that doesn’t mean I won’t need to buy more, perhaps even in the airport.  The human body can be an unpredictable thing.  I’m sure it won’t be long before my hormones go haywire and I won’t know WTF I’ll be dealing with as I enter a “new season” of life, as Michelle Duggar puts it.  

Feminine hygiene products truly are a necessity.  In fact, some might argue (and a few did) that they should be freely available in public restrooms, as toilet paper generally is.  But, as a quick Google search shows, quite a lot of women lack the appropriate supplies for their time of the month.  If you’re poor and you have a choice of spending money on stemming the crimson tide or eating, you’d likely pick eating.  If you’re paying with a SNAP card, the choice to eat would be a no-brainer.  You can’t use SNAP cards on non food items.   

There are some communities taking notice of the need.  How progressive!  It seems like providing hygiene supplies to menstruating women would be a “win-win” proposition.  Women can spare themselves the embarrassment and humiliation of being caught unprepared and “price-gouged” at the airport, and everyone can avoid the sight of blood on furniture and clothing.  In all seriousness, though, this is a big deal.  There is evidence that not properly taking care of one’s period can lead to significant health issues.  Yeah… this is what is “unhealthy” about periods…

It’s also just really unpleasant.

As you can see, this is a world that biological men don’t have to worry about or deal with. But we used to have a president who made tacky comments about Megyn Kelly, saying “she’s got blood coming out of her ‘wherever’.”  I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised when I read stupid comments from men who think they know what it’s like to have periods and have the right to opine about what women should do to prevent being “surprised”.  The fact is, sometimes you get caught with your pants down, for whatever reason.  It happens to everybody.  It shouldn’t be a big deal to be able to access affordable sanitary products when that happens.  And men, who will never have to deal with the mess, expense, and inconvenience of monthly periods, should really be more sensitive.  Better yet, most of them should simply STFU on this particular topic.

And if a woman decides she’d rather not have periods at all, that too is entirely and solely her own business. I don’t concern myself with male-centric topics like the state of the scrotum or prostate gland. I think that men should keep quiet about periods unless they are offering support. They don’t have to deal with a monthly deluge of blood coming whenever and however long the body decides. I honestly think some of these guys who are opining are doing so because they like the idea of being able to get women pregnant. It’s a source of control for them, or something.

Anyway… I feel glad that pretty soon, this will no longer be an issue I need to care about as someone who is personally affected by it. But in support of my younger sisters, I want to go on record to say that women should have dominion over their own bodies without input from men. Periods are not fun. They’re messy, stinky, expensive, and inconvenient. So, if science can make things easier in that regard, I think that should be a choice available to all women. And men need to STFU about it.

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education, modern problems, sexism

Chivalry and critical thinking skills are dead in Texas…

Last night, I read about Shallowater High School, a school near Lubbock, Texas that was in the news because of a controversial assignment that got complaints. An English teacher, who was teaching “Beowulf” and the works of Chaucer, had a tradition of having her students explore the concept of chivalry. The boys were expected to dress in suits and ties. The girls were to wear dresses and heels. For one day, the men would help ladies to their seats and open doors for them, and they were supposed stand when a lady or person in authority entered a room. The ladies were expected not to speak unless spoken to, not to complain or whine, and they were supposed to walk behind the men.

The first time I read about this assignment about chivalry, it was in an article for a television station that was short on information and long on media bias. My initial impression was that it was kind of a silly assignment that sounded ill-conceived. But then I read more about it in The New York Times and learned that the teacher who had made the assignment had been doing it for a long time. Many students actually looked forward to taking part in it, which made me want to learn more about what it entailed.

In the course of reading more about the assignment, I learned that those who were uncomfortable with it were allowed to write a one page essay on chivalry. I also learned that the intent was of the assignment was to show students that chivalry was actually promoting male chauvinism and marginalizing women. The message was that chivalry, which is often touted to be “good” and is now “dead”, is not so much about promoting good manners and courtliness. It was about keeping women in their so-called place, according to the men who wanted to stay in charge. Apparently, past students who had taken part in the assignment got the message, even if it sounded kind of “sketchy” in practice.

This year, the assignment made the news, because some parents complained about it, claiming it was “sexist”. I will admit, my first thoughts, when I read about it was that it did seem a bit sexist. But then when I read that a lot of students actually enjoyed doing it, I changed my mind. Having been an English major and read “Beowulf” a couple of times myself, I appreciate anything that makes that story more engaging for young people. Moreover, I figured there had to be something more to the assignment than what was being put out to the masses. According to the New York Times:

“I really don’t think it was the teacher’s intention to have it be such a sexist lesson,” said Hannah Carreon, 18, a senior at the high school. “There were girls that were excited to get to do this finally and get to dress up.”

And those who didn’t want to participate didn’t have to. Seems fair enough to me. Nevertheless, thanks to the uproar, the school district superintendent, Dr. Anita Hebert, said the assignment was canceled, adding “this assignment has been reviewed, and despite its historical context, it does not reflect our district and community values.” Very fine, and she’s certainly within her rights to have the assignment changed.

Given how thin skinned many people are these days, I think it would be difficult for teachers and administrators to teach, especially in a creative way, without offending someone somehow. I don’t have a quarrel with the school administrator’s decision to revise the assignment, even though some students may have been disappointed. Schools have to evolve with the times, and nowadays, people are less inclined to be open-minded about alternative methods. Most people won’t even bother to read a news article before exploding with outrage, after all.

From the New York Times article.

But then I went into the comment section and there were many outraged reactions left by people who obviously hadn’t read the article. One person wrote that the teacher must be a “misogynistic man” and went off on a screed about racism and misogyny.

I know I should have kept scrolling, but I was lonely, irritated, and bored last night. So I commented that the teacher who had made the assignment was a woman who had been teaching this particular lesson for years. It was a long-standing tradition in her class that, apparently, had been well-received in years past. The teacher was actually trying to show the students that so-called “chivalry” wasn’t actually chivalry. From The New York Times:

The exercise had been scheduled to take place on Wednesday. Female and male students, who had been reading “Beowulf” and the works of Chaucer, were given assignment sheets that described 11 “rules for chivalry.” They would be awarded 10 points for every rule they followed.

Boys were asked to rise any time a female student or faculty member entered a room, to avoid profanity or “vulgar words” and to “allow ladies to leave the room before they leave.”

Girls had to walk behind men or “walk daintily, as if their feet were bound”; address men with “a lowered head and a curtsy”; “clean up” after their male classmates; and “obey any reasonable request” from a man.

According to Colin Tynes Lain, 18, a senior, the teacher had anticipated backlash and said students who were uncomfortable with the assignment could write a one-page essay instead.

In the past, Mr. Lain said, the teacher had given parents and teachers a written disclaimer explaining that the goal of the project was to show how the chivalric code was used to obscure chauvinistic principles that harmed women.

“That’s what she was trying to pull our attention to,” he said. “That this was not chivalry in any way.”

But to read the comments, the teacher was perceived as some boneheaded cave dwelling man who was trying to suppress women with a backwards assignment meant to push them down. And when I gently pointed out that the teacher was a woman who was trying to teach about how chivalry was actually not so good, I got a lecture about racism and misogyny from several “woke” ladies who felt I needed a “schoolin'”.

I commented again that many of the students had been looking forward to the assignment. And they also had an alternative assignment they could do if they didn’t want to participate in the teacher’s lesson on chivalry. But that comment only served to further inflame the “woke” woman who hadn’t bothered to read the article, along with a few others who felt this assignment was so damaging. So my parting shot, which got lots of likes, was something along the lines of.

“Y’all can spare me the lectures on misogyny. I’m simply reporting what was in the article. I didn’t say I liked it or agreed with it. If more people would read before commenting, the world would be a better place.”

I often complain about conservatives. But you know what? Sometimes liberals are just as bad. Some of them have this agenda they just feel compelled to push, often without any critical thinking or forethought applied whatsoever. They often make judgments without knowing all the facts or context. And, just like conservatives, they often make perfect asses of themselves.

I will admit, I have read about some assignments that appeared to be especially tone deaf and ill considered. For instance, just last year, a high school teacher in Iowa was placed on leave for asking students to pretend they were “black slaves”. The assignment was made for an online learning program. A surprising number of teachers have attempted to teach kids about slavery via role play, which is bound to be a bad idea.

The same issue came up in Wisconsin and Missouri, and not just in terms of teaching students about slavery in the United States, but also in history. For instance, students learning about the Code of Hammurabi and Ancient Mesopotamia were taught about the concept of “an eye for an eye”. Punishments for slaves were also discussed. A teacher in Long Island, New York was also disciplined for having students write something “funny” about pictures of slavery. And a student teacher in Tennessee was in hot water for asking fourth grade students to recite graphic, violent methods of controlling slaves. Those lessons made some students distinctly uncomfortable. From the New York Times:

Role-playing can be an effective pedagogical tool, but teachers have to be very careful that they are not reinforcing negative gender and racial attitudes, said April Peters-Hawkins, a former sixth-grade teacher who is now a professor of school leadership at the University of Houston College of Education.

“What we typically see is marginalized groups continuing to be marginalized,” she said. “Black kids being asked to play the roles of slaves, Jewish kids being asked to play the role of victims of the Holocaust and girls being asked to be subservient.”

I think some people felt this assignment would make some girls feel uncomfortable, so they brought up their concerns. Unfortunately, it then became international news and, I think, it got blown entirely out of proportion. And now, the narrative has become completely distorted from the facts.

It’s easy to react to inflammatory headlines without actually getting the facts. People are often eager to promote a progressive agenda, but are loathe to think first. On the surface, this assignment about chivalry seems like it would be offensive and wrong. It sounds like the teacher’s methods might wind up marginalizing girls. And no, it’s not a good thing to teach females that they are to be subservient to men, especially in the year 2021. But if you actually read about the intent of the assignment, it sounds a lot less offensive. Especially since participation was entirely voluntary.

I will grant that the chivalry assignment probably should be reconsidered, but not necessarily because it will damage or offend students. I think it should be reconsidered because of the court of public opinion, our culture of people who don’t want to read before they react, and people who claim to be open-minded but actually aren’t. Frankly, it’s very irritating to get lectured by people who can’t even be bothered to read before they comment. They’re usually people who feel like their (often uninformed) opinions are so very important to share, but don’t care about anyone else’s opinions. And you can’t have a discussion with them because they refuse to consider all sides of an issue. It’s like the thinking has already been done, and not by them, personally.

The teacher who made this assignment is described as “caring and well-liked”. I wouldn’t want to see a good teacher who is caring and well-liked canceled from her profession because of uninvolved people who are hell-bent on thinking the worst about her intentions. I hope she hasn’t been harassed, and I’m glad her name has been kept out of the media.

I know how much time, money, and training goes into making good teachers. I also know that a lot of them don’t get the respect and consideration they deserve. It’s a shame that some of them are punished for thinking outside of the box, even if the lesson ends up being a flop. I hope this teacher will continue to try to teach students the truth about so-called chivalry, even if this particular role playing method is now off limits.

Kinda reminds me of how people have been offended by this classic Randy Newman song… which isn’t actually about “short people”.

He doesn’t mean he doesn’t like people who are short like me…

Incidentally, I have some people on my friends list who are notoriously bad about reacting to headlines and not actually bothering to read. Yesterday, I shared the video that was in yesterday’s post about Gloriavale Christian Community. Two people left me sad reactions, even after I commented that it wasn’t a sad post. Seriously. Watch the video. It’s not a sad tale– it’s a triumphant tale about a STRONG woman who left a truly oppressive and sexist cult. But people are gonna react… and I say, if you’re going to form an opinion and make a public comment or reaction, isn’t it better to actually know what you are reacting to? I think it is.

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