First Steps


My grandson Michael has seemed on the verge of walking for weeks. He has been able to stand alone, unsupported, for longer and longer stretches. Yesterday, he finally had a big enough audience--his mom, me, his grandpa, and his Aunt Rose. Luckily, Rose had her digital camera out and was able to capture his first steps. He is 10 months old today.


In Praise of XKCD

Enjoy more cartoons like these

XKCD updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


My Own Voice

About six weeks ago, I started commenting on political blogs. I conceived of a new identity Redstocking and started a blog called Redstocking Grandma.

I have not been able to manage two blogs and have neglected both of them. Redstocking's career as a political commenter is coming to an end. Trying to support Hillary on progressive blogs has been a bruising experience. My mothering and grandmothering experiences are not separate from my feminism and political convictions. I have found a more comfortable home on Shakesville, a feminist blog I can't recommend highly enough.

Since I am retiring Redstocking, this blog will be more political than it has been before. I am going to stop blogging under pseudonyms and blog under my maiden name. I have transferred my Redstocking posts here, retaining their original date. Surely, at 62 and 1/2, I should be able to claim my own voice.

Even Feminist Cats Lack a Sense of Humor

From Feministing.

Joy of Calling Someone a Sexist Pig

Occasionally, in the debate over the media coverage of Hillary Clinton, some outraged feminist accuses a male blogger being a sexist pig. It brings back such fond memories of my twenties, when such an accusation might be taken seriously by your brother, or boyfriend, or husband. I wouldn't have sex with my first husband until he read Simone De Beauvoir's The Second Sex and proved he wasn't a sexist pig.

It saddens me how often I am tempted to hurl the epithet at young male bloggers I had formerly admired. Perhaps their mothers should consider acquainting them with the term.

What confuses me is the temptation to hurl the accusation at women, successful, highly educated women, who join the gangup on Hillary or don't defend her against the most egregious attacks.Whether you support Hillary or not seems beside the point. She is courageously standing in the firing line for all women, proving she is tough enough, that she will fight back, that she won't wilt or cower. I am proud of her. Things should be much easier for the next woman candidate.

Equality Feminism and Difference Feminism

This was written in response to a perceptive critique of my feminist rants. I entirely agree with you "that being a feminist means rejecting some of what feminism had to say over the past 40 years." What has accompanied the success of feminism is less appreciation and support for the vitally important work of caregiving. Years of child care and elder care are not seen as the excellent job qualification they so often are. Christian fundamentalists have valid points about the neglect of children and elders in today's post-feminist society. We cannot abandon this issue to them.

Thank you for bringing up the illuminating distinction between equality feminism (women treated the same as men) and difference feminism (specific role differences require specific protection for women to allow them to participate equally).What is biology and what is learned gender role in the perceived differences between men and women? Because I have 5 very different brothers and 4 very different daughters, I question overemphasis on innate differences. The spread of differences among people of the same sex seem as great or greater as the differences between the sexes. At 8 months, my grandson clearly resembles his adventurous, world-traveling mother; he is as different from two of his aunts as his mother is. We would need several generations of both men and women equally involved in raising young children to make any significant judgment about innate sex differences.

Childbearing shifts the equation. Doctors advocate nursing for a year as the ultimate preventive health measure. So for about two years per child, women do need special accommodations. As you say, Europe in general has much better support for new mothers. They recognize that everyone benefits if new parents can afford to bond with their newborns and children receive as much parental care as possible in the early years. Fathers and mothers are equally capable of parenting young children; exclusive breastfeeding only last six months. Many heroic women now manage to work full time and give their infants only their own milk.

Day care of infants and toddlers, if done right, is usually prohibitively expensive financially. Babies usually get sick far more often in day care, and their parents have to scramble for alternatives just as their babies are needier and fussier. Premature group care is frequently emotionally expensive for infants and toddlers. My oldest brilliantly explained her daily meltdown after full-day kindergarten: "Mommy I used all my goodness up at school." Society needs to make changes so that both parents could work a part-time and/or home-based schedule in their children's earliest years without losing their benefits or harming their possibilities for career advancement. Onsite day care could be an alternative offered by all large enough companies and organizations.

Wisdom of Tears

You can tell by the strident, angry tone of this post that I originally posted it on Redstocking Grandma.

I have to wonder if all the people, men and women, ranting about Hillary's "fake" tears react the same way to loved ones crying. Do you accuse your mom or your sister or your wife or your kid of using tears to yank your chain? Do you tell your son that big boys don't cry? Do you fight tears at sickbeds and funerals? I have watched people cry for 62 years, and it's bullshit that her reaction was staged. If it was, she should get the Oscar for best actress. . SHE DIDN'T CRY. Her eyes might have been wet, but there were no tears cascading down her cheeks. Good crying is usually noisy as well.

And if she had cried, what the hell is wrong with that? The human experiment with the patriarchy has not proven that bottling up your tears in a gun or a knife or an automobile or a fist rather than letting them gentle your cheek advances the human condition. I feel very sorry for people who has not enjoyed the therapeutic relief of crying. The most essential equipment in a shrink's office is the box of tissues. You could always sit on the floor. Some shrinks feel you are just wasting time until you are able to cry.

Rooted in Community

When I compare my life with that of my parents, they were far more rooted in the community. Raising six kids and sending them to Catholic schools on one middle-class income, they had to make their own entertainment.We didn't get a TV until I was 14; we got a decent turntable about the same time. The radio was our main entertainment source. I recall the thrill of my own radio as a birthday present; I could listen to Dodger games whenever I wanted. Movies were a luxury; we ate out about three times year. We entertained ourselves by visiting family and friends. On Sundays we often visited my nearby aunt and uncle and watched Disneyland. All of my 45 first cousins were an easy drive away. There were gangs of kids in the neighborhood to play baseeball with, shoot baskets, play badmitten, voleyball. Someone's basement had ping pong or a pool table. We were not entertained as poeople are now. They was no extra money for music or dance lessons. The local high school and a swimming pool and we hung out there.

Card playing was the way adults socialized. Almost every adult was competent at cards, and many were excellent bridge players. My parents played bridge with people in the neighborhood at least once a week. Every home had a card table.People almost always had a deck in their bag or their pocket if you had to wile away time. Periodically my family discovers there is no cheaper or more varied form of almost free entertainment.

My mom and dad were tremendously involved in the social action outreach with the local Catholic Church. My dad was head of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which ministered to poor struggling families in the parish. He visited the local nursing home every Sunday without fail. They visited parish families in need once a week. Some evenings he was called out to visit a family experiencing a sudden emergency. When they moved to Long Island in 1947, our town lacked a church. They and their friends raised the money to build a church, a convent for the nuns, a rectory for the priest, a grade school for 800 kids. That represented tremendous dedication to fundraising for a working class community.

The local library was in a former mission church run by volunteers for the first ten years.I had been infected by my parents' community spirit. When the library was vandalized when I was 9, my best friend and I volunteered two times a week to sort it out. I remember the chief volunteer struggling to explain to us the difference between fiction and nonfiction

Silence on Family Issues

No candidate has my enthusiastic support on the family issues vitally important to me. They act as if universal health care will cure all family problems. We desperately need policies that will make it possible for both men and women to have careers and take care of their children and their elders. Maternity, paternity, and aging parent leave is obviously a priority. The medical and family leave act has to be extended to all businesses and organizations, large and small, and the government will need to be involved in funding that.

Excellent day care for babies and toddlers is too expensive for parents to pay for because it requires an extremely high teacher/child ratio. Only the affluent can afford a nanny even at the less than living rates most nannies are paid. The government is eventually going to have to support child care for children under 5 just as they support education for children over 5. Child care workers ideally would have college degrees in early child education and be paid the same salary and benefits as school teachers. Dedicated present child care workers should be eligible for governments grants paying their college tuitions.

The health care proposals of the candidates don't try to come to grips with long-term care. Virtually all private health insurance is no good whatsoever for what is dismissed as custodial care, which is care for people who are not going to get better, because they are old and are eventually going to die of their chronic diseases, even if they live 15 years with it. They don't need skilled nursing, so Medicare is no help. Instead they need help with dressing, bathing, toileting, medication, transportation, shopping, eating, laundry, transferring from one place to another. If they have dementia, they need constant supervision so they don't wander off and get hit by a car, fall down the stairs, leave the stove on and start a fire, leave the water running and flood the house. Medicare covers only very short-term care for people recently discharged from hospitals and capable of recovery and progress. For example, Medicare only pays for physical therapy if your therapist can document that you are making steady progress. They don't care about help that would keep you out of a nursing home.

Many people could stay out of nursing homes if there were government programs that paid for the necessary home modifications necessary to them in age in place. Financing ramps, guardrails , and stair lifts is lots cheaper than paying for broken hips and nursing homes.

ursing homes in New York City and Long Island cost more than $100,000 a year. Home health agencies charge $18 to $20 per hour for home health aides. Medicaid is more likely to cover nursing home care than home care. Desperate, people spend down all their resources and are then eligible for medicaid. Well spouses don't fare that well, but at least they are now able to keep their houses. Affluent families hire lawyers to hide or transfer their assets, so they can go on Medicaid, make the government pay what they could afford themselves, and save their children's inheritance.

Don't think long-term health insurance is the solution. The amount that man long-term health insurance pays is laughable; my mom had a supposedly good policy that only paid for 6 hours a day. Lots of policies seem like a scam; they have so many disqualifying conditions that your only chance of collecting anything is hiring an expensive case manager.
Home health aides are shamelessly exploited by home health agencies supposedly under government supervision. The aide gets less than half of the 18-20 an hour charged by the agency. Yet many long-term health care policies require you to go through a home health agency, instead of hiring the aide privately and paying her a living wage.

If any of the candidates, Republican or Democratic, are addressing these cruciai issues, I haven't heard them.


Childbirth--Feminist Choice Issue

If you are thinking of getting pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or already pregnant, buy or borrow two excellent new books--Pushed by Jennifer Block and Born in the USA by Mardsen Wagner. Read them before your next OB appointment; they might substantially reduce your likelihood of having a C-section. As a long-time childbirth activist, I am appalled that so many American women face returning to work six weeks after major surgery.

Marsen Wagner is formerly the director of Women’s and Children’s Health at the World Health Organization (WHO). A whistleblower, he offers a scathing attack on obstetrical standards of care, suggesting they are abusive at worst, and based on nonscience that mainly serves doctors’ interests at best. Jennifer Block was an editor at Ms. magazine and a writer and editor of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Her book, extremely readable, covers much of the same ground Wagner’s does. Read the excellent, lengthy review in the Women's Review of Books:

Here are two central facts about American birth: first, the US spends more per capita than any other developed nation on maternity care. Second, the World Health Organization ranks the US thirtieth out of 33 developed countries in preventing maternal mortality, and 32nd in preventing neonatal mortality. Our country is not doing well by mothers and babies.
Both these books describe, in splendid detail, the myriad interventions of “active management”—the practices perpetrated upon even a healthy woman planning the most unremarkable of births. Although these practices may help in critical situations, they are more likely to cause harm than good in a normal birth. For example, active management includes the induction of labor in as many as forty percent of all American births, even though this leads to longer and more painful labors and “ups a woman’s chance of a [cesarean] section by two to three times,” according to Block. ...Active management also includes speeding up a woman’s labor with the use of Pitocin in perhaps a majority of American hospital births today. According to Block, “a recent American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG )survey found that in 43 percent of malpractice suits involving neurologically impaired babies, Pitocin was to blame.” And it includes routine electronic fetal monitoring, used in 93 percent of hospital births even though studies show that its only effect is to increase the c-section rate.

The quintessential intervention is the cesarean section, which is how nearly thirty percent of American women delivered their babies last year. WHO says that when a population has a c-section rate of higher than fifteen percent, the risks to the mother and baby outweigh the benefits—and a WHO study found that “the main cause of maternal deaths in industrialized countries is complications from anesthesia and cesarean section,” Block reports. She cites another study published last year, of 100,000 births, which found that “the rate of ‘severe maternal morbidity and mortality’—infection requiring rehospitalization, hemorrhage, blood transfusion, hysterectomy, admission to intensive care, and death—rose in proportion to the rate of cesarean section.” As for the baby, other research has found that “preterm birth and infant death rose significantly when cesarean rates exceeded between 10 and 20 percent,” and that “low-risk babies born by cesarean were nearly three times more likely to die within the first month of life than those born vaginally.” Nonetheless, ACOG not only rejects the fifteen percent target, but even continues to support the idea of elective c-section.

What are your alternatives to an interventionist and/or C section birth?

As evidence is increasingly showing, the people who best enable normal births are midwives. Obstetricians, after all, are surgeons, and many never witness a natural, normal birth in their training. Midwives, in contrast, are women who know that one of the best answers to pain is sitting in a warm tub, who know how to manually palpate a woman’s belly to find the baby’s weight and position, and who know how to help a woman handle labor in ways that facilitate birth.But midwifery in the US is up against some powerful forces—mainly, again, obstetricians and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Doctors throughout American history have worked to discredit midwives—labeling them dirty, uneducated, and unskilled—and to drive them out of business. Today certified nurse-midwives who practice in hospitals report having their hands tied by doctors and hospital protocol.

Is it possible for change to come from women themselves?

Block ends with a challenge to today’s organized feminists to bring birthing under the umbrella of “choice,” quoting childbirth educator Erica Lyon, who says, “I think this is the last leap for the feminist movement. This is the last issue for women in terms of actual ownership of our bodies. It will take a revolution."

These books deal only peripherally with one of the most problematic issues: what do you do when women freely choose, or think they freely choose, medical procedures that increase their risk and that of their children? If women believe their obstetricians are their best advocates, how do you convince them to think skeptically? Until women take birth into their own hands, until they realize that doctors are not necessarily women’s advocates, until they seek out the evidence, which is in these books but not in doctor’s offices, about the normalcy of birth and the dangers of interventions, they are going to continue to believe that birth is a crisis about which only one person – the obstetrician – knows best.

We fought this battle in the 1970s and early 1980s and thought we were winning. I had four children between 1973 to 1982; two were hospital births, two were home births. I employed one obstetrician, one family practioner, and two nurse-midwives. I was given pitocin against my will for my only OB-assisted birth; I received no other medications.


In Praise of Shakesville

Shakesville, formerly known as Shakespeare's Sister, is one of the first blogs I read everyday. It addition to being brilliant, politically astute, shrewdly feminist, it is hilariously funny a great deal of the time. My blog would be infinitely better if I reproduced in full their best post of the day.

Melissa McEwan lists "10 problems, in no particular order, with positively invoking Patron Saint of Conservative Fuck-Knuckles Ronald Reagan for any reason." I will just list the first three. Read the whole post.

1. He is the patron saint of conservative fuck-knuckles. In a hotly contested Democratic primary for the presidency, following eight long years of a Republican presidency which has left progressive activists exhausted to their very bones with outrage fatigue and fed up to the bloody teeth with conservatives, trying to distinguish yourself by claiming to be Reagan's heir—even if it has absolutely nothing to do with Reagan's actual policies—is stupid. And infuriating. And bound to be misunderstood. Praising Reagan for being a transformative visionary, in spite of both his actual vision and into what he transformed the nation, demands a pretty rigorous patience of people who have an understandably negative visceral reaction to Reagan, as they tease out the precise nuance. And, in the end, "I don't like anything Reagan did, but I like the way he did it" probably isn't a statement with enough value to haunt progressives with Ronnie's specter, anyway. We don't like it—and rightfully so.

2. "Reagan was central casting for the presidency. He was all morning in America with nothing to back it up."

3. "Ronald Reagan didn't appeal to people's optimism, he appealed to their petty, small minded bigotry and selfishness. … There's enough hagiography of Reagan on the right, I don't think Democrats really need to go there."


Nevada Lullaby

Last night’s debates have been characterized as Nevada lullaby, but I was relieved. It reminded me why I was a Democrat; all the candidates remembered that they were running against the Republicans and George Bush. They decided to quell accusations of racism and they kept their ground in spite of Russert’s goading. It was very collegial and chummy, lots of Hillary, Barack, John, some teasing, considerable laughter. This look like a Democratic Party that could unite a month from now and run an excellent campaign, easily beating the Republicans.

Obama and Hillary seemed very close on Iraq. She shrewdly used her opportunity to question him to ask for his support on a Senate resolution requiring Bush to get Congressional authorization for any agreement with the Iraqi government binding the next president.

I hope Obama has realized that his best chance of winning the African Americans is not by accusing the Clintons of racism, but advocating specific programs—preschool programs paid for by the government, after school and summer programs, parent education programs, drug treatment programs rather than jail for first-time offenders, government-created jobs in public works, a better deal for home health aides and child care workers. Why doesn't he propose government-sponsored scholarships that would enable caregivers to get degrees in early childhood education and thus be eligible for decent salaries and benefits? Why shouldn't the government help home health aides study nursing if they want to? Home health agencies' treatment of staff need careful congressional investigation.



Let me clarify something that frequently gets lost in my rants and raves about misogyny and sexism. and makes me come across as a more enthusiastic Hillary supporter than I actually am.

Unlike Obama, like Paul Krugman, I firmly believe in Democratic partisanship. Nonpartisanship in the last 7 years means the Democrats role over and play dead and the Republicans do what they want --torture innocents, spy on Americans, destroy Iraq, regularly undermine the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, make Bush and Cheney virtual dictators, ignore Congressional subpoenas with impunity, put themselves beyond the law. I am appalled at all three Democratic candidates, who should be hammering home these crimes in every speech, not squabbling with each other over race and gender. I wish Christopher Dodd was still in the race. Kucinich is going to be in tonight's debates. I hope he raises these issues. If the interviewer brings up racism, I think all three candidates should agree in advance to ignore the questions.

I would take gladly take a rain check on feminist and family issues and vote for anyone was calling for War Crimes Trials for Bush and Cheney. It's not that I like Hillary so much; it is that I don't think Obama is any better and will be be less progressive on domestic issues vitally important to me. I fail to see how you can make the necessary attacks on Bush and Cheney and appeal to Republicans simultaneously. Listening to the Democrats tear each other apart, you could easily forget President Bush has another year to continue destroying the constitution.

This statement, made 6/28/07, is why Obama would be no better on the most important issues:
"I think you reserve impeachment for grave, grave breaches, and intentional breaches of the president's authority,"

I would be more enthusiastic about Edwards is he stopped coming across as so angry and started talking about innovative policies and programs. For example, Long term care issues should be an important part of the health care debate. I hope the candidates don't share the popular delusion that Medicare and regular health insurance covers long-term care for people suffering from chronic diseases who need "custodial care" rather than skilled nursing care.


A Tale of Two Blogs

I recently created a new, less personal blog called Redstocking: Feminism and the Left. "Redstocking offers a feminist analysis of the 2008 presidential campaign. More importantly, I use my personal experience as a mother and grandmother and my extensive reading to explore the major social, political, and economic changes necessary so that both men and women can combine caregiving with careers. I also explore the connection between premature diagnosis of children and teenagers with major mental illness and the desperately hostile world our children now endure."

I thought I could reduce crossover between the two blogs by no longer using my name, merely writing as Matriarch and Redstocking. But Google is smarter than that, remembers the name I originally used and still reveals it on search results. That means I have to think harder about how personal this blog can be since there is a easily followed trail between the two blogs. I will probably be posting far fewer pictures and writing much less about my adult daughters. I just went through Matriarch and made about a dozen of my posts drafts, because it might annoy daughters if people read that about them.

Originally I thought I might not mention my bipolar disorder on Redstocking, but I would be muzzling myself, since I want to write about the connection between psychiatric diagnosis of children and our child-hostile society. Staying in the closet undermines my credibility and risks people's perceiving me as a scientologist who does't believe in psychiatry, when my only problem is with its excesses. Revealing my bipolar disorder enables me to control people's perceptions. Having them find out behind my back is so much worse. Here is what I shared:

I was misunderstood on another blog because I mentioned that as a social worker I sometimes called psychiatrists sweetie when I disagreed with them on a patient's treatment and wanted to make clear we were supposed to be partners, that I wasn't the humble acolyte. Now I will be brave enough to be absolutely serious and honest about something I have painfully experienced and I feel passionate about. I have struggled with bipolar disorder for 22 years and suffered much psychiatric mistreatment. Through extensive internet psychiatric research 11 years ago, I discovered the medication that proved to be the magic bullet and found a new shrink who would agree to try it. Unsurprisingly, I am skeptical about psychiatric wisdom.

Calling your arrogant, condescending psychiatrist sweetie levels the playing field better than your calling him Dr. Fount of Wisdom and his calling you by your first name. Successful psychiatric treatment requires a true partnership, where you each honor and respect the other's experience and knowledge. You need a psychiatrist who doesn't disguise his ignorance as therapeutic wisdom. Too many psychiatrists badly need to learn humility and skepticism before they treat millions more children with meds that have never been tested on children and are known to cause diabetes in adults. They need to keep up with research and learn that treating demented adults with antipsychotics can either do nothing helpful, make them worse, or kill him. They need to learn to distinguish depression from sadness. They keep advocating more nationwide screenings for mental illness, so they and their their Big Pharm bedmates can impose on more of us a lifelong diagnosis requiring lifelong meds, even though there are no physical tests to back up their diagnoses.

Given that I have been treated for 22 years, I should not have to add the disclaimer that there are real mental illness that can be helped greatly by therapy and meds. I am just skeptical that you can diagnose bipolar disorder in a three year old. When I attended social work school in the early 90s, psychiatric wisdom was that bipolar disorder could only be diagnosed post adolescence, about the time young adults started college.

If you are interested I hope you will read Redstocking. If I cross-post frequently, I will be creating more pathways between the two blogs. My main concern is violating the privacy of my adult daughters.

Lost with Michael

I had an amusing, revealing dream the other night that I was on Lost with my 4-year-old grandson Michael, who is currently disguising himself as an 8 month old. Michael was fearlessly determined to explore every inch of the island, absolutely confident that he would discover the secrets of the island and save the Losties. Quickly giving up the fantasy that my job was to protect him, I realized my job was to communicate his wisdom to everyone else who would not take a four year old seriously enough. The dream taught me that Michael loves his grandma enough to let her persist in the delusion that she is taking care of him three days a week.

What's Wrong With Calling Your Psychiatry Sweetie?

I was criticized on another blog because I mentioned that as a social worker I sometimes called psychiatrists sweetie when I disagreed with them on a patient's treatment and wanted to make clear we were supposed to be partners, that I wasn't the humble acolyte. Now I will be brave enough to be absolutely serious and honest about something I have painfully experienced and I feel passionate about. I have struggled with bipolar disorder for 22 years and suffered much psychiatric mistreatment. Through extensive internet psychiatric research 11 years ago, I discovered the medication that proved to be the magic bullet and found a new shrink who would agree to try it. Unsurprisingly, I am skeptical about psychiatric wisdom.

Calling your arrogant, condescending psychiatrist sweetie levels the playing field better than your calling him Dr. Fount of Wisdom and his calling you by your first name. Successful psychiatric treatment requires a true partnership, where you each honor and respect the other's experience and knowledge. You need a psychiatrist who doesn't disguise his ignorance as therapeutic wisdom. Too many psychiatrists badly need to learn humility and skepticism before they treat millions more children with meds that have never been tested on children and are known to cause diabetes in adults. They need to keep up with research and learn that treating demented adults with antipsychotics can either do nothing helpful, make them worse, or kill him. They need to learn to distinguish depression from sadness. They keep advocating more nationwide screenings for mental illness, so they and their their Big Pharm bedmates can impose on more of us a lifelong diagnosis requiring lifelong meds, even though there are no physical tests to back up their diagnoses. Given that I have been treated for 22 years, I should not have to add the disclaimer that there are real mental illness that can be helped greatly by therapy and meds. I am just skeptical that you can diagnose bipolar disorder in a three year old. When I attended social work school in the early 90s, psychiatric wisdom was that bipolar disorder could only be diagnosed post adolescence, about the time young adults started college.

Misunderstood Cartoon

In my high school NY Regents exams, we were always asked to interpret historical editorial cartoons in light of what we had learned about that period of American history. This would be an excellent one to use. Initially, my disgust with the cartoon was balanced by hilarity at the cartoonist's delusion that 60-year old-women suffers from PMS. One of the great things about turning 60 is that both PMS and menopause symptoms are a distant memory. Hillary is an excellent exemplar of the postmenopausal zest of older women that the anthropologist Margaet Mead spoke about.

The more I thought about it, the more I suspected the cartoon has been completely misunderstood. According to Wikipedia, Oliphant's trademark is a small penguin character named Punk, who is often seen making a sarcastic comment about the cartoon. The PMS remark is an important clue. Hillary is depicted as an old women and people still rant about PMS.

In 2005, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee expressed concern that some of Oliphant's caricatures were racist and misleading. That is important to know. Oliphant is criticizing sexist media attacks on Hillary by equating them to the rapid misogyny in some of the Arab world. After all, the world leaders repeating the US media attacks.

The demand of some liberal bloggers for Oliphant's firing is far more offensive than the cartoon. Pat Oliphant is 72 years old. The New York Times has described him as the"most influential cartoonist now working." In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize, Oliphant won the National Cartoonist Society Editorial Cartoon Award seven times in 1971, 1973, 1974, 1984, 1989, 1990, and 1991, the Reuben Award twice in 1968 and 1972 and the Thomas Nast Prize.

The responsibility of political cartoonists is to offend us enough to shake up our knee-jerk assumptions and reactions. When a cartoonist with such a superb reputation produces something at first glance so offensive, we owe him the respect of thinking about it. My 31-year -old daughter instantly "realized that it was completely tongue-in-cheek and making fun of the idea that some people actually think this is what it would mean to have a woman president."


Has Feminism Won Its Battles?

Unlike most feminists with my intellect and education, I decided to stay home with my four children full-time for 15 years and part-time until the youngest went to college. I involved myself in nonsexist childrearing, childbirth education, breastfeeding counseling, parent education, toddler playgroups, babysitting cooperatives, cooperative nursery schools, school libraries, a campaign to save the local public library, the nuclear freeze movement, mental illness support and advocacy, parent advocacy for playground upkeep and a preschool playroom, a high school group for interracial understanding--the list is endless. When I made the mistake of attending library school and social work school, I naively assumed my qualifications would be obvious and no one would dare to treat me like a beginner. I was given the responsibility of an experienced worker and the salary, benefits, and respect of a beginner.

I recall one infuriating incident during my first social work placement; my childless supervisor earnestly instructed me how to interview a client with her two year old present. I had frequently run La Leche Meetings with 20 moms and 30 babies and toddlers. Women social workers who had taken very short maternity leaves and worked full-time during their children's childhood too often acted like all my knowledge had been attained by cheating. I got more respect from male professors. The situation has worsened; women are terrified of taking only a few years off from work. And yet the men who fought World War II left their jobs for several years and did not suffer economic consequences. The government even paid for their college and grad school education.

When my mom went back to college in 1963 and work in 1968, after having raised 6 children, she was accorded more respect and her experience was more honored than mine was 20 years later Full-time childrearing is frequently belittled as beneath the time and attention of intelligent, well-educated parents, who presumably should have exploited immigrant women of color to love and understand their children while they pursued their more important jobs. Remember, things have not changed for the valiant, loving women of color who raise our children and care for our parents. I am often appalled how little highly successful two-career couples pay their nanny; many fail to provide the caregiver with any benefits, least of all health care.

I agree that most women with college degrees, graduate, or professional degrees have made enormous strides in most major professions and in the workplace generally. Even nurses and teachers have made significant progress because they unionized. Public librarians and social workers usually make less than any other professionals with graduate degrees because they are mostly women and they are not unionized.

It is only when women have children or have to care for aging parents that they fully realize that women have mostly gained the right to follow the traditional male life style, emphasizing work over relationships, caregiving, community activism.. As women chose to have children at an older and older age, the realization is late in coming. At that point their lives tend too become too frenzied and exhausting to leave any time for feminism and political reform.

Obama Should Campaign as a Feminist

My generation of feminists won some significant battles, and so brilliant younger women need not make feminism their absolute priority. I was 18 when the Feminine Mystique was published, 23 when the second feminist movement began. Belatedly, I have realized this week that feminism is my make- or -break issue. But my absolute commitment to feminist issues would not necessarily make me a Clinton supporter.

Please struggle to understand this. Men and women can be feminists. Clinton, although the target of hundreds of thousands of vituperative misogynist attacks, has not committed herself to a feminist platform. If Obama campaigned as a feminist, spoke out against the sexistattacks against Clinton, and made family issues an essential part of his platform, I would work for him in a heartbeat. I am sure Michelle Obama could write eloquent speeches for him. That he doesn't seem to be considering a potentially winning strategy indicates how thoroughly feminist and family issues have fallen beneath the political radar. I can't figure out why.

I might even prefer to vote for feminist Obama than a beleaguered Clinton. Voters would find it much more possible to understand feminist issues if a younger candidate was explicating them. Even as I type, I am struggling whether I should add "a younger male" candidate.

I was flabbergasted when Obama's aide Jesse Jackson jr. seemed to be competing with Chris Matthews for woman hater of the day. Obama's failure to repudiate or fire Jackson offers me no security he even understands feminism, never mind supports it. Perhaps his daughters need to educate him.


Obama, Clinton, Reagan

I am a lukewarm Hillary supporter. When I watch her debate or answer vote's questions, her intellect and amazing knowledge make me more enthusiastic. Many things about Obama appeal to me, but I am baffled by his campaign strategy. I am puzzled why he is appealing to independents and Republicans in the Democratic primary. I would hope that most independents are so fed up with Bush that they don't need appealing to. A strong partisan Democratic campaign should win easily. His strategy will cost him votes from the strong traditional Democratic base--Hispanics, Blacks, Jews, women, union members, liberals, working class people--if he is seen as too moderate.

In an interview with the editors of the Reno Gazette-Journal , Obama riled some liberal Democrats with his perspective on some recent presidents.

I don’t want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what is different is the times. I do think that, for example, the 1980 election was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. They felt like with all the excesses of the 60s and the 70s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think he tapped into what people were already feeling. Which is we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

I am appalled to hear a Democratic say anything complimentary about Reagan. Reagan was a virulent racist, who who did more to shift this country right than any other politician in my lifetime. Perhaps Obama's young supporters were hoodwinked by the sickening glorifcation of Reagan after he died. I would rather rehabilitate Nixon, who supported some surprisingly liberal domestic policies What excesses of the 60s and 70s is Obama talking about?
  • Civil rights
  • Medicare and Medicaid
  • Feminism
  • War on Poverty
  • Head Start
  • The consumer movement
  • The environmental movement
  • Opposition to the Vietnam War
These were the finest achievements of my generation. Obama often seems to be running against over reliance on governmental solutions and the government bureaucracy when many of our greatest problems can only be addressed effectively by the government. It sounds reminiscent of Bush's thousand points of light.Family, child care, and elder care issues thatI feel passionately about, and society needs the federal government to address them.
  • Health care
  • Long-term health care--custodial care for frail seniors or the disabled who need help with the basics activities of daily living (mobility, eating, dressing, toileting, bathing, medication supervision) and the more practical ones (shopping, transportation, laundry, paying bills, filing medical claims. Families provide most of this care, increasingly difficult in two-career families who don't live nearby. Private health insurance and Medicare don't pay for this "custodial" care. Medicaid takes up the slack if the patient spends down their assets. Medicaid shortsightedly supports nursing home care more than home cre.
  • Home health aides are shamelessly exploited by home health agencies, ostensibly supervised by the government. The government regularly charges the patient twice what they pay the aide.
  • Child care. Excellent day care is too expensive for parents to afford because it requires a very high child-teacher ratio. Only affluent families can afford a nanny, and those nannies are rarely paid a living wage. Eventually the government is going to have to fund early childhood education the way they fund grade school, middle school, and high school education. Early childhood teachers should have the same education, salary, and benefits as regular teachers. The dedicate women who know provide daycare needed to be offered college scholarships so they can move into these career jobs.
  • Family friendly policies that enable parents to pursue careers and take care of their children and their elders. We have the worst family policies in the industrial world.Today's young parents don't seem to believe that the government should be helping them with their problems. They tend to blame their difficulties on their own inadequacies.
  • Government funded after school care and vacation care for poor children and middle-class families whose only affordable alternative is latchkey kids.
  • Government public works program to employ unemployed teenagers who have dropped out of school
That is just scratching the surface. I am intensely frustrated that none of the candidates are campaigning on a strong platform supporting parents and children.

Confessions of Misogyny

You have probably gotten the wrong impression of me because all the crap dumped on Hillary elicited my Joan of Arc persona and I was in full polemic mode. My four daughters would reassure you that I am one of the worst misogynists they know. Until I became a mother at age 28, I would always join the circle of men, never the circle of women. I was positive the conversation would be more stimulating. I despise women's fashion magazines and all the talk of diets and hair and makeup..

Spending a year in a Catholic girls college in Rochester was the most alienating experience of my life. I was sarcastic, and no one seemed to realize I didn't necessarily mean it. One night my friends and I stayed up all night, discussing politics,sex, religion, what have you. The rumor rapidly spread that we were gossiping about everyone on the floor. Learning that "there was something in the nature of a woman that unsuits her for intellectual debate with men" elicited my jail beak to being the only girl in the political science classes at Fordham.

Working in the female-dominated fields of public librarianship and social work was a disaster for me. I never can accept that is the way it is and you can't do anything about it. I am a trouble maker pure and simple. When I am upset, I defend myself by getting more ascerbic and intellectual. I perceive that men enjoy gutsy women who giggle and smile and tease and insult and debate with them lots more than women do. I have always gone to male shrinks.

My most successful social work job was working with a great group of seriously mentally ill guys who were absolutely trapped in the system. Some had been in jail; most had substance abuse problems. I never was so appreciated by a group of people in my whole life. They were so wonderful to hang out with. I excel at eliciting the sanity in crazy people and the craziness in apparently sane people. There are lots of the latter in social work and public librarianship.

I also did extremely well with male gay clients. One told me I must have been a gay male in a previous lifetime I understand him so well. I Another paid me the greatest compliment I got as a shrink: he said I was his only experience of unconditional love. We had a strange therapeutic relationship. Until I treated him, an Irishmen from an utterly abusive family, I never realized how Irish I was.

I have never been hassled on the street by a guy in my entire life. I do smile a lot. I am perfectly comfortable being the only women in a subway car full of men. African American men and immigrants tend to find older, curvier women attractive, which is lovely fun. In the early days of women's lib, women whined incessantly about street hassles. I wondered if I was the ugliest woman in the entire women's liberation movement. I often have long conversations with homeless men. One street person teased me that I looked very friendly ,approachable, happy to talk, sometimes generous depending upon whether I had exceeded my day's handout limit, but I subtly conveyed that I could turn him to stone if he messed with me.

Two days later, I realize that the attacks on Hillary by women both reflect their misogyny and evoke mine. This week, all three female columnists for the NY Times , Maureen Dowd, Gail Collins, and Judith Warner appear to despise women who are not as brilliant, rational, skeptical, and educated as they are. They show little respect for the women who voted for Hillary because of her supposedly manipulative exploitation of gender issues; they seem obnoxiously smug that they understand women's real reasons, not the fantasies the poor little darlings tell themselves . I am not as guilty as they are of despising "regular" women, but I love to hate all highly successful women who, instead of supporting and mentoring younger women, seem to want to push down other women so they will remain in all their glittering exceptionalism on the top.

Feeling Like Hillary

This is another example of why being Redstocking was such a negative experience. I don't like this strident Mary Jo.LinkEver the troublemaker, I have annoyed a regular commenter on my favorite political blogby being so persistently strident about feminist and family issues.

Feminist and family issues have fallen beneath the political radar, instead of being seen as potentially winning issues for all three candidates, almost as important as health care. When I mourned Obama's silence on feminist issues. one of his supporters cites his position papers on pro choice and deadbeat dads. Of course deadbeat dads (and moms) and pro choice are feminist issues. Family issues are even more important. I am incensed that conservatives and Republicans have defined "family issues" to be homophobia, opposition to gay marriages, denial of female sexuality, exaltation of virginity before marriage, blame for rape victims, and women's return to their homes under their husbands' rule. The viciousness of the sexist attacks on Clinton suggest that Obama's young daughters might not live to see a woman president. They might face the same difficulties combining ambition and family that Michelle Obama describes so honestly and eloquently.

Family issues are neglected by all the candidates. Liberals and conservatives, atheists and fundamentalists, Catholics, Jews, Mormons and Muslims, Democrats and Republicans --all struggle to cope with family responsibilities and career demands and blame their shortcomings on themselves. The US has one of the worst records in the entire world on this vitally important issue. Most struggling families don't believe in the possibility of government assistance. No major presidential candidate has ever advocated the necessary reforms.

I am so proud of myself. I became Hillary in only a week. I might accept admonishment, humbly repent my uppityness, renounce being a bitch, crone, and hag, and withdraw chastened, except that my arguments are v itally important to the next month of the Democratic primary campaign, and few commenters seem to be making them. At least they no longer burn at the stake intelligent, articulate, silver-haired older women who will not shut up. All of human history has tested my patience. Reassuringly, I am too old to be suffering from PMS and menopausal irritability.

Women's Issues Are Family Issues

The recurring reference to women's issues in the media needs to be clarified. Most of these are better described as family and caregiver issues. However, vitally important women's issues exist. These include the availability of abortions and the morning after pill, the scandalous C-section rate, and the obscene harassment of nursing mothers. Too many companies expect breastfeeding mothers to pump in filthy toilets for 20 minutes and refuse to provide a comfortable room for them to pump and adequate short-time storage for breastmilk.This is a health issue as well since the American Academy of Pediatris recommends breastfeeding for at least a year. Working mothers of infants are heroic, incredibly dedicated to making sure their babies only get breastmilk and not formula. Encouraging, supporting, and facilitating breastfeeding is an integral part of wellness and prevention.

The best way to reduce the C-section rate is to to use nurse- midwives for normal births, but obstetricians fiercely resist giving nurse-midwives hospital privileges. At this point in New York City, the first question after how big is the baby is did you have a C-Section? It appalls me that the most educated professional women in history are allowing that to happen to them. When I was pregnant with my first child 35 years ago, baby books advised not considering a doctor with a C-section rate higher than 5 percent. Obviously the human race would have died out long ago if a 30 to 40 percent C-secton ate was the norm. I crusaded for natural childbirth and had my two youngest daughters at home with a nurse midwife.

Virtually all nannies and human health aides are women. In New York and Long Island they are almost always women of color. They can't afford to own cars. They have to struggle to work on public transportation that doesn't necessarily get them where they need to be; some take three different subways and buses. Agencies fail to even provide a mapquest to the client's home. Some caregivers have left their own children in the Islands with relatives, so the moms can make enough money to rescue her own kids from abject poverty. How shamelessly they are exploited is certainly a vitally important women's issue. Caregivers who are illegal immigrants can be virtually slaves, too afraid to complain or quit because they will be deported. Home health agencies charge the clients more than twice the amount they pay the women who actually doing the caring. They have absolutely no job security. Most have no health benefits, no disability benefits, are not eligible for unemployment. How we treat these loving, warm, compassionate, kind women is a national disgrace.

But almost all other "women's issues" are parent issues, caregiver issues. We seem to have made no progress on parents' sharing equally in child care and elder care responsibilities. The oldest daughter (if there is one) is usually her parents' caregiver, no matter how many siblings are in the family. Caring for aging parents disrupts women's work schedules even more than caring for young children.

The mommy wars drive me round the twist. In the 70s the feminist agenda was that society and the economy would change fundamentally so that moms and dads could share equally in child care. Now everyone seems to work longer than a 35- or 40- hour week; grandparents are either employed or too far away; day care centers are not staffed by professional teachers with a career path, so the turnover is constant. How dedicated can anyone afford to be at $8 to $10 an hour, often with no benefits? Excellent day care, where teachers are educated, accredited, and paid like grade school teachers, is very expensive, and the state would have to offer considerable support.

Men almost never work in day care or nursery schools; the sexual abuse day care hysteria ended that. People don't want to hire boys as babysitters or men as nannies. That is revoltingly sexist. Misogyny is hatred of women; sexism applies to both sexes. Women seem to have made more progress than men in bursting through gender stereotypes. So guys, you might be entitled to call your mate a "female chauvinist pig," though you might spend the night on the couch. Men rarely seem to complain about the sexism inflicted on them since such criticism would be seen as girly.

When I was struggling to practice nonsexist childrearing in the 1970s and early 1980s, I noticed that parents of boys have a much more difficult time. Strangers abuse mothers on the street if the boy's hair is too long, his colors are considered girly, he is carrying a baby doll, he is crying. They are frequently accused of making their sons gay. I have five brothers and four daughters; my mother raised my brothers to share the housekeeping and the childcare. I love to take care of my 8-month-old grandson three days a week. He greatly resembles his adventurous, world-traveling mother, who has lived in places like Niger, Kosovo, and Rwanda. I eagerly await defending this enchanting bundle of rambunctiousness from sexist constrictions of his creativity and determination. Together we could run a childproofing business. When I put him down on any floor, he immediately crawls toward the most dangerous object in the room. even though there might be dozens of more suitable things for him to play with.

When I lamented the lack of male participation in the blog, Unfogged, I got this discouraging reply:
"It's a bit of a chicken and egg problem; as long as childcare (and kindred professions) is seen as feminized, it will be a pretty small minority of men who will consider this kind of work, and therefore the proportion of perverts in that sample is going to be way above average. Anecdotally I would say that the same is true, for slightly different reasons, of scout masters, camp counselors, and wrestling coaches. In a sense, it's not irrational when people look askance at a man interested in taking care of children; there is an inclination to ask oneself whether there is some nefarious ulterior motive at work. A result of sexism? Of course. But the motives of the individual are not necessarily sexist".

My answer: My brother has been an elementary teacher in Portland Maine for about 20 years. He laments that male teachers would be terrified to touch or hug a 5 year old who had hurt himself or herself, although a female teacher would be glad to do so. It is outrageous to say the perverts are more likely to care for young children. I doubt that perverts are more likely to choose to work for peanuts. What possible proof can you give? How can men tolerate such assertions? What message does it convey to young children if they have no male teachers. Boys learn that only girls are caregivers. People speculate the boys have more trouble adjusting to the feminized environment of school.

Things were different in the 1970s, at least in New York City. Nursery schools and kindergartens tried very hard to recruit male teachers. When my daughter went to a Montessori nursery school down by the world trade center, she had a wonderful male teacher. Fathers spent lots of time taking care of young children and to the best of my knowledge their willies don't fall off. Whoops, I am married to an Englishman. Taking care of young children is incredibly exciting and fascinating. They are the best learners and the most creative free spirits you will ever encounter.

Every industrial Western nation has more family centered government policies than we do. American families no longer believe that government could make it more possible to be good parents, good caregivers of the elderly, and good workers. I hope the first woman president can implement significant change.



Isn't Fighting Sexism a Progressive Value?

Melissa McEwan has an excellent article on Shakesville, pointing out that Edwards and Obama should be commenting on the sexism directed at Hillary Clinton.

Read the whole article. Here is part of it:

Isn't it? One wouldn't think so, given the way Hillary Clinton's peers are allowing her to be subjected to all manner of indignity on the basis of her sex, with nary a peep in her defense. John Edwards' response to reports of Hillary's emotional moment—which, once the national press was done with it, had turned into a full-blown emotional meltdown—was disgraceful. Obama merely declined to comment in this case, but he hasn't gotten to New Hampshire with clean hands, having recently reduced Hillary Clinton's experience as first lady to attending tea parties; then, responding to being called out by the Clinton campaign on the obvious sexism of that jab, he denied he was referring to her gender (really?—he'd describe a man's experience as having "tea" with people?) and resorted to a thinly-veiled update on the old "hysteria" chestnut: "Those folks must really be on edge."

Yes, that must be it. Or, perhaps, they were rightfully angry about the oblique use of sexism as a political weapon from their own side of the aisle.

Further down:

Obama and Edwards ostensibly believe that men and women are equal; the people who share that belief should expect them to endeavor to defend that principle at every turn, not just when it is politically expedient. See, the thing is, it's been politically expedient to throw women's rights under the bus before, and some of us would like the assurance that we're casting a vote for someone who regards women's equality as an unyielding and constant principle—not a bargaining chip nor just another plank in a platform that can be discarded as necessary. If these blokes refuse to mount a vociferous opposition against sexism on the campaign trail, just because it helps them, that doesn’t bode well for the women they seek to represent as their president.


What Is a Redstocking?

This was one of my first posts on Redstocking Grandma.
For the first time ever, my daughters and I disagree about a presidential candidate. I am the only one who supports Hillary, even though we all agree on the most important issues facing our country and loathe her support of the war.. In lengthy discussions, I have aware of how much our generations' experience of feminism accounts some of our differences. So I decided to create this blog to expand our dialogue to a wider audience.

I wonder how many of you have heard the term "redstocking"? It derives from the word "bluestocking" which was coined in 1790 to describe women having literary or intellectual interests. Bluestocking is often used derisively to describe pedantic women whom no man would want to touch. Redstockings are intellectual women of the political left. I joined the Redstockings in 1969; it was a focus of feminist activist and consciousness raising in New York City.

Through raising four daughters, caring for my parents, being an editor, librarian, and social worker, I have not renounced being a Redstocking. As Gloria Steinem says in today's New York Times, women are the only group who tend to come more radical as they get older.'

Belatedly, I have realized I did not emphasize feminism sufficiently in my daughters' education, though both their father and I struggled mightily to practice nonsexist childrearing. I did not buy them copies of the books of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer, Simone De Beauvoir, all essential books in my intellectual and political development. I don't believe any of them have read Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook or Children of Violence series, which combines feminism and politics. I don't understand my motivations. Do I really think the feminist battles were won?

This blog will combine current political discussion with description and analysis of my rocky road toward being a 62-year-old redstocking. I was always a feminist, but the second feminist movement only began after I graduated from college. My intellect and my emotions were going in different directions. I did not live the life I anticipated, a successful career as a college professor of political science. I did not become the dedicated public interest lawyer I aspired to. I chickened out of Columbia School of Journalism. I found staying home with my four daughters the most fascinating intellectual and emotional work I ever did. My daughters have been able to transcend my limitations.


I have started to post to the leftist blogs I have been reading for years. This is how I made an entrance on one of them:

To all men , especially media, commenting on Hillary's looks, wardrobe, and voice:

I am a 62-year-old feminist, the mother of 4 daughters, the grandmother of an 8-month-old boy, the wife of an Englishman 16 years younger than I. In my gorgeous youth, I was a radical feminist, a civil rights and anti-war activist. I am unquestionably dumpy and dowdy. And I would like to knee in the balls every man who comments on Hillary's appearance , pants suits, or her shrill voice. I wish their mothers, lovers, or wives would deride them as sexist pigs at least three times daily. I wish no one would have sex with them until they repent. I have 5 younger brothers, and I haven't tolerated this crap since my brorther was born when I was 18 months old.

Hillary got rightly pissed at being portrayed as an agent of the status quo by Obama and Edwards. The media spin is that Hillary had a meltdown.

I am a overachiever. I have gone beyond shrill meltdown to hysterical meltdown. I prefer to characterize myself as pissed.

Actually I adore men, love to argue with and tease them when they are wrong, and have never kneed anyone in the balls, even my five brothers and my ex-husband, who got our marriage annulled after 28 years.


Where Am I?

I am not sick or depressed. I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I have just been swept up in my lifelong politics obsession as the Democratic primary campaign has begun. My blogroll is half mothering blogs and half political blogs, and I have been concentrating on the political ones. Up until now, I have read, not commented. I am spending lots of time talking on the phone and emailing my most political daughter. I have realized how much our different experiences of feminism have shaped our views on the importance of a woman president.

Today I started commenting on political blogs and began another blog, Redstocking Grandma. At least until the Democratic race is settled, probably in early February, I will be spending more time over there. I have wavered between supporting Clinton and Edwards. I have briefly flirted with Obama. The relentless attacks on Hillary have awakened my dormant radical feminism.


Golden Compass and Children's Reading

I have followed with great interest the ongoing discussion of the Golden Compass, the movie based on the first novel in Phillip Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials. These young adult novels could fairly be termed anti-organized religion. The movie is getting lukewarm and poor reviews and low attendance. Its opponents probably should stop giving it free publicity by calling for boycotts. I urge parents to read these three excellent books and struggle with how they would answer their teen's questions about them. They are not children's books; almost all public libraries classify them as young adult novels suitable for high schoolers.

The Archbishop of Canterbury had a more enlightened approach. He has had public discussions with Pullman and urged that religious educators use the novel in classes with teenagers. At a certain point, all believers have to struggle with the history of their faith and its failure to live up to its beliefs. It seems far better to do that as a teenager with adult guidance from fellow believers.

My parents never censored my reading. They supported me in my 11-year-old effort to convince the local librarian to allow me to check out adult books. The Catholic Church's index of forbidden books was a factor in my eventual estrangement from Catholicism. I never censored my four daughters' reading. But I always paid careful attention to what they were reading. If the book was questionable, I read it too and discussed it with them. His Dark Materials was published after they were grown, but I have analyzed it with the two daughters who have read the trilogy.

I took a very different approach to TV and movies. I believe children can protect themselves from upsetting reading, skipping over the violent parts, choosing not to continue with the book. Scary, violent movies and TV shows are far more likely to cause nightmares and persistent fears. For five years we didn't have a TV; their watching was always restricted. At one point we had a lock on our TV. I have always objected to violence far more than sexuality or bad language.

As a librarian, I would be opposed to removing His Dark Materials from any high school or public library. The books are considered among the best young adult novels of the last ten years, far better written and more demanding than Harry Potter. A boycott of a novel written 12 years ago indicates that the boycotters don't read enough. The bright side of the controversy is that more people will read the books. When I recommended the books to mature teens, they claimed they were too long and too hard. Banned books always increase library circulation.


The Electrician

As the oldest of 6, the mother of 4, I have always been fascinated by children's individual differences. Anne and I have been speculating about what kind of a child Michael will be since he was born. She was an explorer, walking and climbing stairs at 9 months, walking up to early large dog in Central Park at 1, mastering slides, climbing structures, ice skating, cartwheels, head stands much earlier than her friends. However, she never showed any interest in electric outlets.

My youngest, Carolyn, resembled Anne, but was considerably more ambitious. She crawled before she was 5 months; delighted to pull herself up to a stand leaning on our kitten. She needed three sets of stitches on her face before she was 2 because she always ran in a small house, colliding with stairs, pianos, and coffee tables. Michelle and Rose, my middle daughters, required entire different childproofing, because they had far more advanced small motor skills, so knobs came off stoves, electric outlets were barricades, cabinets had more complicated locks.

At 7 months, Michael clearly has the small motor skills of Michelle and Rose. I hope he is less challenging because he doesn't have older siblings unchildproofing as fast as I could childproof. Michelle loved to make "potions"; I dreaded a phone call to poison control explaining that the baby had drunk a liquid containing bees, dandelions, contact lens solution, detergent, desitin, chocolate, yogurt, perfume.

Childproofing is considerably easier in a 2-bedroom apartment than a 2-story house, except for the terrace on the sixth floor. Michael is clearly demonstrating the persistence and determination all my daughters showed in their different ways.

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December 1, 2007--Sixth Anniversary

This post is a few days late. Saturday was our sixth anniversary. People tend to assume that for an Englishman to marry an American citizen is straightforward. In September 2001 I applied for a fiance visa so Peter could come over from England and marry me. The process is complicated. We had to submit airline tickets and pictures of every visit over the previous 5 years. Peter had to provide a police report from everyplace he had lived; fortunately English has a national police system. I had to give a full account of my finances to prove I could support him. Peter had to have a thorough medical exam and numerous immunizations.

Once the fiance visa is approved in the US, it is sent to the American Embassy in the UK, and the procedure begins anew. You have to marry within 90 days of using your fiance visa, so we planned to get married within two weeks of his arrival. We didn't know exactly when Peter was coming until three days before his arrival.

We had a very small civil ceremony--my mom, our daughters, our son-in-law, my best friends. I wore red; the girls wore black. We got married at the home of a Justice of the Peace; our wedding dinner was at an excellent restaurant that had recently opened two blocks away. My mom was wheelchair-bound, so we needed someplace nearby.

It was the best wedding ever, and we are living happily ever after.


Sharing a Room

Emily at Wheels on the Bus had an excellent post today on children's sharing rooms. Since I had a 2-bedroom apartment, a 3-bedroom apartment, and then a 3-bedroom house, my 4 daughters always shared rooms until the older ones went to college and shared rooms with absolute strangers.

Growing up, I was the only girl with 5 younger brothers; from the time I was 7, I had my own room. Before that, I shared a bedroom with my 2 younger brothers. I always wanted a sister, and I would have been happy to share a room with her. I always had roommates in college and in my first Manhattan apartments before I got married. My husband came from a family of 5 kids, and he always shared a room with his brother.

We took it for granted that our kids would share bedrooms. Originally we planned to stay in a New York City apartment, and only millionaires have a big enough apartment to give each of 4 children their own room. In no way did we ever feel we were depriving our kids because they didn't have their own rooms. In our 3-bedroom Manhattan apartment, 3 of them decided to sleep in the same bedroom, so they could use the extra bedroom as a playroom.

Getting the baby out of our bedroom was much easier because she looked forward to sharing a room with her sisters. Sharing bedrooms made bedtime easier all through early childhood.
I suspect my girls are closer because of their enforced togetherness. Sure there were conflicts, especially over cleaning rooms. I do recall my second child putting a strip of duct tape down the center of the room to establish cleaning responsibilities. Possibly they played more outside their bedrooms since they had less room.

Sharing rooms is excellent preparation for college. My kids always had roommates in college in dorm rooms much smaller than the usual bedroom. At Yale, one year, they had to share bunkbeds. In major US cities, most people share apartments for economic reasons.

I am 62. I only had my own room for 16 years--11 years of my childhood and 5 years between marriages. I have never felt deprived:)


Weekend Visit with All My Daughters

So far, I have mainly shared some struggles with my daughters in childhood and adolescence. Talking too much about their present lives seems a violation of their privacy. I might have given the impression that everything is lovely now that they have grown up. It's more complicated than that. Often I try to avoid thinking about disappointments and hope that once they become mothers, things will change. I discipline myself not to nag them about calling or visiting so infrequently. Certainly my relationship with Anne, my oldest, has become even closer since she became a mother.

All four of my daughters and their guys visited the first weekend in November. It wasn't planned far in advance; it just happened. Two are in Boston and one is in Chicago, so I don't see three of them nearly as much as I would like to. Marriage and in-laws complicate holiday get-togethers. Three of them aren't celebrating Thanksgiving with us for the first time. I know Anne is disappoined that Michael doesn't see more of his aunts and uncles.

The visit was great. Everyone lavished love and attention on Michael, who was his usual friendly, happy self. For once I didn't try to do more than I could manage without resentment; my injured knee helped to lower my and everyone's expectations. We had cold cuts for lunch and pizza for dinner instead of our making lunch and dinner. No one complained that our house wasn't up to the standards of their true loves' mothers. The girls didn't act like a bunch of selfish brats who will always expect to be waited on, who complain about the house but never lift a finger to clean. I did not have to question my whole childrearing philosophy. Had I raised ambitious members of the new ruling class or decent, helpful human beings? Their husbands/boyfriend helped clear off the table, loaded the dishwasher, made coffee, because their moms obviously trained them better. I was lavish in my appreciation.

Often it works better for them to visit one at a time. Returning to their childhood home often seems to evoke mass regression. My husband grew up in a civilized English home with only one sister. He finds it overwhelming when all 4 of them are talking at once, interrupting each other. Rose got married in 2002; Anne and Michelle in 2005. Carolyn met her true love last year. Having 4 guys around is delightful and brings out the best in everyone. Three years ago I created a family email list including me, my husband, my ex-husband, the four girls and their four guys. Six months ago, when Michael was born, I started describing his development in a photo blog. Everyone reads all their email and the blog, so we stay connected with each other's lives.

I am jealous of mothers whose children live nearby. Rose does want to come back East from Chicago as soon as her husband, an economics professor, gets another tenured position offer. Michelle and Carolyn are probably in Boston for good. I recall asking a library patron if her children lived close; she said, "no"; one was in Manhattan (20 miles away), one was out on Long Island (25 miles away). At the time Anne was in Niger and Michelle was in Australia on business. My uncle warned me if you send your kids away to college, they will never move back close to home, and that seems to be true.

August 1976--Feminism and Motherhood

Reading my 1970's journals is both fascinating and disquieting. Do I still know this woman? Would I make friends with her? Would I read her blog? My present husband admits he would have been terrified to talk to her. Part of my confusion is rooted in the times I grew up, in the 1950s and early 1960s, long before feminism. If my oldest daughter Anne had 5 brothers, she wouldn't have received such contradictory messages on achievement and motherhood. All my siblings believe I deserved my struggles with Anne, since I gave my mom such a hard time:) I vividly remember my brother Andrew saying to me right after Anne was born: "Good, you have a daughter to fight with. That must make you very happy."

8/31/76 Since I started journaling, I had many insights into my difficulty in choosing a career. It's intimately bound up with my family, being the only girl with 5 younger bothers. The roots go back a generation; my mother had 5 younger brothers plus a sister she never had very much to do with. In the jargon of early feminism, we were both "male-identified." As a girl, I was very close to my 5 young uncles.

My mom was a tender, attentive mother who adored little children and managed them beautifully. How could I have not wanted to be like her--beautiful, vivacious, outgoing, loving, warm, playful. But I was nothing like her; I was shy, quiet, introverted, likely to be ignored in a crowded classroom. I always preferred reading to socializing. I always struggled with my belief that my mom wanted a daughter who was more like her rather than like my quiet, introverted, mathematician dad. I enjoyed babysitting; I never regretted being the oldest in a large family. As a child and early adolescent, I adored babies. My uncle had twins when I was 12. I often visited and helped them out, and tormented by mom by hoping that her sixth child would be twins. I frequently took care of my younger brothers when they were babies and toddlers.

Everything changed when I started high school and started to get attention for being smart. Early in high school I rejected my mother's world and chose my father's world. But even when my father agreed with me intellectually, he never supported me in my arguments with my mother; instead he blamed me for getting her upset. After my first daughter Anne was born, my dad told me he preferred wise women to intellectual ones. So I rejected my mother's world, yet I was close to my mother and dependent upon her. No wonder we were constantly fighting. What did my mother symbolize to me? Mindless maternity. A good mind going down the drain with the millions of dishes washed, the millions of diapers rinsed.

I perceived her as a good mother of young children, if not of troubled adolescents because she accepted things, did not probe, question, challenge the way things were. She found it easier to put others before self because she did not have a highly developed sense of self. I on the other hand was selfish and immature, putting my own intellectual development above all else. I clearly saw a dichotomy--wife and mother versus intellectual. No woman I had ever personally encountered had combined both. In fact, the nuns were the only career women I knew. All my aunts, mothers of my friends, the neighbors were housewives. I was in the process of rejecting Catholicism, so I never got close to any nun for her to serve as a role model. I began to suspect I never would get married, that the only way to attract a man was to play dumb, something I would never consider. I wasn't really rejecting motherhood; I never thought much about it. But when my first boyfriend wanted to tease me, all he had to say was that I was like my mother. I couldn't imagine anything more insulting.

I always sought out situations where I could be the only woman in a group of men. I didn't want to seduce them; I wanted to excel them. I made the mistake of going to a Catholic women's college my freshman year, Nazareth College of Rochester, because they offered the most scholarship money. Almost immediately I wanted to transfer. I told my parents I wanted to switch my major from English to Political Science, and Nazareth had no such department. I was only interested in college debate after the assistant dean explained that Nazareth had no debate club because "there's something in the nature of a woman that makes it objectionable for her to compete so openly with men." At Fordham I was usually the only girl in my political science classes. At Stanford, there was only one other woman among the first year grad students. I was positively crushed when I realized how many women there were at Columbia Law School.

It wasn't enough for me to think like a man; I had to think better than a man. I only made friends with women who had also rejected the conventions of femininity.

Everyone in the family perceived my dad as smarter than my mom, even her. She would always send us to him for the hard math and science homework. We were amazed when she returned to college and got all A's. And the mother who graduated form college in 1967 and grad school in 1968 and taught high school history was a different mother than the one I knew growing up. Looking back, I see my mother's ambivalence. My evident influence over her, that fact that she went to college when her youngest entered school, how hard she worked as a student and a teacher, her still emerging feminism all suggest she might have been giving me contradictory messages. Unquestionably, she identified with my opportunity to go away to college, my getting a NYC apartment, my opportunity to get a PhD all expenses paid--such chances were unheard of among her friends when she was my age. When I told her I was dropping out of Stanford and marrying John, she attempted to dissuade me. She never attempted to convince me to have a baby before I was ready to have one. Her reluctance to pressure me seemed to indicate that she would have done the same thing if circumstances were different. I was destined to go beyond her wildest dreams, and she would be very happy for me. Throughout my adolescence and young adulthood, the "masculine" intellectual, achieving, ambitious, competitive side of my personalty was nourished and encouraged by everybody.

So many of my school and career problems are unquestionably related to my constant striving to be a man, to deny my womanhood. That's why I am only discovering child development as a possible career. Any career involving children was feminine and therefore unworthy of my superior intellect. It was against all my principles and preconceptions to feel overwhelmingly maternal toward Anne. I thought the maternal instinct was a myth and suddenly I was wallowing in it. I suddenly understood had my mother could have decided to have six children. I still cannot understand how I suppressed the woman who can't pass a baby stroller without smiling and flirting with the baby, whose favorite section in bookstores if child care and children's books, whose favorite stores sell infant and toddler clothes. When all that arose to me, what had been thoroughly buried for at least 15 years, no wonder so much else came to the surface with it. I often wondered if I had had to have a postpartum episode to become a different creature, a mother.

During that first year after Anne's birth, I had to learn that I needed people, not just brilliant intellectuals, ordinary people to talk to, to get ideas from. I needed to relinquish my faith in the overriding importance of rationality and learn to trust my emotions. I could learn from almost every mother I met; I could get support from most mothers I met if I could learn how to ask for it.

However, I should have reread this journal before deciding to become a public librarian and a social worker. Having four daughters has not removed the influence of my five brothers and my five young uncles. I still don't do very well in women-dominated professions. I have always been more comfortable with male psychiatrists, both as a patient and as a therapist. I still love competing with and debating with men. As a social worker, I worked best with clients who were schizophrenics with serious drug problems and often prison records. I suspect I would have done well as a prison social worker. Late at night, I am comfortable in a subway car that is all men. It is still easier to approach a group of men than to approach a group of women. All my life I have struggled with the fear that women won't like me if they really know me. I've never learned tact. Men are easy; they enjoy bright, argumentative women who smile, call them sweetie (because I am not good with names), genuinely admire their ties, shirts, long hair, earrings, or beards, and obviously enjoy them.


Ten Random Facts about Myself

Earlier in the week, Eve tagged me for the meme, 7 random facts about myself. Since I am so ancient, I am listing 10.

  1. I was a tomboy as a girl. Partly, it was circumstantial. I went to grade school out of town, and all but one of my friends was a car-ride away. There were only boys in my immediate neighborhood. So I always played with my 5 brothers and their friends. I could play a good game of baseball, basketball, and touch football, climb trees, roller skate, ice skate, bike, swim, throw a mean snowball. I always love to beat boys in games; later, I found it was even more fun to beat them in school and debate club.
  2. I was a fanatic Brooklyn Dodger fan. My obsession started when I was 10, when the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series. My mom and I were Dodger fans; my dad and all my brothers were Yankee fans. I memorized the baseball rule book. My brothers used to challenge their friends to ask me anything about baseball, and I was rarely stumped.
  3. For 6 years my best friend Anne and I spent the entire summer making crafts in summer school, then sold them door to door in September to raise funds for her aunt, who took care of lepers in the Fiji Islands. We took this project very seriously and planned it all year. We both had to overcome our phobia about ringing on people's doorsteps.
  4. The first chapter book I read was the Wizard of Oz. I was obsessed with Oz, often pretending I was Ozma of Oz or Glinda the Good. I read every single Oz book. I also read every single Nancy Drew mystery. Anne and I used to walk two miles to the closest Salvation Army thrift shop because they sold Nancy Drew's for 10 cents each.
  5. In Manhattan I lived on the 19th, 20th, and 25th floors, with great views either of Central Park or the Hudson River. I am excited that my daughter is moving to an apartment with an excellent view of the Empire State Building from her living room and her terrace.
  6. I met my second husband Peter on a Jane Austen online email list. He was in London; I was in New York. We had a long-distance relationship for over 6 years before he swam the pond to marry me in December 2001. I am an expert on US immigration laws; Peter became an American citizen May 9 this year, the same day our grandson was born.
  7. I can do without candy, cake, cookies, donuts, pie, but life wouldn't seem living without ice cream, particularly Breyer's Peace and Cherry Vanilla. If someone told me I would live five years longer if I never ate ice cream again, I would have to think long and hard.
  8. My family only got a TV when I was 14. For 5 years, when my 3 older children were young, we didn't have a TV. My first husband used to tease me that when I died, I should donate my brain to science as the 20th century women least affected by TV. That has changed in the last 10 years. My youngest daughter and I spent 4 years by ourselves, after my first husband left and her three sisters had gone away to college and careers. Being her good mother meant watching TV with her. From then on, I have been hooked. However, I only turn on the TV to watch specific shows; I never switch it on to see what's on. I never watch TV when I am alone. Our regular shows include Heroes, House, Bones, Lost, Brothers and Sisters, and Survivor.
  9. Since I was 12, I have read romance novels. When I discovered Jane Austen had only written 6 novels, I settled for Georgette Heyer. I particularly like Regency Romances, set in the Napoleonic era. I always read historical romances, never contemporary ones. When I am feeling down, soaking in the tub and reading a romance novel is an absolutely reliable anti-depressant. In the last six years, since I married my true love, I read more mysteries than romances. Now I believe no one should apologize for their reading tastes. When I was younger, I used to hide my romances behind my serious fiction. I am certain that a lifetime of romance novels prepared me for Peter's and my improbable long-distance romance. Only a hopeless romantic would believe in a love story that transcended 3,000 miles, a 16-year age difference, and a 5-hour time difference (actually the biggest challenge).
  10. All my life I have had cats. Our 20-year old cat died a few months ago; now we have a 15-year-old prima donna named Fibi. Fibi makes me appreciate the old joke: "dogs have owners; cats have staff."
I am supposed to tag 7 random bloggers. But almost all the people who comment on my blog have already answered this meme. If you haven't, I tag you.


NYTimes--Bad Behavior Does Not Doom Pupils, Studies Say

The New York Times has an important article today that is must reading for all parents concerned about their young children's behavioral problems.

Bad Behavior Does Not Doom Pupils, Studies Say --by Benedict Carey
"Educators and psychologists have long feared that children entering school with behavior problems were doomed to fall behind in the upper grades. But two new studies suggest that those fears are exaggerated.

One concluded that kindergartners who are identified as troubled do as well academically as their peers in elementary school. The other found that children with attention deficit disorders suffer primarily from a delay in brain development, not from a deficit or flaw.

Experts say the findings of the two studies, being published today in separate journals, could change the way scientists, teachers and parents understand and manage children who are disruptive or emotionally withdrawn in the early years of school. The studies might even prompt a reassessment of the possible causes of disruptive behavior in some children.
“I think these may become landmark findings, forcing us to ask whether these acting-out kinds of problems are secondary to the inappropriate maturity expectations that some educators place on young children as soon as they enter classrooms,” said Sharon Landesman Ramey, director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education, who was not connected with either study. "

My comments: Parts of the article annoyed me. The experts seemed perfectly comfortable with kids' taking stimulants for ADHD until their development catches up with prevailing educational norms. They do concede that most kids grow out of ADHD. Why is American society so comfortable with drugging kids rather than changing schools so they can accommodate kids with different learning styles and different rates of cognitive development?

My two older children went to an excellent public school near the World Trade Center, run by a very gifted principal, Blossom Gelertner. Blossom felt that teachers and parents should not be concerned about boys who were slow to read until the boys were 8. My daughter teaches first grade in Boston; teachers now worry about kids who can't read when they enter first grade. I have always been an excellent reader, but I only learned my letters in first grade. By the end of the year, I was reading at a sixth grade level. Experienced parents have learned that readiness is all when it comes to crawling, walking, talking, toilet training, weaning, the move to a regular bed, etc. What have so many educators forgotten that lesson?


Doubts about Feminism, 1971

As I have mentioned, I was very active in the feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although I described myself as a radical feminist, I always had misgivings. I explore them in this journal entry from October 1971. Talking about a 20-hour work week seems preposterous now, but it seemed a realistic goal once upon a time in the 1970's.

Are men necessarily the enemies? Adopting that logic, couldn't women be categorized as the enemies? Must there be an enemy? Must the movement have a scapegoat? There is a danger of generalizing for all women from a few women’s (typical, atypical) experience with men. Perhaps many men are baffled rather than hostile. They have been socialized to believe the myths, so they do believe them. Why does the movement assume that their motives are vicious?

Perhaps the myths are harsher than the realities. Individual women are treated better and respected more than social mythology about women dictates. The movement shouldn't present what seems to be a fatal choice: true autonomy or loving, intimate relationships with men. If all men are despaired of, shouldn’t most women be despaired of? Have women tried hard enough to explain themselves? Or would they rather renounce men than fight through to an accommodation?

The movement stresses relationships with women because they are easier (at least for many women). There is no need to confront the enemy directly. Women often have bravely attacked men in coffee klatches, but they then have gone along with their own men, having worked out some of their hostilities with other women. I don't understand; because of my five brothers, I have never had any trouble confronting men.

At times Women's Liberation is vulgarly careerist. There is very little speculation on changing the nature of work. There is no recognition that women’s jobs, not men’s jobs, may be the desirable jobs of the future. Many dominant economic values are accepted. A job’s value is measured by its pay or its status. There is total denial that raising young children is a uniquely demanding job, calling forth an infinite range of talents and imagination.

Feminists lack a strong grasp on job alternatives. I am frustrated with so much loose talk about expressing creativity in jobs. Don't women recognize what most workers do, not only blue and white collar workers, but professional and managerial ones as well? Creativity is the value much stressed by woman’s magazines. Be a creative homemaker. The movement often seems to accept this definition of creativity. There is no recognition that post -revolution many, if not most, women might have less creative jobs than they do now. Volunteers are often allowed more autonomy and outlet for imaginative change than regular staff would be permitted,

Emphasis could have been completely different. Feminists need not have accepted the male value that your job is everything, completely determining your value and what people think of you. Alternatives include--more leisure, 20 hour week for everyone, change hierarchical nature of work, decentralize it, recognize that much work is unnecessary in a more rational society that won’t need 100 brands of detergents, toothpastes, and feminine hygiene deodorants. Many jobs now are completely unproductive. Most jobs are not inherently creative. What is a creative job anyway? The solution may be to give people more time, real time, to be creative off the job.

My close friend said almost any job is preferable to staying home with the kids. That is a preposterous statement, particularly from a so-called radical who pays lip service to human values. That is not to say that childrearing as it is now arranged is perfect. We might benefit from more stress on communal childraising, not necessarily so parents can get a “job,” but because it may be a better way to raise children from both parents’ and children’s point of view. I am the oldest of six; growing up in a large family with a positive experience. My parents seemed to have less need to control our direction in life than the parents of my friends with fewer siblings.

The nature of work must change in our society. Women should be at the forefront of the battle for change. Autonomy and self-sufficiency cannot be pictured as depending on capitalist recognition of worth. Rather the economy should be made to value and reward the kinds of work that woman do. Men have problems with women’s lib on this point. They can’t seem to believe that women would want to have equality in men’s world. How many men would trade roles if only the objective nature of what they had to do was the consideration and not society’s evaluation of it?

Perhaps the major emphasis must be on changing society’s evaluation of women. Otherwise, when women enter or take over traditionally men’s fields, they would only decline in relative prestige. It can’t be difficult or challenging job if mere women can do it. Emphasis should not be on merely putting women in out-of-home jobs. The nature of reward for jobs should change. Money must cease to be the major incentive. The gap between low salaries and high salaries needs to be dramatically smaller. If raising young children had prestige of being a pediatrician or a child psychologist, for example, and it need not be done in social isolation, might not women and men feel differently about it? I seem to be getting away from 20-hour week. If all men and women worked, the work week probably would be less than 20 hours. Low productivity and make work have kept the work week from declining for over 20 years. Even without women’s going to work en masse, it might sink to 30 hours.

Strident Feminist Has Pregnancy Scare, 1971

I wrote these appalling journal entries shortly after I dropped out of Columbia Law School in 1971. Who would have guessed that eventually I would become the stay-at-home mother of four? However, this was also the only time in my childbearing life before my husband's vasectomy that I forgot to use birth control.

When I first realized I’d forgotten to take the pill Saturday night, I was terrified, hysterical, uncontrollable. I was going to get pregnant; my life was ruined; I could never face anyone again. I was convinced that somehow I deliberately forgot to take the pill because subconsciously I wanted to be pregnant. That would justify my not having a job, my staying home, my sleeping late, the lazy pattern I’d fallen into the past few weeks since Columbia. Then I would have all the time in the world to read, to think, to learn, to write, and everyone would think any effort on my part was commendable.

I am still torn between two interpretations of my forgetfulness. After religiously remembering to take the pill for three and one half years, it could not be just by accident that I forgot. The other is that in three and one half years it was inevitable that at some time I would forget; no one’s memory is perfect. The actual circumstances are strange too. After I finished my sandwich Saturday evening, I went into the bedroom to take my pill. Instead I put the pills in my pocketbook, thinking Chris and I might spend the night on Long Island. But I remembered taking it, even now I half remember taking it. Often at two in the morning I’ve become convinced that I hadn’t taken the pill and gotten up to check. Always I had. This is the first time I remembered taking the pill when in fact I hadn't. Of course we left for Long Island early about 6:30. Usually I take it around 8 or 9. I must have put it in my bag, thinking I would take it later.

Later I calmed down, realizing how extremely unlikely it was that I would get pregnant by forgetting to take the pill once. But more strangely and more interesting, I also calmed down because I realized getting pregnant wouldn’’t necessarily be the end of my life. I don’t think I could ever reconcile myself to having an abortion. Although I may recognize that my reluctance is the result of Catholic teachings that on the whole I have rejected, that recognition does not vanquish my reluctance. While my Catholic training hasn’t given me certainty, it’s given my doubts--the worst kind of doubts. Can you go ahead and do something when you’re not sure whether it’s murder or not? Don’t some doubts have to be resolved before you can act?

In addition I somehow feel you have to have a better reason for an abortion than we have. We could afford it. Chris’s and my joint income is easily $16,000 or $17,000. In fact, if I built up my free-lancing just a little more, we could afford the two bedroom apartment in the new building. Once I found a full-time job, we could easily afford to hire someone to take care of the baby during the day. Before the crisis I never considered the advantages of having children now, rather than five or six years from now. I have always felt I should be firmly, absolutely, unshakably settled in a career before I could even consider having children. But once you decide you’re not going to stay home and take care of the child, having one now wouldn’t hinder my career much more than having one later. In fact, now my career, being relatively new, would probably demand less than it will five-six-seven years from now.

January 10, 1972
I don’t think I quite realized how suggestible I am. Merely seeing Miriam’s baby, talking to Richard and Kathy, learning Pat was pregnant and seeing her and Peter’s excitement have set my fantasies racing. Yet rationally I know this would be the worst possible time for me to get pregnant. I’m discouraged, depressed, uncertain about what I’m going to do, haunted by the feeling I’m wasting myself, that I am a failure. Having a baby would be the easy way out. On the other hand, this time I would be jumping from the frying pan into the fire for the rest of my life. You can change schools, quit jobs, cease to see friends, but you can’t cease to be a mother. That brief little crisis when I forgot the pill seems to have had serious results. Deciding that my life wouldn’t be ruined if I got pregnant seemed to have had an incredible impact on my thinking. I wonder if such fantasies are in any way related to the fact that it’s a week before my period.

I don’t think I’m in any serious danger of giving way to my fantasies. But somehow I thought I was immune to them. I didn’t realized that I was insulated because none of my friends, none of the women I could conceivably identify with, had children. Perhaps my greatest fear is that when you have a baby some mysterious change comes over you and you either are content to stay at home despite resolutions you made before the baby was born or you are powerless to return to work even thought you might want to. I hate to consider Pat my guinea pig, but I’m very curious to observe whether and how she changes. I can’t entirely identify with her; she’s six years older than I am, and she lacks ambition. Even so I cannot conceive of her fading into a devoted mother, interested in nothing but her precious child or guilty if she is interested in anything else.

Thank God my daughters are nothing like I was at age 26. I got pregnant 6 months after this last entry.

Duck and Cover, Assassinations, Civil Rights, and Vietnam

This is a picture of Robert Kennedy speaking at my graduation from Fordham University in 1967. RFK was running for president in 1968 when he was assassinated June 5, ten days before my wedding. I had a final wedding dress fitting the day of the assassination, and I was in tears the whole time.

My first specific political memory centered around the duck-and -cover, hide-under-our-desks, exercises that were a regular feature of my early school life from age 5 on. I knew enough about nuclear war to be terrified. We lived one mile away from an air force base, and I used to go out to the backyard, look up at the planes, and try to determine if they were American or Russian. I remember getting a book out of the library on aircraft identification. When I heard Joseph Stalin died, I remember asking if that meant no one would drop atom bombs on us.

In 1954 I had a severe case of the measles and Grandma Nolan came to help nurse me. She was listening to the Joseph McCarthy army hearings. Hatred of McCarthy's voice might have shaped my entire political development. In 1956, just turning eleven, I fell madly in love with Jack Kennedy as he made an unsuccessful bid for the vice presidential nomination. A good catholic school girl, I was initially attracted by his Catholicism; ten minutes later I was smitten by his intelligence, wit, and charm. I was luckier than his other women. Loving Jack Kennedy was good for me. I read about politics and history. From 1956 to 1963, I read everything I could about Kennedy, politics, American History.. When I was 15 I did volunteer work for his presidential campaign.

In high school we had political debates to imitate the famous Kennedy/Nixon debates and I represented Kennedy. What he believed in, I believed in. Gradually I moved to the left of his pragmatic liberalism. Certainly Kennedy was responsible for my decision to major in political science in college. Kennedy's assassination, occurring in the fall of my freshman year in college, devastated me. I felt like there had been a death in my immediate family. I quickly transferred my political allegiance to Bobby Kennedy.

I cannot precisely date my interest in and commitment to civil rights. When I was a freshman, I joined my college's Interracial Understanding Group. I was envious of those college students who could afford to spend the summer down south registering voters and didn't have to worry about money to pay their tuition.

Gradually during college I became a pacifist. Opposition to the Vietnam War right from the beginning was the catalyst. My husband to be, John, applied for conscientious objector status and was willing to face jail rather than be inducted. We became very active in the Catholic Peace Fellowship, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the War Resister's League, all pacifist organizations. We went on several anti-war demonstrations both in New York and Washington. I briefly attended Stanford University where resistance to the war was at its height. Almost every afternoon, David Harris, Joan Baez's future husband, spoke out eloquently against the war.

My first job after Stanford was as an assistant to Victor Riesel, a labor columnist, who had been blinded by acid thrown in his face by the mob who controlled the waterfront he was exposing. My assignments included reading the AP ticker to him every day, clipping and reading articles in about 20 newspaper and labor papers. This was in 1968, when King and Kennedy were assassinated, when anti-war protect was at its height, so thinking about politics were my job. My decision to go to law school, where I lasted two weeks, was motivated by my political convictions.

Little Brother

I have always loved this picture of me and my brother Joe, 18 months younger, taken in the fall of 1948. This might have been the last time I had the advantage over Joe. I seem smugly satisfied by his captivity. In my baby book my mom claims that "Mary Jo and Joe were always ahead of mother. Often though she forgot he was so small and played rough." I am dubious; he does not look intimidated. Joe always pulled the wool over mom's eyes. She never knew that Joe's babysitting consisted of taking his brothers out on the roof and daring them to jump into the swimming pool.

All our lives, I have never been sure when Joe is pulling my leg. For 50 years he made me feel guilty for pushing him down the cellar stairs in his walker. He blames all his academic inadequacies on the resulting head injury. I believed him since Andrew (3 years younger) and I were so much better students. Before her death my mom revealed that Lorraine, our next door neighbor, was the real culprit. Significantly, I thought I might have wanted to eliminate him.
From age 7, I regularly asked forgiveness in confession for hitting my brothers. The priest should have been more skeptical about my resolution of never doing it again.

My mom and dad must have been dedicated to nurturing their children's unique gifts at whatever cost, so Santa was allowed to bring Joe a drum and me a baton. We lived in a tiny two bedroom, one bathroom, one-story house. Was Joe allowed to play the drum inside? This picture proves the falsity of Joe's accusation that I regularly beat him up. If I been a brother slayer, surely my mom and dad would not have trusted me with such an effective weapon. Richard obviously had not a fear in the world that my baton would come in contact with his head or his drum.

Joe is an amazing brother. I have always been in awe of him. Like my mom he much so much braver, bolder, eager to try new things, capable of stunningly creative mischief. I admired his becoming an altar boy when I knew Latin so much better. I admired his serving God and making a profit with wedding and funeral tips. I admired his persistence in track and cross country in high school when he never won and no one came to his meets. I admired his taking the driving test five separate times.

Joe came home from college with a trunk full of new shirts. He had been too busy gambling away his scholarship to do the laundry. Joe decided to try skiing for the first time the day before his wedding. He badly injured his knee and needed a shot of cortisone to limp his way up to the altar. The Epistle described how "my love comes leaping to me like a gazelle." I admired his courageous decision to resist induction into the army and go to jail if he didn't get conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. I was impressed by his success at keeping his plan to refuse induction in 6 weeks a secret from his bride's family at the wedding.

Joe has fathered 6 children, been a prison librarian, ran a gas station, taught in a ghetto school, built a playground, sold coffee and ice cream, ran a chain of newspapers, been CFO of the largest US used truck company, owned an oil company, sold escalator efficiency equipment, and finally found fulfillment as CFO of his older daughter's company. He has always been a rock, supporting me and my daughters in all our trials and craziness. Sometimes his support is endless, infuriating advice. But I always know he persists in being wrong because he truly loves me.

Does Fear of Automatic Flushing Toilets Qualify as a Psychiatric Diagnosis?

The New York Times today has an interesting story on young children's fear of automatic flushing toilets. I certainly understand their fears. My daughter Rose was terrified of baths until her dad taught her the word "vortex" to explain the water draining out of the tub.

Buried in the article in this absurd statement:
Jerilyn Ross, president of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, said that a fear of automatic toilets did not, in itself, meet the criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis. “Anxiety in and of itself is normal and healthy,” she said, “but when anxiety is excessive, irrational, and if it interferes with one’s daily life, then it may be an anxiety disorder, which is something that may need to be treated.”