Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Lady Legends: Mireya Mayor

Dr. Mireya Mayor, "the female Indiana Jones", National Geographic wildlife correspondent, mother of five kids under 8, scientist, explorer, Ph.D. in anthropology, and author of Pink Boots and a Machete.

*Disclosure: link through my Amazon Associates account.

When Lies About "Real" Manliness Kill

If you've not yet heard the news about Rodger's shooting spree and the misogyny that spurred it on, you can read about it here. It gives me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. A chilling statement like "I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me but I will punish you all for it," followed by a killing spree-- it's just an isolated incident from a deviantly violent man, right?

Maybe. It comes awfully close on the heels of Maren Sanchez's tragic stabbing death at the hands of a fellow student who she didn't want to go to prom with. Following that incident, I had been thinking about the role TV advertisers played in that death. I've heard or seen it said many times when someone's pointing out the sexism or stereotypes in advertising-- "Advertisers just give people what they want to see. They just use what sells."

But what if they're selling death?

How many thousands of TV commercials have aired that equate masculinity with irresistibility? The man at the bar drinking the right beer with a woman on either arm, so enthralled with his manliness that they don't mind only getting half his attention. The man with the right aftershave who turns the head of every bikini-clad supermodel on the beach. Use our products, advertisers whisper, and you won't even have to ask. Women will be falling over themselves to get into bed with you. You'll be rugged, have that perfect five o'clock shadows, the body of a movie star, and if you have that and our product, what woman could resist you? The perfect man-- irresistible.

In a media-saturated society, many men hear this message over and over, day after day, from so many different sources. It's not surprising if some of them take it deeply to heart. And if manliness equals irresistibility, what does it mean when you're not irresistible? The implication is that a rejection at the hands of a woman has nothing to do with personal incompatibility, or that she's not interested in a relationship right now, or any other logical reason why a woman might not want to be with a man. The implication is that she's emasculating you. Because if you were a "real" man, she wouldn't stand a chance. Her petty female personal preferences would be swept away in the face of "real" manliness.

Couple that with a movie culture that marries manliness with tough-guy violence, and even if all the advertisers intended was to sell some aftershave, they are contributing to a swirling pot of misogynistic violence against women who dare to turn down men.* We cannot afford to think it's okay to just "use what sells", we cannot ignore this stereotype, when the side effect is women being killed.

*Although the extreme violence in the above cases is thankfully more rare, street harassment "rejections" are often met with the same breed of aggressive disdain for women who aren't interested in the catcaller.

We Call This A Summer

Young love, we call this,
twenty-five, wading in a rough sea;
we take the salt waves full in the mouth.
Side-by-side in the green Moroccan-tile shower
we strip off our shorts and shirts
and wash the sand from our skin.
This is how an oyster makes a pearl.
This is how a starfish grows a new limb,
moon-bright in the tide-pool constellations.
These are the jellyfish stranded on the sand after high-tide,
 purple as a bruise, sharp-tongued in their small deaths.

 We return to the shore again and again,
driven by the humid air inland.
Sunburned, scoured by the sand,
my hair coarse and bleached,
here we are again, waist-deep,
chest-deep, lifted and pummelled
as by a bare-knuckle boxer. Young love,
we call this, and we fight like anything to
stay afloat. At night the moon
 lopes across the water and I wear your jacket;
I've pocket full of cobalt seaglass,
and a book of matches, and furious heart.

 We call this a summer, hot as asphalt,
green as dune-grass. We call this a summer,
wild as the grey Atlantic waves, or as a fistfight,
or love.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Toddler Tuesdays: The Stay-At-Home Life

"But there’s a limited window when the kids are young and we have an opportunity to shape and share their most formative experiences. The stay-at-home life is not economically possible for many people (though I think many of us assume it’s less feasible than it actually is), and there are many in-between options that include part-time work, freelancing, job sharing, etc. But to dismiss the possibility of spending more time with your kids after just five weeks (five weeks!!) is profoundly sad."
"Many of us who have our first kids in our 30s (or 40s) are reluctant to fully embrace fatherhood because we fear that we will become a clichĂ© — the minivan-driving dad with yogurt stains and vomit on his sweats — or worse, a feminized loser who wipes up snot while his wife brings home the bacon. We hold fast to the hope that having kids won’t need to be disruptive and that we can still take them to hip hang-out spots or fit them into our snazzy condos. But kids are disruptive, and they should be disruptive. If they don’t reorient everything about ourselves and our identities, then maybe we are just a bit too wrapped up in ourselves."

-From Let Her Eat Dirt.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


Cakes, veal, cheese, pearl onions, pomegranates-- what odds does it make? You will find these are the cakes of an expert hand, rough with age, tough with sun. Under the green oaks, out on the salt plains, do we not all wander like Hagar, like Lot?

My darling, if God will send a ram! There are some things too sacred not to laugh at.

Quote: From John Newton's 'On Controversy'

"There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God."

Wow. Wow. As a person who loves a good debate, this whole letter was excruciatingly convicting and helpful to me.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Orrery (Suffice It To Say)

I. Uranus
A message erased
before you had a chance to read it,
but it read like a harness, like strong arms,
like charcoal and red clay, and who am I to talk?
Murmurs in the dark (the sweeping dark of starlings)
and what washes in on the high tide
are a message erased before I had a chance to read it.

II. Neptune
When like Lot and his family we fled that darkness
empty as a moon and naked of atmosphere:
suffice it to say I never looked behind me.

III. Saturn
A solemn morning, damp with the dew on the cedars,
and my hand is in yours. Consider this a diagram,
mechanical and systematic, of the solar flares, the
cold dark lunar night, of the calendar year
with the pride of empires
and the wild, fair roots of a laurel tree.

IV. Jupiter
If nothing else,
we have the intricacy of our moving parts,
the cogs and gears of your late nights,
Angostura bitters, steady patience
like a vein of amber fed intravenously
into my wrist. The magic tricks, ink or
engine grease on our knuckles, white teeth
nipping the flesh of a lychee or perhaps your neck,
a Galilean moon in either hand and
one in my pocket for good measure.
No, I can hang on; I can wait.

V. Mars
What doesn't kill us makes us
furiously in love.

VI. Earth
Some thorny problem or another,
I suppose: desert cacti, garden roses,
mountain pines, field thistles,
it's all one. If you listen very close,
you can hear the hum of the
very core of the planet.

VII. Venus
Here it is, laid out to the best of my honesty,
sweet, and spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon,
and stubborn as anything.

VIII. Mercury
Blue-black ether for miles between us,
and all I can think of is the minutest things:
the rim of your skin eclipsed in sunlight,
an eyelash on your cheek for luck;
suffice it to say almost any word
will suffice.

IX. Solas
Consider this a chart of the stars by which,
God helping us, we can painstakingly calculate
the way to land. (And ah, my darling! There is
milk and honey there.)

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Toddler Tuesdays: Native Reading Book Review

I have always been of the opinion that early reading is one of the best gifts you can give a child. Having been an early reader myself, I've seen the worlds of knowledge and adventure opened up to me by my ability to read quickly, fluently, and with good comprehension. There can be a tendency with material promoting early reading to assume it means competitive helicopter parents forcing their children into academia when they should be having unbridled playtime, but this book-- and my own approach-- are much different: they promote the joyful, rewarding aspect of learning that comes from mastering subjects young enough that they are second nature to a child. With reading, especially, not needing to labour over sounding out words or struggle to comprehend the gist of a sentence means you are free to revel in the deep, meaningful emotion of stories, or drink deeply of the wells of information available in nonfiction.

Native Reading aligns beautifully with this point of view. Premised on the fact that children are primed for language acquisition between the ages of zero and three, and based on Kailing's own experiences teaching his son and daughter to read, this book outlines 12 ways you can help make learning to read as intuitive as learning to speak for your child.

Lest you think that this means drills or hard work, let me give you the most important of the 12 ways: point to the words in books as you read them to your child. No drills, no hard work, just helping your child to make the connection between the spoken word which their brains are rapidly making connections about, and the written word.

I highly recommend this book and am excited to see Scout Kid and Feral Kid's reading skills blossom. I have been using the pointing technique since Scout Kid was probably 8 or 9 months old (although I only just read the book) and when he pretends to read, he always points at the words-- he understands that I am not just pulling stories out of thin air, but that the words on the page corresponds one on one with what I say. I have begun using the other equally simple and toddler-appropriate techniques in our reading and play; now I guess I just report back before Scout Kid turns three to see if he can read yet!

Disclosure: link is through my Amazon Associates account.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Music Mondays: Banana Pancakes, Jack Johnson

I don't know if anybody else is still listening to Jack Johnson, but it's great weekend music. Or if it's not the weekend, it's great afternoon-snack-with-a-two-year-old music. We were eating Ants on a Log so a song with bananas seemed appropriate.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Houselove: Brick Walkway
After digging a moat around the house in order to waterproof the basement, our yard is basically just a mudpit right now. But someday we'll grade and seed it and when that happens we will once again need walkways that aren't made of muddy two-by-fours. This is nice and visually impactful and a big step up from patio stones. And I often see free brick offered on Kijiji...

Complementarianism and Natural Leaders

The other weekend, I was involved in a discussion about whether complementarianism was based on fundamental characteristics of men and women. The argument I was opposing ran something like this: men in general have personalities and intrinsic qualities better suited to leadership positions, which is why God assigns them as natural leaders (not just in the church and in the home, but in business, politics, and other secular spheres as well.) Now, as is common in a group discussion, nobody really gets to explain their points to the fullest, so I wanted to sit down and write out my point of view in full, for my own sake and for the interest of anyone else who reads it.

Aside from the scientific evidence* and my personal experience (i.e. seeing a pretty even spread of personality characteristics across my circles of acquaintanceship), the main reason I disagree with this argument is because I think it actually undermines the entire position of complementarity (ironically enough, since the people who hold to deep intrinsic differences as the reason for complementarity would intend to uphold it). There are three ways in which I think this argument undermines complementarianism.

First, it borrows a leaf from the egalitarian position that a person's talents and characteristics would be the strongest influencer to God in determining who should be given which tasks among his people. But in looking at Scripture, I don't see evidence of this. I see the God who chose stuttering Moses as the spokesperson to a power-mad Pharaoh, insignificant David as the most important king of Israel, the prostitute Rahab and the foreigner Ruth as key players in the line of the promised Messiah, Christ-hating Paul as the great missionary of the early church. We serve a God who delights to use the weak to do what we would humanly assign to the strong. 1 Corinthians 1 leaves us in no doubt of that: "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God."Now, this is not to say that God never uses people's natural talents and inclinations to work His purposes; of course he does. I merely wish to point out that it is a misrepresentation of God to assume that that would be as important to Him as it is to us. God does use people's talents. He also uses them in spite of their weaknesses.

Second, it demeans the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit within the Trinity. As complementarians, we understand complementing roles to be a reflection of the complementing roles within the Trinity. We affirm that while God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit are the same in essence and divinity, there is within the Trinity a hierarchy in which Christ submits in everything to the Father and the Spirit is subjected to the Son's authority. If we are to follow this parallel through logically whilst assuming that male-female roles in the church and home are based on ability, we would then have to assume that the Father is more powerful and better suited to leadership than the Son, who is in turn more powerful and better suited to leadership than the Spirit. But the very beauty of Christ's submission to the point of death is that he was powerful enough to escape his death at any time. Satan tempted Christ to this very thing in the wilderness, urging him to throw off his self-sacrificing submission to the Father's will and seize kingship of the Earth by his own strength. In turn, we see that the Spirit is capable of great, awe-inspiring acts of healing, revival, and other miraculous events, but He chooses most often to work quietly away at our hearts, doing the humble and largely unseen work of rooting out sin in God's people. Thus I would argue that the roles within the Trinity-- and by parallel the roles within the church and family-- as not primarily based on ability, but on willing submission to God's redemptive purposes.

Thirdly, and perhaps most practically, if it were true that male-female roles were assigned based on intrinsic suitability, surely that would excuse anyone who deviated from this general norm from submitting to these roles? If we accept that men are generally more aggressive, competitive, authoritative, and logical and thus better suited to leadership, while women are generally more gentle, cooperative, supportive, and emotional and thus better suited to following, then wouldn't we need to logically allow the women with more leadership ability to use their God-given abilities in a Sunday service, or let more passive, suggestible men let their wives take over in providing direction to their families? After all, if God assigns the roles based on what we're naturally good at, that would show that He wants us to do the things we're naturally good at. The logical outcome of an ability-based role distinction seems to me to be functional egalitarianism.

In the past, many arguments for male leadership in the church included false affirmations of women's emotional hysteria, inferior intelligence, and less discerning minds. Today, let us not be the generation of the church who seeks to root God's assigned role distinction in women's inability to lead. It will make us look foolish in the eyes of anyone who has ever seen a woman competent in leadership, and ultimately it will not lend strength to our position.

*Which, for example, tells us that men and women are much more neurologically similar than they are different, and that our hormonal differences grow more or less pronounced in direct relation to how pronounced the difference in our activities are.