Dear Santa,

I'm finding it difficult to decide what I want for Christmas this year.

So many things, and one doesn't want to be greedy and end up with coal.

Requires a lot of careful thought.

So much unrest in the world, so many things more important than my selfish wishes.

With that in mind, I have gotten my list down to just TWO choices. I would be equally happy with either. Please pick for me:


HAPPY SOLSTICE...and one more thing:

(aka Leafboy)


All Hail the Semicolon!

Ok, I was bored and tired of playing Text Twist on yahoogames. So I took the "Which Punctuation Mark Are You?" quiz. I found the idea compelling. And I'm fascinated that I am the most obscure and most often misunderstood of punctuation marks! How delightful!


You scored 30% Sociability and 76% Sophistication!

Congratulations! You are the semicolon! You are the highest expression of punctuation; no one has more of a right to be proud. In the hands of a master, you will purr, sneering at commas, dismissing periods as beneath your contempt. You separate and connect at the same time, and no one does it better. The novice will find you difficult to come to terms with, but you need no one. You are secure in your elegance, knowing that you, and only you, have the power to mark the skill or incompetence of the craftsman. You have no natural enemies; all fear you. And never, NEVER let anyone tell you that you cannot appear in dialogue!


The Gender Politics of Housework

It's been said before and in various ways (such as this great recent "Bitch Ph.D." blog post which includes commentary on the subject), the fact that housework is political and gendered should be reiterated on a regular basis for everyone of every gender and race and class. It is amazing how easily so many of us live out the patriarchal status quo in this aspect of our lives, even when we are otherwise progressive, feminist, even radical.

The Second Shift. One key concept to understanding how housework is political is to grasp the concept, developed by sociologist Arlie Hochschild, that housework is work. It is valuable yet undervalued labor because it is unpaid. And the bulk of this unpaid labor, even in dual-career marriages, is done by women, without recognition of this fact. In the 1960s, Hochschild found that women did 15 more hours more housework and childcare per week than their husbands. This results in what Hochschild calls a “leisure gap” between men and women in heterosexual married relationships: men get more time to rest and think (which can mean more happiness, more career success, more time for contemplating one’s place in the cosmos, for activism or even thinking about activism, etc.). And doing more housework and having less leisure time increases women’s anxiety, depression, and worry.

In 1997, Chloe E. Bird updated Hochschild’s findings. Using 1990 and 1994 National Opinion Research Council data, she found that: women who marry (heterosexually) gain 14 hours per week of additional household labor, while their husbands gain only 90 minutes per week; and women report doing at least 70% of household labor, while their husbands self-reported doing only 37%—whether their wives worked outside the home or not. In 2003, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted the “American Time Use Survey,” which reported that employed adult women (18 years and over) spent about an hour more per day than employed adult men doing household activities and caring for household members, and men spent more time doing leisure activities (5.4 hours) than women (4.8 hours). Though the gap may be seem to be narrowing, we want to keep in mind that the American Time Use Survey lumped financial and other household management tasks in with housework and that leisure time has been lessened over the years for both men and women in middle-class career tracks.

Though these statistics are based on heterosexual and otherwise traditional family relationships, it is important to note that imbalances in housework sharing occur in many varieties of relationship, from LGBT couples to communal homes to parent/child living arrangements to college roommate arrangements. The key is to recognize that housework is, indeed, political, and that who does what and how much is often gendered or otherwise imbalanced in the home.

The next step is to strategize for equality and justice. A central element of strategizing is education. As Pat Mainardi of the Redstockings argued in her 1970 article “The Politics of Housework”: “[W]e women have been brainwashed more than even we can imagine. Probably too many years of seeing television women in ecstasy over their shiny waxed floors or breaking down over their dirty shirt collars. Men have no such conditioning. They recognize the essential fact of housework right from the very beginning. Which is that it stinks.” To come to this kind of recognition, we need to learn to “desocialize” or “denaturalize” how we think, which means to think through the bases of our perspectives and actions rather than taking them for granted. We must ask, To what degree have we been conditioned to believe and act in certain ways and to consider these ways “normal” or “natural” without exploring or questioning them?

After careful thought, if you decide the way your household views and does housework needs some reworking, it’s time to move toward a participatory democracy. Everyone needs to be working toward the same goal: equality and fairness in the home. The specifics of how you work out who should do what and how often may vary from household to household (based upon work schedules, finances, skills, and personal preferences), but they need to be out in the open and a matter for discussion.

Some things to keep in mind as you work toward your democracy—especially if you find active resistance:

· It is not acceptable to presume that one’s biology determines who is better at housework or even given tasks. Do not base negotiations here.

· The one who is doing less and not analyzing is the one who will feel the change more: (s)he is losing some leisure and you’re gaining it.

· Watch out for red herrings. Do not be swayed by claims that discourage change, such as: “I’m not good/new at this; let’s do what we each do best”; “You’ll have to show me how to do it”; or “My career is more difficult/important than yours, so I need more ‘down time.’”

One useful approach for creating positive change is to make a list of all the regular (daily, weekly) housework chores that must be done for the household to function. Estimate how much time/effort each task takes. Separate these from chores you’d like to see done but are not vital, and leave space for additional now-and-then tasks. Then, share the list with your housemate(s). Often just looking at the list together can be a form of consciousness-raising. Next, review the list to consider who generally does what and how often. Work toward a shared understanding and agreement of how you currently share housework. (This may be easy or may take some time.) Finally, discuss each item on the list. Decide who prefers which tasks and whether tasks are permanently assigned or if you want to take on responsibilities on a schedule.

If the discussion gets tense, remember your ultimate goal: housework assignments that are reasonable and equitable to all. While negotiating, avoid defensiveness. When we feel attacked or threatened, we get defensive. Once defenses go up, it is difficult to process new information. Validate each other’s perspectives, allow for “cool down” time, and use praise.

Once you’ve accomplished the difficult task of toppling housework from its status as “women’s work,” you can begin to bring your new consciousness to your entire household. With a combination of assertiveness and patience that will vary in proportion to the resistance of those in your home, you may come to live in a household that sees housework as both political and negotiable. Such a change is a vital—if often unexplored—part of achieving feminist goals for empowerment, equality, and justice for all.


Anti-Death Penalty Season is Here

Today Governor Schwarzenegger said, "After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments and wrestling with the profound consequences, I could find no justification for granting clemency" (AP article) for Stan "Tookie" Williams. How much more NOT in a holiday mood could we be? Love, forgiveness, and recognizing that people can change enough to deserve life in prison instead of legalized murder...is that SO hard?

For Mr. Williams, I don't know if he's innocent or guilty. I do have evidence of his trying to do good in the world, though others may decide he is insincere. I know that if you can spend most of your adult life atoning working to right grievous wrongs (and Williams claims not to have committed the murders of which he is accused), and you even get nominated for a Nobel peace prize...when the hell else IS clemency warranted?

Why don't we, as a culture, believe in penance, let alone forgiveness? There is public discourse about lack of faith in the fairness of our legal system -- entrenched racism for example, that results in a black man actually confessing to the murder of a pregnant white woman when it turns out her white husband was actually her killer. There is DNA evidence that now clears convicted "criminals" after they are legally murdered. Yet, while this kind of questioning and critical thinking is going on, Mr. Schwarzenegger, the President, and many many in this country still think the death penalty "works," is merited, and that clemency is for sissies.

With this in mind, I'd like to ask the handful of people who might read this to spend some of the last hours of "Tookie" Williams' life (or after he is gone...only a few hours from the moment I'm typing these words) by visiting some anti-death penalty sites and really thinking this thing through. And if you still approve the death penalty? Think it through until you change your mind.


Stop the Execution of Stan Tookie Williams Blog

Abolitionist Action Committee

Campaign to End the Death Penalty

Death Penalty Focus

Death Penalty Information Center

More links...


To Be Depressed or Not to Be Depressed, That is the Quiz Question

So my husband is leaving town for 10 days, starting tomorrow, and it’s right at the end of a long semester and I’m in a musical revue that is woefully underrehearsed and inadequately cast, and I have to take care of myself and my son for these 10 stressful days. Plus I stayed out too late last night (though I had a great time).

So I decided to try a little experiment. I wanted to see what would happen if I took an online psychological depression test right now. I took the 18-question
Goldberg Depression Test (has to be a good one, Jews are often depressed as an ethno-religious trait and Goldberg is a family name on my mother's side) via "Dr. John Grohol's Psych Central" (random Google hit) and was surprised by the obviousness of the questions, and also how hard it would actually be to come up with a "no depression" result. Check out the results table:

If you scored... You may have...
54 & up Severe depression
36 - 53 Moderate/severe depression
22 - 35 Mild to moderate depression
18 - 21 Borderline depression
10 - 17 Possible mild depression
0 - 9 No depression likely

(Below this table reads: “This is not meant as a diagnostic tool.” Well, then what the heck IS it meant for?)

I got a 15 on the quiz, and my depth-of-a-fortune-cookie response was this:

“You appear to be experiencing some depressive symptoms which are often common amongst the general population. It is unclear as to whether you suffer these problems severely enough to need to seek further diagnosis and treatment of them. You should not take your responses to this self-report questionnaire as a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of any sort. Consult with a trained mental health professional if you are experiencing depressive feelings and/or difficulties in your daily functioning that you are worried about.”

I’m left wondering what the heck the point of the quiz is.

Certainly, I understand the importance of not making superficial diagnoses via website tests. It seems entirely meant to get you to that last line, which I'd restate as: "If you're taking online tests about depression, you're probably depressed. In any case, you're worried about depression, so go see a psychologist."

But this is a media studies blog, so let's check the rest of the page's rhetoric. If we look to the right of the quiz and results, we see ads for various psych-related websites, and we also see a little boxed ad that reads:

"Ad: Purchase medications onlineand help underwrite this resource:
Paxil Prozac Zoloft Celexa Viagra"

(all names of drugs in the ad are hyperlinks)

Ah. The pharmaceuticals may be in very plain font--there are no huge or flashing letters nor images of happy people giddily downing Zoloft--but I do wonder about who visits this site and what they get out of it.

As for me, I'll just get through the next 10 days without Dr. Grohol, Prozac, or any more depression quizzes. Maybe I'll blog some more about Xmas instead. That keeps me on my toes.


Xmas Rant, Part II

Have you heard about the “Friend or Foe Campaign” that Jerry “Just Begging for Karmic Justice” Falwell has established? Not only are he and his band of thugs—I mean Christian followers—going to stamp out all of this “Happy Holidays” stuff and get everyone saying “Merry Christmas” whether they want to or not, he’s got a nice stable of lawyers ready to litigate so all those poor frightened masses of Kindergarten teachers can put “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” back into the federally funded secular classroom where it belongs!

And, no longer allowing that heathen ACLU or a reasonable separation of church and state to decide who gets to define freedom, the conservative “Alliance Defense Fund” is ready to do battle with their “Christmas Project.” Its delightful slogan? “Merry Christmas: It’s OK to say it.”

Hallelujah and amen! How good and beautiful it is and how blessed we are to know that there are folks out there to make sure the rights of the majority are so well protected against the minority! After all, isn’t that what this country was founded on? Majority rules and let the minority go move somewhere else? Give the playground bully your lunch money and just be glad you’ll get dinner when you get home--that is, if your parents don’t take the bully's side!

Nay, but seriously, Brethren and Sistern... What is really astonishing to me in all of this is the cultural shift it suggests. No longer is the Christian Right peddling all that “Jesus is the reason for the season” gibberish. (Yes, it’s gibberish and always has been. Jesus was born in July and Christmas trees are a ridiculously obvious pagan symbol incorporated into Christianity long ago to lure the heathen masses to their spiritual doom—I mean salvation.) Instead, we’ve moved to boycotting Target for not posting the word “Christmas” all over their store like good little supporters of the “majority rules” doctrine.

In other words, as long as we see signs that suggest we are a Christian nation, then Christians need not behave in a Christian manner at all. We all know “Love thy neighbor” has never been given a fair chance. It seems humanity just isn’t capable of it--and the Christian Right never bothered to try, enjoying the "stone thy enemies" doctrine ever so much more. But now they're actually touting rabid consumerism as a virtue as long as there’s a sign above that Nintendo that says “Merry Christmas”! And I may be wrong—after all, I’m a Lefty feminist non-religious Jew who can’t be trusted to quote Holy Scripture--but didn’t Jesus say, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”? (Answer: Yes, he did, see Matthew 19.)

I can only hope
Mark Morford is correct when he asserts, “All the mad marketing and all the product gluttony, they're all merely further indicators that we are just about ready to burst, to grow up, to snap the hell out of it.” Though this is clearly willful optimism (for surely, as the best-selling, g(l)ory-to-godifying Left Behind series makes plain, the only “bursting” and “snapping” in the near future is going to be the bones of all us unbelievers--including you Catholics!), I do want to believe him. I want to think the increasing desperation and excess of the Right is its death throes, is evidence that karmic retribution is a-comin’.

Most days, though, all I can do is sigh, keep my faith in the slow and painful route of education, and shake my head at the irony that I’m actually living a more “Christian” life than a whole lot of Christians out there.