The 85th Annual Academy Awards

Giuliana Rancic

Giuliana Rancic - Oscars 2013

Kate: Finally she understands what an interviewER as opposed to an interviewEE is supposed to look like at one of these things!

Erica: Yeah, you’re right. I almost didn’t recognize her and she looks just glam enough without looking like she’s upstaging anyone. That said, have we seen this dress before?

Kate: I think her hair looks appropriately short and bouncy, the black is great, and the dress is elegant yet understated. It probably could have been even more understated, but I’ll take it.

Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain - Oscars 2013

Kate: Ugh.

Erica: See, I don’t have the same problems that you do with close-to-skintone dresses. I think this is pretty glam.

Kate: I just wanted a LOT better than that blue monstrosity, and this is not a lot better. It is a beautiful dress, but I don’t like the color on her. It looks like something Amy Adams would wear, or probably has worn, and I feel like her hair always looks like that. She hasn’t even been around that long and I already need to see something new from her.

Erica: I will say, I think we’ve seen this dress before, maybe in black? I’m having deja vu.

Amy Adams

Amy Adams - Oscars 2013

Kate: Speak of the devil!

Erica: I do love it when they go full on glam.

Kate: I love this. I LOVE her hair like that. I’m feeling the top of this dress slightly more than the bottom, but I think it is a vast improvement from her last, like, 7 award show dresses. (Does it not look kind of like that pastel blue/green thing Kaley Cuoco wore that one time, though?)

Erica: Yeah, totes.

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon - Oscars 2013

Kate: HOORAYYYYYY SHE STILL GOES TO THESE THINGS!

Erica: Great hair. Great make-up. Adorable person.

Kate: I think she looks adorable as always, and the color is fab, but that silhouette was probably not the best choice post-baby having.

Erica: I don’t think it’s the body, I think it’s the cut of the dress. It’s a little weird and bunchy.

Kate: Yeah, whatever, it’s Reese.

Kerry Washington

Kerry Washington - Oscars 2013

Kate: You’re right, Er, she’s too skinny. Just before watching this I saw her in a Fantastic Four movie from a few years ago and she looks much better with, like, 10-20 more pounds on her.

Erica: She really does. Excuse me, show biz execs – stop telling your actresses to lose weight. Lollipops are not that sexy.

Kate: But I like this dress.

Erica: I neither like nor dislike it.

Kate: BUT…Again, I feel like I’ve seen it before? Maybe not on her? Am I going crazy here with all these dresses that seem familiar?

Erica: I don’t know, not with this one in particular, but a lot of these dresses are tripping my deja vu. You know what we need? We need to go back to the days when Cher was likely to show up in some completely crazy get-up by Bob Mackie. That’s what we need.

Amanda Seyfried

Amanda Seyfried - Oscars 2013


Kate: No.

Erica: I like it better than I liked her Globes dress.

Kate: This is upsetting me a great deal.

Erica: It looks like something Lisa Rinna would wear. Except there’s not enough cleavage.

Kate: (Veronica Mars pals!) First of all, she needs to always be wearing her hair down. Always. Half-up is the most up she should ever put it. Second of all, that mock-turtleneck thing? Come on! No one should wear that ever! If the top had been a halter, it would have been an entirely different story. I also don’t love the all-over bedazzling. I think I just don’t love McQueen, actually.

Erica: I usually love McQueen. Like, a lot. I do not love this. It looks like a very old Elie Saab or Badgley Mischka. (I also like them. But not this.) And totes agree on the hair. Hate the hair. Still love you, Amanda Seyfried!

Sally Field:

Sally Field - Oscars 2013

Erica: Lipstick!

Kate: Adorable. You know what? This is actually the more covered-up/adult version of what Rihanna wore to the Grammys, and I like this a whole lot better. Good older lady hairstyle too.

Erica: Yeah, the dress is beautiful and interesting and age-appropriate and not too dowdy, although honestly, it probably doesn’t need the sleeves.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence - Oscars 2013

Kate: I love. Do you love?

Erica: It’s just, you know, what’s she going to wear to her wedding now?

Kate: It’s a tad bridal I suppose, but it works on her. I think she has an extremely lovely face so I like her hair pulled back; great makeup; and I am surprised at myself for liking that backwards necklace thing but I do, I truly do.

Erica: I’m not so in love with the material but goodness knows she’s a tall drink of water and she can pull off some stunning shapes.

Kate: That bottom is really somethin’, huh? But I feel like you CAN and SHOULD do that at the Oscars, if nowhere else.

Erica: Go big or go home.

Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana - Oscars 2013

Kate: A BELT! WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT BELTS?! DAMMIT ZOE!

Erica: This looks like three different dresses to me.

Kate: The thing is, this dress is actually phenomenal. I adore that color detail at the bottom and the top, but the belt RUINS it.

Erica: I do love the bottom. And I like the top. I just feel like the dress on top and the belted dress and the dress on the bottom are three different dresses. And two of them are lovely and one of them has a belt! Ladies, ladies, ladies. It is good to have something that defines your waistline. Absolutely. It is NOT GOOD to have something that looks like an actual belt on a formal gown! NOT GOOD!

Kate: I also wish my hair looked like that on a daily basis.

Erica: Yeah, she probably does, too.

Melissa McCarthy

Melissa McCarthy - Oscars 2013

Erica: I feel like I’ve seen this as a top before. Not as a dress.

Kate: All I am going to say, about the hair and the dress, is no. No no no no no no no.

Erica: I think I like it as a top. I think I’d wear it as a top. The jersey is a little informal for an Oscars dress and I can’t really see what she’s got on underneath but if it’s satin pants that’s horrible. And I’m not loving the hair but I get how it fits in with what she’s going for here.

Kate: Er, this is pretty bad.

Erica: I know, I know, it’s just . . . there is not a lot out there for a lady shaped like Melissa McCarthy.

Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron - Oscars 2013

Kate: A peplum. And a weird frosted pixie cut. And yet…It’s Charlize, so does it really matter?

Erica: Excuse me, Miss Calling-Me-Out-On-Things, but doesn’t this ALSO resemble Anne Hathaway‘s from the Golden Globes? (Except Anne’s didn’t have a peplum and Kerry’s did?)

Kate: Actually, this is pretty plain and boring, so I’ve decided I don’t like it. But not so much that I am, like, angry at her about it.

Erica: Yeah, and it’s also bridal. What is up?

Kate: I hope to God I do not go to any weddings where the bride has a peplum!

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson - Oscars 2013


Kate: One of the only times I have been disappointed by a Jennifer Hudson dress.

Erica: You know, I don’t think it’s a bad dress. I just don’t like it. If that makes any sense.

Kate: It’s just too mermaid-y, and not in a good way, and I really don’t like that super-long hair with thick bangs.

Erica: I am not a fan of the hair. And the shoes are not right although they are fabulous by themselves. Hey, are you watching her in “Smash”?

Kate: No, but the season 2 (is it 2?) trailers are tempting me.

Erica: Yes, it’s 2, and it’s shaping up to be much better than 1, I think. Time will tell.

Catherine Zeta-Jones

Catherine Zeta Jones - Oscars 2013

Kate: I used to think she could mostly do no wrong, but now I think she a) has gotten too much work done on her otherwise beautiful face and b) is WAY too old to be wearing that kind of dress!

Erica: This is giving me some serious deja vu.

Kate: Can you see that crazy toning bronzer stuff on her crazy toned arms? Yuck.

Erica: Are we absolutely certain we’ve never seen Catherine Zeta-Jones in this exact dress?

Kate: She usually goes for open neck/thinish straps, but not in this gross color. She kicked booty in the Chicago performance, though, which equally confused and excited me.

Helen Hunt

Helen Hunt - Oscars 2013

Kate: She actually admitted on camera that she was wearing a dress from H&M. That said, it looks like her necklace was from Claire’s.

Erica: Yeah, the material totally looks H&M. Satin is not something you want to mess around with.

Kate: And it’s WRINKLED! Nice color, though.

Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway - Oscars 2013

Kate. *Takes a deep breath*

Erica: Hah.

Kate: Here’s the thing. From the neck up, and I’m including the necklace, she looks undeniably gorgeous. Very Audrey. I love how her short hair is growing out/how she is styling it, and her makeup is flawless. But everything below the neck is…

Erica: We should take a minute to give props to super, super cute short hair and great make-up.

Kate: I just did! It’s just such a 90s cut, and the necklace looks terrible with that neckline, and there are pointy nipple things, and the back is really awkwardly cut, and it’s pale pink! She has the same coloring as me you say I should only wear jewel tones, not pastels, so Anne needs to follow that advice as well, in my humble opinion.

Erica: See, once again, I do not have the problem with the close-to-skintone dresses like you do. That said, this is not a good dress. It is very ’90s and I don’t even know where one gets a necklace like that any more and with the nipples and the shape and the . . . yeah. She looked better at the after party.

Anne Hathaway - Oscars after party 2013

Kate: She got the necklace at Tiffany’s. And yes that dress is way better, perhaps it is the Valentino she was originally supposed to go with? Her performance dress was also way better.

Erica: I mean, the shape isn’t great, and seriously, Anne, bra! But the fabric looks nicer and it’s more interesting and not dated. And I love the color. AND “Damn, I’m proud of myself!” looks good on her!

Kate: I don’t think I’ve been this happy about a win since…Ever.

Naomi Watts

Naomi Watts - Oscars 2013

Kate: Well, it’s a lovely sparkly number, but it would have worked so much better if the top had gone one way or the other. Strapless sweetheart neck? Grand. Cap-sleeve boatneck? Not as good but she is slender enough to pull it off. One side strapless sweetheart and the other cap-sleeve boatneck? Ew.

Erica: This is another one where I feel like the dress accomplished very well what it intended to accomplish. It looks like a very good example of the kind of dress it is. I just hate it.

Kate: The more I look at it the more I like it, so I want to stop looking at it.

Erica: I also don’t understand why you change from that one to this one:

Naomi Watts - Oscars after party 2013

Kate: Ew, that’s tacky.

Erica: They are thematically so similar, it’s like, why bother? Are nominees just not allowed to wear the same dress to the awards and to the party? Is this constructed somehow to be significantly more comfortable? I don’t get it.

Kate: Maybe it’s like a wedding ceremony vs. reception dress kind of thing?

Octavia Spencer

Octavia Spencer - Oscars 2013

Kate: On anyone else, no. On her, I guess.

Erica: It is also very bridal.

Kate: It’s a weird color and a little much, but I don’t completely hate it.

Erica: Honestly, it’s not my favorite I’ve seen on her. She can do better. But are we, as a country, having some sort of wedding moment? I feel like there’s been bridal all over the place this awards season. And every movie that’s coming out is post-apocalyptic. I think we are collectively going through something very deep.

Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston - Oscars 2013

Kate: She looks pretty unhappy about being there, no?

Erica: I’m enjoying this face. It’s the face that says, “Where am I again? The Goldberg Bar Mitzvah?”

Kate: I like red on her but this is slightly extravagant for someone who has never and will never be nominated, right? #Alwaysapresenterneveranominee

Erica: I dunno, the skirt is pretty extravagantly huge but otherwise it’s got clean lines and simple, modern appeal, so I think it’s pretty appropriate.

Adele

Adele - Oscars 2013

Kate: A goddess angel saint sent from above to gift us with beautiful music.

Erica: She’s so pretty. Her hair and make-up are spectacular.

Kate: Black is always good on her, this is a great silhouette, and I am really happy that her hair is half-up instead of all up like usual.

Erica: She’d probably think it was weird if I asked her to come sing me to sleep at night, right? That’d be weird?

Kate: I wish. This actually had a beautiful pattern under the sparkle which you can’t see in this photo, and then she got all choked up accepting the award and said “…And my man I love you baby”. Has a more perfect human ever existed? The answer you’re looking for is no.

Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock - Oscars 2013

Kate: I am officially going to sound crazy, but this too looks familiar! Like something she’s worn before, right?

Erica: I think it’s something Gwyneth Paltrow wore before but I’m not sure.

Kate: Either way it’s gorgeous and so is she, as always.

Erica: Deja vu all over the place.

Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek

Kate: What’s worse than a mock-turtleneck, you ask? A bejeweled turtleneck.

Erica: Idk, I’m not nearly as offended as  you are by this. I don’t love it but I think it’s fine. I like how, no matter what Salma Hayek is wearing, she’s got to remind us that she’s got boobs. We know, Salma. We know. They are very nice.

Kate: This might be worst dressed for me. Gross hair too.

Erica: I will admit, I do not love the hair.

Kristen Stewart

Kristen Stewart - Oscars 2013

Kate: I stand corrected. Hei. Nous.

Erica: And somehow also familiar?

Kate: What is she even DOING here?!

Erica: Idk. I’m counting down the days until I can safely forget who she is.

Kate: And that does it for Award Show Season 2013, folks! …Now what am I going to do? 😦

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Jewish Bacchanalia

gil elvgren harem girl

So, Purim is coming. In America, it’s pretty much a holiday for kids. Temples have their Purim spiels, kids dress up either as characters from the story (well, girls can wear whatever princess costumes they have lying around and call it Queen Esther) or whatever Halloween costumes still fit them. There’s a carnival in which kids can win plastic stuff (or sometimes goldfish) and everyone enjoys the rabbi acting silly for the day. In Israel, Purim = Halloween, with all that entails. Well, all except children ringing your doorbell all night.

And much like Halloween here, apparently, in Israel, Purim is getting sluttier. At least according to this piece was published by Tablet last week. If you’re not going to click, it’s an essay in which the author, Dana Kessler, complains about the sluttification of Purim, tries to buck the trend by dressing like a settler (an Orthodox person moving to the occupied territories), and is looked down upon because of it.

I gotta say, I know I’m supposed to be offended or angry or something about the sexification of Purim, but . . . hello? Esther was a concubine who used her sexiness to save the Jewish people. The absolute most logical and true-to-the-story thing to do is for women to dress their sexiest.

Kessler, the author of the piece, opines:

Even though they typically dress as Dora the Explorer or Angry Birds rather than biblical characters, Israeli elementary-schoolchildren may remember that Purim is supposed to commemorate the deliverance of the Jewish people from genocide in the Persian Empire. But most secular Israeli adults don’t seem to care.

So let’s unpack this a bit, shall we? A) So the schoolchildren don’t dress to reflect the gravitas of the holiday, either, then? Okay. Maybe let’s not be snide about the righteousness and virtue of THE CHILDREN, then.

B) The Purim story is fictional. I’m not saying this as an agnostic crank who always wants to point out that the Bible is “not true.” I’m not saying the story of Purim is “not true”; I’m saying it’s fictional. The rabbis who put it in the TaNaKh did so knowing it’s fictional, and they let us know it’s fictional by helpfully putting it in the Ketuvim section of the TaNaKh. Ketuvim = Writings. Where the short stories, poems, proverbs, and that sort of thing go. Not where the history goes. The history goes in the Nevi’im, or Prophets, section. We can argue about whether or not the stuff in the Prophets section is true, because it purports to be true, so it makes sense to try to verify. The Purim story doesn’t purport to be true. It’s true in the way that fiction can be true. We are a people, after all, who have needed to band together and find allies in politically tenuous times that could spell extinction for us. But there’s no real-life deliverance to commemorate here.

C) True or not, Esther is a concubine. Our “deliverance” from genocide comes in the form of a woman being sexy. The title of the article is “What Happened to Queen Esther?” but the answer is, “Nothing. She was always a concubine. Probably never dressed as a sexy bee – but hey, if they had sexy bee costumes at the time, she probably would have.”

I also objected to Kessler’s interpretation of her ostracism at the party she went to dressed as a settler. Apparently, for the first little bit, she and her husband were claiming to actually be settlers. They had nice, Orthodox names all picked out plus a fake blood relationship with the host that would explain their presence at the decidedly secular party. And everyone believed them and at first she and her husband thought that was kind of awesome that everyone at the party was looking at them suspiciously and then demanding to know who they were. But, Kessler notes:

And then it dawned on me. The reason they thought we were settlers wasn’t that our costumes were so unbelievably believable. It was that nowadays, it is so utterly and completely inconceivable that a woman would actually deny herself this yearly free slutification-pass and dress like an observant woman in modest dress instead of a French maid with a lace garter on her exposed thigh, that I must have been the real deal.

Now, my American sense of things is that dressing as a settler – and purporting to be a settler – would be politically divisive and a no-no at a party. But my friend assures me that Israelis are impervious to such things and that dressing as settlers is not, in and of itself, an issue.

But maybe Kessler and her husband were at a party where they didn’t know anyone very well, and instead of getting to know people, being friendly, or joining in the fun, they lied about their identities and took on personas that were decidedly not party-friendly (what with the modesty and stuff), while sneering at everyone else’s whorish get-ups, and that’s why no one wanted to hang with them. Just guessing.

Kessler even feels free to complain that, although her children’s preschool Purim party was innocent enough, their “obese-but-cuddly” (How is that a “but”? I thought “obese” = “cuddly”.) teacher told her that she would be attending an adult Purim party later, dressed as a dominatrix.

Oh, my God, you guys. TEACHERS HAVE LIVES OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL. For real! Even your very own child’s preschool teacher! Sometimes they do things in their free time that would be inappropriate to do in front of their kids! (Hello, I’m a religious school teacher who writes steamy romance novels in her free time. Nice to meet you.)

I mean, yes, I think compulsory sluttiness is bad. For sure. Having no other option on Purim BUT to dress like a prostitute isn’t great. And uninspired compulsory sluttiness with no cleverness or creativity is just boring. But I’m also not a big fan of compulsory modesty and slut-shaming, which Kessler feels very free to engage in. And why did she have to tell us that the teacher was obese at all? Was it to increase the shock value when we learn that even the FATTIE is sexing it up on Purim?

The thing is, Jews are always going around worrying about losing the young people to some other faith/lifestyle. We’ve been worrying about this forever; worry about this is what, in fact, created the Torah and changed the nature of religion forever. (Want further discussion of this point? E-mail me.)

Right now, we wring our hands about the young adults, the ones who’ve already finished the childhood Jewish education with their b’nai mitzvot or confirmations or even graduating high school, and haven’t started the Jewish education of their children yet. How do we keep them in? How do we keep Judaism relevant and meaningful for them? How do we make Jewish space a space the young folk want to be? How do we make Judaism cool instead of perpetually nerdy and old-fashioned?

I don’t know, how about we start with a yearly bacchanalia?

That’s what Purim is supposed to be! Every culture has had a day of the year where you’re allowed, even commanded, to go a little nuts. Mardi Gras/Carnivale. May Day. The Feast of Fools. Saturnalia. And Purim, on which you are commanded to get so drunk you can’t tell the difference between the name “Haman” and the name “Mordecai.” Go ahead, say those two names aloud and then figure out exactly how drunk you have to be to mix them up.

Kessler says that Purim is supposed to be a “fun family holiday” but it’s not! It can make for a great family holiday, because costumes and cookies are fun, but that’s not all it’s supposed to be! It’s supposed to be drunk and silly and sexy and you’re supposed to go a little nuts! And you know what? I think we should push the sexy more! I think we should host bar nights, rent out clubs, parade through the Village, have wild, crazy, sexy costume nights! Throw a friggin’ ball! Look, I can’t do this, myself. I have a four-year-old and a husband and I’m already, like, old. Not in years so much as lifestyle. But you young’uns, get on this! Next year, make Purim a night you’ll want to remember but can’t because you were so drunk but oh shit someone had their camera phone out and you’re never going to become president now, are you? That’s what Purim, honest to God, is supposed to be about.

Who’s the Boss?

man and baby

 

So two weeks ago I mentioned another tweet by Jessica Valenti commenting on this. And I swear to God, NYT, I love much about you, but if you want to be the august paper of record you’ve got to stop publishing drivel.

So what I linked to there is a conversation between two NYT columnists about this nonsense notion that the reason men don’t step up about parenting (assuming they don’t) is that women want to keep control in that arena. Blergh.

I’m not denying that, in some households, there is a dynamic by which the husband really, really, really wants to be an equal partner in the parenting and really, really, really wants to make all parenting decisions together, but the wife, in a jealous attempt to guard her womanhood, won’t let him. I’m not denying it because all relationship dynamics exist. All the ones you’ve thought of, all the ones you’ve seen, and a billion ones you’ve never thought of, they all exist. The planet is 7 billion strong and people are people and everything exists. If the Internet has taught us nothing, it should have taught us this: everything exists. (And there is a porn of it.) (Link totally SFW, BTW. It’s just an xkcd comic.)

But that doesn’t mean it’s prevalent or constant and even if it is a legitimate trend (and one should never conclude that something is a legitimate trend just because it’s mentioned in the New York Times), this “debate” offers little real insight. In fact, it seems to me that the “debate” is more like, she says x, he says x is wrong, and she says, haha, okay, you’re right, x is wrong, silly female me!

She starts the debate by saying she never wanted to be the one in charge, and she and her husband really do things very equally, but when she went out of town, she still had to pull over to the side of the road to walk her husband through some basic, daily, “On Tuesday Kid One goes here and Kid Two goes there; drop off Kid One first but pick up Kid Two first,” kind of stuff and how is that she got to be in this position of being in charge like that?

(I should use their names, right? He is Bruce Feiler, of This Life, and author of these two books. She is KJ Dell’Antonia, of Motherlode, and co-author of this.

[Wait, what is this? I like Motherlode and everything, but we need a book of instruction on how to read to our children? Here’s how you read to your children: 1) Place child in lap, next to one on couch or comfy chair, or in bed with you lying next to him/her. Or, if there’s more than one child, arrange children around you so that all have equal access to the pictures. 2) Choose book you like. The younger the child, the less it matters. I used to read aloud from my romance novels when Zoe was an infant. When they get older, choose ones with good pictures, so even if the book sucks, at least you’re looking at something interesting. 3) Read. 4) Pause as often as your patience can handle to answer or pose questions about the book. Sometimes your patience can handle zero interruption. That’s okay.])

Anyway, the dude responds to her opening by defending dads, linking to all that research showing that women edge out their male partners when it comes to parenting on purpose because they don’t want to give up the mommy power, and says, “When a mother criticizes her partner’s child-care efforts, it causes him to lose confidence and withdraw. When she praises his efforts, he takes a more active role.”

And she doesn’t say, “Oh, my God, you fucking wilting flower. The whole problem is that men’s child-care efforts wax and wane in response to their female partner’s responses whereas the mother is JUST EXPECTED TO DO SHIT. Mothers don’t have the LUXURY of WHINING that you didn’t PRAISE OUR DIAPERING ADEQUATELY and therefore we will not diaper, because THE DIAPER STILL NEEDS TO BE FUCKING CHANGED. You fucking tool.”

Nor does she say, “Hey, wait a minute, the question on the table is, ‘Why is the mom always the default parent?’ You’re not answering that question. You’re accepting that the mom is always the default parent, and then answering the question, ‘How can moms get their male parenting partners to help out more?’ That’s faulty logic, and it’s not helpful to this discussion.”

She does, at least, point out something important, which is that women are the ones who feel the pressure to be good parents. And not “good,” like, nurturing and caring and with an eye toward emotional development. “Good” like, “on top of shit.” Knowing which day the forms for the soccer team are due and which classroom can’t have peanuts and whether that movie is appropriate for their age group. That’s a really important point in this debate, that women bear the social costs of parenting and so of course they’re going to feel more pressure to do things “right.”  She talks about how she can only feel okay about going on business trips, etc., if things go smoothly while she’s gone; if things go wrong and she’s getting a call about why no one is here to pick up the kids 20 minutes after school is out and she’s in, like, Spain, then she feels like she’s fucking up as a parent. But not the dad, who’s the one who’s actually late to pick them up. He’s a real trouper for taking care of shit, even if he is the one who’s 20 minutes late, while his irresponsible, career-obsessed wife is off doing her own thing and not caring about her kids. “You see that whole dominant parent thing as something women want to protect; I see it as something we can’t escape.” Sing it, sister!

It’s not dissimilar, actually, to the question, “Why don’t women want casual sex as much as men do?” I mean, sure, there’s the fact that we get pregnant and men don’t. And the fact that we’re less likely to experience pleasure with a casual partner than a man is. But there’s also the social pressure. It’s still true that a man having casual sex is The Man while a woman having casual sex is, at best, Making A Poor Choice Right Now and at worst A Whore. So, duh. Higher cost, less likelihood of benefit.

But I digress.

So KJ makes this perfectly valid point about women bearing the brunt of the societal pressure to “do” parenting “right,” and face constant judgment if we’re wrong.  And it’s true. Let’s say I change Zoe’s diaper and not Jason. Nothing remarkable has happened. (I mean, now, something remarkable has happened, because she’s four, but let’s pretend this example is happening back when she was a baby.) Mom did the most minor part of her job, Dad did not do something that was not his job in the first place. Now let’s say Jason changes the stinky diaper but puts the new one on backwards. (Those of you who know Jason know that this never happened once. But let’s just say for the sake of example.) Now Jason is a super-awesome dad for being willing to change diapers, and also adorably incompetent because dads! They don’t know things! Someone should make a hilarious and heart-warming movie about that! Whereas I can either turn the diaper around, thereby discouraging Jason from diapering again because why do I have to criticize his parenting and don’t I realize it’s all my fault that women do so much more of the child care than men? Or I can leave the diaper as is, which makes me a (mildly) negligent mother. Now let’s say Jason changes the stinky diaper and does it right! Goddamn it, he’s a fucking superhero! Wow, he knows how to diaper right?! Go him! Whereas I must be some sort of castrating superbitch to have forced my husband into a position where he’s changed diapers so often he actually knows how to do it right.

And don’t think this doesn’t pollute marriages themselves. Get told enough times that, as a male, diapering wasn’t really your job in the first place, and doing it right makes you a goddamned superhero, and a tiny part of you might start to believe it. So that when your wife is upset at you about something else, and when both of you are tired and frustrated and in bad moods, even if you don’t fully believe it, you will come out with, “Hey, do you know how many husbands won’t even touch a dirty diaper? You’re lucky to have a guy like me!”

Sometimes I think the whole problem with men and women these days is that the bar of expectations is so low for men that even when they clear it by miles, they still get obnoxious about it.

I’m still digressing. Sorry.

So does Bruce say, “Gosh, it must be difficult to live with these societal expectations. I don’t even know what it’s like. Having the privilege of being male has protected me from that. I will take your experience seriously because obviously you know your own life better than I do.”?

Hahahahaha.

No. Bruce is totally dismissive! She’s so nice in her entries, all “I totally see where you’re coming from, and yes, I can understand how it would feel like this if I were a man,” you know, like girls are taught to be. And he’s a jerk, because men aren’t taught to be non-jerks. He says, “Are we all Princess Diana now? We have a ‘third person’ in our marriage?” He suggests that she simply ignore societal pressure. “So the next time you hear (or imagine) those whispers or see (or invent) those raised eyebrows,” you say, “Hey, Dad was on duty today,” and he apparently thinks that will make everything better because he didn’t listen to what she was saying in the first place.

And then KJ totally caves! She claims that “the whispers and the eyebrows really are in my head” and that, in the “mommy wars,” “we’re not really judging one another. We’re judging ourselves.”

And I cry foul! What a cop-out! KJ, why did you just let Bruce claim to understand your experience better than you do?! Why did you just agree it was “all in your head” and that you would just be stronger about dealing with it?!

Look, social pressure, societal expectations, these are real things! They aren’t fake; they aren’t in your head; they are out there in the world!

And seriously, if you don’t believe there’s real judgment about how to mother in the world, go ahead. Come up with a question about parenting – anything at all – and type it into Google and see what kind of crazed, judgmental, vitriolic shit comes out. And it’s not just on Google! It’s just more subtle in real life. Sometimes.

I mean, God, the history of feminism is a long, long history of men telling women that various things were all in their head and women finally saying, “Fuck you, no, it’s not, and we’re going to pass some motherfucking laws about it already.” I feel like starting a mommy consciousness-raising group or something. The pressure is not all in our heads! It is out there; it is everywhere; it is not going away and we need to do something! The personal is political! Who’s with me?! Do you hear the mommies sing?! Singing the song of angry moms! It is the music of a people who will not get sleep again! When the beating of your heart echoes the beat of other moms, there is a movement that will start when tomorrow comes!

And if anyone has any flag color suggestions, let me know!

Grammys 2013

Erica: Grammy time! You know what I love about the Grammys?

Kate: What?

Erica: At the Grammys, celebs tend to go a little nuts with their look. You know, it’s music! It’s rock and roll! It’s . . .

Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood - Grammys 2013

Erica: Hey, wait a second.

Kate: I am a new fan of Carrie so I like this, but I don’t think the necklace matches. And she fooled me with her hair because I thought it looked so cute at that length and then she turned around and there was a whole lot more/longer hair in the back, which I didn’t feel was necessary.

Erica: Well, she is a country star, so I guess funky is not to be expected. And I’m used to seeing Carrie Underwood dress like she’s an aging country star, so this is definitely an improvement.

Kate: Are you nuts? She dresses so cute!

Erica:  On the red carpet, I’ve mainly seen her in things that would be appropriate on a woman at least twenty years her senior. This is very beautiful. The details are interesting and pretty. She looks good.

Erica: But surely someone must have brought the funk, right? Like Rihanna! She’s always very interesting with her fashion choices!

Rihanna

Rihanna - Grammys 2013

Erica: Oh.

Kate: I hate this woman so much.

Erica: I mean, it looks beautiful, it really does. And she’s all happy and glowy. I guess she’s pleased to be back with her boyfriend Chris Brown. Look, Rihanna, I know you love him and you feel all giddy now. But has he gone to anger management therapy? Has he confronted his demons? Found Jesus? Done anything to make you think he’s not going to hit you again? Or has he tattooed your bruised face to his neck and dressed like a terrorist for Halloween?

Kate:  I mean, her forehead is so big, I don’t understand why she just doesn’t wear bangs. And this was WAY too sheer in the front. #Nips

Erica: I’m just saying, RiRi, you sing a lot of songs about how you should not be trusted to make your own decisions, especially when it comes to love. But look, when you need us, my daughter Zoe and I will be there for you. You can come stay at our house and we will feed you and play Just Dance with you. Zoe will still love you.

Kate: Ew.

Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys - Grammys 2013

Erica: Okay, that’s a little funky. Way more glam than funky, but . . . with stomach cut-outs? That I actually think look good?

Kate: Oh I like this much better than what she wore to perform!

Alicia Keys - performance - Grammys 2013

Erica: Oh, totes. That is some weirdly proportioned sh!t right there.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift - Grammys 2013

Erica: Well, no one expects Taylor Swift to be funky. God, I hate this twit. Not in the least because “We Are Never, Never, Never Getting Back Together” will never, never, never leave my head.

Kate: I actually really like this dress and minus all the silvery meshy things in the middle/on the side, and the cutouts, it is similar to the wedding dress I am designing for myself in my head.

Erica:  Well, I am a little meh about the dress. I liked it at first glance, but the more I look at it, the more the proportions are a little weird and I don’t love the slits. On the plus side, my Hebrew School kids wrote a pretty good parody of that song to go with the story of Judith.

Kate: Hah!

Taylor Swift hair - Grammys 2013

Erica: Now, I know you hate braids in general, and I like braids, but these braids are a little sloppy for the rest of the look/Taylor Swift’s image in general.

Kate: I have made my feelings about braids on the red carpet VERY clear.

Erica: So are they okay off the red carpet? Because I really think they’re kinda cute.

Kate: Only if your name is Moondance or you’re under the age of 10.

J. Lo

J Lo - Grammys 2013

Kate: I screamed at the TV when she came on. This is HORRENDOUS. She is no longer the daring fashionista with Latina flavor who wore that green thing and looked good, she is now too old and too annoying to be wearing something so obnoxious.

Erica: Talk about a slit. Although you don’t have to be ageist about it.

Kate: The woman has a phenomenal body but I do NOT need to see that much of her leg, or anyone else’s for that matter.  And that bun? What is that bun? I put my hair in that bun every night before I go to bed. UGH!

Erica: J. Lo, I am not your gynecologist.

Kaley Cuoco

Kaley Cuoco - Grammys 2013

Erica: Now, it’s not clear to me what she’s doing here, but remember how bad she looked at the SAGs? She looks so much better here! Her hair isn’t all bizarre and her make-up makes her face look like that of a healthy young actress and not a dying prostitute circa 1894.

Kate: My roommate said she is dating a high-level CBS executive so that is why she is at everything now. But she looks like she is going to lunch with a friend, no?

Erica: True . . . but with a little more funky than anyone else has shown.

Beyonce

Beyonce - Grammys 2013

Erica: Now, what the f is going on here?

Kate: Apparently she and Kaley decided to wear what they wore to lunch that day. I was very disappointed in this.

Erica: I mean, this is Beyonce f*cking Knowles. This is looks less glamorous than what she usually wears to the supermarket.

Kate: I’m SAYING!

Katy Perry

Katy Perry - Grammys 2013

Erica: Gah.

Kate: I think she is actually gorgeous, and I like that she’s one of the only people who ever wears colors like this, but this was not a good choice.

Erica: She is gorgeous, but Grandma Edith would have worn this dress. In her 80s. Why is Katy Perry who is not more than 25 wearing it?

Kate: She most certainly would not have. (But she would have had matching sneakers.)

Adele

Adele - Grammys 2013

Erica: Oh, dear.

Kate: No no no no no! She is an angel/goddess/saint and she looks so cute! At least she isn’t wearing black again, right?

Erica: I like the concept of the dress, and it’s kind of adorable and fun that the shoes match, and she’s lovely as ever, but the top is making her look really frumpy and square. Adele, darling, we have not dissimilar figures. And we need a little v or at least a scoop in our neck.

Kate: Fine, fair enough, but I like how it stands out from her other award show choices. And I think the length is actually great on her.

Erica: I mean, I love you, and you are perfection in all things. I just want to take a scissor to your neckline. That’s all.

Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen - Grammys 2013

Kate: So bad! Why would this cutesy little pop princess go for the vamp look at her first big awards show? Why why why?

Erica: Especially since it might also be her last!

Florence Welch

Florence Welch - Grammys 2013

Kate: I can’t believe this is Givenchy.

Erica: See? They aren’t infallible.

Kate: It actually would be quite swell without all the horns/thorns/whatever you want to call them; I love the color and THIS (ahem, Jennifer Lopez) is the appropriate use of a slit.

Erica: Color, yes. Slit, yes. Material? Bleh. Shape? Bleh.

Kate: But…Bad lipstick.

Faith Hill

Faith Hill - Grammys 2013

Kate: You know, I actually loved this during the show.

Erica: Yeah, I loved my first glimpse of it, too.

Kate: But now I see I don’t love the length, and the shoes do not look good with it. I still think it’s funky and cool and you can never go wrong with a little black and a little lace, I always say.

Erica: Shoes could definitely be cooler. But overall, a good look.

Kate: In two weeks is the BIG ONE guys…OSCARS!!! If anyone wears pants, belts, headbands and/or braids, or any combination of the four, I may denounce Hollywood altogether. Stay tuned.

Romance, Literature, and Body Image

I’m stuck in a place where this is not a whole blog post, but it’s also way too long for a Facebook status update, so consider it, like, a mini. A little treat for you for today. Just because I love you.

So this study came out and seems to be showing that it’s damaging for women to read about a) skinny chicks in literature, and b) fat chicks who have issues about being fat in literature. In the sense that reading these things makes them feel bad about their own bodies.

Now, the methodology already seems screwed. Why did they change the words to two already existing chick lit books instead of finding several chick lit books that had a variety of sizes and shapes and attitudes of heroines? Is it because they couldn’t find enough chick lit books that were specific enough about height and weight? Isn’t that indicative of something right there?

But the other thing for me is, their conclusions just feel completely opposite to my experience. I read a lot of romance and chick lit as a teenager and I feel it was precisely that that saved me from having serious body image issues. If I had stuck with a diet of Seventeen magazine and movies in which we pretend Rachel Leigh Cook is ever not a very pretty girl (And seriously, how is that not the most damaging thing – to put beautiful women on screen and have them tell you they’re fat and ugly?), I would have been screwed. But I read about girls with many different shapes of body and many different attitudes towards their shape all having hot sex with men who were nuts about them. So instead of thinking, “I will never get laid and no one will ever find me attractive because I don’t look like Kate Moss,” I came of age thinking, “Wow, men are infinitely varied in their desires and chances are someone’s going to find my sparkling wit and my Rubenesque figure appealing.” And lo and behold, I found one!

(Yes, I knew the word Rubenesque as a teenager. I could have even identified paintings by Peter Paul Rubens. This should not be surprising to any of you.)

Actually, I thought the most interesting thing Bridget Jones’s Diary did was it gave you a weight for the heroine (which was pretty low – at my weight I do have trouble picturing the woman on whom 130 lbs = heifer) but not her height or anything else about her physique. The point being that she’s fixated on this weight being unacceptable but it isn’t necessarily so to anyone else. The weight thing is about her struggles to feel like an acceptable and desirable person, not about her actual weight.

But anyway, my point is that, reading about women who were skinny and curvy and fat and had small boobs but big asses or big boobs but little asses or were tall or short or boyish-figured or voluptuous or whatever, and who liked their bodies or didn’t like their bodies, who experienced cultural approval for their bodies or didn’t, who liked that cultural approval or didn’t, etc, etc, etc, and all other permutations, and still got hot sex and deep love from men they desired, I think actually saved my body image, and did not damage it at all.

Leaving your Hypothetical Husband

Jessica Valenti posted this on Twitter and it pissed me off.

If you’re not going to read the article, I’ll give you a run-down. The article indicates that “the vast majority” of “young people” (80% of females, 70% of males) (and I’m assuming by “young”, they mean college-aged), across demographics, hold as the ideal an egalitarian marriage, where both partners share the burdens of money-making and home-keeping and child-rearing equally.

When asked what their ideal fallback would be, however, if such egalitarian harmony were impossible, young men and women are exactly the opposite – most young men hope that their wives will take care of the home front and let their careers take a backseat to a greater or lesser extent, and most young women claim they’d rather divorce their husbands and raise their kids on their own while holding down their jobs than stay at home with their kids.

To which I say, hahaha hohoho heeheehee, kids. Have fun in that dream world where you can either feel totally egalitarian about all aspects of life with your husband all the time, OR you can just leave your husband and do it all on your own, no problem! (And, young men, have fun in the dream world where you make so much money that asking your wife to scale back to take care of the very expensive wee ones is a no-brainer!)

My response to this on Twitter, and on Facebook, if you missed it, was (and I’m not directly quoting because I’m going to use real English words instead of the ones 140 characters forces) “It is easy to leave one’s hypothetical husband to raise one’s hypothetical children on the money one earns from one’s hypothetical job.”

I had more or less the same problem, the problem of talking in hypotheticals, when I talked about domestic violence. It is easy to say of a hypothetical man about which you only know that a) he hits you, or b) he wants you to quit your job and stay home with your kids, “Oh, I’d leave that asshole but quick.” Obviously, it’s not the same thing, exactly. A man who hits you is dangerous and violent and you really should get out as soon as you are able to do so, if possible, even if you love him, even if he’s a total dreamboat or makes a lot of money or has helped you out of a number of jams or whatever it is that’s keeping you in, you should leave. Whereas a man who wants you to stay home with the kids while you don’t want to do that just has a different vision of family life than you do; he’s not, you know, dangerous. I mean, one way an abuser operates is to make you dependent on him, and staying at home with the kids makes you dependent on your husband, but it does not follow that all husbands of stay-at-home moms are abusive. Anyway. My only point is that in both of these cases, people who say, “Oh, I would leave the asshole” are operating with a hypothetical asshole in mind and of course that guy is an asshole; he hits you or does not respect your career goals! But no one is actually involved with a one-dimensional man who only hits or only asks you to stay home. And if you’ve gotten to the point with someone where you’ve married them AND made the decision to have a baby with them, chances are there is much that you love about that person and would not find it easy to leave. You can say whatever you want to say about a thing that you’ll do in a hypothetical situation; it’s what happens when it’s an actual thing that counts. Until they look into how these choices play out for realz, this is like asking a bunch of eight-year-olds if they’d rather live on a moon base or in an undersea palace.

There was some negative reaction to Jessica Valenti’s Twitter post. I, for instance, said my thing about hypothetical husbands, which as far as I know, she didn’t read. She did read the one where someone accused her of feeling that being a SAHM was inherently oppressive. She argued on Twitter that posting a thing is not the same as approving of the thing, and said, to that point, “Learn how the internet works.” (Okay, I added the capital L. I’m sorry; I’m always going to be a little old-fashioned about grammar. Do you know how long it took me to agree to only one space between sentences?)

Now, I do know how the Internet works, and I know that usually, posting something without commenting on it IS approving it. For instance, when she posted this (and yes, that will be the subject of my post next week), she wrote snarky commentary ending in “Ok, then,” which made it clear how she felt about it. The only way a no-comment would be interpreted as disapproval would be if  it’s well-known by your followers that you would never in a million years approve of that position. For instance, if Jessica Valenti had posted, without comment, an article with the headline, “New Study Shows Women Often Say No, Mean Yes,” I would assume she disapproved of it.

I do not assume she feels that way about SAHMs.

Jessica Valenti argued with the follower that she had never said being a SAHM is “oppressive” but I read her Why Have Kids? and you know what? She strongly implies that being a SAHM is oppressive. I mean, I agree with a lot of her points in that book about how this culture of mommy perfection is, in fact, oppressive, and ruinous to women and their children, not to mention marriages, society, and happiness. But Jessica Valenti also titles one of her chapters – in the “Truth” section – “Smart Women Don’t Have Kids,” and also in the “Truth” section , “Women Should Work”. In an earlier section, she says that the zealous helicopter parenting derided in much media is “just the understandable outcome of expecting smart, driven women to find satisfaction in spit-up. All of the energy that they could be – and maybe should be – spending in the public sphere is directed at their children because they have no other place to put it.”

And,

“I’m also not arguing that women shouldn’t stay home with their children (well, not yet anyway).”

To conclude her chapter titled “Women Should Work,” she quotes Linda Hirshman extensively. Hirshman wrote Get to Work, a book about how “choice feminism” is bullshit and women should work both for their own benefit and for the benefit of all women everywhere. And also for the benefit of the world. Valenti says that she once was dismissive of Hirshman, because how could you dictate someone’s choice? She says, “while I was uncomfortable with the idea of mandating – or even suggesting – to women that there’s one better choice [between work and staying at home], I actually believe that there is.”

And it is?

“We need flexible work schedules, paid maternity leave (that lasts more than a few weeks or months), subsidized child care, and workplaces that are parent friendly. … I don’t think it’s a good idea to depend on someone else financially for an extended period of time.” She mentions the idea of the US providing a wage for housework and child care, as it is labor that contributes to the economy (and the overall productivity of the United States), but says, “that’s not the world we live in right now.”

Right. Neither is the world in which we have flexible work schedules, paid maternity leave, or subsidized child care. So in the mean time, women are going to try to make the best choices they can.

Jessica Valenti’s book is by no means unsupportive of the idea that everyone’s making the best decisions they can under current conditions, and she’s right to point out that current conditions suck, and suck in specifically anti-woman ways. I actually really liked Why Have Kids?, and I liked it specifically because I hate the idea that a woman’s “choice” to work or not work while having kids is made in a vacuum, and institutional support (or lack thereof) for those choices plays no part. I always want to look at systems, not individuals, and so does Valenti. Valenti also makes much of the culture of mommy perfection that’s driving everyone f-ing nuts, and that’s really important to discuss, too.

But it’s not out of left field to conclude that Jessica Valenti finds the idea of being a stay-at-home mom oppressive, as her Twitter follower suggested. And it’s not trolling to say so. (Now, maybe this follower did say and do more trollish things in private messages. I don’t know.)

And this is also why Twitter is a sucky forum for in-depth conversation.

Personal blogs are much better!

I will be honest here; I have had a rough time becoming a SAHM. It was not what I expected to do with my life and in some ways I feel like it’s due to some personal failures that it ended up being the best choice for me. I spent my post-college and pre-kid years in academic programs that had little hope of getting me a job outside academia, and then didn’t pursue them far enough to get a job inside academia, and, as most grown-ups know but as I refused to really acknowledge, “a job inside academia” is as much a fantasy as “the super-easy nature of divorcing the man you once loved enough to marry and make children with, and raise those children on your own with the money you will have no problem making as a single mom in a high-earning profession.” So that left me more or less unemployable anyway when I had a child, which made staying home with her the easy choice, especially considering that a) my husband wanted me to, and b) my husband could afford for me to. I still teach Hebrew school a few hours a week, and now I am trying to make a go of writing, but 85% of my time is spent being a SAHM.

And it’s not that there aren’t some aspects of it I love. I mean, I get to spend all this time with my kid. Woohoo! And I love being able to run errands and go shopping and do other things during hours where nobody else is there; I now get almost offended when I have to go to a mall on a weekend and OTHER PEOPLE are ALL OVER THE GODDAMNED PLACE. I’ve learned to cook really well and I have the opportunity to throw parties and dinners and welcome other people into my home to cook for them; I’ve been able to continue teaching Hebrew school, which I really love and which would be harder to do with a full-time job AND a family. I’m on two volunteer committees to host conferences that I think are going to be really cool and, again, I couldn’t have done that AND done adequate work at a full-time job AND taken care of my family. And, oh yeah, I have time to write. And blog. And I know that we are DAMNED lucky that my husband a) has a job that can support us, and b) has hours that let him spend lots of time with us, too. So that’s all a pretty good deal.

But I’m a feminist, and I read websites like Jessica Valenti’s feministing and Jezebel, and of all the things that make me struggle with my choice to stay home, this is the stuff that hurts the most. Well, no. Not making my own money hurts the most. And then there’s the disapproval from people I actually know and love. But there have been several instances lately of forum dwellers over at Jezebel calling SAHMs prostitutes because we allow our husbands to pay our bills and also we have sex with them. And there is a sit-commy joke in here about how married people with kids never have sex anyway so it’s the highest-paying per-sex-act prostitution job you can get, but . . . yeah.

Look, it hurts, is all I’m saying, to hear over and over again that while you’re doing the best thing you can think to do, the people you admire and respect, the people you consider yourself to be part of, at best pity you and at worst think you’re prostituting yourself by doing it. Especially since child care and housekeeping is work that needs to be done by someone, at some point. And child care, especially, is not work that gets any less time-consuming once your kids hit kindergarten. School hours are not the same as work hours, and now you can’t let the precious little ones so much as get on or off a bus on their own, so someone has to be in the home to deal with pick-up and drop-off, and it’s either going to be you or someone you pay. Or you can pay extra for an after-school program. If you can have a job that makes enough money to make that a worthwhile decision. Plus there’s extra-curriculars and monitoring the homework and participating in school projects, and most public schools basically run on the unpaid efforts of the stay-at-home moms who volunteer for shit like the PTA and fundraising and whatnot. And sure, you can opt out of doing it, but only because other parents are doing it instead of you. Schools where no parents can afford the time to distribute the flyers and organize the bake sales and hang streamers suffer for it.

I really would love to see more of an effort by feminists to understand how much of what SAHMs do IS work, and work that the world NEEDS done. I don’t believe I’ll ever get paid a wage for it, but operating on that understanding first, rather than the understanding that doing paid work would be better for women, would be an important first step. They’re always reporting on who’s happier, SAHMs or working mothers, and the results seem to show that working mothers have a slight edge but actually part-time working mothers beat both, but, even when these statistics are mentioned by feminists like Valenti, there’s no recognition that their own stance that being a SAHM is a lesser life (and don’t tell me you don’t think it is, Jessica Valenti!) is contributing to the unhappiness of SAHMs, the same way pressure from the non-feminist world is contributing to the unhappiness of the working mother.

(And yeah, I haven’t dealt at all with the concept of stay-at-home dads, or men trying to balance family and work, or non-heterosexual families, or non-nuclear family arrangements. Sorry. It’s just a blog post, not a book.)