Friday, January 28, 2011

Leslie Knope is a Badass

So, I've been watching Parks and Recreation on NBC since the start. And truthfully, from the first few episodes, I hated it. I felt like I was watching a female version of Michael Scott. And I didn't want or need a female version of Michael Scott. I had regular Michael Scott. The market on bumbling-upper-level-mismanagement had been filled on Thursday night TV.

Plus it poked fun at Midwesterners. Specifically Hoosiers. (Who seem to be a popular group to poke fun at in sitcoms right now...)

Then I actually started to "get" Leslie. I realized that she actually cared about her job, and that any humorous situations she got her team into came from a place of wholly good intentions. Right around this time, the writers of the show let Leslie do something unique and beautiful on TV: she identified as feminist. And even though some might call her a bit of a "bad feminist" we're all agreed that she's all around awesome and a great female character to have on TV.

So in the two seasons and two episodes that Parks and Rec has been on TV now, Leslie’s really grown on me, Hoosier demeaning humor aside.

My faith was renewed in Leslie during last night's episode, in which Pawnee was hit with a bad case of the flu. The sickness left Leslie in the hospital during a time when she needed to make a presentation upon which her job depended. Being one who is eternally dedicated to her profession, Leslie made every attempt to get to the presentation, despite sickness induced hallucinations.

As the episode culminates, we're all nervous. You can natually imagine how it would play out with a Michael Scott-esque character who (despite not actually caring about his job) would do the presentation and create such an awkward speaking scenario, that'd we'd all need to look away.

But not Leslie. Not bad ass Leslie Knope. Leslie takes the podium and knocks the presentation out of the park (pun totally intended) and ends up generating 20 more business sponsorships than she needed to keep her job.

I was (quite literally) cheering for Leslie. Ask Ronald.

Sure at the conclusion of her presentation she couldn't do the Q&A because her hallucinations took over, but minor details, minor details...The point is that she nailed it. And I love her.

Kudos, Amy Poehler, kudos.

Monday, January 24, 2011

On Treating Pregnant Women Like the Infants They'll Soon Give Birth To

So, I've often thought that the "expectant mother's" parking at places like Kroger is somewhat foolish. This is, I realize, a strange position for a feminist to hold. When Jezebel reported about "a new bill would allow women experiencing a difficult pregnancy to park anywhere in NYC for free- even No Parking zones," it gave me a perfect reason to blog about this topic.

As Morning Gloria of Jezebel notes, typical objections to this parking bill consist of anti-woman thoughts like "sluts should've kept their legs closed!" or those "who say that since men can't get pregnant, this is reverse-sexism or bizarro-sexism or some other made up -ism."

However, my objection to this type of parking is totally different. My general complaint is that this mindset fits in with our societal trend to treat pregnant women like helpless, pathetic beings. I am someone who advocates for women to be seen as full, capable people, regardless of their current reproductive state. And I don't think that we should be infantilizing those who are pregnant.

In fact, I think there's something quite strong and remarkable about being able to bring another human being into this world.

Now, I'm not saying that pregnancy isn't difficult and we shouldn't take steps to ensure that pregnant women have a comfortable gestational experience. I understand when one is pregnant you face physical barriers that would not otherwise be present. I think, as a society, we should make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women. For example, I feel, very strongly, that maternity leave is far too short in this country. But to put undue attention on to parking spaces seems, to me, to be a cop out accommodation which coddles pregnant women instead of a more substantial law which could actually make a meaningful difference.

Like I said above, the parking spaces are just one part of what I see as a societal trend to treat pregnant women like helpless, pathetic beings. Being the age I am, I have been surrounded by many pregnant women lately, and so often the response to others around them is to quite literally use the voice they would use for babies and have the women immediately sit down. And in each case, the pregnant woman has insisted on continuing doing what she's doing, saying something to the effect of, "No, it's ok, I'm fine! I'm pregnant, not sick."

And in each case I cringe because it's just so annoying to me. As someone who has pregnancy planned as a part of her future, I dread having my adult card revoked just because I'm gestating another human being. In related reading, Jessica Valenti and Natalia Antonova share their feminist experiences of pregnancy, which include other ways we violate women's personal autonomy during pregnancy including:
  • Your stomach is now public domain for everyone to touch...duh, didn't you know?
  • You can no longer make your own decisions about where you go (like bars!) because think of the baby!
  • Make sure your clothing is modest and appropriate! You're someone's mom now!
So let's are no longer in charge of your own body, free time activities, or clothing. Sounds pretty much like a trip back to infant-hood, if you ask me.

I guess my point is simple: Afford pregnant women common courtesies, like giving up your seat on the subway, but don't treat them like children. Just because they are bringing an infant into the world doesn't mean they are one!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Review: The Other Wes Moore

"The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his." Wes Moore

So I've decided that every now and then I might post a book review. Deal.

This weekend, I finished reading Wes Moore's The Other Wes Moore. I first heard about this book on NPR, around it's release as it was getting a fair amount of media coverage. I was instantly drawn in. Here's the brief "pull you in" paragraph from the book's website:

One name: Two Fates. Two kids with the same name, living in the same decaying city. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.

That paragraph really sums up the book's premise, which was what drew me in. The Wes Moore who authors the book discovers there's another Wes Moore from his childhood neighborhood who ends up serving a life sentence for murder. So he writes to him. Much to his surprise, the other Wes Moore writes back and they form a preliminary relationship which allows the author to be granted access to the other Wes Moore's story through his own words and interviews with his friends and family.

The similarities are striking. They both were born into the same city in low income families. Both struggle in school initially. Both of their fathers were missing from the picture. However, the differences that emerge are where the story is told. The Wes Moore who grows up to be the author was raised by a single mother because his father passed away due to a misdiagnosis. The other Wes Moore's father was not a part of his son's life by choice. The author's mother was a college graduate, prioritized education, and fought to find her son opportunities when she saw that he was struggling to find the right path. The other Wes Moore's mother never wanted her sons to end up involved in drugs and robbery, but is unable to meaningfully intervene.

The book is a fascinating, quick read that takes us through the journey of what it means to be an African American young man growing up in an urban area in the 80's and 90's. We see what it means as crack invades neighborhoods and participating in the drug trade becomes one of the few main ways to make money--and lots of it. We see how school systems fail the boys. The other Wes Moore skirts under the radar only to ultimately drop out, despite his intelligence; which we later learn about when he briefly "goes straight" to enter a job corps program and excels. (However, he abandons his new life as he is left making wages far too low to support his family.) Our author, on the other hand, whose mother placed him in private school, felt stuck between two words; his rich classmates and the kids in the neighborhood, never fitting in either (until he finds his place in military school.) We learn how the idea of hyper masculinity directly impacts the other Wes Moore's fate. We see, painfully clearly that the dominant idea of being a man is never backing down. If someone strikes you in the face, you raise them with a gunshot wound to the shoulder.

The book ends leaving you with mixed feelings of sadness and hope, for as the teaser description explains, there are two fates in the story. But one can't help but wonder if these fates are evenly distributed amongst young African American men. The statistics support the sobering reality that many more turn out like the other Wes Moore than the author. Time and time again in the story, we see how the systems in play worked against the other Wes Moore. No teacher championed him. No mentor showed him another life. And even when he worked to better himself, proudly completing his GED and job corps training, he was thrust into a world which compensated his trade well below what he was making on the streets.

The author himself claims that he is lucky. Not only did he have a mother who wouldn't accept anything less than excellence from her son, but he also encountered many positive male mentors who showed him what his life could be and opened many doors for him. I can't help agree with the description that the book is the "journey of a generation." Never before have black man accomplished so much. But how many more turn out like the other Wes Moore?

All in all, The Other Wes Moore is a wonderful nonfiction read, which I would recommend to anyone who has interest in issues of social justice, education, urban policy, masculinity, or African American studies. I would love to read the book a second time and further analyze how gender dynamics play out differently amongst the two Wes Moores' lives.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy Freaking New Year

Whelp, another year has gone by. Hooray for my first blog of 2011.

But not hooray for what is prompting me to write this...There was a shooting today, with Arizona Congresswoman Giffords as the apparent target. Many people are injured, some killed, including a judge and a CHILD.

Yesterday I was reading over at Tiger Beatdown about what Sady Doyle is dealing with in the aftermath of the #Mooreandme campaign (that I mentioned the last time I wrote.) As you can see from what Sady wrote, it's hard out there for women who speak the truth.

That phrase kept running through my mind over and over...It's hard out there for women who speak the truth.

I kept trying to compose a blog that would drive this point home, but I didn't have anything more to add than what Sady's already said. 

But then today's news of the shooting came about. What drives the point home more than that? 

Then I look through Facebook thinking people might be talking about this horrific event. Nope. You know what's more important? 

The Colts game. The fucking Colts game.

I've got nothing more to add. I have no pearls of wisdom. I'm just so fucking sick of how unsafe public speaking is for progressives in this world. And how scary it is to be a woman who speaks the truth. But women who spout the same old trash? Well they can say just about anything they want.