Monday, March 16, 2015

Girl Power

A study in the Washington Post 
says that women have better verbal skills than men.  
I just want to say to the authors of that study: "Duh."

- Conan O'Brien 

On August 29, 2008, I got a text from a friend that went a little something like this:

I bet you like McCain a little more now.  Girl power!

My friend knew of my displeasure with the then Republican nominee for president, John McCain.  He assumed, as did Mr. McCain, that the selection of Alaska's Sarah Palin as the VP nominee would cause me to warm to the idea of a John McCain presidency.  Whatever you think of Sarah Palin, rest assured that a little-known Alaskan governor would have never made John McCain's short list of veep possibilities had she not been a woman.  McCain decided to make a move in the ridiculous, sometimes dangerous, game of identity politics that too often pervades the political scene in this nation.  For what it's worth (which is basically nothing), I think John McCain lost his bid for the White House because of John McCain.

I don't know if I'll live to see America elect a female president or vice president, & I don't lose any sleep worrying over when this milestone will be reached.  What I do worry about is that when Madame President or Madame Vice President is a legitimate part of the American political vocabulary, this woman won't in any way be qualified for the office to which she's been elected.  Have we not all learned a painful lesson these past few years about the dangers of whipping ourselves into a frenzy over electing someone with a resume that begins (& ends) with not a white man?

It baffles me that any woman, regardless of her political ideology, would celebrate Hillary Clinton in any capacity, be it as the Democratic nominee or, & I shudder to even type it, as the President of the United States.  Those of us who remember the nineties know that Hillary stood by, & is at present still married to, an adulterer who humiliated her in the most public way possible.  Believe it or not, I used to feel a smidge of sympathy for Hillary.  I knew she was, like Bill, a lawbreaking, lying snake, however, I don't relish watching any woman stand by her man on the national stage after he disgraced not only the office to which he was elected, but her & their marriage.

His many sins aside, Bill Clinton made Hillary Clinton.  Bill is the dynamic speaker, the skilled politician, & that right there ought to make women think twice about lauding her as their feminist icon.  Feminists continue to excuse Bill Clinton's lecherous, womanizing behavior because he protected their precious sacrament, abortion, while in office, & they likewise ignore the fact that Hillary rode Bill's coattails to national prominence, ignore the fact that she in no way represents someone they might want their daughters to emulate (given that she's a coattail riding, lawbreaking, liar), all because they've convinced themselves nothing can be right in the world until a woman is elected president.

It is ironic to me that there's so much speculation over the election of a female this or a female that when our culture simultaneously tries so hard to blur gender lines, to convince us  - - convince our children - - that gender is transitory, that it is, like a pizza topping, something one can choose.

The text I use in my speech classes devotes an entire chapter to the study of audiences.  We talk about demographics like age, education level, & sociocultural factors that often dramatically shape an audience members' worldview, things a speaker needs to consider when crafting a speech.  While age is often the factor that, more than anything else, determines an individual's interests & the examples with which they're likely to identify, the chapter does devote a fair amount of text to the discussion of gender.  It was during this discussion last week that my students (in a surprising show of attention & intellect) mentioned two recent incidents on which my thoughts continued to dwell long after our class meeting ended.

The first discussion revolved around Planet Fitness, which is a chain of gyms that recently cancelled a woman's membership after she complained about the presence of a man in the women's locker room at her local Planet Fitness.  Wait, what?, you're wondering.  Yes, that's basically a summation of the story, only omitting that the man using the women's locker room identifies as transgender.  So Planet Fitness has sent a clear message to the pervert contingent that if you're a man looking to spend time in a women's locker room, you need only slap on a dress & call yourself Sue & you're granted unlimited access.

In the midst of the Planet Fitness discussion, a student asked me if I was familiar with Jazz Jennings, to which I replied, No.  I've since learned, from my students & also a brief internet search, that Jazz Jennings, like the Planet Fitness locker room creeper, identifies as transgender.  According to this blurb in People, "Jennings was assigned male at birth but began living her life as a girl beginning at her fifth birthday party . . . "  Jennings will be featured in an upcoming TLC reality show about the life of a transgender teen, & has recently been named a spokesperson (not a spokesman) for Clean & Clear face wash.

I have not embellished one detail of what you just read.  There's a long list of things I'm considering saying right now, ranging from a handful of Bible verses that address gender issues to passages out of 1984 that drive home how significant language is; an argument can be made that those who control a culture's language control the culture.  Too many are accepting this pervasive idea that we can make something a reality just by saying it is so, even when it flies in the face of the blatantly obvious.  I see the allure, I really do.  My jeans are size two.  I have a million dollars in the bank.  The national debt has been paid down.  Say it once, say it a thousand times, cancel the naysayers gym membership, & maybe file a lawsuit begging a court to grant the legitimacy you seek; at the end of the day, men are men, & women are women.  So sorry, Jazz.  So sorry, Bruce Jenner.  So sorry, man who thinks he belongs in the women's locker room.  So sorry, subversive culture seeking to undermine God at every turn.

I promise I did not spend the entirety of this past week dwelling on Hillary Clinton or society's attempts to obliterate gender distinctions.  I mean, that would make for a really depressing week, & it's been anything but.  My week was filled with anecdotes to the images of women & gender society tries so hard to pretend are truthful, praiseworthy.  My week was laced with constant reminders of women who have (& continue to) bless my life.

Recently, my mom went through some old papers that had been in storage since my parents moved.  She found a sealed envelope with this on the outside:

She didn't open it, knowing who penned the B r i t t n e y circa 1987.  She saved it & gave it to me, & this is what I found when I opened the envelope . . .  an envelope that was sealed when Reagan was president.  

The letter reads:

Dear Brittney, 

I hope you like your new home very much.  I hope you like it.  I hope your making lots of good friends that are very nice and a few at school too.  I wish I knew what you were doing right this minute.  

Love Anna 

Brittney was one of my first friends.  We attended church, church camp, & school together, & when we weren't together at church or camp or school, we were often still together, given that we lived within walking distance of each other & were, I believe, drawn to each others dry sense of humor even in our formative years.  Brittney is one of the funniest people I know, & even after her (obviously heartbreaking) move to Texas when we were young, we spent time together at camp & on family ski trips doubled over in laughter as we aged.  

I'll go ahead & address the grammatical elephant in the letter.  Yes, I used your in the sentence, I hope your making lots of good friends that are very nice and some at school too, when I obviously needed you're.  It's also a bit of a run-on sentence, & there are some overall redundancy issues with the letter as well.  I choose to focus on the larger sentiment that inspired the writing of the letter, the longing for my friend, as well as my sincere wishes that she find happiness in her new life in the big, faraway place that was, to my first grade mind, Dallas, Texas.  Brittney, while I obviously failed to properly relay my thoughts almost thirty years ago, I hope that, now that I've shared them with you, my words bring you some comfort.  

These are the only pics I could find of us.  I know I have more.  In fact, I have a slew of camp photos that I can't find at the moment, & maybe that's for the best, because goodness were we all a hot mess at camp.

This is from field day at school, I'm guessing kindergarten or first grade.  That's me in the center of the pic, & Brittney on the far right.  We're looking at each other, rather than ahead, which is often the preferred direction when you're jumping in a big potato sack.  I'm guessing neither of us medaled in this event . . . but we probably had a blast sitting in the bleachers making fun of people who were way too enthusiastic about field day.

This next one was taken many years after field day on the mountains of Colorado.  I know we may not look it in this picture, but we were both pretty decent skiers in our younger, more agile years. 

I hope sharing these photos doesn't erase the feelings of goodwill conjured by the letter. 

The list of fantastic women in my life doesn't end with lifelong friends.  My sister & my niece were in town this past week, & they brought a special Texas surprise with them, my Aunt Kathy.  I spent a lot of time at my parents' house so Maisie could spend time with "Rea Rea" & Henry.  Thursday night, with my dad out of town & Trey working feverishly on an appellate brief that was due Friday, Henry was the sole male in our dinner entourage.  We went & ate cheeseburgers & onion rings & fries, & then, because we strive to set a good example for the babes, we all ordered malts after an informative discussion with the waiter about the difference in a malt & a shake.

Apparently I was so busy gabbing & setting a healthy example during the week that this is the only picture I took:

The fictional worlds to which I love to escape are also often dominated by women.  I spent much of this past Friday night with the Gilmore girls.  Trey & the kids were at his parents' house for a sleepover, & I had a blissful evening doing extremely girly things like eating pancakes & drinking coffee at IHOP & buying things I don't need at Hobby Lobby.  While it's true that girls do want to have fun, perhaps Cyndi Lauper might consider a sequel that goes something like, Girls just wanna go to Hobby Lobby & then mar the sheetrock hanging what they bought.

This was half off.  When I turned a corner & saw it up the aisle, I knew, I knew, I wanted to hang it over the kids' toilet in order to display important stuff like toilet paper & Reagan's Elsa & Anna jewelry.

Once I was satisfied with the new holes I'd made in the wall, I got in bed & watched more Gilmore Girls episodes than I care to share with you.  I'll just say that it was fall in Stars Hollow when I started, & by the time I drifted off to sleep, flowers were beginning to bud around town.  I did take a few breaks to make decaf, & stand in the kitchen listening to nothing but the sound of my refrigerator humming & cooling, humming & cooling.  That's right, all is once again well in the Zeigler household.    

(Perhaps next week's blog will be titled, "Shifting Family Dynamics: Fighting Over Daddy's New Chair."  I had no idea what terrible shape Trey's old chair was in until I sat in this one.  Let's just say that at the moment, I am not crying about the hours he spends at work every day.)

This Friday, the Lord willing, will be spent with wonderful women of both the fiction & nonfiction variety.  The book club has ambitious plans this month.  We're meeting Friday night to see a movie, & then enjoy coffee & things covered in syrup at IHOP (yes, IHOP again . . . I can't help it, they leave the carafe of coffee at your table!) while we discuss the film, as well as The Awakening, which is this month's book.

You know who, despite her death way back in 1904, continues to add more substantive material to the discourse on the plight of the American woman than Hillary Clinton?  Kate Chopin, that's who.  Ladies, turn off your TV, quit reading the news, & read The Awakening . . . unless of course you're watching Gilmore Girls which is, among other things, a fascinating exploration of mother/daughter relationships.  Serious props to Kelly Bishop, Lauren Graham, & Alexis Bledel for their work on the show.  I cry often.

Reagan, a few words of advice.  First, don't get caught up in linguistic politics.  Reject terms like transgender; like the phrases Affordable Care Act & Net Neutrality, it is language designed to foster a skewed version of reality that begins with linguistic acquiescence.  Don't be offended by words like mankind or phrases like chairman of the board or throw like a girl.  You have two aunts who throw like girls, one who threw like a girl for four years on scholarship at Auburn University.  Don't fret over blog posts titled, On Man & Machines.  There are so many, many other incredibly more important things on which to spend your time & energy.  Always refuse to join the chronically offended crowd.  Also, don't ever cast a vote for anyone because of their race or their gender.  Cast a vote for whomever you feel is most qualified (even if it's a white guy).

Remember that you can affect change from within the confines of your home; you don't have to live in the White House, or head to Capitol Hill for work, to make a difference.  If it is power you seek, have kids; as their mother, no one will wield more power over their formative years than you.  Remember that with power comes responsibility.  If you want to do something for the betterment of your gender, surround yourself with worthy, God-fearing women, & with them, create an environment rich in conversation that teems with positivity & honesty.

Remember that women like words.  Send your friend an unexpected note or birthday card (this is more effective if you actually mail it, of course).  Write your dear old mom a letter.  Carve out a little piece of immortality for yourself & write a book.  Read all that you can; perhaps nothing else will allow you to so fully empathize with others with whom you have almost nothing in common.  If you want to learn more about men & their thought processes, read Hemingway, whose lack of details in pivotal scenes in his novels has been known to drive women crazy.

Finally, understand that the Lord created man & then, from man, He created woman; they are different creatures in many respects, & that is fantastic.  It was yet another of His wise decisions that the world attempts to thwart, to twist.  Be happy you're a woman.  Embrace the unique experiences that status affords you, rather than allowing others to explain to you why womanhood is equivalent to victimhood, dictating for you a list of grievances, rather than a list of blessings that women enjoy.  I remember the day I learned I was carrying a little girl.  I was, & remain, thrilled.  Adding your name to the list of wonderful women in my life continues to be one of my greatest joys.


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