Friday, June 26, 2015

Supreme Court Redefines "Marriage" as "Love"

Celebrating Supreme Court ruling on marriage
President Obana was so romantic when commenting on the Supreme Court 5-4 ruling that same-sex marriage be permitted nationally.  "Love is Love," he declared, in a puzzling statement of the obvious.

Yes, love is love. but it is not marriage, though the president implied that's so. Do all people who deeply love each other naturally want to marry?

The nursery rhyme that "love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage" is as outdated as the horse and carriage. Nowadays more Americans are single than married. Many live together; many just hook up. Others cultivate relationships for years but don't marry.

Love is love. It is a feeling. It can waver and wane and disappear. More marriages based on how spouses feel will mean more divorces, and divorce is inevitably sad, divisive and, when children are involved, becomes difficult, uncomfortable and complicated.

Redefining institutions is a dangerous business. Changing an institution into a feeling is absurd, but it has happened. Marriage, in every culture, through all time, was the setting designated as the procreative, child-rearing core of societies. Without the purpose of man and woman creating offspring that they together raise, marriage would not have endured. Why would the world's major religions sanctify--set aside--marriage as a glorified institution if societies have no stake in its welfare? Marriage would have faded or morphed thousands of years before if it was defined as a declaration of feelings.

Pres. Obama declaring "love is love," meaning 'love is marriage.'
 But now that the Supreme Court has decided love is the legally recognized criterion for marriage, they're going to have a tough time upholding other criteria. Triplet sisters with a close bond certainly deserve to marry as much as two strangers! And should they decide to obtain sperm and become pregnant, isn't it nicer for a child to have THREE mothers rather than merely two? Doesn't a child deserve more legally recognized love, rather than less?

Love is love, and now it's marriage. Love comes in many different types, none more than a mother for her child. I know many who claim their mothers are their best friends. That bond cannot be surpassed; who is to say it is less permanent than those of the same generation? Children should be able to marry their mothers. At age 4, my son Danny pledged to marry me. I remain solidly married to his father and Danny chose a brilliant wife, but we continue our commitment to each other, so why not marriage?

Love is love, so if someone currently married to another--or others--finds a willing person to add to his/her constellation of love, then clearly under the new definition, he should not be denied marriage. Isn't it better for children if Mom and Dad or Moms and Dads, remain together? Why should the government require divorce? Isn't that bad for children? Isn't divorce economically disruptive? Love is love. How dare the government limit one's love to just one other person?

Ahh, but government makes many inconsistent laws. When logic dictates one thing, legislators often ignore it. Love is marriage for gay and straight unrelated couples. Love as marriage is forbidden if you love too many people, or love family members or have no divorce.

There are many ways to show respect for those with all sexual orientations. Government does not impede private relationships between people. But like every other culture at every other time, our nation retains a stake in children being born and raised in the environment that offers them the best opportunity to thrive.  That is the only relationship that should be encouraged. Every person is worthy of respect, but not every relationship is worthy of marriage.

The American version of the English language is confused when love is defined as marriage and marriage defined as love. Feelings make poor basis for reliability and predictability, and so with this change, all marriages become tougher to uphold and defend.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Making Much of Womanhood: Caitlyn, Hillary and Women Who Ran for President

Hillary: Too late to be the first
Headline in USA Today, "Clinton: Gender a factor in campaign." Hillary makes it such because that's the main thing she's got going for her, what with those nasty fails in her background--a foundation that takes money for State Department favors, four dead people in Benghazi, and, perhaps most fascinating, a husband who can't keep his hands off women, even when he's their superior, even when he's in the most hallowed space in the the country, even when impeached for lying about it.

There's all that stuff and lots more, so the New York Times shifts its disdain to the wife of Republican candidate Marco Rubio's thirteen traffic tickets over the last 18 years, including one for going 23 miles per hour in a school zone. Mrs. Rubio is a woman, by the way, so her stints in traffic school must be news. Her husband, a comparatively sedate driver, over those years received four citations, two of which were dismissed. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, who last year admitted she has not driven a car since 1996.

Caitlyn Jenner: So shocking you have to look
Female gender is hot enough that Vanity Fair used it to resuscitate its readership by sensationalizing poor Caitlyn aka Bruce Jenner, dressing her in bust-popping corsets and revealing the extensive plastic surgery the 65-year-old endured to femininze her features. The skanky layout gave the issue of gender steam, letting Mrs. Clinton highlight something more titillating than issues facing the country.

Being a woman, being a man wanting to be a woman, admitting to "coloring my hair for years" and learning how to apply eye-liner (Caitlyn used Tom Ford Eye-Defining Pen)--these are topics gaining attention. They inspire the public to purchase magazines and, Hillary hopes, cheer at her rallies.

Hillary wants to capitalize on her gender because she's aware it's "trending."

While repeating that she's a woman, she'll conveniently forget to remind us of the more than thirty-five other women who sought the presidency before her, including candidates in her own party. Notably, Hillary won't mention a black congresswoman who represented Brooklyn, New York for seven terms, from 1969 to 1983, Shirley Chisholm, whose slogan and book were "unbought and unbossed."

Rep. Chisholm ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1972 (when Hillary and Bill were in Yale law school with my husband), and with only $300,000 at her campaign's disposal, won 152 first-ballot votes for the nomination. Rep. Chisholm was direct, articulate and feisty, and earned as much comment about her gender as her race.

"When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men," she reflected in 1982, on her way to teach at Mt. Holyoke College (as quoted in her New York Times obituary of January, 2005).

Rep. Chisholm wasn't the first woman in recent memory to earn delegate votes at a major party's national convention. The Republicans did it first in 1964, with Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to serve in both the House and the Senate, representing Maine for 32 years. She always emphasized her competence over her gender. When asked upon announcing her presidential candidacy if she expected the continued support of Democratic women, she answered, "I take the position that women Democrats and Republicans are not supporting a woman because she is a woman. I think the women of this country are looking for qualified candidates..."

Sen. Smith founded the women's divisions of both the Coast Guard and the Marines, and in 1950 was the first Republican to publicly denounce Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communism tactics in her "Declaration of Conscience" speech, in which she said, "I speak as a Republican, I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American." In that ascending order.

This contrasts with Mrs. Clinton's spotlight on her sex. In its coverage of her campaign reboot speech a few days ago, the New York Times noted, " was clear that Mrs. Clinton will make gender more central to her campaign this time. In her closing remarks, she called for a country 'where a father can tell his daughter yes, you can be anything you want to be, even president of the United States.'” Earth to Hillary: fathers and mothers have been doing that for two generations now.

She must also grapple with the issue of her advanced age, a problem Sen. Smith could not surmount, even though she would have been three years younger than Mrs. Clinton, who if elected will take office at age 69. To deflect age questions, Mrs. Clinton shifts focus back to her gender, saying in her reboot speech, “I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I will be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States.”

Screen grab from Carly Fiorina's recent speech in DC
Carly Fiorina, 60, would prefer a different outcome. I saw Ms. Fiorina electrify the Road to Majority Conference this weekend in Washington DC, and I left the hall to the excited buzz of newly-converted admirers. See her superb 20-minute speech here.

Democrat Geraldine Ferarro in 1984 was the first woman to capture a major party's nomination for Vice President, followed by Republican Sarah Palin in 2008. They both already demonstrated women's acceptability for high office.
Sec'y Condoleeza Rice: Universally respected

And there's another woman who, like Mrs. Clinton, has international experience. A concert pianist, National Security Advisor to the President, Secretary of State, Stanford provost and professor, corporate board member, College Football Playoff-picker, and seven years younger than Hillary: Condoleeza Rice. Unlike Hillary, she has no family baggage or scandals to detract from her record. Adding her as VP to any ticket--as suggested by my husband--undercuts Mrs. Clinton's "I am woman" mantra, and adds Dr. Rice's proven national security expertise.

Hillary isn't gaining fans, and in fact, it appears she's losing them. It could be her stiff, five-miles-an-hour delivery of stump speeches. It could be her unwillingness to answer direct questions, or her squishiness on foreign enemies and solving domestic economic lethargy. Most likely, the public's just tired of her, because she sounds tired. She never earned their trust or friendship. Mitt Romney can attest to the importance of a candidate who "cares about people like me," and with a net worth somewhere near $30 million, few are "people like Hillary."

So Hillary is reduced to touting her gender. Voters want a candidate with a record of competence, but with a trail of scandals and embarrassments, the Democratic candidate just keeps singing her slow-tempo "I am Woman" refrain as Republicans with momentum pass her by.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Pressure for Women to Look Good is Imposed by Bottom-Biting Media

I write here of two problems: that women feel badly about the pursuit of beauty, and that
Commentator Megyn Kelly, part of the pressuring media.
some cannot express their conflicts properly.

An opinion article in the New York Times recently bemoaned feminists' needs to make themselves look as--pick your favorite--young, sexy, stylish, desirable, nubile, beautiful as they possibly can.

   "The Pressure to Look Good" noted women's hypocrisy in insisting on achievement and empowerment while, well, squeezing into Spanx. The writer, an author, lamented that she received a compliment for her Time Magazine piece encouraging her daughter to aspire beyond appearances-- while on her way for Botox injections. "How can you tell your girls that inner beauty matters when you're texting them the message from your aesthetician's chair?"

   Admittedly, I don't know what an aesthetician is, and neither does my word processor, but I do know one thing: writer Jennifer Weiner failed in assigning blame. She writes, "Social media has done many wonderful things for women, and for writers, and for activists, and for women writer activists...But, in terms of beauty, it's really bitten us on the bottom."

     Leave aside that women, writers, activists and women writer activists likely do not share a collective bottom.

     Focus instead on a more troublesome and ubiquitous problem. Media are plural. Social media HAVE done many wonderful things, but THEY have not bitten bottoms. Or a singular, shared bottom, with their plural teeth, a most peculiar metaphor to visualize.

    One might have thought a woman writer activist would realize that the word "media" is the plural form of the singular "medium." Or, at the least, one might have expected that copy editors at the New York Times would be so informed.

     However, preparing for the possible snap of another's cell phone camera, and the photo perhaps going viral on Twitter, blogs, Facebook and Instagram requires a lot of advance primping. Which leaves little time for proof-reading. "There have been entire afternoons that I could have spent with my daughters where I've been in the salon instead, getting my gray covered up and my calluses scrubbed," Ms. Weiner admits, awkwardly. After all, today's women know "that being out in public means being looked at, and possibly photographed, assessed in a way that men still are not, and maybe never will be."  Such is the thinking of women writer activists.

     Reminder to Ms. Weiner and all feminists everywhere: men and women are different. Despite a new definition of marriage that equates genders, the way the real world works is that women first gain attention for beauty  and men first for dynamism and career success. It's not fair, it's not egalitarian and it's not politically correct, but something drives Ms. Weiner to "squeeze into viselike undergarments and heels so high that I can barely hobble..." She admits a motivation is "just liking to look good," and fearing what happens online to "any woman who doesn't."

May I suggest two things. First, just as a physician takes an oath to "do no harm," professional writers should swear to use proper grammar. (Incomplete sentences exempt.) Specifically, writers should not confuse "media" with "medium." Contributing to the problem is that the word "media" is usually preceded by "the," as in "The media are about to abandon Hillary Clinton despite their liberal bias." Why not just return to the uncluttered and direct use of the word "media" without an unnecessary "the" beforehand? Media, are you listening? Alas, I realize you're not.

Writer Jennifer Weiner: conflicted.
Second suggestion: Admit that women seek recognition for their physical appearance, and choose to honor that desire and be comfortable with it (or not). Just don't complain about it and then publish surprise that you perpetuate it. Success and attractiveness can co-exist even as in many situations the former is dependent on the latter. The newscaster can offer astute commentary from her lipstick-rouged mouth as it speaks above her cleavage. She can provide sharp analysis, while seated in a short skirt. If smart journalists jointly refused to show off their nicely dressed bodies, well, ratings would suffer, and some other woman who has it all (brains and beauty, both) will come take the job.

I am a feminist. I am a realist. I am a grammar geek. Feminists can acknowledge or eschew the reality of gender differences (whether they exist by acculturation or biology), choosing how to respond to that reality. Some things, however, cannot stand, and those include nasty, bottom-biting media.