Monday, August 27, 2012

Paean to Polyamory

As a general rule, I write social commentary about the things that annoy me. And I look upon it, and it is good. But it has recently been brought to my attention (by my mother) that I’m becoming too cynical. I don’t think there is such a thing as too cynical, but eh, mothers. So in the grand tradition of kids attempting to prove parents wrong, today’s blog is brought to you by kittens and unicorns and rainbows and whatever other crap makes you smile.

What makes me happy then? A number of things. While I do bleed cynicism and wield keyboards as though I believe they fire photon torpedoes, I’m not an unhappy person. I like small, cute things. Puppies and what not. Hedgehogs, for a preference. I think the fact that one of the most adorable animals in existence is covered in razor spines says something about the universe that amuses me.

But I’m rambling. Carrying on. What makes me happy, then, is people. Not all people, mind, since I loathe 99% of the human race. Before you judge, please remember that this leaves me 69,737,384 (give or take a couple hundred thousand) people to potentially like or love. I think that’s more than freakin’ enough, ok? Where was I?

Right, people. And there’s a bit of a rub. As strange as it might sound, I’m rather fond of being fond of people. See, I’m not kidding when I say I loathe the vast majority of the human race. But here’s the kicker: in a strange twist it turns out that, on some level or another, I can love lots and lots of people.

“So what? Parents do that all the time.”

Yep. But I meant romantically. The word for this is polyamory, which is a horrible thing. “Poly” is a Greek root word, and “amory” is Latinate. It should be “polyphilia” or “multiamory” damnit. But I digress.

I have a husband. We’ve been together for four years. I love that man so hard and hot, I could and would burn the world down if I thought it’d make him happy (I don’t own firearms for a reason, folks.) He’s my everything, my world, and he’s kept me upright and sane (for certain values of sane) through more crap than I can think to mention. He’s sweet and funny, with a sense of humor that whips back and forth between “d’awwwww” and “HIT THE DECK!”

He’s a teddy bear with a paintball grenade. He won’t hurt you much, but you will damn well be covered in it. And it will be funny.

We’ve had one boyfriend (who didn’t work out) and we’re dating another guy now. The new guy is this cute little boy that was new and shiny when we got hold of him. We’ve been working double time to get him firmly patinated, and to our delight, the shiny won’t rub off. As much as we corrupt the guy, he’s still playful, sweet, and speaks in lolcat, macro, and Net memes. I know that sounds weird, but you haven’t really lived until you’ve heard someone speak an entire paragraph of words in the “ERMAGERD” dialect.  And there’s yet another guy in the wings who’s looking interesting, and we’re considering trying for a quad.

And that’s just the people I do, or might, share a pillow with. There’s quite a few more than that. There’s a tiny, catlike woman called tiger who greatly enjoys torturing me (not that I complain) that I would love to put in my pocket and keep forever. Her guy is Chewy, this awesome Army armor division vet that walks, talks, and approaches everything like he has his tank in his pocket should you piss him off. He’s sexy, trust me.

They have a poly family. One of the women is this fantastic smart-aleck called Monkey (it makes sense in context) who always has a spot perfect comment, and has the driest, most deadpan delivery. When I first met her, I thought she was being funny on accident until the first time she cracked a smile in the middle of a particularly ridiculous line of thought.

The other girl doesn’t have a nickname I can use here (yet), but knows who she is. She’s a brat, a little kid that has to pretend to be a grown-up most of the time, and then suddenly smiles like the devil’s inside her and all hell breaks loose for a few seconds. When it’s done, she’s smiling like butter wouldn’t melt, and the pile of bodies is a mile high. Needless to say, she’s adorable.

There’s a lesbian couple in Cali my husband and I used to live with. There’s no romance, but we call them family, and there is love there. One of them, Kitteh (yes, it’s lolcat; deal with it) is a Hello Kitty fanatic with a slightly prurient, giggly sense of humor and a tendency to be suddenly and randomly girly. The other half, Kryket, is another deadpan snarker whose favorite activity is to find the grammar errors in speech that change the meaning of what is said...and then go off and running with the alternate meaning. It’s incredibly amusing to watch happen to other people.

And then there’s the people we live with. One of them, Gem, I call sister. She’s a tiny Irish woman, with all the temper, stubbornness, and humor that implies. Her kids, one of whom (as I’ve previously mentioned) is dating my brother. And then Creed, who is currently with Gem, and is both nearly cripplingly intelligent, and a major, major n—nope, need another major—nerd. Which makes me happy, as I am also a (major)3 nerd.

This list could go on. But I think I’ve made my point. Oh, and for the record, I am gay.
Yes that’s more than a few women on that there list; I simply fail to see why not wanting to sleep with someone prevents romantic love. And to clarify, yes, I find them attractive. I’m just not interested in getting busy.

Point, yes. I have one, and will get to it.

Everywhere I look, the society I live in is confining love, beauty, romance, attraction. If I hadn’t fallen in with wonderful people I might be dead or, more likely, an alcoholic now. Because the world around me isn’t exactly understanding of a gay boy with a husband, a boyfriend, another potential boyfriend, and romantic attraction to both men and women but only physical attraction to men.

Why not? I mean seriously, I love lots of people. I can be in love with more than one person. I can be open to romance with just about anyone. And, to tie this all back to the top, the reason I end up loathing so much of the human race is that there are people that hate me...for loving others.

Hey look, there was a cliche! Right up there!

Quick note: monogamy is fabulous. It works for lots of people. But when it’s the option assumed because it’s simultaneously assumed that it’s the only option, we have problems. In all seriousness: all you poor mundane folk out there that chose to live in a box because “hey, look! A box!”—

I’m sad for you. I’ll be over here with my freakin’ party van of people to love, who also love me, while you keep right on searching for that one soul that makes you happy because society, or your parents, or your faith has told you that you are broken if you need or want more than one.

There. Social commentary, with rainbows and kittens and ponies and whatnot. Now smile, damnit. And go find someone to love.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why Paul Ryan Scares Me: A Brief Lesson in Civics

Well, I’ve avoided politics in my blogs for as long as humanly possible. I have this burning hatred of the political game, politicians who play it, and the whole rigged system in general. And I’d rather write a social blog.

But, to my intense annoyance, there is currently a political clusterschtup taking the nation by firestorm. And I would be ashamed to call myself an opinionated bastard if I didn’t weigh in at least briefly. 

The situation to date: Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) got mouthy on a radio show a few days back, and made the following statement:   

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Cue firestorm. Which is great, Akin should absolutely be roasted by every pundit and sane human being for this. As has also been extensively covered, Akin has sponsored, authored, or lobbied for a number of bills that attempt to limit, deny or criminalize birth control and abortion options in most cases. 

One of those bills, HR 3, contained the language “forcible rape” in an attempt to create legal distinctions between “types” of rape, for the purpose of denying abortion to women whose rape wasn’t “forcible.”

No, I have no idea what world this man is living in. But let’s get to the end of this real fast.  Co-authoring and sponsoring that bill specifically, and a few others, was a man named Paul Ryan. Who is currently running for Vice-President. Hence, an even larger firestorm heading down the pipe.

To the heart of the problem. Civics 101, Lite: the President is the head of the US Executive branch. His (or her) job is to implement and enforce the laws Congress creates, to be in charge of the military, and to be the frontman (or woman) for Congress. Because trying to have a foreign dignitary meet with the entire Congress or sign a treaty with Congress, while hilarious, would be a monkey pile waiting to happen.

Now, go back and look at the “implement and enforce” bit. Congress makes laws. Not the president. Congress. They’re the ones in charge of pretty much everything to do with policies and laws. So Congress, not the president, gets to decide what is and is not legal on a Federal scale. (With help and wrist slapping provided by the Supreme Court. And the President can say no under most circumstances. And needs to sign things—look, I’m keeping this simple, ok?) 

Half the VP’s job is to be the person in charge of the Senate. No, seriously. The job is usually done by the longest serving US Senator, but it’s constitutionally one of the VP’s jobs. Long explanation short, the Senate is the upper house, the one things go through right before the President gets them. The veep doesn’t debate, doesn’t really do much of anything in the Senate. 

But he has the deciding vote in any tie. Take a second to think that through. In any debate that is so charged and controversial as to result in a tie, Paul Ryan would have the power to decide which way the vote goes.

And it gets better! The other half of a VP’s job is to step in for the Pres if he or she can’t fulfill his or her duties. So, should Romney-Ryan get elected, if something happens to Romney we’ll have Akin’s ideological twin sitting in the White House.

I’ll hit my thesis here, then. I’ve not had enough of a look at Romney to make a call there. And while I could point to a few things Obama has done that annoy me (alright, more than a few) we’re not sinking horribly, he’s kept more than a few of his campaign promises to the best of his ability and...well, he hasn’t sucked horribly.

Barring new information, I was essentially undecided until Romney picked a running mate. And this is the point, which I cannot emphasize strongly enough:

Ryan has a record of voting as a right wing extremist. Ryan has authored bills and documents indicating an ideology consistent with the stereotype of right wing extremism. While it is possible that he’s simply catering to some strange voter base, the evidence indicates that this man is absolutely divorced from anything resembling modern reality for women’s rights.

So this Fall I will not be voting for anyone. I will not be basing my decision (as I would have hoped) on a rational look at voting records, issues, statements and contradictions. I will be voting to keep a crackpot from getting within arm’s reach of the big chair, and away from power of decision in the Senate.

Yay for ‘effing America. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Race to the Degree

Yay, college. Today marks the first day of my last semester on what will probably prove to be a largely useless degree. I am not, however, bitter. Why, one might ask, would a person not be bitter about a degree that has minimal job prospects and is mostly good for getting the next college to accept credits without a fight? Well, the second one is a fairly good reason. Transferable credits are nothing to sneeze at.  But mostly, it’s the growing gap in higher education.

Yes, for those out there keeping score, I do have issues with the whole education system! Horrific missteps in the gaining of knowledge isn’t only for kids anymore! Doesn’t it give you warm fuzzies?

Here’s the problem in a nutshell. In order to work in any given field, more and more time needs to be invested in education before starting. I’m both cursed and lucky, in that a monkey could do my job. Okay, that’s exaggeration, but not by much. While a degree helps in my field, it is possible to just get started with an AP style handbook and natural aptitude. But my field is in the “evolve or die” phase, and so far it’s still clinging to the trees and complaining about how far down that ground is, and who wants to walk upright anyway?

There are, however, a great many fields that need a degree to get started. And for many of them, a Bachelors is today, what an Associates used to be. That is, it’s the degree you have to get before you can get the degree that actually qualifies you to work in your field.

Ok, a couple more years. So what? Kids are taking time off before college now, and living at home until thirty. There’s time, right?

Nope. College is getting more expensive every year, in every way. Tuition goes up to match raises in taxes, cost of living, cost of services. Text books have been expensive since dot, but are getting more so as publishers become more specialized and the various fields become unbreakable monopolies.

Student loans are going up to match the rising tuition costs. And since the loan companies have students over a barrel with no lube in sight, all students can do is shop around and hope the government can help.

Ah, the government! I have not a single thing against government aid. I don’t approve of abusing it, mind you, but I have nothing against its existence and use. Unfortunately, students who don’t have gobs of money to pay for school themselves but aren’t actually poor can’t touch that. A friend of mine has a dad who makes quite good money. Her mother, however, has the vicious version of diabetes, Type 1, and so when her parents income is adjusted for cost of living, there’s barely enough to get them through, much less help their daughter through school.

But since FAFSA doesn’t adjust for cost of living (surprise) there’s no help. Which leaves those nasty, nasty loans.

Scholarships! Grants! Well, yes. But they’re difficult to find. And do you have any idea what it’s like to apply for $16-24,000 worth of scholarships and grants? The applications process alone is a full time job, 8 hours a day for a minimum of a week for the gamblers, and perpetuity for the conscientious, with no guarantee that it will pay off. And once on a scholarship, it’s a never-ending adventure to meet the requirements.

Now imagine having five scholarships to fulfill. Oh, and still keeping up with classes.  

And with all of that said: nothing in highschool prepares a student for college. So even making it in and getting the money don’t mean that it will be possible to make it through.

And finally, on top of all that: the middle class is vanishing under economic strain. The comfortable jobs that college earned a decade or so ago are rapidly becoming either so highly paid as to boost a person out of the middle class, or so common as to drop below it. Or are staying stable, while cost of living goes up.

Why does this matter? Debt levels all. Debt from earning those degrees eliminates their starting advantage, and gives non-graduate workers time to catch up. So it’s actually possible, with care and practice, to live decently on income earned as a manager in a fast food restaurant, or (as my husband does, making excellent money) working in tech support. Or a grocery store. Or, quite frankly, and one of the hundreds of non-outsourceable local service jobs that have room for promotion, or will hire for better paying positions based on experience. Experience that, unlike college, actually pays the bills to earn. And that living can, as experience accumulates, become just as comfortable.

So, to recap: getting a useful degree takes longer; college is getting more expensive in every aspect; loans blow chunks, grants and scholarships are attainable, but difficult to find and wield properly; and the time spent versus debt accumulated to earn a useful degree is closing in on the point of being a losing situation for most degree holders.

So, why am I not bitter about my nearly useless degree? Because I’m lucky. I got my degree entirely on the government's dime because I have seven siblings. I got it at a community college that actively gives a crap about affordability, and so didn’t have to pull loans to do it.

And I’m lucky because I’m ahead of the tide. Very soon, I’ll have to start pulling down loans and hunting scholarships. But if my reading is right, I’ll clear the hurdle just ahead of the gap, and make it out of this with a useful degree before the debt-to-income ratio shuts me out.

Now: on my mark, get set...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Education Blues

Of all the things my mother did for us kids, I have to admit that homeschooling us was one of her braver and more brilliant moves. Not because I think homeschoolers are the future gods of mankind, as my mother does (hint: she’s biased;) but because the current system of public education is downright awful.

Children aren’t passing on their own merits, both because it would hurt their “self-esteem” and the schools funding. I know a couple kids that graduated to high school without being able to read past a first-grade level. And not because of learning disabilities, but because they hadn’t been forced to learn how.

A full quarter of the American population never finished high school. Think about that for a moment. That’s not some little number, that’s a huge friggin’ chunk of people. And the hilarious thing? Whenever standards are raised, there’s an uproar. There was a push here in Oklahoma to require kids graduating high school to take a standardized exam similar to the GED in order to receive a diploma. Instant screaming from parents, teachers, and the kids themselves. Why?

Because all and sundry were afraid the kids wouldn’t pass and get their diploma. No seriously, that was the stated reason.

And even for the kids whom the public school system isn’t a total failure, there’s major skills left untaught. Classes on money management are rare enough to make the news. Civics is generally a class about “this is the structure of the US/State/City government.” Little to nothing goes into teaching the kids about politics, how to study potential candidates, what their rights are and how to exercise them.

The arts are experiencing a bit of a resurgence, but are still the red-headed step-kids of the school system. After all, who cares? No-one broadcasts school concerts on primetime local channels. Gallery showing of high school art is publicized mostly within the school population itself, and generally gets the vibe of “look what little Billy/Suzy made in class.”

A kid can skate by, slouching through the system with little to no consequence, and be released into the world with whatever life skills he or she can gain from peers. And a kid can’t make it through even that long, dropping out is on the table.

Kids that can move or throw or tackle get prime treatment. Help with classes, tutoring, even occasional “fudging” in some cases, to help the kid stay on the team. So no incentive to learn, there.

The kids who can’t play, or aren’t good at playing, are dumped in the “not sporty” box, bullied or becoming bullies, with the programs that might help them being cut. And even if the programs do exist, the stigma of “not being good at sports” makes participation in those programs just another tool in the bully’s arsenal. Some of these kids will learn out of self-defense, true enough. But how many more will just decide there’s no point? They’re not jocks, so no-one cares, right? No incentive to learn.

As a college student, I sat next to and worked with fellow students who can’t spell or write clearly. Students who believe that tossing a bunch of words on paper in some semblance of order qualifies as a paper.

I’ve heard students talking about every subject under the sun, and I can almost always spot the ones that skated through school. They’re the ones that can’t form sentences to save their lives; who express illogical opinions with the clear and ringing tone of dogmatic truth, without the ability to defend their opinion.

So what’s up with all this? Why is the US education system flushing itself?

Well, a few reasons present themselves. First is that there really is no money in K-12 education. The funding blows, the pay blows, the job blows. And these savings are passed on to the taxpayers in the form of lower costs and children that are essentially babysat for 12 years, with an option to learn now and again. On top of which, the only way for the system to get more money is to show high passing rates. So kids that haven’t paid attention, or who’ve been overlooked by the system will just keep getting passed up the line until they flunk horribly, drop out, get a decent teacher...or graduate.

Second, the world is growing ever more complex. Higher and higher level material is being pushed to younger and younger kids, without the support network to help them. New methods of teaching kids are being discovered, but are having trouble gaining a foothold in the face of decades of the lecture/activity/homework style. Out of all the students I’ve met? I’m one of four I know of that actually works well for.  

Third, and perhaps most depressing, is the kids are left uneducated for their own good. If it’s a choice between fighting a child to get them to learn, and simply punishing behavior, why fight? Repeated sanctions have a great track record in any field, no? I mean, it works on whole countries when the UN does it. Wow, that was hard to type with a straight face.

Solutions, then: well, there’s a couple. But I doubt I’ll see them in my lifetime.

More funding, properly allocated. Put towards more teachers, better programs, academic studies to find better ways of educating kids. Where would this mystery finding come from? Well, perhaps standing down military spending, congressional raises, and a minor tax hike would be a good start. And if you feel the need to cuss about a tax hike to educate kids, I hope you choke on your own rhetoric.
Better educational incentives. What, you thought learning something was enough to get kids to listen to someone that controls their lives for 6-8 hours a day? Nope. Give them a reason. Reward good academic skills. Kids compete like they breathe, and using their self-esteem as a reason not to reward those who succeed and spur those who don’t care is just plain stupid.

Give the teachers a little more power to handle stuff. These are people who’ve been through a minimum of 4 years of college, exhaustive exams, have been licensed, certified, and fought to get to a point where they can educate a kid. And no-one trusts them to stand a kid in a corner?

I mean, seriously, you’d trust a paramedic to get your kid to a hospital and keep ‘em breathing, a policeman to protect your kid from bodily harm, and a bus driver to take them however many miles back and forth each day to school. But you won’t trust a teacher to know when a kid needs some corner time?

What are the chances of any of this happening? Not likely. Cause seriously, as long as the football’s on, the world keeps turning, and at least a few make it out of the system alive and with a decent start at an education — well, it’s the next generation’s problem, right?

Yep. Just like the education system’s problems when you were growing up were supposed to be yours to fix.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thinking of Thinking of Miracles

Continuing my never ending adventure to piss off as many people as possible using only my keyboard as a weapon, let’s talk religion today, boys and girls!

All y’all out there that ran away thinking this was a “mine’s better than yours” rant should be ashamed of yourselves. The awesomeness of my religion has nothing to do with anything. No, this post just happens to be about the wonders of religious thinking as related on an inverse scale to cognitive self-discipline.

For those who didn’t follow that, it’s: people using religion as a placeholder for actually thinking about stuff.

For the record, I quite like faith and spirituality. I have several gods and goddesses I chat with on a regular basis. My husband talks to and works with the winds. Our boyfriend is an atheist. My brother has Jesus as a bro, and they hang. His girlfriend and her mom are Wiccan. My sister talks with Gaia. Couple of my friends are Buddhist, and another is neo-Zen.

What chaps me is the way some individuals reflexively use their faith as a justification for the most moronic things. And no, this isn’t an “I hate the Christians” speech. Because, while the majority of instances I get to see of this behavior involve Christians, that’s simply because there is a strong bias in Oklahoma towards Christian thought and morality in media and population. I hear there’s a similar bias all over the friggin country, but I haven’t been there, so I’ll stick to what I can point and laugh at directly in this case.

But yeah, Christians. Sanctity of marriage, the joys of abstinence as birth control, abortion should be illegal under all circumstances, etc,.

What I don’t understand are the justifications for this. “Jesus said,” I hear quite often. You know, he never said anything about homosexuals? No, seriously. Those New Testament quotes either come from the apostles letters, or rely on 15th generation translations of obscure verbiage that still don’t actually have anything to do with homosexuality.

Or, “the Bible says it’s so, and God wrote it, so it must be!” To beat a dead horse for a moment, the Bible says a great many things. Since we don’t stone the infants of our enemies, I would think we could get a break on medically necessary uses of drugs designed for birth control, or an honest recognition of the flaws in abstinence as a widespread method of controlling teen sexuality. But, hey; God says, right?

Let’s take it from the opposite side. Atheists. Atheism may not be a “religion” but the adherence to its principles and defense of its standards and beliefs often do approach religious fervor. But hey, they’re just out to fight to far-right wing-crazies! What’d the atheists ever do to anyone?!

Well, how many atheists does it take to get prayer banned in public schools, or a symbol of faith removed from a public place? Not that many, as it turns out. Usually just a couple with decent lawyers, actually.

The reason for the former is the famous “separation of church and state” clause. Funny story: that doesn’t exist. It’s based on a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. The First Amendment means neither government, nor its proxies and institutions, may make laws regarding religion or regulate religious expression beyond the boundaries of enforcing existing laws (for instance, vandalism of public property doesn’t count as religious expression.)

But when organized prayer went down, the response was to assume it had all been shut down. Which is ridiculous. Kids can still pray in schools if they choose, but that option often isn’t broached. Kids can choose not to participate in “invocations,” on the other hand, but that ain’t broached often either.

Or, to jump a bit, the removal of the “Ten Commandments” statue from public places. There’ve been a few over the years, and they all boil down to the argument that having a statue is an endorsement or sign of favoritism towards a Judeo-Christian morality.

What the heck is the problem? If you don’t like the Bible, don’t read the dang statue. On the other hand, last time I checked, just about every one of the things on that tablet is considered to be common morality. Number one is isn’t widely applicable, but the rest are fairly decent guidelines for good living. And while you’re fighting a ridiculous battle to protect your first amendment rights, you’re happily infringing on those same rights for others, by demanding that your beliefs come first.

Again, I can’t speak to the prejudices inherent in other religions without looking foolish, so I’m gonna stick with these two. And I’ve rambled enough to make a point, I think.

These biases might be created by religious thinking, but they also reinforce both negative and reflexive thinking.

“Freaking superstitious Christian, forcing me to see that archaic monument to a god I don’t believe in!”

Negative, no?

“I’m a Christian, and we don’t believe that!”


And it works both ways, and in any other thought system that has a dogma of any kind. Faith without thought is just parroting what someone has told you to believe. God, or gods, or the cold facts of logic and science, are not, and should not be, an excuse for any form of bigotry, prejudice, or close-mindedness.

Because faith and spirituality should be about opening the mind and elevating the spirit. Not whose way is better, and who or what we’re going to hate today.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Princess, Housewife; King, or Naught: What the hell are children taught?

There are many things in this world I find annoying. Unthinking bigotry, thinking bigotry, willful ignorance — all the major peeve groups. But perhaps above them all, what annoys me most is gender inequality. Yes, for those of you who just looked, that is a male name on the byline.
Confused? Good. Me too.
See, there’s still a huge gender bias towards women when it comes to things like payscale, job opportunities, and choice of profession. It’s starting to level out, but only just, and there’s a lot of ground to cover.
What confuses me is the hypocrisy represented in media regarding gender inequality. Which is to say that if you read, watch television, or go to the movies, not only is gender inequality non-existent, but women are so much better than men!
Nearly every movie I’ve been to in the last few years that wasn’t part of a franchise (and many that were) had a female protagonist. Of the few that didn’t, most had bumbling male leads who were supported by their far more awesome female co-stars. And then, just occasionally, we get a guy who kicks butt and takes names. But only if he’s seriously angsty, or somehow socially maladjusted.
Turn on the TV, same thing. Chicks with powers are in. Women will be accepted in any profession, and will either make the same or better than their male counterparts unless it’s sweeps week and the network has to admit gender inequality exists to have a handy ratings plug. Plucky girls that just keep fighting for their dreams can always succeed, especially against boys, right?
Gender equality is a wonderful aspiration, and one we should be working towards wholeheartedly. But what the purple blazes are these executives smoking?
That would be money. They’re smoking $20 flavored cigars wrapped in $100 bills for color and lighting them with $10’s.
Couple problems here: one, this is a really sucky range of options for girls. On the one hand, we’ve got fluffy pink princesses teaching horrifically outmoded values like obedience, and reliance on men. On the other, we have a huge number of role models telling girls that self-reliance and sheer pluck will see them through, because boys aren’t really any competition, and anyway if they just prove they’re bright they’ll win by default.
And then we turn around and wonder why kids listen to peer magazines that encourage eating disorders.
Problem number two is as follows: boys are buggered. No seriously, we’ve got markets screaming for gender equality, and the media portrayals are doing a great job in quantity, if not message, for girls. In the last twenty years years alone, there’ve been more female leads, more in-depth roles...more everything.
But...where are the boy’s role models? Where’s the characters that boys can look up to and say, “I wanna be him when I grow up?”
Girls may be getting mixed messages, but boys are getting negative feedback, if they’re getting any at all. I mean, even if a kid sits down long enough to watch TV or a movie, he’s mostly going to get that his sister is way more awesome than he is. And if she isn’t, it’s because she hasn’t tried, and the moment she does, he’s done.
Which leaves videogames. Nothing against video games here. Love ‘em. But that’s not really any kind of role model. Nope, doesn’t matter which one, what type, or which genre, it’s still not a good role model.
So, having thoroughly confused all and sundry: a conclusion.
Gender bias exists, it’s not in girls favor, and the various forms of entertainment media are feeding them four different flavors of lie. One: that their gender is a magic ticket; two, that men are the gateway to success; three, that gender bias does not exist, and that all is equal and fine; four, that when they find out about the first three lies, popularity and a size zero figure will save them.
Boys are on the other side of the curve, being fed either the same three lies as girls (women are magic conquerors who will rule the world without blinking, women need men to amount to anything, or that there’s no practical difference and gender inequality is a laughable tradition of a quaint era that no longer exists) or a special lie of their own.
That special lie? Boys should be tough enough to get through all this on their own. Who needs role models, right? A boy left in a vacuum with peers in the same situation will turn out great, without any odd neuroses and great self esteem!
So yeah. At the end of all this ranting, a point looms.
Gender inequality is getting better for adults. But the training we’re giving the kids means it’s going to continue.
Raise the friggin children. Teach the friggin children. Stop using the television, and the movies, and the brand name toys as placeholders for parental affection. Stop using counseling and psychiatry as a stopgap for discipline and teaching manners.
Pay attention to what they say. Listen for trends, listen for new thoughts. Address issues openly wherever possible, instead of saying “because I said so” to everything.
And above all, remember that gender is not a barrier to merit. A girl can play soccer, a boy can do drama, or vice-versa. If they’re good at it, and it’s not illegal, let ‘em at it. Don’t praise a son for succeeding in football, then bar a daughter from playing. Don’t praise a daughter for artistic talent, then complain a son isn’t manly enough when he tries his hand at the arts.
Teach them. And maybe we can deprogram the poor suckers enough that when their kids sit down in front of a television or go to a movie, they really do see no difference between a boy doing a job and a girl doing a job. And maybe, when they grow up, they have the joy of finding it’s true.