It’s Good To Be The (Drag)Queen

A man in full-on glamour drag points out, to me, the artificiality of some of the ideas about women’s beauty (not to mention serving as a reminder that I really should investigate some more proactive underwear).

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And Still About Sarah

Let’s get real, we’re talking about kids who now have no more than one degree of separation from U.S. presidents, whose mom, win or lose, can set up a nice trust fund from book royalties and speaking fees.

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Security Mom

Naming a pregnant woman to head the most stereotypically male of departments drew notice, good and bad. Pictures of Chacón reviewing troops just after being named, or hauling herself and her belly to Afghanistan to visit Spanish troops there are an exercise in retraining the eye, whether you welcome that change or not. Chacón is Spain’s first female defense minister and first minister of any department to give birth.

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Calendar Moms

So it’s clear. Whether you look like you should be advertising for Victoria’s Secret or as one of Dove’s “Real Women,” there’s only one thing for a gal to do if she wants cash for a good cause – strip down and start shooting.

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The Mommy Shift

Having spent much more time thinking about cleaning the house than actually doing it, I’ve mentally sorted housework into two categories: executive and shift work. Cleaning the house is mostly executive work, stuff that if it’s your responsibility, you do it whether or not your 40 hours for the week are up. Cleaning a bathroom, washing dishes, doing laundry, those are all things that can be time-shifted. Fewer of the household chores are shift work, meaning whoever’s on duty at the moment is responsible: things like letting in a plumber, replacing toilet paper (should be), taking out garbage (sort of, depending on your tolerance for stinkiness).
Taking care of young kids is a lot more shift work – just try telling a baby to wait when it’s hungry. There’s the basic watching, making sure they don’t decide to fly off the roof or something, and since kids don’t have a hibernate button, they need an adult or responsible substitute actually on-duty. Playing, changing diapers, meals, bedtimes, all are things that come up and that you can stall only briefly and usually at the cost of making more trouble for yourself. But things like buying shoes, making doctors’ appointments, finding preschools, and lots of the kid-related housework like washing clothes are all executive chores – things that wouldn’t be handled by a babysitter, for example. Well, maybe a Mary Poppins type. And though meals themselves are partly an of-the-moment kind of thing, somebody’s got to take a bit of an executive view of them, or else it’s take-out every night. (Those businesses that provide everything a cook needs to prep meals are making money off that idea).
It’s the executive nature of housewifery that created the second shift – the round of chores that working mothers and increasingly fathers come home to after paid employment. But it’s the on-call chores that create the mommy (and yes, daddy) shift. That’s the at-home parent’s round of work-for-pay that starts around 10 p.m. or so, after the kids are asleep and some of the dinner crumbs are wiped up. (The same time a working mom would pull out office papers too, of course, assuming she can keep her eyes open.)
I know mothers who have the main at-home responsibility for the kids and who also have some kind of part-time work going on, and that seems increasingly possible thanks to the Internet. Which seems like a great opportunity, until you get a whole crew of sleep-deprived moms in SUVs cruising around during the day. So why is there a mommy shift? Well, firstly, that kind of part-time, at-home work – like editing, transcription, eBaying – doesn’t support paying a lot of babysitter or daycare hours.
And secondly, it’s a reflection of Americans’ split-personality view of mothering. On the one hand it’s seen as so important we’ve created a new kind of Stay-at-Home Mother position, filled with scheduled classes and playdates and chauffeuring and enriching and shopping local and organic from pregnancy on. But on the other hand, mothering is seen as worth as much as it pays. What are you really doing, when you’re home with the kids? Nothing, right? So if you’re a stay-at-home mom, sure you can fit in some part-time work.
So whoopee, we can all work at home these days. Makes you want a nice cubicle to go nap in. Actually, working at home is a great option, but a child-filled house does lack a certain amount of the peace conducive to working that you’ll find in a grown-up office, not to mention you have to keep your short colleagues from stealing all your tape and staplers. I’m sure your kids are much more scheduled and self-sufficient than mine, but working at home means you’ll have interruptions and you’ll figure out a technique to nurse while typing on the computer and you’ll put in time on the mommy shift. And that’s true even in the preschool years, especially with the short hours of preschool a stay-at-home parent might choose (not to mention parenting time needed for illnesses, and school vacations, and doctors’ appointments, and recitals and so on). (I’m assuming schedules change with older kids, but I’ll get back to you on that.)
Smushing together parenting and working sells what moms do short, and it sells kids short. Kids certainly don’t need full-time, full-beam attention (and possibly less than all the directed adult attention some of them get these days), but caring for kids (and yes, the house too) is something real in itself, not something you can always do when you’re distracted (maybe only 90 percent of the time, depending on how much “Baby Einstein” you’re willing to crank on the TV).
Sure, moms used to strap the kid on their back and head out to gather nuts or whatever, but the sound of a computer keyboard isn’t quite as soothing as tramping through the fields. And in any case, once the kids got older they were left with an older child or relative. Sometimes a babysitter is the next best thing to a room of one’s own.

A Real Fashion War

There are some old-time traditions in my current hometown that I could happily live without. But boy, am I enjoying seeing some of that old-time feminism Spaniards are showing off these days.
Italian fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana, who push the edge with their advertising, fell completely over the side when they came up with this ad trying to glamorize gang rape to sell clothes. The Spanish government called them on it, and D&G pulled the ad, sniffing that Spain was “behind the times.” Except Spain’s actions apparently nudged home country Italy to complain too. And now the designers have pulled the ad all over.
Spain’s protest has that old-timey feel to it, because it seems U.S. feminists have mostly given up on this kind of concern. Kim Gandy, National Organization for Women (and there’s an old-timey organization) president, in a Newsweek article, says there were campaigns against ads in the ‘70s and ‘80s, some of which would look mild compared to the more outrageous ads these days. But nowadays ads mostly get a free pass. Newsweek’s interview with Gandy points out that the same D&G ad ran without controversy in Esquire in the U.S. Some of the current ads NOW has put on its web page about sexist ads, in fact, reek of the same kind of offensiveness as was around in the aura of disco and big shoulder pads and “Fly Me, I’m….” The site would be quaint and irrelevant, except these are ads that someone came up with…yesterday.
But Spanish feminism took off later than the U.S. movement, so Spanish feminists do still get offended at some of this stuff and take it seriously. Not that the country is generally near as prudish as the U.S. You can get your share of naked bodies and occasional softish-core porn on regular TV channels. Leading Spanish newspaper El País a few months ago had two naked women embracing on its Sunday magazine cover. Major, mainstream newspapers have their sex blogs and columnists (this one’s for over 18 and may show bare flesh). No one bats an eye. But there’s sex and fantasy and then there’s abuse, and protesters said the D&G ad crossed a line, encouraging violence against women.
Now, the plot thickens. D&G is boycotting Spain, pulling out all their advertising because they say their “creativity” is threatened and they’re facing “censorship.” And they’re encouraging other designers to do the same, including Armani, which is being eyed by Spain for an ad critics say sexualizes children – it’s the picture here on the right (with some background music) showing two little girls hugging, one in a bikini top, both in make-up.
No offense intended to the fine advertising professionals out there, but we’re talking about commerce, not art. Advertising can be well-done, artistic commerce, but it’s still intended to move the clothes. Art should be free to be, but for D&G to claim their creativity is repressed when they really mean they want to up their sales of tighty whities is hilarious.
As the Newsweek article points out, it’s all publicity for D&G. And I’m highly amused to live in a country being boycotted by a fashion company.
Spain, as you might remember, kicked off whatever movement exists against too-skinny models when the Madrid fashion shows set minimum weight measurements for models. So could this be the start of a real fashion war between Spain and the industry? What’s next, cutting off our supply of sequins? Or armies of tall models protected by oversized sunglasses marching through the center of Madrid trying to muster up the strength in their thin arms to lob their suitcase-sized, leather and metal-studded purses at pedestrians? Or, worst of all, trying to wrap us all up in colored foil like giant-sized, drugstore Easter basket, candy rejects? I better go shopping before it’s too late.

Princesses R Us

There are the literal princess products, like the huge array the Disney child-mind control experts have created, as well as princessy-girly things like the stores where girls can waste their parents’ money on pinky, sparkly body decorations of all types…. High maintenance has become a badge of honor; a really successful woman is one who can afford to have an army of personal services providers come to her, instead of having to schlep to get her legs waxed – just like movie stars, whose business actually does depend on looking a certain way.

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Questioning Marriage: Money Matters

And there seem to be women hiding their purchases with cash at less-expensive stores too, according to the article, although it’s hard to know because the salespeople don’t suck up to you as much at Ann Taylor, do they?… The current received wisdom is that women’s main money issues spring from too much shopping and not enough attention to their finances, and that it’s particularly important for women to understand money because they get hit harder financially in a divorce, and live longer and earn less than men.

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Shopping for Princesses

I hate to acknowledge any across-the-board differences between sons and daughters, but there is one clear distinction between having boys rather than girls. In toy stores I don’t have to enter Pinkland.
You can spot Pinkland across the store because the aisle has a soft, rosy glow pulsing out of it. Everything in it is pink, mostly, or lavender, the babies and dolls and their accessories and the jewelry-making kits and a whole bunch of stuff I can’t figure out despite the fact that I was once a girl.
The boy equivalent is Aggression Alley. It has a black metallic shine. Everything in it is equally incomprehensible but it all comes with a weapon and some form of transportation. (Even so, I wouldn’t write off Pinkland if it ever comes to an in-store toy battle – lots of blankies for smothering and stuff, and all the little beads could be deadly.)
Whatever non-sexist childrearing is, I don’t think it requires buying boys anything from Pinkland, although a doll or two can’t hurt when it comes to trying to foster equality (just hold your breath when you go in and grab the doll fast, and the pink haze might not get you). Boys (or girls) also don’t really need anything from Aggression Alley, but I do make the odd quick raid to seize a Batman or something, trying to get out before the troops can form.
So, this being the toy-buying season, you could pick your plastic junk with care, and it’s always good to avoid stereotypes. But while I’m still new to the boy raising, I had a bunch of years of growing up as a girl, and it strikes me that a gender-neutral construction kit is a very small weapon against the princess-industrial complex, the whole find-your-prince focus that so many stories and toys still have.
Here in Spain and other countries with a baroque streak, we’ve got real live princesses. That’s a job title: princess. Probably pays better than waitressing. I don’t know if it’s better or worse for a girl to grow up reading about the real princesses and their daily rounds – opening this, honoring that, dining there, vacationing here. At least you get to see that a princess’ smile is often pained looking, and they can be better role models than someone like a Paris Hilton who fills U.S. gossip columns, not that that’s saying much.
Princess supporter or not, anyone looking for gifts would definitely want a doll replica of a baby princess, like this Leonor infant doll that resembles the daughter of Spain’s heir to the throne. What’s the point of a lifelike baby doll? Given what happens to dolls, it seems to verge on playing at child abuse. The other possibility is you want the doll not to play with, but to collect. So if you’re a “collector” of these kinds of dolls, you must have shelves of realistic-looking babies lined up; that’s nice if you want to decorate so your home looks like the laboratory of a mad scientist who does really creepy experiments.
Oh well, as long as it’s a mad scientist who provides a non-sexist role model. That would make a good gift.

Domestic Sisterhood

Think about it: unless you make everyone in your household stand around nude while you run the washing machine, you will never, ever, reach a point when you’re completely done with the wash and all the clothes are clean at one time…. But rather than equal torture for both sexes (which would still be an advance, and is a necessary next step), I’m hoping that there’s some alternate possibility someone wise might figure out one day, just to save mostly me but also everyone else from some toilet scrubbing.

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