Mother’s Day and the Polar Bear of Reawakening

Last week we were at my parents’ for Mother’s Day when my mom mentioned that she would have loved to have been a landscape architect. She’s mentioned this before, but she sounded sadder than usual this time. She also would have liked to be a meteorologist or a construction worker. However, she had a very strict mom who believed women could only be stay-at-home moms, teachers, nurses, or secretaries. My mom became a (kickass) stay-at-home mom, and later a secretary and then a cashier at a department store. She also has a front yard that strangers stop to admire, and she’s done every bit of planning and planting herself.

Mom always told me and my sisters that we could be anything we wanted to be. As I’ve written before, despite what Mom said, I never felt like I could be anything I wanted to be. But why? Even after I had a degree in my chosen field I had little confidence. Why?

Mother’s Day evening, back at home, for some reason I was thinking about some of the other messages I’d grown up hearing about women. We didn’t go to church except for a very short time when I was young, but American culture is steeped in church messages, and two things I remember knowing about being a girl were 1) I was only created because men needed companions (and I was supposed to feel proud of this), and 2) women were supposed to obey their husbands, while husbands were supposed to love their wives.

Suddenly I became furious with Paul, the unmarried author of the verses about wives submitting to their husbands. And I became furious with myself. My husband was not even a Christian when we married, and I put the burden of obedience on myself. My husband had no idea I was doing this to myself. I started attending a lovely little church where people would give you the shirt off their back and older, married women told me that I could tell my husband my opinions but he got to make the decision in the end. Some of these women had stayed with abusive husbands, so who was I to complain about letting my nonviolent husband make all the decisions?

Submitting to your husband is a concept of concretes. You either do what your husband says or you don’t. And I did, from spending money right down to the direction of the toilet paper roll. Loving your wife, however, is abstract and vague. Realizing this was really what made me furious with Paul. Husbands can say they love their wives, and that’s that. Show some love here and there, and voila. Wives submit day in, day out. Minute in, minute out. At one point I remember reading Proverbs 31:16 about the perfect wife who considers a field and buys it with her earnings. This wife seemed to have significant authority, but maybe it was easier for me not to contemplate too much.

Around the time our daughter was born, my husband started attending church with me. I was thrilled when he was baptized. I’m still thrilled he was baptized. But even though we were attending the same church, he says now that he’d had no idea that I was learning at my women’s groups that he got to make all the decisions. I’m sure he has no idea how many things I would have liked to have been different.

When I fell asleep after Mother’s Day, I had a dream. In the dream, I had some raw steaks. I wanted to put the steaks outside on a wooden table (or fencepost?) but I didn’t want the white bear to get them. I put the steaks out and kept an eye on them. Almost immediately, though, here came the white bear. (At this point in the dream my inner editor said “polar bears don’t live down here” and my subconscious mind said “shut up, it’s a symbol.”) The bear got one of the steaks, and I put out some more steaks and kept a closer eye on them. This time when I saw the bear I ran and grabbed the steaks before the bear could get to them.

When I awoke, I knew that the raw steaks represented my raw emotions. But what about the polar bear? Not sure I’d believe what I read there, I went to dreammoods.com, a site I’ve enjoyed before. According to them, seeing a polar bear in your dream means a reawakening. I don’t know who decides these things, but I knew it made sense even before I made sense of it. Incidentally, raw emotion was one of the things they said raw meat symbolized.

I thought about my raw emotions. Do I want to leave my raw emotions out for all to see? Yes. I’ve been telling friends far more about my personal life than I ever did before. Lately I find I’m desperate to share my feelings. But what about the polar bear? In the dream I was afraid that the polar bear would get the steaks. Am I afraid that if I leave my emotions outside for all to see, it will lead to a reawakening?

I had to answer “yes” again.

And it hurt. Reawakening necessitates change. Change is scary.

Yesterday my friend posted on Instagram “Even on my worst day I’m deserving of hell.” This was one of the many moments recently that it was obvious how much I’ve already begun a reawakening and changed in the last year. My friend’s post was the kind of thing I used to think. But when I saw it on Instagram I said to myself “No! There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. I don’t want my religion to be about how terrible I am anymore. I don’t want my daughter to hate herself the way I’ve always hated myself.”

Thank God, when I told my daughter the other day that I’d been taught by other women that I could tell Daddy my opinions but he got to make the decisions, she said, “That doesn’t sound very fair!”

Every generation gets a little closer. My mom told us we could be anything we wanted even though she was told no such thing. My daughter might actually do it.

Come, polar bear of reawakening. Come back to my dreams, and I won’t be afraid of you this time.

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You Know What You Can Do With Your Blog About Male Feminists

The other day on Twitter I saw a guy’s article about calling himself a feminist instead of saying he was a “male feminist.” The guy had a special-person blue check by his name. The gist of what he’d written was that men should just join the fight instead of making themselves seem special because they were “male.”

Or something.

Anyway, I commented in agreement and mentioned the SNL skit with the men talking about how hard women have it and when their women friends try to say something about their experiences, the men cut them off. It is so on target.

The guy “liked” my comment. He also thanked people who had commented “Great article” and such. But then some other men came on and told me that I was not a feminist because my page had nothing about women protesting in Iran and that mansplaining is not a thing and that it’s a sexist word to use. In short, obnoxious trolling.

So here’s what the saintly feminist (not male feminist mind you, because he’s better than guys who call themselves male feminists) did when I was getting harassed.

ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING.

So guys, I don’t care if you are going to call yourselves feminists, or male feminists, or fighters for equality, or whatever, how about actually standing up for women who are taking all kinds of shit for being women. Otherwise I don’t care what the fuck you call yourself, you’re just like the rest of them.

Dear Time Magazine, About That 2017 Person of the Year Short List

Dear Time Magazine,

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the group who decides your Person of the Year short list doesn’t have as many women as men. Does it have any women at all, I wonder?

I wonder because your list of 10 includes 7 men, 2 movements, and 1 woman. You might argue that the #metoo movement is about women, but I would beg to differ. Yes it started with Tarana Burke’s group for underprivileged girls, but when the movement went viral this year, men who had been assaulted said “Can we be a part of this?” Women said, “Of course. We want every victim to speak out!” So the #metoo movement, like the Dreamer movement, is multi-gendered.

By the way, if you wanted to get another woman on your list, Tarana Burke would have been a great choice, since you didn’t have a single woman of color. Colin Kaepernick got to represent #TakeAKnee, after all.

Another easy choice would have been the Women’s March or its organizers. I don’t know about anyone else, but that march affected me a lot more than Kim Jong Un spouting his ridiculous threats again this year.

The woman you did include, Patty Jenkins, was a great choice. Wonder Woman got the female director it deserved, and women got more representation on screen and behind the camera. How ironic that this is what Patty Jenkins did for us and you, Time, wrote about it but didn’t learn anything from it. Representation matters. When a kid sees your list of who mattered this year, they will see that men mattered. It would only have taken a minute to look at your list, notice that it’s mostly men, and make a change. Mueller may be the person who changes everything soon, but this year it was Sally Yates.

Check yourselves.

M.L. Millard

 

Update: At LEAST Me Too and the “Silence Breakers” did end up the “Person” of the Year and Tarana Burke was pictured and given credit in the article. It was a powerful article, and I’d like to add my thanks to the women who came forward with their stories of abuse by Bill Cosby. While that was mostly before 2017, it was definitely the beginning of a culture of women coming forward about the likes of Harvey Weinstein.

Are Women Less Dedicated to the Band?

One of my male musician friends recently listed reasons he thought there might be fewer women in jazz and rock bands. Reasons other than sexism, that is. One of the reasons he listed was that sometimes women might not be as dedicated to the band.

This stuck with me. My intuition was that the same behavior he overlooked from a man he’d see as a black mark on all womanhood. But who knows, right? That’s why this topic is so infuriating. All we can do is suggest that they might have a biased view, and then they say “That’s not true,” and you have no way to prove it.

What I can do is tell you about my weekend.

The last few days have brought record-breaking heat to the Bay Area. A few days before yesterday’s gig, I messaged my band leader and said, “This gig is indoors, right?”

“Indeed,” he responded.

But the day before the gig, the band member who set up the gig mentioned that we’d have “shade.”

Crap.

I don’t do well in the heat. Three hours in a parking lot in 103 degrees and a smoky sky sounded pretty unbearable. I thought about backing out. The worst part was that I’d bailed on our last gig because I got rear ended a couple hours before it and wanted to stay home and make sure my daughter didn’t develop any problems. I found myself not only thinking “I don’t want to seem like I’m not dedicated,” but “I don’t want women to seem like they’re not dedicated.” This is a well-documented problem. Basically if you’re not a white man, you’re saddled with this ridiculous notion that you represent the whole group, whatever your group may be.

Anyway, I showed up. It was unpleasant. Most of the people who came to the event crowded into the small air conditioned tasting room, and the few who sat outside were too weak from heat to raise their wet-noodle arms to applaud. We joked about putting recordings of applause through the speakers. I said some delirious things and probably played some delirious notes. We sold one CD and got one five dollar tip. One woman told us we were troopers. I had a headache the rest of the day. Thank God the band leader set up a mist fan in front of me and the guy subbing in the band brought a giant bottle of water to share.

Subbing? Why did we need a sub, you ask? Oh. One of the guys backed out of the gig.

For Mother’s Day Tell Mom She’s Not Special

Men love their mothers. Everyone knows that. You can tell your buddy that he smells or that he’s an idiot, and he’ll laugh it off, but you best not say a word about his mom. Everyone knows that.

Here are some of the things men say about their moms. “She’s the strongest person I know.” “She was incredibly smart.” “She was the hardest worker.”

I used to find it endearing when men spoke about their mothers this way. Often choked up, they speak as if they respect their mother more than anything else or anyone else in the world. There’s no way this man can be sexist, right?

If most men feel this way about their mothers, and if we know there are a lot of sexist men, then something doesn’t add up. I am starting to think that a lot of men seem to think that their mother is some sort of female warrior outlier. She is or was so special not because she, like many women, could budget for the house and build a fence and soothe a bee sting and work full time and drive everyone everywhere and help with algebra, but because she was one of the only women who could do all those things.

Better than MOST women.

Ask your friends, men. They will probably also have warrior outlier moms. Amazing! You and your friends happen to have moms that are better than most women.

The other day I commented on my Twitter account about Chris Matthews saying on Hardball that Sally Yates had handled herself in a way that some women don’t know how to. Just like men with their moms! Complimentary, with such respect, but only for that one woman, as if she were an exception to the rule.

Women are strong. Women are smart. Women can handle themselves in a hearing in front of congress. Your mom is not special. She’s a woman. And I suspect she wouldn’t mind hearing that you realize that this Mother’s Day.

 

Jesus Was on the Cutting Edge of Feminism, So Why Did the Church Fall Behind?

I was in the grocery store today, and I heard a man behind me jokingly telling his friend, “So manly.” He was clearly making fun of his friend for a “nonmanly” purchase or something, and the friend was in on the joke, too. It was all in good fun, and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the exchange, but I wasn’t surprised to hear the rest of the exchange, in which I found out that they were church friends who had run into each other.

The man who had said “so manly” looked very, well, manly-man. Tall, bearded, with a short, pretty wife and a few kids. In fact, I recognized his wife from a multi-church event. I knew how much time and effort she put into parenting and volunteer work. I knew some very personal, heartbreaking struggles she’d had. She either didn’t recognize me or didn’t see me.

While I was checking out, a grocery cart tipped over and crashed to the ground, and everyone turned to make sure that a kid hadn’t fallen. “She’s okay,” we heard and all breathed a sigh of relief. It was only a child-sized cart that the young shopper had lost control of. Another man said, “Shopper in training!”

“Unfortunately she’ll become an expert,” I heard from behind me. Turns out Manly Church Man was checking out at the register next to mine. “Probably more of an expert than even my wife.”

Here’s what I wish I would have said. DON’T YOU SHAME YOUR WIFE! SHE PROBABLY DOES A SHITLOAD MORE FOR YOUR FAMILY THAN YOU DO! AND DON’T YOU TELL A STRANGER’S LITTLE GIRL THAT SHE’S GOING TO GROW UP TO BE A FRIVOLOUS SPENDER! But I only looked my cashier in the eye and wondered if she’d heard the same thing.

Why are so many church men stuck in this picture of manliness? Millions of dollars are spent every year on nonfiction Christian books aimed specifically at men. Just look at their titles and covers. Old school masculinity being sold like it’s not being sold to any other group of men.

Jesus spoke to women with as much respect as he spoke to men. Angels spoke to women just like they spoke to men. I still struggle with Paul’s words about women not speaking and wonder if God would really want them in the Bible. (Here’s a site that explores the misunderstanding about Paul’s words: https://www.gotquestions.org/women-silent-church.html )

Not only does the church’s view of masculinity hurt women, it hurts men. Young men who do not fit the typical picture of a church man don’t feel like they belong at church. What if they want to wear makeup? What if they don’t like sports or camping? Did Jesus die for them? Yes! Can they be powerful for the kingdom? Yes! Let’s not hinder them.

And if the manly church man culture hurts women and young men, it hurts Jesus. It hurts Jesus because Jesus feels the hurts that we feel, and it hurts Jesus because when nonchristian people don’t want any part of Christianity because it offends them (for nonlegitimate reasons—I’m not saying that we should deny Biblical truths to go along with society) Jesus loses many opportunities to save.

Ouch.

So, Manly Church Man, when you’re at the grocery store, people are listening to the way you talk about your wife. In a society that’s reeling from the misogyny of the current White House administration, they are listening more closely than ever.

Don’t limit Jesus.

And for goodness sake, tell your wife today how much you appreciate her.

Why A Day Without A Woman Accomplished Nothing

Yesterday my husband texted me asking if I could take our daughter to piano lessons instead of his taking her. He needed to take one of his school’s instruments to the repair shop. I wrote back that I could, but that it was one of the things I wasn’t supposed to do on “A Day Without a Woman.” He texted back and said “I will figure it out. No worries.”

He respected the day even though he knows that he already appreciates how much women do. So what happened to the tuba? The other band teacher, MY HUSBAND’S FEMALE COWORKER, TOOK IT IN! No, no, no, no no!

This is why A Day Without a Woman accomplished nothing. So many women I knew said that they just could not let the ball drop. Their job was too important. THAT’S THE POINT. Your job IS too important not to be done, and if we don’t show that to the country and the people in charge, and we don’t show them that we won’t continue to work for less money and we won’t stand by and watch our rights be stripped by a man who doesn’t respect women (no matter what he says) and his sycophantic largely male followers, we will lose what progress we’ve made so slowly these last few decades.

Did you know that there are only two women in 45’s cabinet? One is Betsy DeVos, and one is married to Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the senate and a very important person for 45 to have on his side.

And so my husband’s school will have their best, shiniest tuba in the concert tonight. Was it worth it? Could they have found a less shiny tuba to use today? (Yes.) Might the student have understood and played their less shiny tuba in solidarity? (Probably.)

I recognize that not every woman can strike. By all means, if you won’t be able to feed your kids or if you are performing heart surgery, please don’t strike!

But otherwise. Women, we could shut this thing down. We could make the country come to a grinding halt. But we didn’t. Why? 1. Some of us don’t think things are bad enough to protest about. We don’t get executed for having affairs, I guess. And 2. We have an epidemic of codependency. We need to think we can’t be spared for a day.

But that’s the point. The country CAN’T run without us for a day, and next time we have a Day Without a Woman, maybe things will have gotten so bad that more people will realize we need to show the country just how dependent on us they are.