Kenny Rogers, on Laundry

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em

Know when to fold ’em

Know when to walk away

And know when to run

I learned this lessons the long, hard, drag-em-out way. At least when it comes to laundry.

See, my mom is a champion folder. I have watched her cram 50 articles of clothing into a $5/bag at the thrift store, then balance a basketball on top. And she taught me well. In high school I carried a small, utilitarian purse. I had a reputation for magically packing everything in there. Nail clippers? Yup. Needle and thread? For sure. First aid kit? Look no further. Chapstick? That’s gross. Get your own chapstick. But I carried tinted and moisturizing varieties for myself.

And my clothes? Artistic OCD. My shirts were folded the KonMari way (yes, even color coded) long before Marie Kondo wrote her books. I invented capsule wardrobes- I literally hand-illustrated my packing list when I traveled, so I could be sure everything matched and I would have everything I needed.

Then I got married and had kids.

With our first baby, it “sparked joy” for me to meticulously fold every tiny article of clothing. But by the time we were up to two, three, four kids, the deck was stacked against me. They produced SO MUCH LAUNDRY. And although I could wash and dry four loads a day, folding was a nightmare. All those little shirts. No sooner would I get them folded, than some little person would come and knock the stack over, just for fun.

Folding was overwhelming, so I avoided it. It got to the point where I was amassing the clean laundry in a spare Pack-n-Play until folding time. If you are familiar with the story of Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout, you have the idea.

Before our fourth baby was born, I desperately asked my mom and sister to help me. The three of us folded for 3-4 hours: a collective 9-12 hours of work. The job wasn’t even finished, but I had to release them for dinner.

So I started to research. How do other moms do this? Repeatedly, in every blog, in every conversation, I encountered the same answer:

Don’t fold.

I cringed. I didn’t want to “let myself go” like that. Folding is BEAUTIFUL, darn it! So instead of heeding veteran advice, I taught my oldest two daughters to fold their own laundry and kept on folding the younger kids’ clothes.

It wasn’t until their dresser broke that I cracked. I was finally worn down enough to try something different. We bought IKEA Kallax units and filled them with Sterilite baskets, which I covered with fabric and labeled with tags to identify the contents. Laundry gets sorted directly from the dryer, then each child is responsible for taking their clothes to their room and putting them away in the correct “drawers,” no folding required.

My husband and I both held our breath to see if it would work. With only a few weeks to go before Baby #6, the system was about to be put to the ultimate test.

And it was AMAZING. My two oldest daughters flawlessly executed the plan, keeping the laundry washed, dried and put away while I rested with their new baby sister. In the year since then, I have been thrilled with the difference this simple yet profound change has made.

But the song isn’t about laundry. It’s not about gambling, either. It’s about life. I’m guessing I’m not the only one to cling to a way of doing things even when common sense screams for change.

Oh, how I judged those non-folding parents. What sloppiness! Never mind that my “neatness” had resulted in week after week of my poor husband excavating mountains of laundry from an old Pack-n-Play to find clean underwear.

Along with pride, it was also habit and tradition. “My mom is a great folder, and so shall I be!” and other lofty thoughts crowded out reason.

And honestly, it was a sense of loss. I really do love those beautiful folded drawers. I would love for every drawer in every home to look so tidy. Admitting I can’t have it all is a little bit sad.

But, as the song says, the lesson isn’t never fold. The lesson is to learn when to fold. Kenny Rogers rewrote Ecclesiastes 3 for gamblers and homemakers.

True story: I still color code my shirts. I packed my hospital bags in my first trimester. And for our beach vacation in August (four and a half months away), my illustrated packing list is pinned to my bulletin board.

These things still “spark joy” for me, and that’s as it should be. It’s letting go of the rest- the pride, the unhelpful habits, the wasted grief and futile labor- that has made the difference. Letting go has freed me to enjoy the “Life-Changing Magic” of a tidy drawer, and a semi-tidy life, simultaneously.

Every gambler knows

That the secret to surviving

Is knowing what to throw away

And knowing what to keep

‘Cause every hand’s a winner

And every hand’s a loser


And the best that you can hope for

Is to die in your sleep.


To My Fellow Christians, on Hillary

gty_hillary_clinton_hb_160309_16x9_992Dear Friends,

I am not (officially) a Facebook user. I tell people that the day I create a Facebook account will be the last day my children ever see me; I surely will disappear down the rabbit trail of debate with All The People On The Internet.

Still, you’ve successfully suckered me this time.

I’ve been looking over my husband’s shoulder to follow the many recent debates about whether Christians can, in good conscience, consider voting for Hillary. There are several main issues at hand, and I’d like to share my thoughts one by one.

First, on abortion.

An argument I keep hearing is that although Christians find abortion morally reprehensible, we must be sympathetic and compassionate to women who are raped and molested. Therefore, we should vote Democrat so these desperate women don’t end up in back alleys with coat hangers.

I will try to be concise. It will not be easy.

  1. As evidenced by Kermit Gosnell and other related scandals, the abortion industry is already run like a back-alley operation. Abortion advocates have been guilty of overlooking gross mistreatment of women in an effort to maintain the legality and “respectability” of this procedure.
  2. Sympathy and compassion are not a justification for doing evil. If we believe that life starts at conception, then abortion is murder. Let God be true and every man a liar- if abortion is murder, then your emotional response has nothing to do with it.
  3. Sympathy and compassion must be used intelligently. For every girl who is “saved” from rape and incest by abortion, ask yourself how many more rapists and abusers are “saved” from jail time by abortion. For many girls, getting pregnant is a ray of hope in a dark world, because it means someone may find out and put an end to the abuse. Abortion does not encourage abusive men to take responsibility. It encourages them to absolve responsibility through the murder of an unborn child.
    • Imagine you are a high school teacher having a fling with a student. One day she comes to you and tells you she’s pregnant. Do you say, “Wow, that’s great! My wife’s not the jealous type. How about we move to Salt Lake City and become a threesome?” Or do you drag her down to the clinic to get it “cleaned up” to avoid going to jail for a Very Long Time?
    • Imagine you’re molesting your stepdaughter and she turns up pregnant. Do you say, “Aww, babies are great. C’mon, let’s tell your mother!” Or do you put her in the car, drive her to the clinic and make her tell the surgeon it’s her boyfriend’s baby?
    • Imagine you’re a pimp and one of your prostitutes gets pregnant. Do you say, “Congratulations! Enjoy your maternity leave, sweetie, and we’ll see you next summer!” Or do you get it “taken care of” so she can return immediately to the lucrative business of sleeping with strangers?
  4. For every heartbreaking story of a woman who gets an abortion after rape, there are many more equally heartbreaking stories of young women who would willingly birth their child, but who are forced into abortion by parents- who don’t want the public disgrace, or want their daughter to finish college rather than “throw her life away” – or by boyfriends or husbands who don’t want the commitment or financial burden. Abortion is often not the “choice” of the mother, but of those around her.
  5. Abortion, as many know, was originally pushed as a form of eugenics against minorities. It is still used that way today. A nurse friend once told me the disturbing story of a woman who came into the E.R. with first trimester bleeding. The nurse examined her and found she was not dilating and had a good chance of carrying to term, but the doctor lied and told the woman she was miscarrying and should go to surgery for an abortion. His reason- shared privately with his co-workers- was that this woman was a poor minority who already had “too many” children. Again, abortion is often in direct opposition to a “woman’s right to choose.” It is foisted upon far too many women by racist, sexist, classist people who do not believe in the power of God to meet and supply our needs.
  6. PTSD and suicide rates are higher among women who have had abortions. Rape and incest are horrific; why add the trauma of knowing that you willfully terminated your own child? It may seem like a relief in the short-term, but later in life- perhaps the first time you see an unborn child via ultrasound- reality sets in.
  7. Abortion comes with physical side effects as well. Abortion can impact a woman’s ability to get pregnant in the future, creates a higher risk of miscarriage, and can otherwise damage a woman’s reproductive system. As if suffering a rape were not enough, her chances of experiencing a normal, planned pregnancy are now diminished.
  8. Plan B can be purchased without a prescription. Any woman who is raped and wants an abortion can literally have the drug in her hand within minutes of the event, by driving to the nearest 24-hour WalMart. There is no need for the kind of policy overhauls that are included in the Democrat platform.
  9. The Democrat party advocates abortion even in its most abhorrent, gruesome forms. Even if we agreed that rape, incest and life of the mother were valid circumstances for abortion, there is no justification for abortion after the first trimester. I absolutely question the moral compass of anyone who justifies killing a fully developed infant just as it feels air on its toes for the first time.
    • Partial birth abortion involves dismembering a human baby while it is still alive in its mother’s womb. No anesthetics are given to the infant. If an infant survives a saline abortion, it is dumped in a bucked to die of chemical burns and exposure. It is disturbing that Christians turn to Democrats as the party of “compassion” when they advocate this barbaric practice.
    • Third trimester abortion means that the mother has had months to make up her mind. She has felt her baby kick. She has purchased maternity clothes. Democrats are not promoting “compassion” here. They are promoting irresponsibility, at the cost of unimaginable pain and suffering on the part of a helpless baby.
    • The “safe, legal and rare” argument is laughable here. Partial birth abortion is no “safer” than delivering a live full-term baby, and it is much more dangerous than aborting in the first trimester.
  10. The Democrat party platform now includes repeal of the Hyde Amendment, meaning that not only will abortion be “safe, legal and rare” by Democrats’ backwards definition, it will also be directly funded by taxpayer dollars. You and I, friends, will be literally paying for babies to be dismembered and discarded. Furthermore, this funding will be distributed primarily through Medicaid, resulting in an even higher number of abortions for lower-income and minority women.

The Democrat platform also includes international abortion funding. If abortion is a human rights problem here, how much more so in places like China, where the One-Child Policy is enforced. A Chinese pastor’s wife once shared with me a prayer request for a friend in China who was pregnant with their second child. They were desperately trying to get to grad school in the U.S. before the Chinese government forced an abortion. She explained that this is the way it’s handled in affluent communities, but in poor rural areas it is common to wait until after the baby is born and then drown it in a bucket. Parents, forced to choose whether to keep or kill their first child, often kill girls so they can try again for a son. Orphanages like the one where my cousin was adopted are filled with girls (whose mothers made a last-ditch effort to save their lives). So much for “Women’s Rights.” You should wonder if supporters of these policies have a conscience. God have mercy on Hillary Clinton’s soul.

Another argument sometimes put forward by Christians is that we are hypocritical if we vote for “pro-life” candidates who meanwhile send young men into war to die. Christians throughout the centuries have struggled with the issue of war, and some denominations have rejected war altogether (such as the Mennonites and Quakers). I understand the tension Christian voters feel voting for a “pro-life” candidate who is also “pro-war.” However, there are MAJOR differences between war casualties and abortion.

  1. First, and particularly in an era where there is no draft, soldiers go to war by choice. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Many Christian men have found honor and dignity in the military, risking their lives to protect that which they hold dear. Pacifist Christians may disagree with this choice, but even they enjoy the benefits of living in a country protected by our military.
  2. Unborn babies do not have a choice. There is no dignified self-sacrifice in abortion, only selfishness and vanity on the part of parents and surgeons.
  3. The numbers are overwhelming. Millions and millions of babies have been aborted since Roe v. Wade compared to a few thousand military casualties. If you want to play the numbers game, you will technically save more lives by being an anti-abortion “warmonger” than by being a pro-choice pacifist.
  4. Some wars are justifiable. Take the U.S. involvement in WWII, during which we helped end the wholesale slaughter of millions of Jews, blacks, and handicapped people. Yes, soldiers died. They died to save others. They considered their lives worth losing for the sake of men, women and children in bondage. By comparison, there is no circumstance under which it is the baby’s fault for being conceived, no circumstance under which the baby deserves the death penalty. Abortion is not justifiable.
  5. Obviously we have less moral clarity about the Iraq war than about WWII, but I think it is fair to say that both Bush and Obama have felt the weight of solemn grief when greeting body bags returned from overseas. No President wants to throw away young lives without cause, and if the cause proves unjustified they must live with that guilt. Meanwhile, there is no “solemn grief” over abortion. There is no flag folding, no white cross, no bugle salute. There is no comparison between the reverence we show to dead soldiers and the contempt we show for dead “fetal tissue.” The scorn Democrats show towards unborn human life is appalling.

The problem I have with Christians dismissing pro-life voters as not “seeing the big picture,” is that there is no bigger issue than LIFE. There is plenty of room for debate about how best to create a society of “human flourishing.” There is no room for publicly celebrated infanticide. History puts it in perspective: if Hitler had a great economic policy, would you vote for him- knowing there were brick ovens in Auschwitz? Come on. If a person doesn’t understand the basic value of human life, as created in the image of God, then he or she cannot possibly understand and rightly apply moral principles in any other context. Remember the disgust you feel when a film’s serial killer turns out to be a very moral, trustworthy individual? The way your skin crawls when he expresses disdain at someone else’s moral failings? First things first, friends. You can’t promote infanticide and be a good person.

Second, the issues of racism and sexism.

Donald Trump is truly the most repulsively racist, sexist candidate the Republicans could have chosen. If you don’t want to vote for him, then by all means don’t. But please do consider that this year, the Republicans put forward a black man, two Cuban men, an Indian man, and a woman, several of whom were raised in poor urban environments. The Democrat party gave us two rich old white people. The Democrat party doesn’t hold a monopoly on racial diversity. Just because Hillary tries to speak Ebonics when she talks to black audiences doesn’t mean she understands race issues. She is a rich white woman who can patronize minorities with the best of them.

I am endlessly frustrated with the way Democrats pigeon hole individual thinkers. It happens often with race- the assumption that if you are black, you will vote for Obama’s blackness without thinking critically about his policies, or if you’re white and don’t vote for him, it’s because you’re racist, not because you disagree with his platform. Or another accusation I’ve been hearing often, that if you’re troubled by the anarchist rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter movement, you must be racist, rather than simply not an anarchist. Dallas Police Chief David Brown gets a pass because he’s black, but any white person with a differing viewpoint is immediately slapped with the “racist” label.

This time it’s happening with sex. I resent the idea that because I’m a woman, I’m going to throw my principles out the window and go, “Wow… She’s got a vagina… and I’ve got a vagina… what more could I want in a President!” As Carly Fiorina often stated, “Women are not a special interest group. They are more than 50% of this country.” The idea that women are going to vote for “Women’s Issues” is demeaning. It belittles our ability to think about all issues- the economy, national defense etc.- not to mention it shushes the voices of thousands of women who find the Democrat platform on “Women’s Issues” repulsive and immoral.

I happily voted for Lynn Swann to be Pennsylvania’s First Black Governor because I supported his policies. I will happily vote for a woman President when I see one on the ballot who stands for what I believe.

Hillary Clinton has been proved a liar, a money-launderer, and an enabler to her husband’s illicit affairs. When Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was forced to resign as Chair of the DNC, after plotting to undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign, Hillary hired her. Hillary Clinton does not know good from evil. She belongs in jail. She does not stand for me or my values. At least as a woman I can speak my mind about her. But it’s troubling to me to see the accusations of sexism come rolling in against any man who feels she does not stand for his values. Suggesting that to find Hillary distasteful is to be sexist, is really just a thinly veiled way of shutting down conversation. It is a cheap tactic that has no place in the church.

There are many other issues at hand, each deserving of an entire article, but I am starting here because these are some of the most glaring offenses. Hillary Clinton represents some of the worst of what this country has to offer. So does Donald Trump, sadly, so I won’t even begin telling you how you should vote. All I can say is that we should all be going to the ballots with a heavy heart this year, praying God’s mercy on this very troubled nation.

“Women’s Health Care” – Another Feminist Hypocricy

Have you noticed in the recent Planned Parenthood scandal how many feminists are decrying the attack on a valued provider of “Women’s Healthcare”?

Me too.

According to the CDC, the top 3 killers of women in our country are heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease. Heart disease and chronic lower respiratory disease are not even on Planned Parenthood’s radar, and as Cecile Richards states in this testimony, they do not own those much-celebrated mammogram machines, nor have they ever made such a claim. Strange that this should be the indispensable source of Women’s Healthcare.

It’s worth observing that there is almost no such thing as “Men’s Healthcare” because men’s healthcare is, well… healthcare. I picture the conversation going something like this:

Man 1: I found this great Men’s Healthcare clinic. You should check it out.

Man 2: Oh really? Do they give you a good price on your heart meds?

Man 1: No, they don’t deal with heart disease.

Man 2: How about diabetes- can they help me manage my blood sugar?

Man 1: No, they don’t deal with diabetes.

Man 2: So, do you go there for vaccines? Emergency care? Weight loss counseling?

Man 1: No, they don’t do any of that. They just do vasectomies.

Man 2: That’s it?

Man 1: That’s it.

Man 2: Thank God. Somebody has to make sure we have these services available.

Shame on our nation if we’ve reached a point where Planned Parenthood’s meager assortment of services qualifies as healthcare for women. No man would settle for it. Yet we women have been so conditioned to define ourselves by our reproductive organs that we fall for the line even when it’s sold to us by feminists.

Not only does Planned Parenthood not address the top three killers of women, they don’t even do a good job of addressing the major issues in women’s reproductive care. They don’t offer obstetric care or fertility treatment, for example. If you’re foolish enough to actually want to gestate to full term, they can’t help you.

If we accept the idea that Planned Parenthood provides “women’s healthcare,” we miss the fact that women should be receiving healthcare for their whole bodies and their entire reproductive cycle. Any woman who receives affordable birth control, but not heart disease and cancer screenings, vaccinations, prescriptions and treatment for chronic and short-term illnesses, or obstetric care during pregnancy, is not receiving comprehensive health care. How about we stop talking about how indispensable Planned Parenthood is, and start talking about the fact that if Planned Parenthood is your primary healthcare provider you are dismally underserved?

The irony is how fiercely feminists are standing by this farce. Women deserve better. Yes, we should be getting reproductive care. We should be getting the whole package. And like men, we should be able to get the whole package from facilities that care about our whole bodies.

Outgrowing Feminism

Saint Augustine once famously said, “The Church is a whore, but she is my mother.”

This quote comes near to describing how I feel about feminism, although it may overstate my affections. While I appreciate the work that feminism has done over the past century, I am embarrassed by her conduct as a whole. And like most young adults leaving home, I am glad to be free to do things my own way. I realize I owe the Feminist movement much of my freedom as a young woman today, but feel unshackled by her dogmas.

I have been outgrowing feminism in both literal and ideological ways. Feminism has traditionally viewed women’s reproductive capacity with scorn. Now on my 6th child, I have long ago literally outgrown the number at which even a moderate feminist would have ceased that dreadful reproductive process.

It always amuses me when feminist women become mothers. Autonomy being such a linchpin of feminist ideology, these women seem to fumble in their own convictions. “There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall,” but for this one exception. This baby brings out my creativity. This baby renews my pride in my female genitalia. This baby identifies me with Womyn around the world.

Or, alternately, feminist women neglect their children in favor of higher pursuits. In the effort to invest their sociopolitical passion in the world at large, they ignore the significant portion of the world under their own roof- the portion for whom they, as mother, are the world.

The Woman’s Right To Choose has always struck me as a hypocrisy of feminist ideology. Since my youth, I have wanted to be a mother. I love babies. I aspired to be a midwife in spite of my tendency to faint even at conversation about needles, and had visions of rolling up my sleeves in a hut in the African wilderness, welcoming screaming tangles of life and limb into the cold, bright world. Giving birth at home, unmedicated, was for me a truly empowering experience because it told me that I was strong enough to achieve my dreams. My first words upon beholding my newborn were, “I could do that again.”

What feminism told me, however, was that my dreams were not valid. At the time my first child was born, I was 3/4 of the way finished with a degree in Basket Weaving or some other nonsense, and made a conscious decision to postpone my degree until my children were school aged. I knew that in my field of study, a portfolio is far more important than a degree, and motherhood would not impede my ability to maintain a portfolio. But when I shared this decision with a friend, she replied, “Well, that’s not very feminist of you, but I support your decision.”

Thanks? If feminism can’t support a woman’s right to pursue her own personally defined goals, then it is not substantially different from the Victorian ideology that preceded it. Women, who were once shackled to their biology, are by feminist dictate estranged from it. So, with a strange gratitude to feminism for teaching me to pursue my own personally defined goals, I formally abandoned the ideology and proceeded to have five more children. And for the most part, I am as happy in my chosen life as a pig in mud.

I believe that my views of feminism are increasingly common among women of my generation. We appreciate having the freedom to choose a career, but not the stigma that says we are lesser women if we choose motherhood. Domestic life has its own appeal, and for many women it is the preferred choice. It is a valid choice. Our hours on earth are limited, our ovaries’ days numbered. Investing in the next generation need not take place on a university campus or at political rallies; it can take place nearer to home, on a more personal basis. And if that is your choice, for what it’s worth, I support your decision.

Because You’re Amazing… Just The Way You Are

So, Bruce Jenner is a babe now. A hot 50-something doing lingerie shoots for Vogue. That seems to make one more of the Kardashian clan who, through the artifice of plastic surgery, has crafted herself into her ideal of the “perfect” woman.

I know, I know. Plastic surgery has been around. I myself have contemplated getting these post-breastfeeding bosoms tweaked. But I do stop to ask myself- aside from the fact that I absolutely can’t afford to get my bosoms tweaked, except in the natural sense, which breastfeeding babies seem to love doing (ouch!)- whether such a surgery would really set a positive example for my daughters. Or my son, for that matter.

These breasts have been through a lot for their young age. They had a humble start in life; by the time I was fifteen my younger sister was taller, weighed less, and still had a bigger bra size than me. Getting pregnant for the first time meant, of course, that for the first time I actually had “perfect” breasts. That would have been exciting if they hadn’t been competing with my enormous belly.

Breastfeeding was the ultimate change in perspective. Although my proportions were more classically “feminine” than they had ever been before, it was something else that changed my thinking: the experience of having a newborn who was absolutely obsessed with my breasts. They were life to her. She compared them to no one else’s, not for size, or shape, or color or firmness. She clung to them with the tenacity of a captain to the wheel in a storm at sea, gulping with a comical disregard for social convention. As the year wore on, they shrank- not back to the virginal “grapes” I’d been told (by a middle schooler, of course) I had before, but to something more closely resembling deflated balloons. And even still, my infant was smitten with them.

Along with changing breasts came other changes. Stretch marks, love handles, gray hair. Fifteen years and five more kids later, I stand in front of the mirror and barely remember what it felt like to be worried about whether my sister’s bra was bigger than mine. My body has served me well, and I hope it will serve me for a long time to come. I’ve also started to learn what many 30-something women before me have learned- that there is more to me than my body. The teenager who once feared that A-cups would not be enough to attract a mate now knows that a sarcastic wit, faithful affection and the ability to wield a drill with a 1/2 inch spade bit are more than enough to make him stay.

Thus I look with sadness on the entire Kardashian family. For years now, we’ve watched them appear on magazine covers. During the first several years, it was always with some variation of the headline, “I’m The Hot One Now!” These naturally gorgeous girls never seemed to believe they were beautiful, or to aspire to anything other than being beautiful, and were in constant competition for the spotlight. More recently, the Kardashian headlines have followed an “I’m Leaving Him,” or “I’m Leaving The Show,” theme. These unhappy women now claim Keeping Up ruined their lives.

I have a close friend who is one of five sisters. Whenever I go out with them, invariably one of them leans over to me and says, “Isn’t she gorgeous?” Then louder, “Tess, you have a perfect butt!” Each of them has their own personal anxieties about their bodies- this one has no butt at all, this one wants to lose five pounds, this one wishes her chest hadn’t doubled in size overnight- but I can’t imagine any of them cutting the others down or declaring herself the “Hot One.” The moment one admits to having an Ugly Day, the other four surround her with reminders that she is beautiful, talented, and above all, loved. In a healthy family, there is plenty of room for five Hot Ones sharing the spotlight.

It’s easy to look at the Kardashian girls and feel sorry for the rocky road they’ve traveled, full of in-house competition, self-doubt and posturing. We wish someone along the way would have said, loudly and often, “You are amazing just the way you are. Every one of you is unique and wonderful.”

But who is there to tell them this? Somehow, what is so obvious among the daughters escapes us with the (step) father. The World’s Greatest Athlete somehow was also so deeply, profoundly dissatisfied with his body that he underwent even more extreme changes than the daughters. And I end up feeling sad for him, too. Was there nobody to tell him, “Don’t change a thing, you’re amazing just the way you are”?

I do not understand a society in which body dysmorphia is a celebrated way of life. If an anorexic friend complains that she feels fat, you (hopefully) don’t tell her she can fix it with liposuction. You look her in the eye and say, “You are not fat. You are beautiful.” Because a 90 lb. woman believing she is fat simply is wrong, and shows a disconnect between her perception of her body and what her body actually is. Why do we give anything less than this truth to the trans community?

A friend of mine was recently debating the wisdom of parents reassigning their children’s gender based on the child’s preference. Can prepubescent children really know, she asked, what they want out of their future sexuality? And isn’t it a parent’s roll to guide them towards good decisions?

As if on cue, my friend’s daughter walked into the room and announced, “Mom, I want to be a monkey.”

“Oh… do you mean you want to dress up like a monkey?”

“No. I want to be a real monkey.”

And you are, if you choose to be.

Dear Feminists: I Feel Unsafe

Silly me. I thought feminism was about upholding the rights and dignity of women. Turns out feminism is nothing more than a new variation on an old theme: subjecting women to the demands and prejudices of the powerful.

We women know by experience that our very womanhood is a risk factor in life. Across countries, continents, cultures and ages, men have nearly always been the sexual aggressors, and women on the receiving end. Rape is almost exclusively a crime perpetrated by men. Only in very recent years have we stretched the definition enough that it could be understood any other way.

And so we circle the wagons. Women go to the bathroom in groups- have you noticed? It’s not because we like the smell of each other’s poop. Women intuitively know that we are safer in herds.

Feminists have taken various attacks on rape in all its forms, and from a distance one might think they genuinely care to protect and empower women. But a recent phenomenon- the transgender/transsexual movement- proves otherwise.

Let me explain.

I would venture to say that worldwide, the plight of women is desperately worse than that of most black Americans. Women are still bought and sold as slaves. As we are becoming increasingly aware, in some countries women can be stoned to death for owning a cell phone, going to school, driving a car. Rape and sexual degradation are a way of life in many cultures, and women have no voice in the political process by which to demand justice or change.

And yet, in this country, if a white person dresses up in blackface, mocking the physical appearance, dress, vocal inflections and mannerisms of black Americans, that person can be expelled from school and a national outcry will rise, demanding that at any price, no matter how extreme, black individuals must be made to “feel safe”.

Meanwhile, if a man dresses up in “girlface,” mocking the physical appearance, dress, vocal inflections and mannerisms of women, we are supposed to applaud his (her?) courage.

Bull. We’ve come a long way in our ideas about race, and most people know that no white person dressed in blackface can truly understand the black experience- the childhood memories of parents, grandparents and siblings relating their stories of pain from racism and prejudice; the heritage gained from ancestors who escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad, or earned independence and lived successfully in the North, or immigrated more recently from Africa, after slavery’s abolition, or are black but not African and tired of being called “African American”. A costume isn’t an identity.

Furthermore, it wouldn’t matter if you felt black, had always wished you were black, or felt out of place among white people. If you are not black, you are not black. This in spite of the fact that race, unlike sex, actually is relatively fluid- you can be 1/2 black, or a white African citizen, or dark-skinned with light-skinned siblings. Despite very real racial complexity, we still don’t grant non-blacks the right to identify as black.

Yet we grant this right to men. The right to dress in girlface and not only pretend to be women, but to actually publicly identify as women.

And this, dear feminists, puts the lie to your cause. It is deeply obvious that men can’t become women by dressing as women, or even by getting boob jobs and hormone treatments. The fact that you turn a blind eye to this reality degrades the experiences of real women, and ultimately makes the world less safe for us.

Nationwide there is a push towards an extreme of political correctness, in which schools, businesses and other public buildings are now establishing gender-free restrooms. When women protest, we are labeled and shoved in a box with the racists, sexists and homophobes.

How dare anyone minimize the experiences of women who have been assaulted, molested, raped by men- women who have every good reason not to want wolves in sheep’s clothing invading our most personal space. Do we owe this to society? Do we women, who endure the majority of sexual crimes, who learn to fear our sexuality the moment we first experience unwanted attention in adolescence (or earlier), who experience depths of sexual experience men can only imagine- menstruation, childbirth, miscarriage, infertility, menopause- owe it to society to invite men in girlface into our private circles?

While a national outcry has been raised over black people feeling unsafe, women who feel unsafe in the current sexual climate are asked- especially by liberal feminists- to be nice and keep quiet. Funny, that’s exactly the message to women I thought feminism had been fighting against since its inception.

I recently watched a Youtube video in which a young woman who reviews reusable menstrual products answered a question from a subscriber about simulating a period. The video cheerfully demonstrates how to mix food coloring, corn starch and water to create a substance resembling blood, which can be poured onto a pad or into a menstrual cup for any transgender person desiring to “experience” a period.

I thought, “Must be nice.” Must be nice for a man to be able to choose to “menstruate” as a weekend arts and crafts project.

In third world countries, disposable menstrual products are utterly unaffordable. Girls routinely miss a week of school each month while they menstruate at home, in a corner, over a pile of ashes, sawdust or leaves. Dropout rates skyrocket when pubescent girls miss too many days to keep up with their classes.

Later in life, these girls will experience childbirth by third-world standards. A visit to the websites of relief organizations will teach you that in many remote areas, a complete midwife kit consists of a pair of gloves, a pair of scissors, and a piece of string. Well-meaning donors send ultrasound machines that cannot be used because there is no electricity.

I know I’m spoiled. I can choose between plastic and cardboard tampon applicators. I can save the planet by switching to a reusable menstrual cup. I can get Depo-Provera injections and forego menstruation altogether. But I know that all these privileges are an accident of my birth in an affluent nation. My financial status does not fundamentally change my female identity. Had I arrived into the world in a village in rural Nepal, I too would be menstruating in a hut, subject to the same taboos and prejudice. Were I to find myself transported there now, my previous life of comfort and privilege would do little for me.

As feminist ideology becomes increasingly weird and disconnected from reality, it becomes increasingly a luxury for the wealthy. In most of the world, people can’t imagine an expense so frivolous as changing sex according to personal preference- and no sane man would ever attempt it. There’s so much work to be done towards protecting women’s basic rights that I can’t comprehend why we’ve added a Right to Pretend to be a Woman to the list of priorities.

My identity as a woman is something I’m proud of, and proud to share with courageous women around the world- true women of all colors and throughout all centuries who have felt the pains I feel, wept the tears I’ve wept, learned the lessons I’ve learned. While I respect the right of any man to play dress-up when the mood strikes, I ask that he not lay claim to an identity that women have forged through centuries of common experience- and above all, that he not ask real women to recognize his claim.

Motherhood, the Highest Ordinary Calling: A Response to Amy Glass

Ahh, Amy Glass. If nothing else, your essay has motivated a great deal of reflection on my part.

In full disclosure, I don’t give a rat’s patootie whether or not I make a good feminist. I’ll not try to persuade you that feminism means validating a woman’s choice to be a stay at home mom. Feminists have their own narrow view of the world, and I have mine.

That said, I’ll delve into the specifics of your brief, thoroughly offensive, and ultimately deeply pitiable essay.

On the surface it seems true that “doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business.” I can say emphatically that laundry, dishes and diapers are not my favorite part of motherhood. But I can also say emphatically that if you think those mundane activities are what drive my love of being a mom, you have utterly missed the point.

Every career comes with some amount of busywork. Nobody becomes a police officer for the excitement of filing reports after arrests. Nobody becomes a doctor for the love of maintaining patient files. Nobody becomes an entrepreneur for the pleasure of managing payroll, insurance claims, or inventory. We do the mundane and monotonous because for the majority of people, success requires unglamorous work.

Likewise, mothers don’t choose their life for the joy of laundry, dishes and diapers. Let’s not be absurd. We see a higher purpose in our work, which makes the mundane bearable, as in all other fields of work worth doing. I see my children as the greatest offering I make to the world. I look around and see a city in which good parenting is scarce; school violence is commonplace, teen pregnancy is almost expected, absentee fathers are the norm, the welfare cycle has thousands in its grip. How I wish I could take every abandoned child in my arms and give them a safe, stable home. But I am only one person; what can one person do?

I can raise my own children well. I am raising my children to be kind, generous and dedicated. By passing my vision on to them, I multiply my own effect on the world by five. They will go places I’ll never go, love people I’ll never meet, impact the world in ways I didn’t know possible. I believe my choice of work compares favorably to any other field in which people strive to make a change for the better.

You claim rather rashly that “You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.” By contrast, you praise (and suggest throwing showers for) the following: “a woman when she backpacks on her own through Asia, gets a promotion, or lands a dream job not when she stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing which is the path of least resistance.”

Here I will add an aside: if you intend to imply that you yourself have chosen the path of exceptionalism, my dear, reconsider: that entire paragraph is a run-on sentence requiring, at minimum, several commas. Periods would be better. Exceptional writing skills are not a natural byproduct of childless singleness. 

If you truly believe this, I question your definition of exceptionalism. Exactly what are you looking for? Worldwide recognition? Hundreds of people have achieved fame without being exceptional (Paris Hilton may top the list). Financial stature? Countless heiresses fail to be exceptional. Having a career? Oh please. Women in offices across the country are pushing papers in a way that would bring tears of boredom to the most laundry-besot mother I know.

The fact is, there are average and exceptional people in every field. What makes a person exceptional is not what career they choose, how well they get paid, or who pats them on the back. Exeptionalism is a characteristic of people who follow their own unique paths exceptionally well.

I am amazed at your ignorance. Queen Cleopatra, Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Marie Curie, Emmeline Pankhurst, Queen Victoria, Maria Von Trapp, Rosa Parks, and J.K. Rowling were all mothers. Countless inventions, businesses and nonprofit organizations are created by mothers working to solve their children’s problems; motherhood, for some, is the prime motivator towards achievement.

Conversely, the examples you mention are not examples of exceptionalism. Thousands of people have hiked through Asia. Buddhists consider the Tibetan mountains a pilgrimage site, and some even climb prostrated to show reverence. Exceptional would be, say, the first woman to climb Mount Everest and the Seven Summits (Junko Tabei, wife and mother) or the women who first pioneered the foothills of those treacherous mountains, facing violent brigands, disease, and political corruption (Flora B. Shelton, Minnie Ogden, and Dr. Susie Rijnhart, all wives and mothers), or the woman who dedicated her life to intensive biological research deep within the forests of Tanzania (Jane Goodall, wife and mother). Tourism is not exceptionalism.

Exceptionalism requires rising above life’s challenges. The truly exceptional woman will exceed the challenges of motherhood, rising to noteworthy heights regardless of her marital or parental status. Why assume all mothers are in a box?

I would argue that people are much too absorbed in their own “exceptionalism”. There are 7.14 billion people in this world today, and many billions more who have come before and will come after. Only a few thousand will be remembered. We are small people in a big world, so if being exceptional is your only standard of success, quit now.

You will not be remembered for your little Asian hiking trip. It’s been done before, with an army of elephants. You will not be remembered for your promotion. Believe me- somewhere, someone is making more money than you. You won’t be remembered for landing your dream job, unless your dream is to make the world a better place for someone other than yourself.

You will be remembered for the impact you have on the lives of other people. And motherhood, of all ordinary occupations, has the most profound impact on other human beings.

I know a number of women who are better writers than Amy Glass, while juggling four or more children. From my perspective, Amy is the one cruising the path of least resistance. Get up late, pour some coffee, write a sloppy, grammatically challenged blog post and receive advertising funds. Sweeeet. Some day when my kids fly the coop, I’ll try it. I’ll call it Retirement. And maybe Amy Glass will throw me a shower to celebrate.