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Election 2008: Thank You, John McCain

I finally watched the two main speeches from Tuesday night – both McCain’s concession speech and Obama’s victory speech – and thought I’d share some thoughts.

Obama’s speech was exactly what I expected it to be: appealing to unity and hope for the U.S.’s future.  But while I voted for Obama, campaigned for Obama, and supported Obama, what I really want to say is:

Thank you, John McCain.

I hated your campaign.  I really did.  I thought some of your smear tactics were repugnant (though not unexpected).  HOWEVER. Your speech on Tuesday was one of the most gracious and humbling sights I have seen in a long time.  I appreciated the way you tried to calm down your most fervent supporters when they wanted to drum up antagonism and ill will.  You turned a potentially divisive and hostile situation into a plea for this country’s unity and support for our next President.  You accepted your loss with grace and I am grateful that you consider it your duty, and the duty of every citizen, to support and advise the President on the issues at stake.

This is easy – probably too easy – for me to say, because I was on “the winning side” (whatever that is).  The candidate I supported won, and the candidate I opposed lost.  It’s not hard to feel benevolent toward you at the moment.  However, had it been the other way around, I wish I could say that I – and that Obama – would have taken defeat as well as you did the other night.  Honestly, I don’t know that I could say that.  I probably would have descended into bitterness, cynicism, and self-pity – probably for a good six months.

I hope we all strive to demonstrate your humility and grace in the face of defeat.  Thank you, sir.

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childhood memories. sigh.

It’s that time of year again! No, I’m not talking about pumpkins, turkeys (wow, I just spelled that “turkies” in the rough draft), or wreaths. I am not talking about the jolly holiday spirit waiting in store for us (until someone overcooks the Christmas ham, that is!). I’m not even talking about winter break.

No, my friends, I am referring to the fact that it is now MONOPOLY SEASON at McDonald’s. Collect all the properties in any given color group and WIN SOMETHING FUN!

McDonald’s Monopoly was an important part of my childhood. Every time my parents would take me and my siblings to get something to eat at McDonald’s during Monopoly Season, I cheered for sheer joy. The excitement of winning hung palpably in the air. Hell, I didn’t even have to win anything to enjoy it. Just the sensation of my grubby, salty little childhood sausage-fingers peeling off the backs of a property sticker, and then sealing it onto the McDonald’s Monopoly Board, for everyone to see, was enough to make my week (and, it seems, enough to leave me with indelible childhood memories).

Now it is time for me to experience this again, from October 7 to November 13. The prospect of collecting Park Place and Boardwalk, and subsequently winning a million dollars, is very exciting, and despite the knowledge that I have almost NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER (I’m not actually positive they manufacture some of the pieces at all), I can still hope. Fried foods, calories, and wasted money be damned.

Unfortunately, McDonald’s has decided to “cut costs” (the way I figure it, anyway; I don’t actually know why) and has half-ruined the Monopoly fun. Yes, they have eliminated the physical board game, typed codes onto the property stickers, and put the game on their website ONLY.

My immediate reaction: We must PROTEST.

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bad hair day

Yes, I am a stock photo.

Yes, I am a stock photo.

My hair dryer is broken and I don’t have enough money for a new one. (I think I broke it in Oxford, when it nearly exploded because of the lack of a voltage converter.) Which is not normally a big deal. I take showers at night and my hair dries when I’m sleeping. But this morning I had to take a shower. And I should tell you it takes FOREVER for my hair to dry completely. As in MULTIPLE HOURS. Unless I want to park myself in front of my A/C unit and turn it all the way up. So, when I left the house today with semi-wet hair, I was hoping it would have that sexy-messy-kind-of-wet look. And did it? No. It did not. It went POOF. I think the drive-through guy at McDonald’s thought I was Medusa. He kept looking at me and smiling. At first I was like, Oh, he thinks I’m cute or something. As I was pulling out, I realized the truth – that he was staring at my weirdass hair. And then I thought, today, my hair could make a reasonably selling attraction at Ripley’s Believe It or Not. If you can Believe It.

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manifesto: a leave from maternity

maternity?

maternity?

I work as a tutor in my university’s Writing Center. We help with every part of the writing process, from editing to brainstorming to outlining. The freshman classes have their first paper due tomorrow (a universal deadline, the same assignment for all classes), and several of the profs have been offering extra credit if their students visit us, so we’ve been pretty busy for the last few days, as you can imagine.

That by itself isn’t the point. I had a girl come in today with a paper. The assignment was to analyze an image; she chose the Axe “Bow Chicka Wah Wah” commercial and analyzed it from what I recognized as a feminist perspective. She did a great job talking about how the female was animalized, how she was portrayed as an object of desire, how teen-boy fantasies are being validated by the advertising industry, and how sex became a savage mating ritual; there was some strong analysis going on. It was a good paper.

So imagine how disappointed I was when I learned that one of her premises was that women are naturally maternal (as in, protective, caregiving, motherly, defined by a uterus) and that the Axe commercial subverts this ideal by sexualizing women. No, not oversexualizing. Just sexualizing.

Tangentially, I know I have to be careful about how I instruct writers/students (as a feminist and a tutor) on a conservative, religious campus in the Bible Belt. There’s a different stream of discourse going on, and it takes a lot of patience and, honestly, an entirely different vocabulary in order to dialogue so that we understand each other (as well as a preparation for your own failure!). So I tried to gently point her in a few directions. For one thing, I tried (and I think I succeeded) to get her to realize the double expectations for women: that in our society, we are expected to be both the maternal, caring figure and the hot, young (or young-looking), sex object (and to enjoy it). Not one or the other, but both (in a curious twist of the saint/slut dichotomy)! Anyway, I pointed that out, and a couple of other things as well that I can’t remember much of very well (I advised the use of the word “dehumanization,” as I recall) and I think the session went well. I hope something stuck and she decides to think about this a little more.

I’m concerned in general with concepts like “masculinity” and “femininity” and what activities or qualities make a “real” woman or man, and especially about these implications for and manifestations in religious culture (I speak specifically of Christianity, which has been my faith tradition, but it could apply to Islam or Judaism, I think; I’m less knowledgeable about how – or whether – gender has traditionally played a role in Buddhist, Taoist, or Hindu communities).

“Masculine” characteristics generally include leadership (e.g., domination), taking action, initiating contact (romantic especially), a propensity for adventure, determination, assertiveness, rationality, and so on.

“Feminine” characteristics typically include a caring nature, passivity, receiving contact (romantic especially), a domestic paradigm, submissiveness, a propensity for compromise (in opposition to self-assertion), strong emotionalism, and so on.

As you can imagine, these premises undergird much of our cultural and social life in the Western world (and again, I assume elsewhere). They govern romantic relationships, marriage, the conception of the family, the job market, public roles, and religious practices, among many other things.

The problem is, I believe, that they are socially constructed. There are obviously people of both sexes that do not fit the mold (in fact, I think all of us don’t, to one extent or another), but then there are people who hardly fit them at all. What are we, as exceptions, to do?

I don’t know. All of this was really to say … I don’t want kids. Maybe that will change in the future, but I have sincere doubts. I’m not a mother-type.  I think I care about my friends deeply and try to take care of them, but it’s nothing more (or less, for that matter) than friendship, rather than maternal instinct.  A friend of mine gave birth to her third child, a girl named Storey, this summer. A few weeks ago, she brought Storey into the grad students’ office and we took turns holding her. What I realized: I like kids, but I don’t want them.

On the other hand, there are “feminine” traits that I do embody.  I love to cook, and especially to took for other people; I take great pleasure in practices of hospitality.  Which, frankly, is just confusing.  Thanks, God. (Or alternatively, Darwin).

Unfortunately, according to the society I live in, I have two life options: be a stay-at-home mom of four, or be a power-crazed executive bitch.

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too many books, too little brain-space

Preface: I have really enjoyed the classes I’ve taken this summer. During June, I took ‘Pagan/Christian Interlace’ with Dr. Delony, which was a course in early medieval literature and the ‘transition’ from pagan to Christian culture/beliefs. In July, I came here to Oxford to take two classes – one on ‘Faith and Literature at Oxford,’ and the other on Shakespeare. All good stuff. And good things have come out of it – I’m presenting a paper at the SEMA conference in October because of one of these classes, for example.

And yet.

I shouldn’t have done it. I have been pushing myself too hard all year. In the spring semester, I chose to take extra graduate-level classes (they let you do that during your last semester). And it was fine – while I was doing it. But deciding to continue the rigorous schedule through the summer (and the fall!) was a really bad idea.

And I’m paying for it.

I’m having much more trouble with reading comprehension and critical thinking than I normally do. I feel dumb in class all summer, unable to synthesize ideas from readings and unable to comment on them adequately during class. I’m having more difficulty organizing papers and presenting coherent theses.

I think my brain filled up and now there’s not enough room for anything else.

I won’t get much drainage time, either, just a few days (that won’t be exactly stress-free, since I’ll be either traveling or moving into my new apartment).

I should have listened to the wisdom of the scriptures:

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. (Ecclesiastes 12:12)

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i burn, i pine, i perish: oxford 002

When we made the trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. (Certainly not a café called “As You Like It.” Blatant tourist appeal…) Visiting Anne Hathaway’s house was probably my favorite site, perhaps because of our excellent and knowledgeable tour guide. It was a cultural shock to see how differently we conceive of wealth. The Hathaways were financially well off in their time, and yet we would think their setting the height of poverty nowadays. Seeing the rural context of Shakespeare’s life was also an eye-opener. Anyone can be famous in our age; you can even be famous for dancing to a Swedish electronica song on YouTube, thanks to the instantaneous nature of the Internet and the global communications culture we live in. But to become famous out of such a rural context is, really, astonishing.

Seeing his birthplace, his wife’s family home, and objects from his life, in one way, bring us closer to Shakespeare and to understanding the man and the playwright better. In a way, it humanizes a person long dead and expands our knowledge, which is generally limited to reading his works and then making assumptions. But at the same time, there is a dehumanizing aspect to these visits as well; touring a house and being told about it lends a certain museum quality to my knowledge of his life; he grows more distant, with a growing number of paragraph-sized museum plaques attached to his person.

P.S. The title is a quote from the movie “10 Things I Hate About You,” which is based on the Shakespeare play The Taming of the Shrew (the quote is originally from the play).

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oxford 001

So (without telling most of you Dear Readers), I am back in Oxford, England for a summer study abroad program. I arrived on Monday the 7th and have been enjoying my sojourn into a foreign land quite well so far.  Unfortunately for you all (and me as well), the cord I brought to connect my camera to my computer was the wrong one, so we’re stuck without pictures until I get home (which will be August 21).

In other news, I suck at blogging.  Just like I suck at writing journals, keeping a diary, and writing reflection papers.

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