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With all of the recent media reports about powerful dirtbag men assaulting and harassing women, and all of the outrage over it, a common criticism is that men only think of women as appendages to men, not as whole persons in their own right. So when a man says, “As a father of a daughter, I’m appalled [at dirtbag X’s behavior],” he is not being woke, as it were, to injustice toward women. He only cares about women if they remind him of his daughter, or his wife, or his sister, or his mother; he doesn’t view women as truly human as men.

I understand why this formulation–“If woman X were my daughter/sister/etc., I (as a man) wouldn’t want someone to treat her that way; therefore, treating women that way is wrong”–bothers some people. Men often use the women in their lives to prove a point about women in general, not acknowledging that their daughters/wives/whoever are individuals and don’t necessarily represent women in general. (I see this a lot in Mormonism. “My wife is a very strong woman, and she doesn’t want the priesthood.”) But the problem isn’t men thinking of the women in their lives who are personally important to them and concluding that women in general deserve respect, but men thinking of the women in their lives as the exception: “My women are important. Other women are not.”

I get why it troubles people, men thinking in terms of their women versus other men’s women, even if the conclusion is that all women should be treated with respect. Women are persons in their own right and should be treated with the respect due to any human, regardless of any men they might be related to. But I’m not convinced that all men who reference their daughters/wives/etc. really think in terms of “my women/their women”–not when their conclusion is that all women deserve respect. If all that mattered were the woman’s relationship with some man, the degree to which she deserved respect would depend a great deal on how much deference that man required. But I believe most men who think of their daughters when pondering the treatment of women in general actually are relating to their daughters as people, not some form of (their) property.

Imagine Donald Trump saying, “As the father of a daughter, I’m outraged.” He wouldn’t. His own daughter is the exception. He has said he’d date his daughter if she weren’t his daughter (and I think we can safely take “date” as a euphemism). She’s a person to him only because she’s his; she’s not a reminder to him that women are people.

Maybe it’s not as morally evolved to have to think of one’s daughters and wives before thinking of women in general as people. But it’s much better to have men who bother taking this extra step–“my daughter is a person and she’s a woman; therefore, women are people”–than men who never get to the place where they can empathize with women at all. And I’m not convinced that it is less evolved. Our relationships are a huge part of our humanity. It’s not just men who find their personal relationships helpful for increasing their empathy generally. As a woman, having sons has definitely helped me relate better to men and have more empathy for men in general. It’s not that women who don’t have sons can’t have empathy for men, but for me, this helped. I don’t think that makes me morally inferior. I think it means I’ve evolved as an individual.

As I said to a friend, when the subject is abuse or discrimination against the disabled, I sometimes reference my children with autism. I don’t do it because my autistic children aren’t persons in their own right; it’s only to express why this issue is personal for me. It’s not that I wouldn’t be outraged by such stories if I didn’t have a personal connection. (I mean, I know I was outraged by child abuse before I had children.) The point of mentioning my children is not to appeal to my own authority as a parent, just to express a personal stake in the story. We all have relationships of some kind, and unless we’re sociopaths, our relationships are important to us. So while referencing one’s father(of-daughter)hood can be problematic in some cases, it is not inherently problematic. What matters is the conclusions one draws from that experience.


So there’s this article on Fusion titled “Nameplate Necklaces: This s*** is for us” (alternate title: “White Girls: Stop wearing nameplate necklaces”). Obviously, I came across this article because I read Fusion all the time. Just kidding. Obviously, I came across this article because some other white person I follow on Twitter was drawing attention to how crazy it is to add nameplate necklaces to the list of things that are considered cultural appropriation. I’m not actually sure if there is a limit to what “should” be considered cultural appropriation. Being white, I can’t really understand what it’s like to have one’s culture appropriated. I suppose, as a woman who was born female, I can imagine it’s sort of like when Caitlyn Jenner wins Woman of the Year when she’s only been a woman for about 15 minutes. Actually, it’s probably even more like Bono being Woman of the Year when he’s never been a woman for any minutes. Then again, who am I to judge? I don’t know Bono’s life! So I’m back to not really understanding how horrible it is when a white girl wears s*** that’s for women of color.

For the record, I’ve never owned nor worn a nameplate necklace. On the other hand, I don’t know how many things I have worn inappropriately–things I thought I was only wearing but was actually appropriating. I’m suspecting the number is low because I’m pretty white, culturally speaking, and have very little in the way of personal style. I don’t think I’ve ever been cool enough to appropriate something. The only thing I can think of is when I attended my brother-in-law’s wedding in Japan and I wore a kimono for the traditional Shinto ceremony–but that was at the invitation of the Japanese bride. It’s not a thing I would have thought to do on my own, but when someone invites you to her traditional Shinto wedding in Japan and offers you, as a soon-to-be family member, a kimono, it seems like it would be rude to say, “No thanks.” On the other hand, if I just up and decided on my own to wear a kimono someplace, that would probably be considered cultural appropriation.

On our first trip to Japan, my husband and I were visiting a shrine, and a (Japanese) man approached us and pointed out that a nearby tree was known as the “marriage tree.” He brought us over there and showed us how to pay our respects to the tree, or how to bless our marriage via this tree ritual; I’m sorry to say that between the language barrier and my faulty memory, I can’t tell you the precise nature of what he was showing us how to do, and it’s not my intention to sound disrespectful. (Maybe the guy was just messing with us. But he seemed sincere.) To be honest, bowing to the tree felt a little weird to me—not in the sense of “this is foreign and I don’t like it” but in the sense of “I’m not Japanese and I don’t know crap about Shintoism and I feel like a fraud.” But to the man, he was just sharing his culture and inviting us to appreciate it.

So maybe that’s the “get out of jail free” card. If someone invites you to participate in their culture, that’s okay. Maybe if one of my black or Latina girlfriends gave me a nameplate necklace for my birthday, that would also be okay. (Or she could just be messing with me. But friends don’t do that to each other, do they?) The problem is that if I wear my nameplate necklace out in public, no one’s going to know that my friend of color gave it to me. They will probably assume that I am appropriating WOC’s culture, and knowing this, how can I in good conscience wear such a thing? I mean, I could say, “Actually, my friend, who happens to be a WOC, gave it to me for my birthday,” but even I know that’s just what a clueless white person would say. If I were the offended person, I’d be like, “Oh, yeah, I’m sure some of your best friends are black!”

Actually, I don’t think I have any friends of color who would give me a nameplate necklace for my birthday. This is all just hypothetical. It’s something that theoretically could happen. I mean, I never expected to be wearing a kimono to someone’s wedding either.

For the record, the kimono was very beautiful. I’m not sure I pulled it off, what with my red hair and big feet. [1] (Those shoes are the worst. I’m sorry if that’s racist, but at least I won’t be appropriating that part of the culture again if I can help it.) I can understand why someone would want to wear something from another culture because it is beautiful. I guess I can also understand why it gets on a WOC’s nerves when Carrie Bradshaw starts wearing a nameplate necklace and suddenly nameplate necklaces are cool because a popular white girl wore one, even though WOC have been wearing nameplate necklaces for years. But I also can’t help thinking it’s kind of like when hipsters sniff that they liked something before it was cool, and now that it’s cool, it’s been ruined. WOC were enjoying their nameplate necklaces before white girls ruined it for them. I hate to lump anyone in the same category as hipsters, but I just can’t think of a more pertinent example offhand. I understand why it’s different: hipsters are not historically people who have been marginalized by the larger society; they marginalize themselves, on purpose. So of course it’s not the same thing. I get that.

Here’s the thing: I enjoyed reading that Fusion piece, for the most part. I appreciated the author explaining the significance of nameplate necklaces to her and other WOC. It would never have occurred to me that nameplates were a black/WOC thing. I was unaware. I’m glad to be aware of her experience and feelings. What I don’t get is the same thing I don’t get about hipsters being miffed that their favorite band now has thousands of fans who weren’t there from the very beginning: why does it bother you that other people like what you like, even if it’s for different reasons?

I’m sure some people would say that question proves I absolutely don’t get any of the stuff I previously claimed to get, if I don’t get that last part. But I’m trying, I really am. As I said, I’m white—I’ve got the white privilege, I’m lousy with white privilege, along with tons of other privilege. I have zero experience with someone taking an aspect of my culture that is dear to me and cheapening it or whatever else one does when one culturally-appropriates. I can’t even think of a single thing on earth that I think of as belonging exclusively to my demographic group’s “culture.” My husband comes from Scandinavian stock; I can’t decide if this makes him more or less “white” than I am. I have no particular interest in genealogy—it doesn’t do anything for me—but I can trace my ancestors on both sides back about 200 years to…England. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of this, as it was an accident of birth I had nothing to do with. (It is kind of a bummer when they have those celebrate-our-diverse-cultural-heritage potlucks. You can’t eat the Magna Carta, amirite?) But to me, everything that’s great about English culture is part of the cultural heritage of every American. It’s not like I own it, as a person of English ancestry; I share it with a host of people who are not of English ancestry, racially speaking. I don’t even think of myself as a person of English ancestry, i.e. that my ancestors lived in England is not a conscious part of my identity. As a white person, I have the luxury of not thinking about my race unless I start writing crap like this.

But like I said, I’m trying. I’m trying to empathize by drawing whatever parallels or hypothetical parallels I can to my own experience. I suppose that as a woman, I am part of a historically marginalized group. Unfortunately, the closest I can get to imagining something like cultural appropriation in that context is my above Caitlyn Jenner remark, which veers uncomfortably close to anti-trans sentiment. I admit that I get a little bent out of shape when Caitlyn Jenner is named Woman of the Year for publicly wearing a dress and painting her nails. Women have been wearing dresses and painting their nails for years, but someone who used to be called Bruce does it and suddenly it’s Woman of the Year stuff. I don’t care if someone who is biologically male wants to live as a woman, regardless of whether she wears a dress or not (women can do anything!)—it’s no skin off my nose, after all. But when someone who lived as a man and enjoyed the privileges of man-living for 60 years claims she’s “just as much a woman” as I am, please forgive me for saying, “Oh, honey.” I mean, what else can I say? I’m happy you’re happy, Caitlyn Jenner, but a newly-transitioned woman winning Woman of the Year is like Barack Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize immediately upon his inauguration: you just haven’t earned it yet, baby. (Alluding to Smiths songs: just what a white girl of a certain age would do.

I say that, and I own it, but I also realize it sounds pretty mean—I reckon it sounds really mean to any trans woman (or person) who has had to suffer through things that I will never understand because I haven’t experienced them. Yet I also notice that this means 45 years of living as a woman, having experiences that a trans woman has never had, qualifies me for exactly zero pronouncements on the nature of womanhood. So trying to relate to the whole “appropriation” issue via my womanhood is a fail.

As a Mormon, I guess I qualify as a religious minority. Historically, Mormons have been marginalized. Some would argue we still are (though I would not, not really). And Mormons are definitely a culture as well as a religion. I’m not sure how one would go about appropriating our culture.[2] It’s kind of hard to nail down in the first place, not unlike our theology. But as long as we’re imagining something super-unlikely, let’s suppose that some not-Mormon person took something that was sacred to us and cheapened or commercialized it. Let’s say some non-Mormon celebrity (famous and therefore influential, sadly) started wearing Mormon temple clothes in public because they thought it looked cool. No one would ever do that, but let’s say they did. Most Mormons would instinctively call that disrespectful and gross, but that’s because it’s hard to imagine anyone doing it for reasons other than mockery. One has to imagine someone wearing Mormon temple clothes because they actually thought it did look cool. It takes a lot of imagination. (You could strain something and hurt yourself, probably.) I can only imagine that my reaction to this sort of thing would be to think a) they look as ridiculous as I do, and b) we appropriated all that temple stuff from the Masons, so they probably have first dibs on being offended.

Anyway, they already made The Book of Mormon musical, which wasn’t appropriation but satire, and plenty of Mormons got their noses out of joint over that because a) Mormons generally don’t appreciate satire and b) Mormons don’t like to be made fun of, especially not with F-words. I did not see The BofM musical, nor do I care to—I have a reasonably high tolerance for irreverent humor, but a fairly low tolerance for scatological humor, which is the same reason I don’t like to watch South Park—but I thought (and still think) that righteous indignation/outrage was a foolish response. It makes us look small, and frankly, insecure. I’m pretty sure Jesus said if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. If you’re going to trash or mock my religion, maybe you’re a jerk (or maybe you’re just misunderstood—I don’t know your life!), but that’s on you, not me. If you want to have a real conversation about my religion, I’m happy to converse with you; if you’re going to be a jerk, go be a jerk without me.

I can say these things about Mormons because I am one and I understand the Mormon experience, but I can’t say to a woman of color, “Your thing about nameplate necklaces makes you look small and insecure,” because I’m not one and I don’t know her experience. I don’t understand her feelings. Is it even possible for me to understand her feelings to the extent that I can understand why she would get bent out of shape over white girls wearing nameplate necklaces? Is there any point in trying to understand, or do I just accept that as a white girl, I have no business wearing a nameplate necklace?

So I’m back where I started, a middle-aged white lady with a free blog and no clue. Where does one draw the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation? Is there a line between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation? [3] If so, where does one draw that? How do you know when you’re appropriating something? I’m not really looking for someone to tell me this whole “cultural appropriation” thing is ridiculous. I know some not-(completely)-ridiculous people who have very strong feelings about it, but can’t really articulate the difference between appreciation/exchange and appropriation. I’m not invested in the idea that I should be able to wear a nameplate necklace or a kimono. I’m not even a fan of any sports teams with Native American mascots. On occasion, I enjoy Vietnamese food, but then I read an essay by a Vietnamese-American who was upset that Vietnamese food was trendy now, but white people used to make fun of her lunches when she was young. My instinct is to think that person might need therapy to deal with her issues, but I’m open to the idea of that not being fair. When I was a kid, I thought bologna sandwiches were delicious. I think bologna is gross now. I still like Spam, though. Hawaiians also like Spam. Who liked it first? What does it all mean? I don’t know.


[1] Even my red hair is, technically, appropriated. I was born a brunette, but I think red hair is beautiful and I like the way I look with red hair, so I dye it red, even if it’s wrong. I have extremely fair skin and burn easily, so I almost feel as though I’ve earned it, but that’s just what a clueless fake-ginger would say.

[2] I was reading some non-Mormon person’s Twitter feed and they were saying how their son wanted to ask someone to Homecoming, but apparently, expectations have changed such that it’s no longer okay to say, “Will you come to Homecoming with me?” You have to do something creative, like with balloons or baked goods or whatever. I was, frankly, astonished. I thought only Mormons did this. (We love theatre! And arts & crafts!) Now it’s what everyone’s supposed to do? Is this the Pinterest-ization of our culture, or has Pinterest simply facilitated the widespread appropriation of Mormon culture? In either case, I don’t actually care. Do what you feel, kids.

[3] I went to a recipe exchange a million years ago, and a friend of mine, who was from Idaho, shared this recipe called “Hong Kong Chicken.” It was a dish her mother made all the time when she was growing up. It consisted of rice, chicken, and cream of mushroom soup (basically). So…where did the Hong Kong part come in, exactly? My friend said, sheepishly, “Oh. Well. You see, most of what we ate was made with potatoes. But this was made with rice. Hence—Hong Kong.” I thought this was adorable (and hilarious). I shared this story with someone recently, and they thought it was offensive, maybe borderline racist. Well, goodness—uneducated about Chinese cuisine, sure, but racist? Can’t we just be glad that we live in a world where more people are eating rice? Maybe Idahoans should be offended when other people belittle their attempts to try new things!


Madhousewife: Did you know that sperm from men with Ph.D.s costs more than regular sperm?

Princess Zurg: What? Why?

Mad: I don’t know, I guess people assume their kids will be smarter or something. But it’s a rip-off. Your dad has a Ph.D. and look at you kids.

PZ: Yeah.

Mad: Just kidding. I mean, you’re smart enough, but you’re not, like, geniuses or anything. Well, except for you.

PZ: Yeah, I’m kind of a genius.

Mad: But that was just luck.

PZ: Albert Einstein said everybody’s a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, the fish will spend its whole life believing it’s stupid.

Mad: How profound.

PZ: Yeah.

Mad: I don’t have a Ph.D., and I’m pretty smart. I mean, I’m not a genius or anything. But I won’t judge myself by my ability to climb a tree. Or my ability to swim, for that matter. I’m a little better at swimming than climbing a tree. Like, if I had to swim to save my life, I would probably make it, but if I had to climb a tree to save my life, I’d probably die.

PZ: I know what you mean.

Mad: I guess it would depend on the tree.

PZ: Yeah. Maybe if it were a really short tree. Like, if it were a tree stump.

Mad: Yeah, I could climb a tree stump.

PZ: All you’d have to do is step up and say, “Ta da! I climbed a tree!”

Mad: Even a fish could do that. If it flopped high enough.

PZ: Or if the tree stump were underwater. But that wouldn’t really be climbing. But at least he’d get to the top of the tree.

Mad: That’s what counts.

PZ: Yeah.

I just saw this story this morning, about atheists in the military wanting to have atheist chaplains.

Joining the chaplain corps is part of a broader campaign by atheists to win official acceptance in the military. Such recognition would make it easier for them to raise money and meet on military bases. It would help ensure that chaplains, religious or atheist, would distribute their literature, advertise their events and advocate for them with commanders. […]

“Humanism fills the same role for atheists that Christianity does for Christians and Judaism does for Jews,” Mr. Torpy said in an interview. “It answers questions of ultimate concern; it directs our values.”

So…I understand this, I think.  I mean, I see the atheists trying to have their own community.  That’s not an unreasonable desire.  There is something about this story that I find odd, though.  Unfortunately, I can’t put my finger on it.

“You’re not a faith group; you’re a lack-of-faith group,” First Lt. Samantha Nicoll, an active atheist at Fort Bragg, recalled a chaplain friend’s saying about the idea. “But I said, ‘What else is there for us?’ ”

Atheist leaders acknowledge the seeming contradiction of nonbelievers seeking to become chaplains or receive recognition from the chaplain corps. But they say they believe the imprimatur of the chaplaincy will embolden atheists who worry about being ostracized for their worldviews.

This seems like a way of saying, “See, atheists are just like you.  They just have different beliefs.  Or rather, they have beliefs like you, but their ‘beliefs’ are not based on faith.  But just like you, they like to get together and talk about their beliefs.  So don’t ostracize them just because they don’t have religion because what they have functions just like a religion, except for all the dumb stuff that they don’t like about religion.”  Yeah, I guess I really don’t understand it.

Not that I have a problem, per se, with the idea of atheist chaplains.  I find it highly unlikely that many atheists are going to want to go to the trouble of becoming a chaplain, but I don’t have a problem with accommodating atheists in the military in whatever reasonable fashion they…need.  Whatever that would be.  I can understand being an atheist in the military and feeling alone because supposedly there are no atheists in foxholes, but here you are, an atheist in a foxhole–maybe you’d like to talk about it once in a while.  I don’t know.  I reckon that atheists serving during wartime might have more profound conversations with each other than atheists meeting for kicks and giggles in a suburban Portland coffee shop, but even if they didn’t, I reckon that’s their right, being that they’re putting their lives in danger to defend our country.  I’m not going to begrudge them their meetings.

I still find it kind of odd, or rather, unlike anything I would expect from any of the atheists I know.

Military atheist leaders say that although proselytizing by chaplains is forbidden, Christian beliefs pervade military culture, creating subtle pressures on non-Christians to convert.

As an example, they cite the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitnessprogram, created to help soldiers handle stress and prevent suicide. The program requires soldiers to complete surveys assessing emotional, social, family and spiritual well-being. Based on their answers, some soldiers are asked to take “resiliency” training.

Atheists say the survey and training are rife with religious code words that suggest a deity or afterlife. The Army counters that the program is intended to determine whether a soldier has “a strong set of beliefs, principles or values” that can sustain him through adversity — and not to gauge religiosity.

So if I’m understanding this correctly, having atheist chaplains would be like officially saying, “You don’t have to believe in God to deal with stress and be okay with dying.”  I wonder if it is a source of stress for atheists to constantly have to prove that they are not any more stressed out about getting killed than a God-fearing soldier is.  I don’t know.

I guess I don’t have anything interesting to say about this.  I just find it an oddly perplexing and vaguely amusing story.  Girlfriend has been whining at my elbow for the last 15 minutes and now she is having a meltdown, so I will let you talk amongst yourselves.  I am especially interested in discovering what my gentle atheist readers think about atheist chaplains.  (So behave yourselves, non-atheists–no ostracizing language, please!)


What does this mean?  I can’t really tell.  Is it a spelling lesson?  Is it trying to make some political point?  There’s no context in which to understand what the political point might be, so I guess it means whatever the reader wants it to mean.  All I know is that as an American, I will fight to the death defending your right to put a dumb bumper sticker on your car.  And when I say “fight to the death,” I mean that in the metaphorical sense.  If it came to actual death, I might not feel that strongly about it.  The fact is, though, if you have FREEDOM, you must also by necessity have FREE DUMB, whatever that is.  The freedom to be dumb is not free.

What does it mean to be “conservative,” or for that matter, “right-wing”?

Fascism, which we chatted about yesterday, is popularly understood as an extreme right-wing ideology, but this only makes sense if you define “right-wing” strictly as militaristic and/or nationalist.  While it’s true that you don’t find many hippies on the right, this is nevertheless an extremely narrow definition of “right-wing,” let alone “conservative,” because it doesn’t even touch on economic issues, and how can you discuss politics without discussing economic issues?

Economically speaking, fascism has more in common with socialism than laissez-faire capitalism.  It allows for private enterprise, but only with strong government intervention.  A fascist would not recommend leaving anything to the market because the market might decide something contrary to the state’s goals.    In a fascist system, only large corporations can prosper because they’re the only ones who can afford all the government regulation.  Actually, corporations will volunteer to write the regulations that destroy their competition.  (It’s not a coincidence that Wal-Mart came out in support of the Democrats’ health care legislation last summer.)  With the corporations and government in cahoots, it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

But wait a minute, isn’t it conservatives that like big business and like to be in cahoots with corporations and dole out the corporate welfare and all that?  Well, Republicans are certainly in cahoots with corporations as much as Democrats are, but that’s because Republicans and Democrats have strong corporatist tendencies.  Republicans generally think they’re trying to encourage prosperity, and Democrats generally think they’re trying to protect consumers, but they’re all playing the government intervention game.  Corporations being in cahoots with government isn’t a fiscally libertarian ideal, to say the least.  So what does that make a fiscal libertarian?

Fiscal libertarianism is usually assigned to the right-wing of the political spectrum.  It makes sense, because it is so heartless.  But it is certainly not fascist.  Libertarians are too selfish to be fascist.  So are fiscal libertarians still right-wing?  Are they more or less right-wing than fascists?  It’s impossible to answer that question because we are using two unrelated definitions of “right-wing” for each group.

What would you call a person with extreme libertarian views on fiscal matters, someone who believed in minimal government regulation, minimal taxation, minimal government services?  Someone who wanted to abolish the minimum wage and the Department of Education (not to mention the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and as long as we’re at it, Transportation)?  You would probably say that person was right-wing because in America we identify libertarian economic policy as right-wing.  What would this person need to do to become a fascist?  Well, he would have to have to become strongly nationalist and advocate a strong military, but he’d also have to do a 180 on his economic philosophy because that free-market crap ain’t gonna fly in fascist America.  Sorry, Steve Forbes!

One might argue that because the distinguishing aspects of fascism that people identify most readily with fascism are militarism and nationalism, that’s all that should really count when you’re comparing people to fascists–that the socialist/progressive aspect is just a minor, inconsequential detail.  But that misses the point of how fascists became totalitarians.  It is hard for a government to be totalitarian unless it is up in everyone’s business, and it is hard to be up in everyone’s business if you take a laissez-faire approach to private enterprise and especially hard if you advocate (and God forbid, achieve) limited government.  The problem with limited government is that it can only do so much.  That is precisely what progressives hate about limited government; it does too little.  (And too often that little bit involves war, something libertarians may argue about amongst themselves in specific instances but generally agree is appropriate work for government rather than the free market.)   So is limited government a right-wing idea?  It’s certainly not a left-wing idea.  But it’s not an idea that exists peacefully with authoritarianism, either.  So we have a semantic dilemma.

Or some of us do.  Most of you don’t care.

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I have never liked the term “special needs” as referring to disabilities. I dislike it most as an adjective, e.g. “a special-needs child,” because it is inelegant (one of the same reasons I hate “stay-at-home mom”), but the main reason for disliking it is more substantive. Every child has special needs. In our home there are two children with autism and two children who are “typically developing,” but each has needs particular to him or her and one is not more “special” than another.

I don’t like the term “special needs,” but I find myself using it anyway because it is the popular term these days and a convenient shorthand when you’re trying to be inclusive of various kinds of disabilities. But you know what? I don’t like the word “disabled” or “disability” any better.

Last week I posted something about Rahm Emanuel getting raked over the coals for using “retarded” as an insult. I understand how “retarded” has come to be a pejorative and therefore it has to be shuttled by polite society. Apparently they are in the process of replacing all instances of the words “retarded” and “retardation” in government documents with “disabled” or “intellectual disability” or something along those lines. I understand why they’re doing it, and yet I also think it’s too bad that a word that started out as a euphemism for a particular kind of handicap–a nice word, meaning “slow”–is now considered no better than a racial slur, just because some mean people misused it (a lot). That’s what mean people do, you know. They see people’s weaknesses and they mock them. They can turn any word into an insult, and eventually we have no choice but to capitulate to their meanness and designate the word unacceptable. And eventually the word is used exclusively as an insult, with no consideration given to its earlier, benign meaning. (See “dumb” and “idiot.”)

The trick is to find a new term that is cumbersome enough that schoolyard bullies aren’t tempted to co-opt it for their nefarious purposes. Mean people are already using “special needs” the same way they use “retarded,” but “developmentally disabled” hasn’t quite caught on as an insult–probably because it is more tongue-twisty than “special needs.” So maybe it will have staying power as a “nice” term for folks who were once called “retarded” (in a nice way), but I still don’t like it.

“Dis-abled” means “not abled,” so it’s no wonder that the especially PC among us prefer the term “differently abled.” I personally think “differently abled” is ridiculous, but “disabled” has a more negative connotation in my mind than, say, “handicapped.” I mean, golfers have handicaps. I don’t see anything wrong with saying my child has a handicap. My child does have a handicap. It doesn’t make him less valuable as a human being, and I’m not sure how the word “handicap” implies such a thing, but at some point somebody decided that “handicapped” was pejorative. (Remember when they used to say “handicapable”? Thus proving that there is a more ridiculous term than “differently abled.”) Alas, I was not the parent of a handicapped child back when they were deciding to jettison “handicapped.” I would certainly have spoken up for it. But it’s too late for that.

It’s not too late, though, for me to chime in on the word “autistic.” I was surprised and dismayed to learn that people actually object to using this word as a descriptor and insist that instead of referring to people as “autistic,” we should refer to them as “people with autism.” Okay, whatever. Is that not what “autistic” means? Of or relating to autism? My understanding is that they want to emphasize the personhood rather than the disability, but…again, whatever. Of course my children are people with autism. They are autistic people. Are you a white person, or are you a “person with whiteness”? Are you a tall person, or are you a “person with tallness”? Are you a mean person, or are you a “person with meanness”? I can’t get behind this new trend. It’s too dumb, if you’ll pardon the expression. (Rahm Emanuel might use more colorful terminology, but I sure won’t.)

Anyway, what are your thoughts, gentle readers? How do you feel about “disabled” and “special needs” rather than “handicapped,” or for that matter, “retarded”? And what about “autistic”? What the bleep is wrong with “autistic”?

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I’ve decided that I’m going to try harder with this blog.  Why?  Because it’s easier than cleaning the house, which is the other thing I do poorly.  My problem of late has been that I just don’t know what to write about.  Current events are either a) depressing or b) need no further comment or c) both a and b.  Seriously, what can you say about Ft. Hood?  It’s tragic, and how, exactly, was it not prevented?  It’s not like the guy didn’t give folks plenty of warning that he was psychotic and/or evil.  I don’t get it.  Okay, you see what I mean.  That’s not very interesting, is it?  If you want to read about stuff like that, you’ll read the news, won’t you?

So what do you want to read about?  Answer:  Wait, what do I care?  I started this blog so I could write about whatever I felt like writing about, and if I don’t feel like writing about anything, maybe I should just stop writing.  But wait!  If I did that, I’d have to start cleaning the house and paying attention to the children.  Now you see why the blog must go on.  And yet, I still have nothing to write about.  So what do I do?  I decide to look up some ice breaker questions on the interwebs–because, you know, I’ve been here for five and a half years, but I still feel like you all don’t really know me that well.  Ha ha, that was a joke.  But seriously, this is all I’ve got, so I’m just going to go with it.

The ice breaker question of the day is this:  “If you were a comic strip character, who would you be and why?”

At first I read this as “If you could be a comic strip character, who would you be and why?” and I thought, “That’s easy.  I’d be Snoopy because he’s cool and he does whatever he wants.”  But the question isn’t about which comic strip character you’d like to be, but which comic strip character you are (metaphorically speaking).  That is a bit harder for me to answer because I like to think I’m a bit more complicated than a comic strip character.  Ha ha, that was another joke.  No, the reason it’s a harder question, of course, is that I don’t think I’m going to like the answer.  I mean, one thing’s for sure:  I’m NOT Snoopy.  Number one, I’m not cool.  Number two, I only try to do what I want sometimes and usually fail, and most of the time I don’t even try because I think I’m probably going to fail.  Say what you will about Snoopy’s moral deficits, but he is not plagued by similar concerns.

You probably think you know where I’m going with this.  You think I’m going to say I’m Charlie Brown, because Charlie Brown is a loser.  But Charlie Brown is an optimistic loser.  You’ve got to hand it to him.  He doesn’t have much in the way of self-confidence, but he still goes out there and does stuff.  He doesn’t give up hope, even though he knows he’s a loser.  Part of him, deep down inside, thinks that someday things are going to be different, that someday he’ll win.  He never learns, that Charlie Brown.  He’s kind of like me that way.  Crap. I really don’t want to be Charlie Brown.

You know who I wish I was?  Linus.  Linus is my favorite (of the human Peanuts characters).  Yeah, he walks around with a blanket and sucks his thumb, which I’m not saying I want to do, particularly (although it has a certain appeal, some days), but he’s really the moral anchor of the strip.  He’s the only one who knows what Christmas is all about, if you dig my meaning.  I admire Linus.  Even his faith in the Great Pumpkin is admirable, from my perspective.  Faith saves the intellectual from nihilism.  Yeah, it’s delusional, but it’s not dangerous-delusional.  (Aside from cheating Sally out of tricks or treats, which, if you think about it, was really her own fault.  You want to sit in the pumpkin patch with your boyfriend all night, at least be woman enough to own that choice.  I’d like to think I’m not like Sally.)

All this reminds me that I took a Facebook quiz that told me what Peanuts character I was, and you know what the result was?  Woodstock.  Which is really the best possible result because who is Woodstock?  What does he stand for?  Nobody knows.  He only speaks bird language.  And he looks exactly like all the other birds in the strip.  Which one is the real Woodstock?  Are they all Woodstock?  Was Woodstock cloned at some point?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that Woodstock is whatever you want him to be.  That’s what I’d like to be, too.

No, wait, it’s not.  But apparently it’s what I am because the Facebook quiz said so, and you know those quizzes are SCARILY ACCURATE.

And now it’s your turn, gentle readers.  Which comic strip character are you?  Which would you like to be?

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Today I have decided to stick it to the terrorists by going about my shallow, bourgeois, debauched American life as usual.  That’s right, I’m going shopping.  And not just grocery shopping.  I’m going to the Target, baby, and I’m buying some crap we don’t even need, just on principle!  (I’ll mostly buy things we do need, but then I’m also going to buy, like, a gross of Goldfish crackers, just because I can.  You’ll never defeat me, you bastards!

Speaking of shallow and debauched, I can’t seem to get Flight of the Conchords’ “Business Time” out of my head.  This is despite the fact that I’ve never watched Flight of the Conchords because I don’t have HBO and I don’t watch a lot of TV anyway because I’m too busy doing other shallow and debauched American stuff, like watching You Tube videos, which is how I got myself into this predicament.  It’s rather inconvenient because every so often I start singing it out loud, and I sure don’t want to explain to the kids what Business Time is, and I don’t want my husband to start thinking it’s Business Time when it’s not even Wednesday.

Please note that you should not watch this video if you are offended by mildly risque humor.  Or alternatively, if you are underage and your parents would kill me for letting you watch a video with mildly risque humor.  And by “kill me,” I don’t mean literally, as your parents probably don’t know where I live, but all the same, they would be really upset.  You know what I’m talking about.

I’d much rather be singing this song.  (Which I don’t think you or your parents will mind.)

Think about it.


June 2018
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