Wednesday, June 26, 2013

History and Paula Deen

Butter lovin', down-home cookin' chef, Paula Deen, has been thrown out on her frying pan by The Food Network, and as other companies continue to line up to sever their roasting ties with Her Royal Fryness, she has been appearing on national television to spout tearful mea culpas and beg for forgiveness.  Her mistake?  Not having 2013 sensibilities back in 1960.


Ms. Deen, in answering questions as part of a legal deposition involving a current lawsuit, admitted that she had, in the past, used the N-word, but that it had been a "very long time" since she had done so and that she doesn't condone racism in any form.

Now, I'm not in any way excusing racism (we are all children of God and should treat each other as such.  The end.), but let's be reasonable here.  Paula Deen grew up in the South in the 1950's and 60's.  As much as we like to hope that our grandparents and great-grandparents lived some sort of sugar-coated existence in which they never gave in to racist thought or speech, those were different times.  She was growing up when schools were segregated and drinking fountains were separate, for heaven's sake.  Is it really fair to expect that she would have made it out of grade school never having uttered a single racist word?

I mean, I can honestly say that I have never called anyone the N-word, but I grew up in the Mountain West in the 1980's.  I mostly stuck to calling people Stupid Head and Booger Face until my dad laid down the law that my brothers and I couldn't call anyone a name that wasn't found in the scriptures and we resorted to calling each other "Moron" and "Nimrod" instead.  (We were soooo clever).

I simply do not understand why we continually insist on wearing modern eyeglasses to judge past generations.  Is it a terrible thing to spout racist epithets?  Absolutely.  But should someone who used the word "nigger" in 1965 in segregated Georgia be judged by the same standard as they would be today?  Absolutely not.

Should we judge George Washington to be a horrible person because he owned slaves at a time when it was  a common and expected practice?  Should we judge the accomplishments of Christopher Columbus to have been unlaudable because he enslaved and brought disease to Native Americans at a time when other cultures were thought to be "savages"?  We are fools if we expect those who lacked the knowledge and understanding we have now to have lived their lives as we do.

We will all, at some point, do something we are not proud of.  Let's learn from our mistakes and change the things we need to change instead of declaring anyone who has ever made a mistake to be past redemption.  Part of learning from the past is moving forward with greater wisdom and compassion.

In the case of Paula Deen, let's put down our stones and have some.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Beauty and the Preach

Girls like pretty things.

My three-year-old daughter is currently obsessed with the sparkly variety of pretty things.  She has a pink sparkly headband that hasn't left her head in weeks (not even to sleep).  She has pink sparkly flip flops and loves to have her fingernails painted sparkly purple.  The other day she handed me a fistful of purple and pink crayons and said, "Look, Mommy, a rainbow!"  When she chooses her own outfits they consist of pink, hot pink and purple.  The two blue shirts she will wear are only acceptable because they are adorned by Hello Kitty and Cinderella.

I don't take her to the store and direct her toward the pink things or shoo her down the princess aisle -- she has dozens of outfits that have nothing to do with pink and plenty of toys that easily cross the gender divide -- and it's not that I am setting some sort of ultra-girly example by prancing around in pepto-bismol-colored tulle and giggling like a princess.  And yet, three minutes after she was born she was like, "Mommy, pretty necklace!"  She is only three and she is counting down the days till she can get her ears pierced.  All that sparkly, fuzzy, pink, twirly, girly pretty stuff?  She LOVES it.

And if she had a choice between a "pretty" princess doll with a big fluffy skirt and a strong, bow-wielding Plain Jane, you know which one she would choose?  The pretty one.  Even if she liked the movie starring the plain one.

So I am a little surprised by all the hand-wringing (including a petition to "Keep Merida Brave" that has nearly 250,000 signatures) over Disney's decision to glam up Princess Merida as part of her transition into the Disney Princess line.  (Even Cinderella and Snow White had modernizing makeovers a few years ago, and yet no one threw a fit over that).

I know it's not politically correct to say so and we're all supposed to be encouraging our tiny daughters to play with the average-looking Merida as some sort of ode to feminism and girl power, but just because we are adults who have left behind our childhood fantasies does not mean we need to demand that our daughters see Merida the way we do.  Leah won't intrepret a change in Merida's appearance as evidence that the Scottish firecracker is somehow lacking unless I tell her she should be viewing it that way.  All she'll see is that Merida became a beautiful princess -- a girl who went from duckling to swan -- just as every girl hopes she will also do.

Yes, we should be teaching our daughters that they are beautiful just the way they are, that being smart and hardworking is more important than being pretty or popular.  But these little girls will have plenty of years to appreciate Merida for her strong will and her fearlessness.  For now, they just like pretty things.  They like to dream about being beautiful themselves.  They like to fantasize about living Happily Ever After with Prince Charming.  They like to twirl around in ball gowns and imagine that they, too, will blossom from duckling to swan.  This is not something that needs to be whitewashed out of them like it's some kind of shameful step backwards.

I find it particularly telling that Brave's writer and co-director, Brenda Chapman, says she created a stronger, more average-looking princess so that "mothers wouldn't be pulling their hair out when their little girls were trying to dress or act like this princess."  You see, in creating Merida she wasn't trying to please the little girls; she was trying to please their mothers.

Well, while there are certainly girls of all ages who will appreciate Merida's skill with a bow and arrow, most little girls are not looking for a Joan of Arc to lead them into battle.  They're not looking for a princess who can hit a bullseye better than the men.  They are looking for a fantasy princess in a beautiful dress.  Why?  Because they already believe they can do battle.  They already believe they can hit a bullseye better than the men.

So it makes sense that Disney, when marketing to little girls, would decide to give Merida a makeover to turn her into a fantasy princess rather than just the normal-looking princess-who-can-beat-the-boys.  Disney is not marketing to the mothers; it is marketing to the little girls.  Little girls who already know they are smart and capable...

... and who want to be beautiful, too.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Lights Are On But Nobody's Home

Our kids are constantly leaving the lights on.  This used to bother me until we discovered that our homebuilder installed light sockets that require expensive "energy saving" special-order bulbs which cost $15 a piece.  Technically this is supposed to save us money because each bulb is supposed to last 12 years.  In reality, they last about 12 minutes.

Seriously, when we asked someone at the specialty light store what the deal was with them burning out so fast he told us that the company who makes them certifies their lifespan by turning them on and leaving them on for 12 years.  "It's the turning them on and off that causes them to burn out," he said.  "It's better to turn them on in the morning and leave them on all day."

Right.  Leave the energy saving lights on 24 hours a day.  *Saves info in the Environmentally-friendly Ideas Gone Awry file.*

But the good news is that with the time I save not having to nag my kids to turn off the lights, I can focus on more important things -- like nagging them to shut the dang door!  (Seriously, my front lawn is probably more air conditioned than my house).  Unfortunately, since they can only focus on one thing at a time and then only in 3 second increments, they can't remember to shut the door and flush the toilet in the same day.  Or turn off the faucet after washing their hands (or, frankly, to wash their hands)  Heck, they have a hard time making it all the way to their bedroom to get their jammies on because they get distracted ("Squirrel!")   by the path of board books they made down the hall so they stop to read some, and then it reminds them they wanted to play legos, and then that reminds them that they wanted to smack their siblings. Because there's always a reason to smack your siblings.

So we're working on it.  I'm even stepping up my training program from covering just the basics like flushing toilets and shutting doors to coaching Michael on how to answer the phone.  So far it's going really well.  At first the phone would ring and he would pick it up and just stand there like it was 1775 and he was having a strange dream.  Now sometimes he'll sneeze on it before he tosses it to me like it's a hot potato.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Rage Against the Machine

Samsung has a message to share:

Men are stupid, gross, uncouth, unkempt, and basically incapable of stringing two grunts together without a fart or burp in between.

But neverfear, with the help of a Samsung Evolution Kit, a grunting, drooling neanderthal becomes the ultimate in female fantasy - a husband skating around the house in a fit of extreme multi-tasking that starts with whipping up a gourmet dessert and ends with a glass of champagne and a romantic flute serenade.  (All while his wife is filing her nails, of course).

In the end, the wife is brought back to reality by the sound of her husband's gaseous emissions.  "At least Samsung TVs are Evolutionary" the commercial tells us sympathetically, as the wife looks on in disgust.

Yes, I suppose it's too much to hope for that a man could ever evolve past burping and scratching and wiping his greasy hands on the couch cushions...  Ah, well.  At least we have our TVs...

Well, in my house, those TVs are never going to be Samsung's.

This kind of advertising is INFURIATING.  My husband is NOT a caveman.  He is NOT an idiot.  He is NOT disgusting and uncivilized.  He is one of the most amazing people I've ever met!  If I did not think so, I would not have married him.  This commercial is incredibly offensive, not only to him, but to my father and my brothers and my sons.  To all the men who have taught me and been my friend and influenced my life for good.

Where do we get off treating men this way?!  This garbage needs to stop!

When you love your husband you don't mock his gender.  You don't treat him like he is stupid.  You don't denigrate his masculinity or his different approach to life.  And you don't gather with your girlfriends to tear him down or laugh at commercials that reduce him to a pathetic neanderthal.

If you love him, it's time to start acting like it.  And the first thing you can do is take out the trash.

Sorry, Samsung.