Friday, May 30, 2008

Please post your comments on my blog

I received several messages on my e-mail (, most were in disagreement with my position that mothers' rights are a feminist issue, and that even though the FLDS mothers are not raising their children in a way that I agree with, I opposed the State of Texas seizing the children. Unfortunately, these opinions were not posted on my blog, so only I was able to see them. I am not going to copy them without the writers' permission and I am not going to try to represent their points of view. I think this question hits right at the heart of women's rights, and we should discuss it from all our points of view. Please post your comments on the blog. Thanks

Friday, May 23, 2008

Legal Rights of Mothers

Is it a feminist victory for the Court to make the State of Texas return the children to their FLDS mothers (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) in Texas? I believe it definitely is. We mothers are under siege by the patriarchal state from the very moment we give birth. We are given no help in raising our children, and the state is ready to jump in and take them away if we don't jump through hoops. When my children were young, I was very aware that I could lose custody of my children very easily.

Isn't it ironic, though, that our victory comes in a situation where the mothers in question, so strong in their fight to regain custody of their children, are so weak in their relationship to their children's fathers and to the men who dominate their sect? The state moved in and yanked those kids out of their homes without having established that they were in any harm, but it seems that the mothers support beliefs of women's subservience to men and do not insist that their daughters have full opportunity to education and other opportunities.

This poses a serious question for feminists. We want to support women to have the power to raise their children in the way they think best, but how do we work to create a society in which each woman asserts that power independently, without coercion. I saw an interview of a FLDS woman and her husband. Her husband sat quietly throughout the interview. She was articulate and forceful, but I wonder how forceful she is in demanding respect in her own relationship and in demanding respect for her daughters by the ruling males in their sect.

In the meantime, for every woman whose had her children taken away because she couldn't support them or take proper care of them or because the state wouldn't help her with her problems in a non-punitive way, I am very glad those children are going home to Mom.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Questions re Obama/Clinton race for nomination for President

Question #1: Why don't Obama supporters get really angry about the blatant sexism that is being shown by the media or even seem to see it, and why don't Clinton supporters get really angry about the racism being shown by the media or even seem to see it?

Question 2: Obama's speech on racism was an historic speech. Why do Clinton supporters not acknowledge that?

Question 3: Why can't Obama supporters see that the attempt to minimize Clinton's political experience while being married to a governor and then a president is outrageously sexist? Some have even called it "pillow talk", a term that trivializes the real value of the contribution that women make to their husband's career.

Question 4: One radio commentator who is an Obama supporter said she was "surprised" at the tremendous surge of support for Obama, especially among white men? Does she think white men have suddenly lost their racist thinking? Doesn't this alert her that something fishy is going on?

Question 5: Why doesn't Clinton give support to Obama's membership in a church with an outspoken black minister, instead of saying that she doesn't belong to a church with such a controversial minister? Of course, as a Democrat, she doesn't. Only extreme right-wing churches have racist, sexist ministers. Ministers of mainstream white Christian churches are not challenging the status quo (shame on them!)

Question 6: Why doesn't Obama publically deplore hecklers who tell Clinton, "Iron my shirt, bitch!"

Question 7: As a woman, I am thrilled that a qualified, gutsy woman is running for president, even if I do not agree with her foreign policy positions (as I don't agree with Obama's). Of course, people of color are thrilled that a qualified, gutsy person of color is running for president. But, aren't all progressive people really happy that both a person of color and a woman are contending for the Democratic nomination? What is it with this pressure on Clinton to give up?

I voted for Clinton, and I hope she gets the nomination, but I will vigorously support Obama if he gets the nomination. If I see a black person elected president of this country, I will dance in the streets with joy!

Let's hear it for Hilary and Barak.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Feminist advice on a relationship dilemma

I recently had the opportunity to visit with my friend, Varda, for a few days. We were able to "catch up" after almost 20 years of infrequent phone calls and correspondence. Piece by piece, Varda shared how her 2 marriages had ended in divorce and how she's agonizing over what to do about her relationship with the man that she's been living with, on and off, for the last 5 years.

Also, like many women in her age group (she's now in her mid-fifties and her two children from the first marriage are grown), she's finding herself without decent employment. She went back to school to become a social worker and earned a good living for a time, but then a large medical corporation came in and took over the small non-profit that contracted out the county's social work. Now she works at a Home for the mentally challenged in a non-rewarding capacity and for much less pay. In addition to her reduced circumstances, she is also facing problems with the I.R.S. On the advice of her first ex, she withheld part of her taxes to protest the war; he didn't advise her on what to do when they came after her. And, she has borrowed on her credit cards to the hilt, and she now faces the loss of her house. She's considering taking the last of a small inheritance to go back to school or going to live with her daughter and starting all over.

I forgot to say that Varda is an extremely talented artist, who has created beautiful art.. She helped to found the women's self-help movement in the 70's, and organized many fabulous events. She is beautiful in both body and spirit. She's idealistic and generous; "she'd give you the shirt off her back" applies to Varda.

I proceeded to give Varda, free of charge, the advice that I've given to many women over the years who've faced similar dilemmas about how to handle a relationship with a man they're living with and don't know just what to do next. The ones who have followed this advice, I'm happy to say, have experienced great success.

Varda asked me to write up the advice that I gave to her piecemeal over a period of days, because she wants to study it and fully understand it. She has given permission for me to publish it. I don't know if she will end up taking it, because this advice requires her to think about relationships with men in a whole new way.

The Problem

First of all, I think that Varda is on the verge of a serious financial crisis. She's about to end up in debt to the IRS, which is the worst kind of debt to have. She needs to take immediate action to get someone to represent her with the IRS (this does not have to be an attorney). Secondly, she needs money to keep her house. (Since her kids grew up, she's had a succession of housemates with all the problems that go with that).


I asked Varda, "What about your manfriend? Can't he help". "If we lived together again, he could take care of the mortgage and help with the IRS problem, but he doesn't just want to give me the money. He says it would be charity."

Varda told me her friend, Reggie, has the money. He has a good job, his own house and he takes her out to nice places.

To me, the solution is obvious. If Reggie meets what I consider to be the feminist criteria, they should get married.

I start off with the proposition that we live in a patriarchy, where, in general, men make more money than women and have more economic stability. Obviously, Varda prefers to have male companionship. After one to five years of living together, it becomes extremely disadvantageous for a woman to live with a man. Marriage laws, as restrictive and weighted in favor of men as they are, do give women some measure of security, compared to just living together. After investing a few years into her relationship with a man, a woman need to insist that they get married, or he must free her up to find someone else or she can pursue her goals alone.

I asked Varda a series of questions which I think are the basic questions to ask oneself before considering marriage.

1) Do you have a basically good sex life? Obviously, we all have a different idea of what constitutes a good sex life. The point is that both partners should have similar ideas. But, life is too hard and the stresses of everyday living with someone are too great unless you have the comfort and escape of affection, hugs, kisses and for some of us, deep and frequent orgasms.

Varda felt good about this aspect of their relationship. So, onto the next question.

2) Does he work? This used to be an unnecessary question. Before the 60's generation, a woman wouldn't consider having a relationship with a man that didn't work. It was a no-brainer. Increasingly, women get involved with men who don't work (Note: I did not say that the man needed to earn a lot of money. Lots of nice men are poor). Some women think they have more power in the relationship when they're the breadwinner; they think they can boss the guy around. In my opinion, they have the worst of all worlds.

Varda tells me that he likes his work and that he makes good money. Next question.

3) Does he have any serious personal problems, such as addictive behavior, gambling, violence or abusiveness? If a guy has any of these problems, they will only get worse with marriage.

Varda said that Reggie had none of these problems.


But, Varda then explains that Reggie and her kids do not get along, and she's constantly in between and she's afraid that he will not allow her to have the kids in her life. When she met Reggie, her kids were teenagers and they took an instant dislike to him and vice versa. Even now, the main problem is that Reggie wants Varda's exclusive attention and complains bitterly and loudly when she divides her attention between him and her children.


Up to this point, most women would agree with my advice, at least as far as what are the criteria for a good marriage prospect. But, many do not. To them, Varda should move on until she finds a man who respects her right to give some of her attention to her kids (and soon, grandkids).

I think that here is where I think that many women fail to grasp the essence of male-female relationships in our present-day patriarchal society.

Today, the realistic goal of a male-female relationship is physical closeness and pleasure, raising of children, if wanted or necessary, mutual economic support, and companionship.

Many women are seeking a relationship with a man that includes intimacy and romance, maybe even shared interests; these women are doomed to frustration and disappointment. Why? Because, in a patriarchy, men are not raised to experience intimacy in a love relationship; they're raised to dominate. There are a few exceptions, to be sure, and most men can and do have sincere feelings for their mates, but in general, it's women who are raised to be in touch with their feelings.

Note: A good pop psychology book is "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus." The author, Gray, describes male-female relationships in a patriarchy pretty accurately. His whole message to women is to accept men as being unwilling and/or unable to invest the same emotional intensity into a relationship, and to find their fulfillment elsewhere. I thinks he gives good advice. Ironically, some women consider themselves to be a feminist and still expect a man to meet all their emotional needs; in fact, many of them consider this to be what a strong woman demands and gets from her relationship with a man.

My advice to Varda was, "Get married, get some financial security and deal with the problem of his possessiveness on a daily basis. It will never be easy. You will need to assert yourself, and work out compromises on a case-by-case basis. You won't get everything you want, but remember, he needs you as much as you need him."

The next day, we resumed our discussion. Varda said, "Yeah, I get it. All I have to do is to give into him and let him have his way, and we'll get along fine."

I realized that Varda hadn't heard a word I said about how a heterosexual feminist copes with pre-revolutionary relationships. Or, she had heard, and the prospect of living in a marriage under patriarchy didn't sound that great. Well, it isn't, folks, that's one of the reasons we want to overthrow the patriarchy. When men are in charge and get most or all of the goodies in the society, it's an unfair situation. To think that under these conditions, a man and a woman can have an idyllic relationship is (I can't fill in the word here; it's too sarcastic).

Personal note: when I became a feminist, I realized that probably I could have had a satisfactory life with my first husband. He was a decent guy and he was on the brink of making pretty good money (he died a few years after our divorce). We both loved our kids and we enjoyed working together. If I hadn't believed that my ultimate happiness depended on our having the perfect relationship and if I hadn't been unwilling to go out and create my own happiness, I probably could have managed his tendency to drink too much on social occasions and his carelessness about his health. My marriage counselor did try to give this advice to me. However, I did divorce and remarry, and I had a much better love life with my new spouse who I've been married to for over 45 years, so I guess it all was for the best.

Varda didn't say this, but my guess is that she also wonders if Reggie would, in fact, agree to get married? Perhaps this lack of confidence is undermining her ability to assert herself with him. My guess is that he would be willing. Otherwise, why is he saying that he won't give her the money unless they live together if he doesn't want to have her companionship?

While I'm on the subject of whether men want marriage, I am of the belief that they desperately want it. They devised the institution, didn't they? It protects their interests. They just want it on their terms. As a feminist, I eschew manipulation and scheming, a la "I Love Lucy", but I didn't park my brains when I became a radical feminist either. I have attempted, and I encourage women, to be a step ahead of the men we relate to at all times. I believe it's up to us to pick who we want to marry and then help them to go through the emotional growth that will lead to a lasting relationship.

Will Varda take this advice. I hope so.

When I mentioned my talk with Varda to one of the women I gave sisterly advice which she used to get herself established in a very good married relationship, she laughed and said, "Yes, my friends and co-workers just think I was really lucky to have found such a nice guy!"

Saturday, March 15, 2008

City of Widows-book by Haifa Zangana

How to Fight the Patriarchy: Actively Oppose the Iraq and Afghanistan Occupations

The ongoing violence of the occupation is preventing the Iraq people from rebuilding their country, and the desperate and dangerous situation of the women, especially widows, is resulting in their needing to leave the public sector to seek security and sustenance from their families, their communities and their mosques. Also, the US administration allies with and gives power to sectarian groups, creating sectarian violence in a nation that has been secular and desires to remain free and secular.

This is the position of Haifa Zangana, author of City of Widows, an Iraqi Woman's Account of War and Resistance. Zangana will be speaking at the Hammer Museum in Westwood on April 2, 2008 at 7 p.m. Her book will be available after the program, or order online

You may ask, "How will actively opposing the imperialistic policies of the US fighting the patriarchy, and which patriarchy are you referring to--the male leaders of the different sects of the Islamic religion or the male leaders in this US? Who says our society is a patriarchy?

Our society is a patriarchy and I am referring to both the Iraqi patriarchy and the US patriarchy. Gerda Lerner, in Creation of the Patriarchy, defines patriarchy thusly: the wider definition of patriarchy means the manifestation and the institutionalization of male dominance over women in society in general.

As a humanist, I have always been against the Iraq war, because it is unjust and destructive. I was against the war in Afghanistan also. I have demonstrated against both, and I have attempted to use my vote to prevent or end these wars and occupations. But, I have come to realize that, as a feminist, I have to do more. The same guys that are plundering Iraq of their resources are the ones attacking women's rights in our country. Above and beyond opposing the atrocities, I can see that this occupation is undercutting the progress that Iraqi women have made in the last century. For example, they organized U.S. citizen Iraqi women to beat the drums for the Iraqi invasion, and the Independent Women's Forum, a right-wing American (Lynne Cheney's group) group was funded to give lectures on "Democracy" to Iraqi women. Also, there's dozens of USAID-funded so-called women's NGO's (UN affiliated Non Governmental Organizations) over there to push U.S. goals along with a few hand-outs.

We cannot work on our feminist projects here in the United States as though we're in a bubble. While we're busy accomplishing this or that reform, our leaders are lowering our status worldwide. The media has not made this connection. MADRE has put out an excellent report, Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy, Yifat Susskind, 2007. This report is available by mail by calling or e-mailing Nancy Khweiss at (212)627-0444 or or or she will send it to you online at http://www.iraqreport.pdf/.

Zangana educated me about the history of Iraqi women and their current situation. She helped me to put the custom of wearing a veil in the context that Iraqi women see it. I would love to have discussions of those of you who read this book about what you think about women wearing the abaya, the cloak that covers the entire woman's body. I think reading Zangana's book will enable you to see past the media's spin on this situation as it did me, and then I'd like to hear from you.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Notice to those on my Address List

Sometimes I send out essays or letters to those on my Address List that I think will be interested in that particular information or piece. Now that I have a blog, I am going to place these items on my blog, because I do not want to constantly clog up my friends' inboxes, or guess whether they would be interested in what I'm sending them. I do not want my friends to think that being on my e-mail list means that they will be subjected to unsolicited stuff. I hope that what I put on my blog will be of sufficient interest to others that they will visit my blog to read the latest entry. And I especially hope that they will post their own comments so that we can get a discussion of sorts going.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Silda standing beside her husband while he apologizes

The image of Silda Spitzer standing stone-faced and inexpressibly sad by her husband as he admits to the world that he patronized prostitutes and apologizes for his behavior should be put in a time capsule so that women from the far future can see twenty-first century subjugation of women in the United States (as well as the rest of the world). Here, an educated woman of high social standing faces pity and contempt.

My heart ached for Silda. I understood why she humbled herself before the merciless glare of the TV cameras. For each of us who live in a patriarchal society, the forces that cause our degradation are different, depending on a myriad of factors, and the form of that degradation is accordingly different, but ultimately, each of us, usually privately but sometimes very publicly, has to yield to these pressures.

Some women have foolishly and unimaginatively condemned Silva. "How could she allow herself to be humiliated?" Others have called it "phony" and "awful". They confuse the particular circumstances of Silva's humiliation-she being a politician's wife and no doubt part of the whole phony political scene-with the universality of her situation. Until we realize how circumscribed our lives really are and how each woman is doing what she needs to do to survive in a world that we women didn't make, we are destined to be manipulable, arrogant, and alienated from each other.

Some condemn her as a sell-out because she quit her lawyer job to advance her husband's career. Had she asked my advice in advance of doing this, I might have counseled her as to the risk she was taking, and maybe I would have lacked empathy for a woman making that choice, but in the final analysis, I really know that she had no choice, and my utmost sympathy goes out to her.