Monday, September 23, 2019

Stop Praising People for Weight Loss

It's a predictable refrain every time I go to a public gathering with my mom: "Wow, your mom looks so amazing and healthy! She's so thin!"

My mom has dementia.

She is thin because her brain is slowly killing her body.

She is wasting away.

She is not healthy, but in a society that conflates thin with health and health with virtue, a woman who is dying can expect compliments on the very thing that is killing her.

Please stop complimenting people on weight loss. Please stop assuming everyone you see wants to lose weight.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Stop Whining, Ladies. Motherhood is Easy

Breastfeeding is one of the many easy things about motherhood.

A few times a day, I take a break from my relaxing, perfect, new-mother life to peruse the Internet. I inevitably find a bunch of whiners. Women posting to message boards wondering why their husbands won't do their fair share. Moms complaining about the challenges of breastfeeding, the agony of postpartum recovery, the fact that no one takes their pelvic floor issues seriously, the boss who won't pay them for maternity leave, the other boss who fired them for getting pregnant, and the family members who keep showing up, demanding to be entertained, and criticizing their parenting.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Please Don't Call My Daughter Pretty.

My baby is pretty.

It's not something she earned. It's not a skill. It's an accident of genetics that may or may not stick around. 

Yet everywhere I go, people stop to tell me how pretty she is. I am always gracious, but I've had enough. I want people to stop calling my daughter pretty. 

I can already hear the whining and gnashing of teeth. "What kind of monster doesn't want her daughter to hear she's pretty? Doesn't she want her kid to have good self-esteem?"

Not if that self-esteem is built on something she didn't earn and didn't work for. Not if it's built on something there is no reason to value. As a recovering pretty person myself, I know that pretty often ends up being a prison. I don't want to lock my daughter in the cage of pretty before she has the chance to explore the other, more valuable, things she can be. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

These Are All the Racist Things You Must Believe to Think Racism is No Longer a Serious Problem

When they think no one's watching, white people like to indulge in what I've begun calling white bonding. White bonding is when white people remove their veneer of civility, quit pretending to be "colorblind" and anti-racist, and say what they really think.

It's when your racist uncle makes fun of your cousin for dating a black guy, or your racist boss implies that a client's blackness reveals something about them. It's the moment when your co-worker tells a racist joke, or your great-aunt starts referring to people of color as "they" and "them." Every white person has seen this. Which means that, deep down, every white person knows that racism is still very real.

Maybe that's why white people get so defensive about racism. We see it all the time. We know it happens. Some of us are complicit in it. Yet white people continue to deny that racism is a real problem. We accuse our black friends of "playing the race card." We act as if differences of opinion about the full humanity of people of color are trivial.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

5 Excuses White Parents Give for Cultural Appropriation in Halloween Costumes--And Why They're Wrong

It happens every year. Parents' online groups erupt in controversy over Halloween costumes. On one side are people of color and their allies, pleading with white parents to please not dress their kids in black face, please not turn someone else's race or culture into a farce, and please listen to those of us trying to teach our kids to respect other cultures. On the other side are parents who insist that telling their kid not to dress like Moana, an Indian, or a black person will ruin their childhood.

Halloween is supposed to be fun. I understand why white parents want to avoid thinking about thorny cultural issues. In a sexist society, most mothers already shoulder a massive burden of parenting labor. So the burden of assessing whether a costume is appropriate can feel like one more unreasonable demand. If you've already selected the costume, hearing that it's offensive and wrong can be a demoralizing addition to an already crushing to-do list.

Parenting is hard. It demands that we reach beyond the easy choice to make decisions that help our kids become excellent people. It's easy to let a child wear a culturally appropriative costume--just as it's easy to feed them a diet of candy, park them in front of the television all day, and give in every time they throw a tantrum.

But it's not right.

We need to dispense, once and for all, with these weak excuses for letting our kids dress in ways that hurt others.

Friday, October 6, 2017

5 Reasons Princess Culture is Toxic to Girls

It began before I had even evicted her from my body. Loved ones sent us shirts emblazoned with the term "princess." Family members referred to her as such. Books featuring Snow White and Cinderella and scepters began trickling in. By the time our daughter was born, the trickle turned into something akin to a volcanic eruption.

Now that our daughter is a year old, I joke that I spend half of my parenting time beating back princess culture.

Like most parents who opt to avoid the cult of princesses, we've found the people in our lives remarkably resistant. They think it's harmless, or cute, or that we are depriving her of something "natural." After all, as everyone knows, in tribal societies across the globe and across time, princess gowns magically appear on a girl's first birthday.

Except they don't.

Participation in princess culture is a choice. Parents have the right to determine what comes into their home, and we have elected not to allow the cult of Disney princesses to become a part of our lives. We might eventually find this impossible. Parenting is, after all, a long journey of humility during which one is repeatedly reminded how very very very wrong they are. For now, though, we are electing to protect our daughter from something toxic.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

10 Questions Liberals Need to Answer About Gun Control if They're Really Serious About Saving Lives

We've returned yet again to the post-mass shooting ritual. People grieved for about three seconds. Then they patted themselves on the back for their righteous beliefs, shared memes about those beliefs, fought with people on social media about gun control, mocked their friends and family, and did absolutely nothing to stem the tide of violence in this nation. Conservatives insisted that the problem isn't guns; it's violence, culture, or something else. Liberals demanded to know what it will take before conservatives will accept some minimal gun control.

They're right to ask. Make no mistake: the NRA and its ilk are selling human lives for profit. Republican lawmakers are letting people die so they can get more donations. It's despicable, and our side is right to condemn extremists for the monsters they are.

The NRA has spent more than $300,000 on my senator, and more than $1.5 million to prevent his opponents from being elected. More than 400 people have been killed in mass shootings since Sandy Hook. These 400 lives are worth less to Senator David Perdue (contact him here) than money.

Sociopaths like David Perdue who do no more than offer "thoughts and prayers" sicken me. But here's where I diverge from most of my liberal friends: I am equally disgusted by liberals who reflexively call for gun control, but who are unprepared to answer conservatives' tough questions. 

I hate guns. Guns have killed people I love. I've written about the correlation between gun ownership rates and murders of women, the link between high gun ownership and police officer deaths, about research-supported policies to reduce gun violence, and the correlation between gun ownership and mass shootings.

The problem is that what we are doing isn't working. Memes about how stupid and evil Republicans are make us feel good. They don't change minds. They may turn moderates into zealots. They make everyone more entrenched. 

If we really want to see things change in this country, if we really want to end gun violence, then we have to address the other side's concerns about gun control. Sure, a small fraction of gun collectors are unreachable. They'll oppose gun control no matter what. A much larger percentage are reasonable. They have valid concerns about how to draft gun legislation in a way that's not racist, needlessly restrictive, or intrusive. 

You don't have to like guns. You don't have to agree with the other side, or relish the fact that they make some good points. But if you are serious about preventing gun violence, you do have to engage. Otherwise "we need gun control now" is no better than "thoughts and prayers." It's empty. Its only purpose is to make liberals feel good about themselves. 

Liberal friends, we have two choices: we can retire to our liberal enclaves, smug and satisfied that we are right, and unwilling to meaningfully engage with the other side. If we do that, we get to feel superior. We also get to watch people continue to die. Or we can consider the very legitimate questions that Second Amendment defenders raise, find solutions together, and solve this problem once and for all. 

If you're not willing to consider the other side, then you're willing to sacrifice human lives at the altar of your own smug sense of superiority. That makes you no better than the NRA you condemn. Before you make your next Twitter or Facebook post calling for gun control, consider addressing one of these issues instead: