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

Monday morning, we collectively began what has become 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 gun advocates 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: 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Welcome to Parenthood: Advice for New Parents That Might Actually Help

People love giving parenting advice. Those of us who are parents know how profoundly difficult nurturing, raising, and caring for a human being is. We want to help, even when our advice is condescending or misses the mark. Non-parents want to help, too, but tend to greatly underestimate how difficult parenting is.

The result is an onslaught of useless parenting advice that, at best, wastes our time. At worst, this parenting advice makes us feel shamed, incompetent, and alone.

We've now made it through a year of parenthood. Most of what I've learned has been through trial and error. Much of it is highly specific. What works for us won't work for someone else. That's true for all parents.

A few things remain constant. Here's what I've learned about parenting that, I think, is applicable to most parents.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Childbirth is Not Easy. The Natural Birth Movement Needs to Stop Insisting That it Is.

Few women have been pleasantly surprised by how easy and pain-free childbirth is. Yet a zealous natural childbirth movement continues to tell them that birth can be--should be, perhaps--easy. This article, which insists that painful birth is a "myth," is the newest example of this ridiculous claim.

I'm a huge supporter of natural birth. That's why I had one. I believe that, for the right woman, an unmedicated birth can be deeply empowering. Natural birth can help women see their hidden strengths, and regain control over their own bodies. 

When we start telling women that birth is easy, though, we remove all the strength they stand to gain from the challenges of birth. It's time for the natural childbirth movement to stop lying to women. Birth is rarely easy. And when it is, it's a fluke--not something the woman earned with enough meditation and natural childbirth classes. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Here's How You Can Really Help Women in the Postpartum Period

In the two weeks following the birth of our baby, I spent every shower crying. My parent friends tell me that this is normal. For many of them, the stress and pain of the immediate postpartum period extended well into the first year of parenthood.

The phrases my friends use to describe their postpartum experiences--"Worst year of my life," "wanted to die every day," "still struggling to overcome my rage and trauma,"--don't neatly fit into the blissful postpartum narrative of easy motherhood most women are fed. In fact, I don't know a single woman who describes the weeks following childbirth as enjoyable or easy. Instead, they talk about childbirth recovery like a hellish crucible. 

I got through the immediate postpartum period, and I never developed postpartum depression. I was lucky. Many people I love have not been so lucky. Weirdly, none of them mention hormones--even though the popular press continues to blame vague "hormonal shifts" for years of postpartum suffering. Instead, their suffering correlates with very clear, very fixable needs: more paid time off, better pain management, more help around the house, greater understanding from loved ones, a chance to talk about their births. 

Every couple of years, another study comes out with the exact same finding: postpartum mood issues are common, many women don't discuss their symptoms with their doctors, and treatment is inadequate. We collectively shake our heads about this, as if it's some sort of mystery why women are struggling. We often do this while ignoring the clear and obvious needs of women recovering from childbirth. Mental illness happens for many reasons, and not all cases of postpartum depression are preventable. Yet all women--yes, all women--who have given birth need support. Very few get enough of it. 

So if you really want to help someone recover from birth, if you really want to increase a woman's odds of avoiding postpartum depression, here's what you can do. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Things White People Need to Stop Saying: 10 Simple Rules for White Liberals Discussing Racism

Until recently, almost no one openly endorsed neo-Nazi sentiments. The election of white supremacist Donald Trump changed that. Now we have to be sensitive to white supremacist feelings by calling these monsters members of the "alt-right." That's scary enough. Here's what's even scarier: it's given white liberals a free pass.

Now that racism is so visibly associated with the vocal belief that people of color are inferior and a willingness to kill them, many white liberals can pat themselves on the back. "We're not racist!" they gleefully proclaim. "Look at those neanderthal Trump supporters and their torches. I've never burned a torch or run over a black person. I even have a black friend! I can't possibly be racist."

I've spent much of my life trying to engage with people who think this way, so they can understand how their more palatable and muted form of racism enables more aggressive forms of white supremacy. In the wake of the Trump presidency, these smug white liberals have become a lot more certain they're not racist. Meanwhile, their brethren of color grow ever more desperate. I've watched dozens of social justice groups disintegrate as people of color clamor to be heard, white people silence them, and racism becomes more and more pervasive.

Then the white liberal racists insist that the divisiveness is the fault of people of color. If they would just be quiet, we could defeat real racism.

White people: the only way we can defeat real racism is for smug white liberals to admit to their own racism, fix it, and then unite with people of color to end this plague once and for all. For that to happen, we need to change the way we talk and think about race.

Here are 10 simple rules that can move the conversation forward. They won't protect you from call-outs or uncomfortable conversations. They shouldn't. Those conversations need to happen. These rules can, however, prevent you from saying something profoundly damaging to a person of color.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

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.