This book is not what I expected it to be. I think I was looking for something slightly less memoire and containing some measure of humor. That isn’t to say that Ms. Bolick isn’t a great writer; she managed to take a book that I probably would never have read had I truly understand what I was in for and make it interesting. But in case you thought this would be an out-loud feminist discussion, it’s not that. At least, it isn’t entirely that.
This is a very subtle book. At times I wasn’t really certain where it was going. Ms. Bolick chooses to tell us her own story of not desiring marriage by sharing the life stories of her “five awakeners” (a term that, I should say, had my rolling my eyes each time it appeared). All white women with some economic means, these women are certainly interesting, and do a passable job of demonstrating the challenges women have faced when choosing a path that doesn’t match the one that it seems most everyone else is both taking and expecting them to take.
This book can’t help but be a very narrow study, as it is a memoire of sorts; it is about Ms. Bolick’s life and struggle with her desire to have control over her life on her own terms. She isn’t asexual; she has many relationships, and experiences love. She just doesn’t think that marriage is on her list. And while this is about her experiences, I have to say I wish that one of her “awakeners” had been a woman of color. Ms. Bolick also makes some comments regarding women in the workplace that I don’t necessarily think hold true for non-white women, even though they are presented as universal truths. Hmmm.
Like I said, it’s not what I was expecting. If the title and a couple of two-sentence synopses made you interested in the book, I suggest reading a few more reviews before picking it up to make sure it’s where you want to spend your time.
– “The clerk — apparently either hemophobic, a misogynist, or both — went to fetch a middle-aged woman to ring up Epworth’s purchase instead. “She looked me in the eye like she knew it was ridiculous,” Epworth said. It also seemed evident that this was not unusual and might have happened several times before.” Iowa Store Clerk Refuses To Sell A Woman Tampons Because They’re “Gross” (via @itspulptastic)
– The Nebraska vote marks a shift in the national debate because it was bolstered by conservatives who oppose the death penalty for religious reasons, cast it as a waste of taxpayer money and question whether government can be trusted to manage it. Law-and-order conservatives in the United States have traditionally stood among the strongest supporters of the ultimate punishment.” Nebraska set to repeal death penalty after legislature overcomes veto threat (via @guardiannews)
– “The nine-year pro has been absent from the playoffs after a group of New York Police Department officers broke his leg in April following a late-night confrontation outside a Chelsea nightclub. The police accounts about what took place conflict dramatically, with video that emerged of a group of officers surrounding Sefolosha, with one brandishing a nightstick. Sefolosha, with assistance from the National Basketball Players Association, is planning a lawsuit against the City of New York.” An NBA Player Is Missing the Playoffs Because the NYPD Broke His Leg—Why the Sports-Media Silence? (via @EdgeofSports)
– “In 2008, he and his team completed a five-year neuroimaging study of the impact of corporal punishment on the brain. He scanned the brains of 46 mainly middle-class, well-educated subjects, half who had been corporally punished and half who had not. “All the subjects that we looked at were hit at least once a month, through several years of childhood,” he said.” Is Being Pro-Spanking A Sign of Brain Damage? (via @DrStacyPatton)
– “Those of us here in King County are lucky enough to live in one of the best places in the nation (perhaps, the world) for emergency response. Our cardiac arrest survival rate, the gold standard in emergency response, has been documented everywhere from academic journals to the Wall Street Journal, and our system is studied far and wide.” Why King County’s EMS is the best in the world: Q&A with Mickey Eisenberg
– “Your one-stop shop for health and safety data on cruise ships.” Cruise Control (via @propublica)
Some of you know that I’ve been working on a book for the past few months. Last fall many of you were kind enough to allow me to interview you; I used the NaNoWriMo model to force myself to organize my thoughts and create a 30,000 word manuscript in November. In January I started editing it; in March I went to a day-long publishing workshop, which was pretty amazing.
However, life kind of got in the way after that, so other than a little bit of reorganization and edits, I haven’t touched it since then. Thankfully my sister asked about it this weekend, so I’ve finally sent it to her (and my husband) to take a look. I’m hoping for honest feedback, and REALLY hoping that I can take the inevitable criticism heading my way.
If any of you are interested in taking a look and offering suggestions, let me know!
**Apparently this isn’t released until Tuesday, but my local Barnes and Noble had it out yesterday, so I guess I’m reviewing this from the future? Awesome!**
You might be familiar with Ms. Gibbons. She’s the woman who went on TV in her bathing suit (in Times Square, no less), wearing a size 18ish. She had sex with her husband every night of the year in hopes of improving her own body confidence. She runs the website ‘Brittany, Herself’ and is the leader of the ‘curvy girls army.’
I found this book while trying to kick-start by Cannonball Read yesterday. I bought four books that I could see myself forgoing TV for (although not the new Game of Thrones tonight, because I’m not an animal). This one really jumped out at me, and I pretty much inhaled it. I read it before bed last night, only stopping because my eyes refused to cooperate. I read it on a 30 minute walk to get lunch, and on the walk home. I was even a little sad that today was a run day, not an elliptical day, so I couldn’t read it while working out.
I related to a lot of what Ms. Gibbons shares in this collection of essays, even though I’ve never had children (her discussion of being a mother permeates much of the second half of the book, but is certainly not the overall focus). No one would describe me as thin. Fat? Eh, probably not usually. But I’ll freely admit to having more than one totally fine morning destroyed because I stepped on the scale.
And that’s bullshit. Ms. Gibbons articulates the ways in which it is bullshit much better than I can, so I’ll just leave it at that. There are some really laugh-out-loud moments, and some really thoughtful ones that gave me pause. I was reading this too quickly to even bother to underline passages I especially liked (the book would have been mostly underlined anyway), but this one stuck out:
“The reality was that my life wasn’t miserable because I was curvy; I was miserable because I thought I’d be happier if I were thinner, and when I sat to think about it, it didn’t really make sense.”
– “Most everything the media reported about the Baltimore protests has skirted the line between the highly sensationalistic and the libelous. Every headline and photo has focused on property damage, allegedly done by those protesting for Freddie Gray. Played down or ignored is the Baltimore I saw: a place where more than 2,000 people—including families and children—marched resolutely while helicopters and visible surveillance drones flew overhead.” Camden Yards and the Baltimore Protests for Freddie Gray (via @EdgeofSports)
– “When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con.” Nonviolence as Compliance (h/t @YApplebaum)
– “When states pass “Stand Your Ground” laws, they aren’t passing them so that black men can defend themselves against white men who threaten their lives. When the NRA talks about families needing to defend themselves against gang violence, they aren’t talking to the people of color most likely to be impacted by gang violence. When cities develop “stop and frisk” policies, they aren’t developing them in hopes of reducing violent crime in white men. These are all built on the same violent narrative used to lynch black people in the past. Only now, instead of saying “brute” or “savage” they say thug.” Thug Is Not The New N Word . It’s Worse Than That (via @IjeomaOluo)
– “Just days before her death, the online harrassment she had been subjected to for months took a more direct form. Commenters mocked her suicidal comments, saying “jumping off a bridge isn’t rocket science.” The last note from a commenter, simply said “Good Riddance”, to which she replied: “Yeah pretty much.”” Online Troll Urges Game Developer Rachel Bryk To Commit Suicide (h/t @amaditalks)
– “Although the Supreme Court has twice ruled that states may not execute someone who is insane, 54 of the 100 executions studied involved prisoners who showed symptoms of severe mental illness, including six cases of schizophrenia, three of bipolar disorder, and eight of PTSD. Six had tried to kill themselves at least once.” 87 Reasons to Rethink the Death Penalty (via @MotherJones)
– ““The jurors who ultimately decide Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s fate will begin their task with a shared bias — their willingness to consider capital punishment,” wrote Joan Vennochi in an editorial for the Boston Globe.
In that regard, the jurors are not particularly representative of Boston’s populace. Capital punishment is deeply unpopular in that city and in Massachusetts, which has no death penalty for state crimes.” Jurors In The Boston Bombing Case Had To Agree To Consider The Death Penalty Before Being Selected (via @ThinkProgress)
– “Misogynists might be the first people to dismiss complaints about representation with time-honored comments like “she’s ‘just’ a character” or “it’s ‘just’ a movie/book/video game,” but by admitting they’re threatened by Charlize Theron and Emilia Clarke’s bad-assery, Clarey and his commenters are also agreeing that the media we consume and the stories we tell are hugely important.” Incredibly Peeved Men’s Rights Activists Call for Boycott of Mad Max, Are Unintentionally Hilarious (h/t @LadySnarksalot) [ed. note: HA HA]
– “Among the pieces of sexist advice doled out to staff: Women council members are “less likely to read agenda information” and instead ask a lot of questions (an observation Allen derived from dealing with his 11-year-old daughter), and have an aversion to dealing with numbers and the budget. Citing Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, women act on emotion, while men act on facts, and women want to communicate more than men, speakers claimed.” Council Members Slam Sexist Speaker (via @AustinChronicle)
– “When a young Virginia teen was kicked out of her prom last year, for example, it was because fathers at the dance felt her dress was causing “impure thoughts.” (Modest proposal: How about disgusting dads stop ogling teenagers?) Like Miller-Wigfall in Pennsylvania, the young woman felt she was targeted because of her body type. “I am so tired of people who abuse their power to make women feel violated and ashamed because she has an ass, or has breasts, or has long legs,” she wrote on her sister’s blog at the time.” The only thing shameful about ‘revealing’ prom dresses are adults who obsess over them (via @JessicaValenti)
– “An adoptive parent of the girl alleged that the Easons, living in Illinois at the time, presented themselves as a loving, stable family, dedicated to the well-being of children in their care, according to the affidavit. As part of the custody transfer, the Easons promised the parents to provide proof that social workers had signed off on the suitability of their home, but never did, the affidavit said.” ‘Re-homing’ couple exposed by Reuters is indicted on kidnap charges
– “As a rising cohort of highly unaffiliated Millennials reaches adulthood, the median age of unaffiliated adults has dropped to 36, down from 38 in 2007 and far lower than the general (adult) population’s median age of 46.4.” More Americans Ditching Organized Religion (via @MotherJones)
– “We are a group of seven artists who made the decision to attend USC Roski School of Art and Design’s MFA program based on the faculty, curriculum, program structure, and funding packages. We are a group of seven artists who have been forced by the school’s dismantling of each of these elements to dissolve our MFA candidacies. In short, due to the university’s unethical treatment of its students, we, the entire incoming class of 2014, are dropping out of school and dropping back into our expanded communities at large.” Entire USC First-Year MFA Class is Dropping Out (h/t @iJesseWilliams)
I am pretty vocal about the fact that I won’t be having children. I’ve written about it in the past, and I’m currently writing a book aimed at folks like myself. My husband and I found each other online in part because we both said ‘no’ to the ‘want kids’ question on OK Cupid. So when I saw this book reviewed in a few different places I figured I would pick it up.
It’s a collection of essays by writers, so it is necessarily a bit limited in that regard. It primarily features women, although there are contributions by men. I’m not sure of the racial demographics of the writers; none of the stories (if I’m recalling correctly) take on whether they think they’ve encountered more (or less) push-back because of their ethnicity.
The book provides for some chuckles, and elicited a few head nods from me. I could related to some folks, but not fully. I mean, I wasn’t one of the writers, so I can’t expect to have my exact feelings related back to me in essay form, but I was a bit disappointed because most of the essays still seemed a bit apologetic about not wanting children, and really interested in making the concession that people who choose not to have children are a bit off, wrong, or even, yes, selfish. I found that disappointing, because I was hoping for something different.
One essay in particular really rubbed me the wrong way. Lionel Shriver, who wrote “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (a book I hope to read some day) wrote a weirdly misogynistic and frankly delusional essay that almost had me giving up on the book (hers is the fifth essay in). Obviously she can only speak for herself in this most personal of essays, but she presumes to speak for me, and that is obnoxious. She says things like “In contrast to our predecessors, we seldom ask ourselves whether we serve a greater social purpose; we are more likely to ask ourselves if we are happy.” I’m not sure what version of reality she exists in, but I would argue they are both equal, or even completely oppositely weighted. Lots of people are making sacrifices because they understand that the way we’ve been living isn’t doing anyone any favors.
She also seems to call out those who complain about the fact that people ‘like her’ aren’t having children (e.g. well-educated, white, affluent) for what they are (not-so-subtle racism), but then seems to agree, with such disturbing lines as “we don’t consider the importance of raising another generation of our own people, however we might choose to define them.” That reads dangerously close to expressing distress over not enough white folks in the world, and that’s super creepy.
In addition to that weird (hopefully unintentional?) racism, she also makes an argument that absolutely infuriated me. She suggests that by not having children, we are ignoring our duty to the future, because we are denying the world the creation of people who might solve the world’s problems. Essentially, it’s similar to that anti-choice argument of ‘what if you’re aborting the next Einstein?’ Aside from the fact that maybe my kid would grow up to be a serial killer, so by not reproducing I could be saving the world from that pain, this claim essentially ignores the fact that maybe WE can solve the world’s problems. She seems to making a point that women exist to create the people who change the world, as opposed to changing the world ourselves. I am not okay with that at all. I firmly believe that I have the opportunity to change the world (probably in very small ways, but ways that matter); I don’t think the only way I can do that is to give birth to a child who will then change the world. She falls into the trap that so many of us are trying to claw our way out of: the idea that my worth exists only in the children I create, not in the other things I create as well.
So yeah, that essay aside, the book is probably worth a read. I just wish it were better, and more original that the sheepishness so many of us who choose not to have children feel compelled to express to those who do want children. I wish there were more writers who owned their choice as completely valid and not one needing justification. But that isn’t in here as much as I’d hoped.
On April 27th our landlords called to tell us they want to put their condo (our apartment) on the market. They gave us 60 days, but some incentives to get out earlier. By May 1st we’d found a new apartment, although in a new neighborhood. That day I also rented boxes and booked movers. On May 9th, we moved. On May 10th, we unpacked.
What I’m saying is, it’s been an unexpectedly busy two weeks. Hopefully the weekly wrap-up will be back on Sunday.