Recipe for Oppression – Part Two

Just about every societal movement for change is started with the best of intentions, generally something to do with liberating the oppressed and downtrodden and leading the world into a bright new utopian era. Just about every societal movement falls somewhat short of this goal. Women’s Liberation is no exception.

Please don’t get me wrong here. I’m glorious thrilled that I can vote, and have a power bill in my own name, and own property. These days, I could run for president if I really wanted to…and also if I had a bunch more money, and could give a whole speech without farting or dropping the f-bomb. What I’m saying is, it wouldn’t be my sex holding me back, it would just be my personality; and I can’t really blame anyone but myself for my personal defects, try though I might. I have Women’s Lib to thank for my potential but unlikely presidential bid, because even fifty years ago things weren’t so great for us chicks – and still aren’t, in many parts of the country and the world (and whether we’ll actually soon become one of the last places in the developed world to have a woman as president, we shall see).

However, though it has brought many advances to our culture, Women’s Lib has had unintended economic and social consequences that can complicate our lives in a different way.

I’m going to talk here specifically about the effect Women’s Lib has had on being a stay-at-home mom. It may be an outplayed subject by now, but that just means I’ll perhaps avoid the scorching heat of a flame war.

For a lot of women (and men) in this country –I’d venture to say most – being a SAHM or SAHD isn’t really a viable option these days. Their partners just don’t make enough money: they need two incomes. However, this didn’t used to be the case, at least not to the extent it is now. Back in “the day”, a much larger percentage of women didn’t work outside the home. They were expected to stay home. Being a working mom was not only frowned upon: in the case of certain professions like teaching –one of the few jobs that they actually allowed women to do in the first place – it wasn’t even allowed.

However, back in the proverbial “day”, society by and large was set up to support the SAHM paradigm. It was completely possible for a man with some minimal amount of education or skill, or even just a couple buckets of gumption, to support a family on his income alone.

The social structure was also supportive of women staying at home. Undoubtedly too supportive of it, but at least women could get together and let their kids grub around, get some social interaction, because they were all in it together, as much as women (and people in general) ever are.

Now, however, raising a family on single income seems a lot harder to achieve. Part of this may be that we’re much more a consumer culture than we used to be, a lot of our income gobbled up by expenses like cable TV and internet, meals eaten out and new cars…stuff that, if we had to, I mean really had to, we could live without. But also, the economic structure has changed to reflect the fact that a much greater percentage of households now have two incomes.

Societal and social structure doesn’t really support working moms now, though, as it seemingly supported the SAHMs when they were expected to be such. Infant childcare is like another frigging mortgage. Sometimes even more expensive than another mortgage. It’s holy-Christ horrible. Most jobs don’t give you maternity/paternity leave, or any sort of breastfeeding support while at work. And friends and relatives don’t always emotionally support a woman’s decision or need to work, either.

Society sends women mixed messages about this stuff, is what I’m saying. This isn’t surprising. Society always has a million scrogging opinions about every goddamn thing.

In a perfect world, or so the dogma goes, the only thing holding a person back from reaching his or her full potential would be they themselves. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a vacuum, and so each person, in just being who they are, can have an influence on those around them. In working through our own issues and looking at the world through our broken or rose-colored lenses, we often advertently or inadvertently end up holding others back as well. It’s a complicated old world, and it takes all kinds.

Social commentary about being a SAHM has changed, is constantly changing. (Though I should, I won’t go into the social discussion of stay-at-home-dadism, just so I don’t clutter the issue. To me, at this point, it’s almost the same discussion, but I know to many others it isn’t). From where I’m sitting, the decision to be a SAHM is one that a woman must often defend, lashing out at societal pressure with her chipped and rough-cuticled claws.

In this entry, I’ll discuss the negative pressure we must face, because it seems to me there are two schools of thought: the negative, that being a SAHM is for losers; and the positive, that being a SAHM is a glorious thing, but so much harder than any other job a person could ever do. So here we go, the negative.

A lot of the flack we SAHMs get comes from women who are jealous, because they didn’t have that option. But another portion of it comes from people who think we’re lazy and stupid, or perhaps just making the wrong decision – that we’re reducing our lives to a myopia of drudgery that will be nearly impossible to escape once we’ve realized how horrible it is. Because, after we’ve left our cozy and respectable jobs to go breed ourselves like so much cattle for a number of years, what employer would have us?

There is also the pressure from the SAH-SUPER Moms, who seem to feel the need to compensate for society thinking they’re lazy by joining every goddamn school committee on top of their other seventeen volunteer gigs, making twelve expertly-decorated cakes a day, growing their own organic wheat, and raising a passel of seemingly genetically-enhanced children who can both beat Yngwie Malmsteen in a guitar contest and Stephen Hawking in a science contest by the time they’re six. The pressure in this sense comes from the need some feel to COMPETE with this ideal.

The first time that I decided to be a stay-at-home mom was when I had Kid. At the time, I was married to my second husband, whom some of you will remember (perhaps less than fondly) from previous posts. (He and I are still great friends. He’s much better now, and a good guy, though he only goes online for pornological reasons and so doesn’t read this). He, for reasons I won’t go into, made enough money at the time to allow me to quit my job when Kid was born, as long as we were careful.

I’m not one to care what society thinks of me…at least not much. Also, I hated my job at the time. “Staying home with Kid will be a piece of cake,” I thought.

Actually, well, no, I didn’t really think that, because I’m not a fucking moron. But I thought it would be easier than being a working mom. What I really wanted to do here was segue into a cake recipe.
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Piece-of-Cake Cake
1 cup butter, softened
2 tbsp oil
4 eggs, room temp or close
2 1/3 cups cake flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup coconut milk

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar together until smooth. Add oil, then eggs one at a time, beating just until combined. Add lemon juice and lemon peel, again BEAT THAT SHIT but not too hard.

Add dry ingredients and coconut milk in alternating batches, starting and ending with dry ingredients. Beat until smooth.

Divide between two greased springform cake pans, and bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes or so, until brown on top and toothpick comes out clean, all that jazz.

    Frosting

1 cup butter
About 2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
WHIP THAT STUFF UP

    Marshmallow Fondant

You must make this, and use it to sculpt a cake of breathtaking, surreal, life-changing beauty, all while your clean and well-behaved babies sit idyllically around your knees. If you don’t, or if you curse at how fucking sticky, messy, and frustrating marshmallow fondant is, then you are a BAD MOM and a FAILURE and NO ONE WILL EVER RESPECT YOU.

One bag mini-marshmallows (about 10.5 ounces)

Get two of the 32-ounce bags of powdered sugar, at the very least. You always need way more than you think.

Food coloring

Melt the marshmallows with a tablespoon or so of water in a large bowl in the microwave (removing to stir it every 30 seconds), or (stirring constantly) in a soup pot on the stove. When fairly melty, remove from heat and stir, stir, stir until all the lumps are gone. Let cool for a bit, then start stirring in the powdered sugar.

When it’s still maddeningly sticky, remove from bowl/pot and knead more powdered sugar in. DON’T CURSE. Your hair will be sticking to the cabinets by now, and you will be covered in tiny, biting sugar ants. Keep kneading.

When it seems like it’s not sticking to the counters so much anymore, then knead in food coloring (you’ll want to set aside several small batches for different colors for your designs – the biggest one is just to cover the cake). And add more powdered sugar. Knead, knead, curse. Curse, curse, knead.

Try to roll it out on a powdered-sugared surface with a powdered-sugar rolling pin. Then try to transfer the rolled sheet onto your frosted cake. JUST TRY IT. It will probably stick to the counter and rip, and you’ll have to knead it with more powdered sugar again. By now, the wasps are attacking you, and hummingbirds are trying to drink the juice from your eyeballs.

Sooner or later you’ll manage it, more or less. Then decorate it. It had better be creative, because you have to make up for the fact that you’re a SAHM, and everyone knows that means you have no inner life. Prove them wrong. Make a cake that no one will dare cut into, because it’s too gorgeous.

Now clean your kitchen with a putty knife and one of the more poisonous organic solvents. I think diethyl ether would work.

TO BE CONTINUED….

Recipe for Oppression – Part One

My husband, who was apparently frightened half to death by Riot Grrrl dogma in the ‘90s, thinks every woman everywhere is oppressed by everything. He feels his penis is an undeniable mark of his guilt, an ill-hidden weapon that he can’t help but be armed with in this war of the sexes. He reads angry mommy blogs during his few spare moments at work, and then comes home curled into a tight ball around his male shame.

I, being who I am, must fight back by writing a mommy blog of my own. And, what better content for such a thing than delicious recipes, interspersed with harrowing tales of womanhood and housewifery? This is the first installment of that tortuous series.
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    Knuckle Sandwich

Hoagie Roll (A good bread recipe will follow in a later post)
¼ package tofu
One egg, beaten black and blue for its own good
Panko bread crumbs
Korean-style pickled daikon radish or turnips (let me know if you need this recipe)
Shredded cabbage and carrots
Mayo
Sriracha sauce

Press tofu by placing between plates and putting a bag of beans or something on the top plate for about ½ hour. Drain, slice into strips, dip in beaten egg, then roll in panko. Fry in oil until brown. Slather roll in mayo and sriracha, then layer tofu on top with the other ingredients.
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This post is going to be uncomfortable for just about everyone to read, so if you’ve gotten this far, I apologize in advance: it just gets worse.

Recently, there was a guy who shot up a bunch of UC Santa Barbara students. This started a hashtag meme, #YesAllWomen. The premise is that the shooter in this case was supposedly motivated by a desire to punish women for not wanting to have sex with him.

I hate this meme halfway to death. I think it’s the wrong point at which to start a conversation about cultural misogyny (and/or domestic violence, which has victims of both sexes). For one thing, most of this guy’s victims were men. For another, he wasn’t really a misogynist: he was a fucking lunatic. There’s a big difference. Most violence against women isn’t perpetrated in this dramatic and visible a manner by men or women with an obvious mental imbalance. Most of it happens in the context of a love relationship, often behind closed doors, or in plain view but in a way that is easily dismissed by those witnessing it as “No big deal, really,” or “Probably nothing,” or “None of my business.”

Thus, I think that putting the horrible tragedy forward as an example of misogyny or violence against women could actually end up backfiring. It doesn’t take a shooting spree to qualify as abuse. Sometimes, it doesn’t even take violence: it just takes words. If we want to actually prevent abusive behavior, we need to learn to recognize the subtleties, the examples of it in our daily lives, not just the incidents that make the national news.

On the flip side, we need to admit that the line has to be drawn somewhere: not EVERYTHING constitutes abuse or oppression of women. We don’t need to make sweet and wonderful men like my husband feel guilty for the perfectly acceptable and sometimes sexy crime of packing a loaded cock, and we as women need to recognize that we’re strong enough to take a joke or random stupid comment sometimes without crying “MISOGYNY!!!”

My journey as a woman started out sorta rough. I was born in July and I skipped a grade, so I was almost two years younger than some of my classmates, not to mention an introvert, and a nerd. This was the ‘80s, back when being called a nerd was an insult. Nowadays, this term has been watered down to the point where anyone who owns a goofy t-shirt or has watched the Harry Potter movies will proudly claim the label, but back in grade school, I was literally spat upon and had things thrown at me on more than one occasion.

When puberty hit, things got even more complicated. I was so alienated from my peers that I had no idea what constituted a normal adolescent social life. I thought that all of my classmates had already lost their virginities, so I went ahead and jumped on the bandwagon, only to find myself now labeled as a “slutty nerd”. Once again: this was meant as an insult back then, though now I think I want a t-shirt that says it.

There are some people who will take advantage of folks like me who are naturally submissive, fearful, and socially inept, like those dogs that always have their tails between their legs. I’ll leave it to people more argumentative than I to determine whether we’re born this way, are raised to it, or (as has been suggested to me on more than one occasion) choose it as some sort of convoluted mechanism to manipulate others. All I’ll say is, back when I was a kid and young woman, I seemed to have a target on my forehead, and hadn’t yet figured out how to deal with it.

In my early teens, I ended up falling in with an abusive boyfriend. At first, the relationship was consensual, although it was fucked up to say the least. But it soon got twisted and violent, and when I tried to break up with him, he beat the living fuck out of me. Same thing would happen if I didn’t want to have sex, or if I talked to another dude, or said something he didn’t like. Plus he’d tell me my tits were saggy, that no one else would ever love me, and that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was, stuff like that. A lot of girls are strong enough to not put up with this bullshit, but at the time I wasn’t.
I remember once the guy hit me in front of our friends – I can’t remember why, but I do remember that, although people looked shocked, no one said jack shit about it. I ran off crying, and not a single person came after me, or said anything to me about it afterwards. Years later, I talked to one of those people, and they said they hadn’t done anything because the guy had been their friend; he didn’t treat them like that, so it was really none of their business.

I confided in someone else about how he’d rape me sometimes, but they said it wasn’t rape, because I’d consented to have sex with him at some point. They used the slut word, too. I guess I’d confided in the wrong person, but I didn’t know it at the time.

In a way, these people were right. It was my relationship, and it was my job to get the fuck out of it if I didn’t like it. No one was forcing me to put up with that shit. [Edited to add: some women are in situations where they ARE effectively forced to put up with this shit, and I recognize my “luck” in not being in one of these. Our culture isn’t one to lock a woman into this sort of relationship, and he may have threatened to kill me and/or himself if I left, but he never pulled a gun or anything.]

The only problem is that I thought I loved him. I thought no one else would ever love me, that I was a stupid, ugly, worthless piece of shit, and that if I left him I’d be all alone forever. I know now that this is what they call “abused woman syndrome” (a misnomer: men can suffer from it, too), but it didn’t seem like a syndrome at the time, it just seemed like reality.

“Abused woman syndrome” can be quite annoying to those witnessing it. You tell the person over and over that they deserve better, that they should ditch the asshole. And sometimes they will: they’ll leave the relationship, only to go running back to it again. It seems like they want it. It seems like they’re asking for it. Because, after you’ve been abused and humiliated, it feels really good when the abuser apologizes and tells you they didn’t mean it. You get a rush from it. It makes you feel wanted.

How can we solve this problem then? How can we fix domestic violence and the culture of misogyny if some of the people in these situations seem to not want our help, if they fight our every effort to be supportive of them?

I don’t know the answer to that question.

I do know, however, that I eventually escaped this situation. It clouded my subsequent relationships for years and years, but I eventually found someone who treated me really well, and I even learned to deal with the fact that he was treating me well – I learned to live outside of the abuse/reconciliation drama cycle.
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    Brownie Point Brownies

One cup (two sticks) butter
1 ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (divided in half –see below)
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 tbsp vanilla
1 cup flour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt butter and ¾ cup chocolate chips in microwave or double boiler, and let cool slightly. In a medium bowl or stand mixer, mix the melted chocolate/butter with the sugar until smooth. Add vanilla, and then the eggs, one by one. Then add flour until just blended. Fold in the other ¾ cups chocolate chips.
Line a 9 x 12 baking pan with foil, then grease the foil. Pour the brownies in and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I think this is about 15 minutes, but my oven is weird and I never time anything.
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