Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
As I stated in the January issue of Parents Magazine, essay compilations aren’t usually my thing, but I absolutely could not put The Good Mother Myth down. Talented mommy bloggers and writers such as Amber Dusik, Lisa Duggan and Jessica Valenti revisit the familiar topic of Supermom—obviously focusing on the fact that she doesn’t exist. But each contributor brings a fresh look at who we really are—and aren’t—as caregivers. Whatever your subject–twins, religion, full-time work, SAHM, adoption and more–you’ll find something that really resonates with you in this great book.
The one that changed my life is Soraya Chemaly‘s. She reminds us that volunteering devalues our skills and makes a great case for just saying no more often (or all of the time). Her piece is so powerful that Time excerpted it today in a post called School Volunteering and Parental Pressure: One Mom’s Unapologetic No.
“However, a 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics study revealed that, regardless of age, education or race, women volunteer more than their male demographic peers. (Volunteer rates for women and men are 23.2 and 29.5 percent respectively.) Schools benefit hugely from the unpaid labor of mothers – most of whom, today, don’t have the luxury of not needing jobs. The pressure to donate unpaid labor at schools is inextricably entwined with ideas about mothering and work. Every time volunteer cultures are gender imbalanced it is almost certainly a symptom of women’s work being taken for granted, invisible and unpaid.”
How many times have you volunteered and really wish you hadn’t? Check out Soraya’s full essay in the book, and you will never feel guilty for turning down those volunteer “opportunities” again. While I am glad I had the experience of coordinating a huge after-school enrichment program for my kids’ public elementary, I know never to do that to myself again. It’s great to chip in when I can, but I will weigh the value of my time and energy more carefully in the future. And best of all, I’ll release all of that useless guilt.
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Amber Dusik, feminism, Lisa Duggan, say no, school volunteer, Soraya Chemaly, The Good Mother Myth, volunteerism | Categories:
Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books
Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
A powerful voice burst into the world yesterday when Barnard College president Debora Spar released her new book called Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection.
Full of women’s history and introspection, this book gets everyone up-to-date on cultural gender differences today. Spar shies away from the term feminism, but she writes deeply and heavily in favor of women’s freedom to go to school, get paid well, have children and become married or stay single. But, she writes–and this is a big but–she doesn’t think women can have it all. Perfection isn’t a realistic goal. In fact, at every age and stage, striving for perfection is making us miserable.
One of her solutions struck me as particularly brilliant. She reuses an economic term called ‘satisficing.’ Her use of it means to settle for something that’s second best.
I’m going to type that again because it just feels good: Settle for something that’s second best.
How can you relay that idea into your life? For me, it would go something like this:
1. Do my kids really have to be the best readers in their classes? (As a book author and reviewer, I’ve always thought yes.)
2. Did it matter if my babies only had breast milk? (In retrospect, I wish I had been easier on myself and given more bottles.)
3. Do I have to kill myself and work at all hours to be the best at my job? (Not really, I’ll get paid even if I do pretty good work.)
4. Do I have to keep saying yes to this huge PTA project I do every year? (Ugh. I don’t know how to say no!)
5. Do I need to read that stack of parenting books to become a better mother? (I’m pleading the fifth on this one.)
Make a list of everything you’re striving to do. What can you satisfice? One of the points Spar makes in her book is that we’re spinning and going and never stopping. We parents are supposedly doing all of this stuff for our kids. But what do our children really want? Just a little more special time with us. Do they care if we’re perfect? No! And that’s good, because if anyone sees our flaws, it’s our kids–and they love us anyway.
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Friday, September 21st, 2012
The word vagina comes up a lot in our house. My kids, ages 5 and 6, learned it as soon as they could speak. I try to be a liberated mom–unlike my own mother who still can’t bring herself to say vagina out loud. In all the years I’ve written about sex for women’s magazines, experts have advised me over and over to teach my children proper terms for their body parts.
At the very least, young girls need to know how to keep their vaginas clean and how to protect them from danger. If a horrible person ever touches my kids in their private parts, they are armed with the words and the self-confidence to speak up. Hopefully, as they grow, they will feel comfortable talking sex with me because I’ve tried to normalize the subject and take away taboos.
Naomi Wolf’s new book Vagina shares my mission. She told me, “Parents should read the book so they can understand the latest discoveries about female sexual happiness and communicate in an informed way.” With her signature style and aplomb, Wolf explains in great detail how orgasms work from a scientific perspective.
Did you know that all orgasms are not created equal? I did not. It all has to do with our genetic makeup–and not our frigidity or inhibition. This information is worth the price of the book alone ($14.99). According to the doctors Wolf interviewed, our nerve centers vary greatly. “For some women, a lot of neural pathways originate in the clitoris,” Wolf writes. These women will get the most pleasure out of clitoral stimulation. Others have more innervation in their vaginas and will climax from penetration alone. Different women may have nerve clusters in their perineal or anal areas. “Culture and upbringing definitely have a role in how you climax…but that is not all there is to it,” Wolf writes. “Preferences may just be due to your physical wiring.” Wow.
Wolf, who I first came to admire when I read The Beauty Myth in college, was inspired to write about vaginas when her own orgasms lost their luster. Turns out, she had an injured pelvic nerve. She underwent surgery–getting a 17-inch metal plate inserted into her back–and her sublime climaxes returned.
Wolf doesn’t just talk anatomy in this fast-paced read. She also goes into the vagina’s cultural history and cultural norms today. For example, did you know that just about all the slang terms for our vaginas are derogatory? I can’t type Wolf’s amusingly awful list of words here. She goes on to write a heartbreaking chapter on the devastating effects of disrespect and rape on women physically and psychologically. On a more light-hearted note, I love the connections Wolf makes between the vagina and women’s overall creativity and happiness. It’s so true: A good sex life can make a a girl feel more inspired and innovative.
Wolf ends the book on a New Age note. She takes the reader on an inside look at tantric techniques and workshops in New York City. (Spending more time cuddling and prolonging sex sounds great in theory–but parents of young children may have to wait a few years until the kids stop banging on our bedroom doors.) Wolf evens visits a vaginal masseuse in London who charges more than $100 per hour to give women pleasure. Supposedly, his technique works wonders for his clients’ self-confidence and sex lives.
I’m a book nut, so yes, I read the judgmental reviews of Vagina in the New York Times and elsewhere. I have two thoughts for Wolf’s naysayers. First, I really think the testiest critics, mostly authors, are invidious of Wolf’s international success (Vagina is already number one in the gender studies category on Amazon). Second, I think they missed the whole point of this book: Vagina is a positive look at women’s sexuality. There aren’t many writers promoting the vagina right now. Wolf has the balls to do the job–and what could be so wrong with that?
Check out Wolf in her Vagina book trailer at the jump. (more…)
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