Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Another Reason to Dislike Drag Queen Story Hours

Drag Queen Story Hours are becoming quite the rage in public libraries across the country. You’ve probably read about them or seem them on YouTube. The library staff sets aside time in the children’s section of the library for a man, extravagantly dressed as a female, to come in and read a story—often one promoting some sort of nontraditional sexuality—to young children. Many of these drag queens are quite animated and not shy about performing for the children as well.

These story hours have provoked a good deal of outcry for their goal of introducing children to diverse forms of gender identification—you can be whatever you want to be, boy or girl, and love whomever you want to.

But I wonder why I have not heard any one protesting these drag queen shows for a different reason. These men present a parody, a caricature, of a woman. With their spectacular wigs, exaggerated foam-filled figures, overdone mannerisms, and macabre make-up, they in no way resemble an actual woman. 

What the drag queen is, in fact, is a mockery of a woman. How is this okay? I marvel that in our enlightened and careful age, men are allowed to parade themselves in this farcical way, to chuckles and applause. If the same man were to entertain the crowd wearing black face, he would be shouted down and socially ruined (as he should be). Yet, he is welcome to present an exaggerated and tasteless parody of women with impunity.

I am not one who is offended at every turn, but as a woman, drag queens offend me. If they perform in an adult theater where consenting adults buy a ticket, fine.  But they have no place performing in a public library, where, in their massive pink wigs and fishnet stockings, they can mock everyone of my gender.

All people, including women, have enough opportunities to be made fun of in life without inviting someone into the local library to do just that.

Photo courtesy of iStock.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Bundt Cakes and Abortions

Some of our countrymen, like those in the New York State legislature, are having trouble understanding why some Americans (a lot, actually)  would oppose abortion-up-to-birth laws. Just the other day a Democratic presidential candidate likened pro-life Americans to—yes—racists. This moves me to paint an analogy for these folks, as rudimentary as it may be.

Let’s suppose that a woman decides to make a chocolate Bundt cake to serve for dessert one day. As it is baking, she realizes that she has no whipped cream to accompany it. She also realizes that it will not go well at all with the entrĂ©e she will be serving. She considers and considers, and decides that she is indeed unprepared to serve chocolate Bundt cake that day. One minute before the timer dings, she puts on her insulated mitts, pulls the aromatic cake from the oven, and sets it on the stove.

It is perfectly formed, and she can easily picture it on a plate, with its lustrous chocolate finish. Still, it has to go. Grabbing her spatula, she scrapes the rich cake from the pan and lets it fall into the kitchen trash can, then bundles it away.

A few minutes later her neighbor arrives to return some books she had borrowed. Upon entering the house, she breathes in the tantalizing smell of chocolate cake. Her face lights up as she exclaims, “Oh, you made a cake!” As our baker knows, this woman, even with the help of her husband, has never succeeded in making a cake, as many times as she has tried.

Our baker explains that the cake turned out to be all wrong for tonight’s occasion, so she threw it away. Wide-eyed, the cake-starved neighbor rushes to the kitchen trash, hoping to rescue the unwanted product-of-confection. She stops short, seeing a clean plastic liner in the can. Just then she hears the trash truck out front and realizes that the cake is now beyond anyone’s reach.

Cakes like this one, which women think they want but later change their minds about, or that come together in the pan accidentally while the woman is planning something else, are tossed out each day at various stages of baking. Sometimes, indeed, it is the decision of the boyfriend who comes home and storms, “You haven’t made another Bundt cake, have you?” and insists on its disposal. Would it not be more compassionate to the cake-deprived people of the country, desperate for a cake of their own, to let the cake fully bake and offer it to them?

Of course, this analogy breaks down in many ways. For one thing, even the most cake-addicted foodie would not claim that a cake is human (yet). But if the flagrant waste of a perfect chocolate cake makes your stomach contract, how much more the waste of a perfectly formed human child?

Ms. Gillibrand and Mr. Cuomo, I hope this helps.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Outside the Garden

The British intellectual James Pierrepont Greaves (d. 1842) once advised:

"Do not run to this and that for comfort when you are in trouble, but bear it. Be uncomfortably quiet—be uneasily silent—be patiently unhappy."
Since I seem to have reached the ripe age of knowing how scant are one's opportunities to fix anything, this strikes me as good advice. At 18, at 30, at 45, and even by 50, I was still pushed forward by a strong intent to Make Things Better. It might be a small thing like the need for a stop sign at a busy corner, or something much larger. And there have been small victories. 

But defeats, even after protracted struggle and dedication of precious resources, have reached a high number. So that at 60, I find that Mr. Greaves' statement may provide me the key to making it through the next 40 years or so. 

Still, I stay alert for those rare moments where something I could say or do might just help. These actions could be very small, but the key seems to lie in doing them with a simple boldness. A sentence uttered in calm conviction can prove more persuasive, over time, than any hour-long lecture. 

And a gentle word, a listening ear, and an unexpected smile have the power to redeem a person's entire day.

So while I see no point at present in chasing dragons or trying to move mountains, I can find no excuse for not speaking plainly, with charity, and persevering in small kindnesses. God will do with them as He will. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Masculinizing Women Through Dance

Did I just invent a new verb, "to masculinize"? If so, I apologize, but it's the only word that seems to serve in describing the wave we are all submerged in, where women are being encouraged to become more man-like in all they do.

This now extends to dancing, and I'm tired of looking at it. You've seen the commercials--whether it's a gang of children in almost unbearably hip clothing or a mother and daughter in their newly scrubbed kitchen, they've just gotta dance! And their dances all feature the same style of movement: jabbing, jumping, leg-spreading contortions that look like a new generation of the old breakdancing, with an extra dose of unspoken defiance for good measure.  

These brash moves and attitudes in young, testosterone-driven men we rather expect. We can even admire the agility and stamina required. 

But now the same traditionally masculine dance style seems de rigueur for female dancers in commercials, talent acts, what have you. And it does not look good. Women have long kept to a distinctively female mode of movement, which--except for the graceful, extended poses of ballerinas--proscribed throwing their legs wide apart. That is, unless the dance was done around a pole in front of a mostly male audience.  Why was this stance avoided? Because, when done by a woman, it was naturally, genetically, unarguably, provocative in a sexual way. And it is not lovely.

Now, I'm aware that a thoroughly modern lass may say that she wants to express power, not prettiness. Yawn.

The other night I watched in sadness as yet another troupe of bright young dancers took the stage on a major talent show and proceeded to execute, in the usual frenzied way, a harsh choreography that had the young men leaping this way and that while the tightly-clad young women planted their legs wide and shook their rear ends at the audience. When all the vibrating and tumbling were over, the judges melted all over each other in admiration for this bold, fabulous! performance.

Is it just me? Or is anyone else out there dying to see some perky yet graceful dancing by those gals who are heading back to school or feeling just so excited about their new phones? Anybody?
Photo from H&M's back-to-school campaign, 2016

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Loss of Life in Ireland

You’ve probably heard that the fight to save Ireland’s eighth amendment went down in defeat on Friday. The margin in the vote to embrace abortion was about the same as when the Irish adopted same-sex marriage in 2015: two-thirds for, one third against.

Only one county—Donegal—voted to preserve the ban on abortion, and just barely (52%). The BBC website reports that "Since the result was declared, Donegal has received a barrage of abuse on social media for becoming the 'red mark' on the map, just as Roscommon did following the same-sex referendum."

According to the stats at one news source, across Ireland the only age group to stand up for life was composed of those over 65.

This horrifying outcome would have shocked me less if I had understood the secularization of Ireland that has occurred in the last 30 years or so. I read this morning that regular church attendance among Catholics in Ireland dove from 90 percent in 1984 to 18 percent on 2013. (The massive sex scandals among the Irish clergy surely did not help.)

When same-sex marriage was set to appear on the ballot, nearly all priests and bishops remained silent. And speaking of leadership, has anyone, found an article on any efforts made by the Vatican to influence this latest vote and preserve Irish babies? On the day of the vote, one Irishman commented on an online article about the whole issue: "Haven't heard one peep from the Pope about the abortion referendum being held here today." Other commenters were less restrained in denouncing Rome's conspicuous silence.

So, despite our prayers, it is little wonder that God let the Irish have what the great majority of them have been asking for, deeply sad as that is.

I will be thinking of the people of Donegal who stood by their faith and now must cope with being part of a country that has abandoned its Christian conscience, leaving them feeling, as one priest put it, "like foreigners in their own country."

One gentleman named Fionan Bradley, as he exited Mass,  talked with a BBC reporter in the wake of the vote. "I'm so proud of Donegal. We stood up when it was a hard thing to do, especially for younger voters . . . If they start opening private [abortion] clinics we will protest--that's all we can do. We'll make sure women know they can get help in other ways."

It is interesting to note that abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland. Maybe those folks should start thinking about building their own wall along the southern border.