Tag Archives: parenting

Heist

For those of you that just know me on the Internet, you may be shocked (SHOCKED!) to find that I wasn’t always Emily Heist Moss. I added the Heist a couple of years back to correct an imbalance I felt in my name.

After reading Molly Caro May’s excellent essay on The Hairpin about giving her daughter her last name instead of her husband’s, I decided to share the full rationale for the Heist addition this week on Role/Reboot:

 

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Related Post: What’s in a name? A post for The Good Men Project on other options besides adopting the husband’s last name.

Related Post: Guest post from Julianna Britto Schwartz

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Stranger Pics & The Pope

Contrary to the title of this post, this is not an essay about stranger pictures and the Pope, but rather two separate essays for Role/Reboot. This week, I wrote about the first rule of fight club: don’t take pictures of strangers without their permission. Very obvious corrollary: Don’t post pictures of strangers that you took without their permission.

On rare occasions, stranger pics are meant to celebrate and compliment, in which case, ask permission before snapping and sharing. The rest of the time, when we are taking photos of strangers with the intent to mock, we are actively contributing to a culture of bullying. We all do embarrassing things, accidentally wearing a shirt inside out (a stranger photo recently seen on Twitter), or trying to surreptitiously pick a wedgie (Instagram). If you would like your moments of private shame or your brief lapses in fashion judgment generously overlooked by the Internet, you have to give people the same courtesy. “Being in public” is not equivalent to “giving permission to be photographed and/or mocked/idolized/lusted after/bullied/captioned/edited”. Maybe legally it is, I have no idea, I’m not a lawyer, but ethically it is not.

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Last week, after the Pope commented that married couples without children will find bitterness and loneliness, I wrote about what he calls “the culture of well being”, and why wanting to be a parent is the best possible reason to become one, and not wanting to be one is a pretty damn good reason to not.

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Related Post: Stranger pic example, hot girls of Occupy Wallstreet.

Related Post: “Don’t take my picture,” “Come on! You’re at the beach!”

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Moms on the Tube

“I don’t really watch TV.”

THIS BAFFLES ME. I mean, obviously, to each his or her own, but I just love television so much that when I hear this declaration (less and less frequently, according to my unscientific and entirely anecdotal experience) I’m as shocked as I’d be if someone said, “I don’t really eat cheese.”

Wait, what? Some people don’t eat cheese?

I kid. But in all seriousness, deciding to give up cheese or TV would be a fucking heartbreaker of a Sophie’s Choice in my world. But in the end, the cheese would have to go, because the satisfaction of a hunk of brie is temporary,  but the joy of a ten-year relationship with my shows (or 8-episode relationship for these new miniseries deals) gives me stuff to chew over for weeks and months to come.

This week for Role/Reboot, in honor of Mother’s Day, I wrote about the range and variety of TV moms. June Cleaver is out, Cersei Lannister is in. Is that a good thing? Read on!

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Related Post: Moms and body image, from Mika Brzezinski to Jennifer Weiner

Related Post: True Detective and the male gaze.

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Bodies, Moms, Bodies of Moms, Moms on Bodies

This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about this:

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I keep hearing the same chorus from moms writing about body image and aging, and it goes something like this: Man, I have been micromanaging my body for thirty years and I haven’t been able to stop. I really hope my daughters figure out a different way. 

What kills me about it is that, obviously, we the daughters look to you the mothers as our first source of inspiration on how one should be with one’s body. Even if we eventually outgrow our reliance on that one source, it is the first, the most primal, the most difficult to shake.

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Related Post: The problem with “strong is the new skinny”

Related Post: How Title IX changed my life. 

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The most dramatic thing to happen on Grey’s Anatomy. Ever.

More dramatic than the bomb in the guy’s chest? Than the house made of candles on the hillside? Than the plane crash that killed Lexi and Mark? Than the shooter who roamed the halls of Seattle Grace? More dramatic than the time that Meredith died? I know, right? That show is craaaaay.

Screenshot_10_28_13_11_10_PM-4Yes, what happened on Grey’s Anatomy two weeks ago was true drama (skip to 34:00). For those of you who quit this bad boy when it jumped the shark half a decade ago, Meredith and Christina are still best friends, but much else has changed [SPOILER ALERT. Ha, as if anyone waits with bated breath for Grey's spoilers]. Meredith married Derek and they have two adorable children, Zola and baby Bailey. Christina got married and then divorced when her husband Owen couldn’t abide by her consistent refusal to have children (I mean, come on…. she told him that when they got together, but that’s not the point…) They are both still surgeons at Seattle Grace (renamed Sloane Grey Memorial).

What drama could this mundane divergence of paths produce? There were no bones protruding from skin, no organs spilling on to slick linoleum floors. Nope, no guts and gore here, just good old fashioned human drama. Christina and Meredith had planned an elaborate surgery. Meredith’s day took a turn with kiddie emergencies left and right. Christina boxed her out of the surgery and replaced her with a more prepared doctor, Dr. Bailey. And then this:

Meredith: You stole that surgery from me. 

Christina: I am sorry. I really wish you could have been in there with me. 

Meredith: I worked my ass off to do that surgery with you and you stole it from me. That was low.

Christina: Meredith, you were unprepared, you were unfocused, and you were late. I didn’t steal that surgery from you. I rescued that surgery from you, because you couldn’t do it.

Meredith: I understand that you believe you are god’s gift to medicine, but I am every bit as talented and competent a surgeon as you are.

Christina: No, you’re not. I’m sorry, but you’re not. And that’s, that’s okay. You have different priorities now. You’ve cut back on your clinical hours. You log less time in the OR, I mean, you don’t do research. And I get it, I mean, you have Zola, and baby Bailey, and you want to be a good mom.

Meredith: I don’t believe you! You are saying that I can’t be a good surgeon and a mom.

Christina: Of course not! Dr. Bailey’s a mom, and she was fantastic in there! 

Meredith: Then what are you saying? 

Christina: I’m saying, I’m saying… Bailey never let up. She lives here. Callie? Never let up. Ellis Grey [Meredith's mother] never let up. And I know you don’t want to be your mother. I’m saying, you and I started running down the same road at the same time, and at a certain point, you let up. You slowed down. And don’t say that I don’t support that, because I do. You made your choices, and they are valid choices, but don’t pretend they don’t affect your skills. You are a very good surgeon, but we’re in different places now. And that’s okay.

Ahhhhh, oh Grey’s, I love you so. For all the deserved flack it gets for melodrama and oversimplified dialogue (whenever Shonda wants you to get an emotional point all she knows how to do is repeat it three times with different inflection. I need you. I need you. I need you. Check it, she does it on Scandal too), she does tap into the political side of female friendship with some serious know-how.

I would rather have conversations like this than landslides and biker brawl mayhem in the emergency room any day. These conversations are hard, way harder than corralling sexting interns or sobbing family members, and they feel real. Your friends will make different decisions than you would make for yourself, or than you would make for them. It’s hard, because you love them, and you trust them, but you’re scared for them, and you’re scared for yourself. You don’t know what’s right or what will happen and when someone who has been running the same race as you for a long time suddenly veers left or slows down or speeds up, it’s hard not to wonder if you should be following suit. Trying to read your own motives and values in the shadows cast by people you love and trust… that shit is complicated and lovely and challenging.

Take notes, Shonda, and keep it up.

Related Post: How Grey’s got gay marriage right. 

Related Post: How The Good Wife gets the second wave vs. third wave tension right

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S(Tuesday) Scraps 109


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1. HOOPS: Bill Simmons, who I generally love, gets rightfully reamed by college basketball player Wayne Washington when Simmons refers to his dreads as “stinky.”

2. AUTHORS: Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep, American Wife) gets interviewed by The Rumpus about her new book, Sisterland.

3. NEW MEXICO: The New Yorker‘s Rachel Syme, writes eloquently about the hometown she shares with Walter White.

4. CELEB: I really dig this advice from Olivie Wilde in Glamour, or rather, this advice from her ghostwriter. Regardless, I’m into it.

5. MOMS: My favorite, Roxane Gay, interviews her mother for The Hairpin about how she feels about her mothering decisions, 30 years later. Should we all be so lucky as to have these conversations.

6. SPORTS: What does it say about you as a parent when you push your daughter down the path of soccer, dance, or chess? Apparently a lot?

Related Post: Sunday 108: George Saunders, OITNB, Ill-Doctrine, etc.

Related Post: Sunday 107: Amanda Palmer = awesome, millennials worry, email mapping!

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Pre-emptive Father’s Day

Did you know that Father’s Day was signed into law more than 50 years after Mother’s Day? Just one of the many fun facts I learned while writing my new Role/Reboot essay about the evolving role of dads (and the inevitable gift of a tie).

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Related Post: How to accidentally raise a feminist daughter

Related Post: The stubbornly persistent “idiot dad” trope.

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Sandberg: The Final Chapters

sandbergAlright, folks, chapter 9 through 12, the end of the Sandbergian road! If you missed it, here are rounds one and two of my discussion of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, and here’s my bit from the radio.

Before I recap some of the big ideas of the last third, it’s probably worth summing up my feelings on this book. They go something like this: Skeptical, but read it anyway. Old news, new language. Big ideas, pithy terms. Fix the system, beat the system at the same time. Dudes, this is for you too. Hoorah!

So what did we learn in the last chapters? Stuff like…

Setting limits = longterm success – While burning yourself out in the short term may earn you quick kudos, you’re setting yourself up for a fall in the long run. If you crash and take your exhaustion to your boss, the last thing you want your boss to say is “Well, why didn’t you take your vacation days?” Self care is step one in being a productive member of any team.

“Intensive mothering” is a new phenomenon – The last few decades have seen the perceived importance of spending large amounts of time with your children culturally elevated to the point of imperative. A “good” mother is always around, 100% focused on the needs of her kids 100% of the time. This all-consuming standard is socially created; parenting has not always been this way and it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Keeping guilt-free time for yourself and your work is setting a good example for your kids; you’re teaching them about balance.

Whoever has the power takes the noun – This is a Gloria Steinem adage that Sandberg borrows to talk about being labeled the “female” COO. The reverse would be someone referring to a “male nurse;” “nurse” is assumed female and “COO” is assumed male. Many women don’t want to be the female XYZ because “no one wants their achievements modified.”

“Is this your thing now?” – If you start speaking up about an issue (gender, racism, homophobia, whatever it may be), suddenly that’s your “thing.” While quietly fitting in may still be the safest path (and in past worlds may have been the only safe path), it’s not a strategy that bodes well for the gender as a whole. So yeah… it’s one of my many “things,” got a problem?

The Bias Blind Spot – If you are overconfident in your own powers of objectivity, you can fail to correct for your biases. And we all have biases. Studies show that people who believe themselves to be the most impartial actually exhibited more bias in hiring and promotion.

Benevolent Sexism (aka Nice Guy Misogyny) – Men who hold positive but outdated views of women tend to view women in the workplace less favorably, promote fewer women, and think that companies with high percentages of women run less smoothly. Benevolent sexism often manifests in admiring but reductionist comments about women, i.e. “Women are good at nurturing, that’s just what they’re best at.” These comments, while technically positive, will ultimately lead to the discrediting, consciously or subconsciously, of female accomplishments that don’t fit a traditional gender model.

Raise the ceiling, raise the floor – While Sandberg’s advice is mostly targeted at professional women on a particular career path, her point is that women in power (in business, in policy, in everything) will lead to better conditions for women everywhere. Forty % of working mothers don’t have any sick leave at all. Families with no paid leave can go into debt taking care of sick kids or elderly parents. Basically, working conditions suck, and diversifying the pool of leaders who form those decisions can only mean good things for everyone.

So there’s that. Hey readers, did anyone think I missed anything big?

Related Post: You get no points if you don’t do the work: women in tech

Related Post: Sex talk in the modern workplace

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Sheryl, Week 2

Hilarious stock photography of "work life balance"

Hilarious stock photography of “work life balance”

My trip through Lean In continues this week with chapters 5 through 8. While I found the first third of the book to be a helpful account of some of the attitudinal prejudices facing women in the workforce (and some reasonable strategies for coping with them), the middle third is not doing it for me. It may be because large swaths of it are about parenting (and I am not a parent), but I also find the advice to be less follow-able. Finding a good husband is not as straight-forward as collecting “kudos” emails from co-workers to share at your performance review, you know?

Sheryl uses these four chapters to discuss the “work life balance” question (the old WLB? Can we call it that?), and spends, in my opinion, an awful lot of time discussing guilt in its various forms and not quite enough time on institutionally sexist policies that reinforce that guilt. For example, I’d love to see a real discussion about how childcare arrangements can be influenced by gendered policies. If you’ve got 3 months paid maternity leave, and your husband has two weeks of all-purpose family leave, well, who do you think is going to take a step back from work for a while? Rather than allowing each family to find the right balance for themselves, these policies put strong economic incentives behind traditional gender roles.

Anyway, there was definitely still some good stuff in there, and I continue to think that if nothing else, Lean In is asking the right questions and starting the right conversations. From Chapters 5 through 8:

  • Managing a Business vs. Managing a Career – Sandberg observes that a lot of the questions she gets from young women revolve around career decision-making, rather than business-decision making. While these questions are valid, they are not impressive, and the clear-thinking, insightful, carefully plannd business questions she gets from young men are the ones that really show off your smarts. This is particularly relevant, she says, when looking for a mentor. Rather than ask for help managing your career trajectory, ask a mentor to help you solve the toughest questions you face in your current role so you can be the best employee ever.
  • No Such Thing as Objective Truth – There is my point of view, and there is your point of view, but there is rarely an absolute truth to a situation. Beginning from “here’s my take, now tell me yours” is a quicker, more gracious way to figure out where the sticking points are then coming out of the gate swinging about the Way Things Are. So,… approach work convos like marital counseling? Lots of “I” statements.
  • The Problem with “Telephone” – The higher up you get, the more your employees will take your words as gospel, and they more they will get repeated. From co-worker to co-worker, simple ideas can get twisted into messy ones, and nuanced ones get oversimplified. Don’t trust the message to get through eight rounds of telephone intact, so make sure that everyone who needs to get it is in on the first round.
  • The Whole Self – The arrival of smart phones etc has in many ways made the division of “professional time” and “personal time” obsolete. Consequently, the idea of having a professional self and a personal self that are separate personas is increasingly hard to maintain. Sheryl’s POV (which I share) is that we are happier and more productive when we bring our “whole selves” to work. That can be as simple as sharing basic truths about ourselves (i.e. a gay employee confidently hanging framed family photos in the office) to allowing ourselves to be more emotional at work. That we are parents, windsurfers, marathoners, ukelele-players, volunteers, pet-owners, highly trained chefs, fluent in Spanish, or bloggers on the side (ahem), doesn’t need to be a secret.
  • “Career-Loving Parent” – The “working mom” title can be a big cross to bear, fraught as it is with connotations about being neither fully-committed to your parenting, nor fully-committed to your career. Sandberg cites a friend who prefers “Career-Loving Parent,” as a better, more accurate, more positive spin on the old standby. It’s also gender-neutral, which can allow women to confidently own the “career-loving” part, and men to confidently own the “parent” part.
  • “The Designated Parent” – Apparently, the Census Bureau still refers to the mother as the “designated parent” even in two-parent households. I find that pretty insulting, and I know a bunch of dads who probably feel the same way. More broadly, this kind of nomenclature carries with it all sorts of assumptions about caretaking and division of labor. When mothers take care of their kids, it’s “parenting.” When fathers take care of their kids, it’s “babysitting.” That’s clearly some serious b.s. and it’s easy to see how it puts extra expectations on women and demeans men. Not good for anyone.
  • Maternal Gatekeeping – This is a cool one, since I’ve never heard this term before. It refers to moms who constantly instruct their husbands on how to parent or criticize their techniques. It results in the “Oh here, just let me do it,” mentality that eventually contributes to severely lopsided divisions of labor. In the short term, it seems like the quicker solution, but in the longterm, it creates patterns about who does what that may not be what you want.
  • Averaging 50/50 – Even if your goal is to ultimately land at an evenly split division of household labor and child care, you can’t expect it to be perfectly 50/50 at every moment of every day. From week to week, month to month, quarter to quarter, the pendulum can swing between partners on each front, but it has to come out feeling fair or someone’s going to be pretty unhappy.

So yeah. The whole idea of men leaning in to their families while women lean in at work so everyone is happy seems really great. I just don’t have a husband at the moment, so the advice, while probably good, doesn’t feel especially relevant. Let’s talk in 2025, cool?

Related Post: The “Idiot Dad” trope

Related Post: On Anne-Marie Slaughter and “having it all”

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Update on the Re-education Project

The view from the Sixth Floor Museum, in Dallas. See those green signs? That's about where Kennedy's car was when he was shot.

The view from the Sixth Floor Museum, in Dallas. See those green signs? That’s about where Kennedy’s car was when he was shot.

Apologies for the radio silence, mi amors. I’ve been in Texas complaining about the weather (I was cheated out of my 75 and sunny!), eating, and weeping at the Sixth Floor Museum (in the building from which Kennedy was shot).

You guys are seriously the best. Last week, I put out the call for movie/TV suggestions to help launch my “re-education project”  in which I try to round out my knowledge of historical on-screen portrayals of the ladies. The suggestions were fantastic and I’m just about ready to quit my job and sit in front of netflix all day. Later this week, I’ll list out all of the suggestions in case you want to undertake your own watch-a-thon.

Let’s talk about Waitress. This wasn’t even supposed to be an official part of the project; I had it filed away in my head as cutesy romance about a pregnant pie maker and her OB. Wow was I wrong. I mean, I’m not entirely wrong, that is what it’s about, but it’s about so much more! This is a feminist movie. About pie. And pregnancy. And romance. This proves, once again, that feminism is not about shitting on pies or babies, but is instead about thinking critically about what choices we afford people, what assumptions we make, and how gendered expectations can limit opportunity.

Waitress, if you don’t know, was a film written and directed by Adrienne Shelly (who was murdered in 2006), about a small-town diner waitress, Jenna, stuck in an abusive marriage. It could have been a heavy-handed film about domestic violence, capital D, capital V. Instead, it’s a sweet, silly, beautiful movie that also happens to capture some truths about domestic abuse that we are all very good at ignoring.

I happened to spend my Texas weekend with a friend who is a domestic violence counselor and she agreed that Waitress, through it’s humor and likability, is able to get at some of the insidious, less acknowledged components of abusive relationships. So many people say to her, why don’t these women just leave? Money is often the culprit, as it is with Jenna, who addresses “how lonely it is to be so poor and so afraid.”

waitressHer husband, Earl, is also not the caricature of an abuser we often see. He is not outright mean and aggressive, but controls Jenna through manipulation and subtle threats. He keeps her money so she won’t have other options. He undermines her confidence with casual insults. He tells her exactly what to say, and how to say it, forcing her to repeat to him the words he wants to hear. He also cries against her pregnant belly. He is weak and insecure, and he hides his insecurity behind faux swagger. He says things like:

“After everything I’ve done for you…”

“I provide for you. I put the clothes on your back, the roof over your head.”

“You’re the only thing I’ve ever loved.”

“You belong to me.”

“Ask me how was my day. Ask me like you mean it.”

Not all abuse looks like a black eye. Waitress also acknowledges the extremely precarious position Jenna’s pregnancy forces her into. Take Jenna’s observation about her unborn baby:

It’s an alien and a parasite. It makes me tired and weak. It complicates my whole life. I resent it. I don’t know how to take care of it.

It’s frank, it’s candid. She later says to her friend, “Not everybody wants to be a mama, Dawn, that doesn’t make me a bad person.” These are poor women. They are uneducated women. They are diner waitresses who expect to be diner waitresses forever, because there are no other choices. The ending of the movie (Spoiler Alert) also reinforces how trapped they are. Jenna is given a whopping financial gift from a dying customer and is able to rescue herself and her baby from her situation. It’s a fairytale, but through the transparent rosy glow of Jenna’s happy ending, it’s all the more evident how few happy endings real women in her position would have.

So yeah, it’s a movie about pie. There are lots of pastel colors, and Cheryl Hines cracking jokes, and Nathan Fillion looking dashing. But really, it’s a movie about what happens when you’re trapped and how hard we’ve made it to rescue yourself.

Related Post: Another great feminist movie, For a Good Time Call…

Related Post: Beasts of the Southern Wild

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