Saturday, March 31, 2012

Language Matters

If you are a woman, you have probably noticed that the English language has an abundance of derogatory, hateful, nasty, defamatory and downright ugly words to describe women and their anatomy.  Where men are concerned, the English language really doesn’t have comparable terms for the male of the species.  Take a moment and think about it.  How many can you come up with? 

Rush - constantly describing women with defamatory speech

Language is just another area in which women are treated unequally.   Language has long been important to me.  Many years ago, when I was deeply involved in the animal rights movement, I gave a talk at one of our meetings about colloquialisms we use on a daily basis, without even thinking about them.  Things like:
  • ·         More than one way to skin a cat
  • ·         Like shooting fish in a barrel
  • ·         You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
  • ·         Like a rat in a trap
  • ·         A wolf in sheep’s clothing
  • ·         Kill two birds with one stone
My suggestion, at the time, was to substitute BROCCOLI for the non-human animal species named in the phrase.  When used, it gets people’s attention to the cruelty of the common phrase.  Guess I was ahead of my time, in light of the recent discussions about the Affordable Healthcare Act.  Now I’m starting to feel bad for broccoli.

And, of course, it’s common when making derogatory comments about people, they are compared to animals in a negative way.  Some of the name calling includes:
  • ·         Pig 
  • ·         Dog 
  • ·         Cow 
  • ·         Horse’s ass 
  • ·         Snake 
  • ·         Harpy 
  • ·         Rat 
  • ·         Worm 
  • ·         Hare-brained
For me, instead of defaming the person, whose acts or actions are deplorable, it demeans the very character of the animal.  Personally, I think calling someone a “human” is a more accurate and defamatory epithet.  That’s because, for me, we humans have more offensive characters than do any other species of animal. 

So, now that you’ve had some time to ponder the inequality of our language, how is your list coming along?  Has it become clear yet that both women and non-human animals are most often the ones who have negatively descriptive words about them?  How is that list of insulting words and phrases for men coming along?  Those most often used include calling a man a girl, a douche bag or a pussy.  Doesn’t that seem to imply that being female is negative, instead of calling into question negative male characteristics or behavior?  Instead of “attacking” maleness, it attacks the female.  Even when a man is called a dick, is that really negative?  After all, isn’t his penis a man’s most prized and protected possession?  Isn’t that generally something he’s proud to possess and proud of? 

My point is, think before you speak.  Consider the meaning and, if you still insist on name-calling, then consider using more appropriate words or phrases.  Use ones that go more to the point to characterize the behavior you find offensive.  Words have power, so use them appropriately.  Here are my suggestions when a male steps over the line:
  • ·         Dick-less 
  • ·         Little man 
  • ·         Suffering from shrunken balls syndrome 
  • ·         He’s a real hand job 
  • ·         Eunuch 
  • ·         Castrado 
  • ·         Suffers from vagina envy 
  • ·         Limp dick 
  • ·         Testosterone poisoning 
  • ·         Suffering from penis separation anxiety

    Then there is my personal favorite, one that I’ve used for years:

    The bigger the gun, the smaller the dick.  

    Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments section.

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    A Cat Like No Other

    I took a slight hiatus in college and went to work, driving a catering truck, in 1972/73.  As I was pulling off the lot in my truck one morning, I spotted a white cat near the office.  It was apparent he was beat up, with injuries that made him walk with great difficulty.  Throughout the day, he was on my mind.  I feared another truck would return to the lot and he wouldn’t be able to get out of the way, and would get run over and killed.  When I pulled in at the end of the day, I saw he was still there and was greatly relieved. 

    At the end of the day, it was necessary to pack up any of the sandwiches and other items that needed refrigeration and take them up to the office.  We’d also turn in our money for the day.  As I turned to head up to the office I saw the kitty had managed to drag himself all the way down to my truck.  Needless to say, I knew he’d be going home with me. 

    I turned in my stuff, picked him up and put him into my car with me.  Of course, I had no cat carrier in the car, and he proceeded to lie down on my thigh.  Off we went to the vet’s office to see what could be done to fix him up.  For the entire trip, he calmly slept on my leg.  The vet determined he had been hit by a car some time ago and the bones in both his back legs and his tail had healed, but not in their proper positions.  He felt that if the cat wasn’t able to get around that the best solution would be to amputate one of his legs.  He said it would be easier for him to get around on 3 good legs. 

    I named him Chester, after Dennis Weaver’s character on Gunsmoke.  Chester was a blacksmith who walked with a severe limp.  My Chester’s tail was bent at a 90 degree angle and both of his back legs were bowed, so that he looked like Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp from the rear.  He immediately got along with my other cats and soon regained his strength, thanks to regular meals and plenty of love. 

    Chester came into my life when my other cats included Casey (the beloved), Cerulea, Cinnamon, Cricket and Corky.  Casey preferred to be held and would jump into my arms from the floor or anywhere he happened to be.  Chester wanted to do the same, but his back legs weren’t strong enough.  He learned to jump into my arms from counter tops.  And, a college friend taught him to climb up our legs.  That was fine when we were wearing those old fashioned Levi men’s jeans that were heavy duty denim – nothing like today’s jeans.  Of course, Chester didn’t discriminate.  It didn’t matter whether you were wearing jeans, or shorts, or a nightgown with bare legs.  If he wanted UP, he was going to get there. 

    Chester was the most laid back, trusting cat that I’ve ever had.  I could hold my arms in front of me, and he would fall asleep on them.  I would grab both his back legs with one hand and his front legs with my other and put him around my neck, where he would also fall asleep.  He could sleep anywhere.  After spending at least 30 minutes putting together our artificial Christmas tree one year, making sure all of the branches were just perfect, I left the room for about 15 minutes.  When I came back into the room, I noticed that the tree looked a bit lopsided, with one branch hanging low right in the middle of the tree.  I didn’t understand how I could have missed that branch.  But, I didn’t.  While I was gone, Chester had climbed into the tree, straddled the branch and fallen asleep.

    Chester gave me one of the biggest scares of my life.  We had a phone installed in our kitchen and I didn’t discover that the technician had left our back door standing open when he left.  It never occurred to me that someone would simply leave a door to the outside wide open, especially when there were cats and dogs in the house.  After counting noses, I discovered that Chester was missing.  At the time we lived a block off U.S. 441, a major highway in Miami.  My mother, a neighbor and I walked the neighborhood calling Chester to no avail.  I feared he would either get killed by a car or a dog.  Our dog, Cody, loved Chester.  She would “mouth” him, up and down his back.  Chester loved it.  Maybe he thought he was getting a massage.  But Cody would leave him with wet, spiked hair running down his spine.  He had no fear of dogs because of Cody and if he encountered a dog while outside, he wouldn’t run or even defend himself.  It wasn’t until hours later that I found him, across the street lying in the grass.  Fortunately, he was fine. 

    I called Chester my football cat.  Many years ago, I was a big Miami Dolphins football fan.  I had a tendency to get a bit excited when watching the game and would yell quite a bit.  Once the screaming started, Chester would dash into the room from wherever he had been, and jump into my lap.  Seeing that I wasn’t in danger and didn’t need him to rescue me from an attacker, he would curl up in my lap and go to sleep.  I don’t know how he slept through my hollering, but he slept contentedly throughout the game and commotion.  I lost him to kidney disease when he wasn’t much older than 10 years old.  Football watching was never the same and not as much fun, once he was gone.  He was certainly one of a kind and a true delight.  It’s been about 30 years since his death and I still miss him to this day. 

    Sunday, March 18, 2012

    Values & Morals, Part 1

    Unless you make a concerted effort to avoid television, radio and serious discussions you know that the discussion in the U.S. for the past few months has been dominated by the topics of morals, morality and values.  The majority of the talk has involved women’s behavior and the consequences thereof.  Most of this rhetoric has been coming from the Right, primarily due to the Republican presidential primaries and Rush Limbaugh.  These players have dominated the conversation. 

    Unlike the political shows that I regularly watch and blogs that I regularly read, I want to talk about the values that I hold dear and my take on morals and morality.  Why?  Well a friend recently directed me to the latest post by George Lakoff, a linguist and professor whose work I greatly admire.  To check out the inspiration for this post, go here:

    First a disclaimer:  these are my beliefs and are not a part of a tradition, codified ideology, religious doctrine or political party.  While as a self-described ecofeminist, my point of view is what I arrived at after evaluating my life experiences and the books that I have chosen to read.  I haven’t had any formal training, taken any women’s studies classes in college, nor undergone any sort of indoctrination process.  Feel free to identify with one from Column A, two from Column B or any distribution you want, including rejecting all of the following.  For the time being, at least, this is a relatively free country. 

    In my formative years I attended the local Lutheran church.  In preparation for confirmation in the faith, I attended a 2 year long, weekly Bible study program with others my age.  Because of my affinity for animals, most likely from birth, I frequently questioned some of what is in the Bible.  Animal sacrifices bothered me immensely.  Additionally, the absence of women in the many lineages (a man begat this man, who begat that man and so on), I was disturbed by this omission of half of the human race’s participation in populating the world.  Where were the mothers?  Even at a very young age, it seemed to me that the chronicles recorded in the Bible were weighted heavily toward men.  The inequities visited upon women were apparent to me at a very early age, long before the second wave of feminism.  And, incidentally as a Lutheran, I was taught a distrust of and opposition to the Catholic Church, which remains with me to this day. 

    Also at an early age I became interested in witches and witchcraft.  Maybe it was because I was an avid fan of the afternoon soap opera, Dark Shadows.  I certainly can attribute my fascination with vampires to that show and Barnabas Collins/Jonathan Frid.  I read whatever I could find on the Inquisition (conducted by the dreaded Catholic Church) and the persecution of so-called witches.  The primary targets of the Church were women, especially women who served as mid-wives and healers in their communities.  Most were widows with valuable property.  And, of course, many of them had cats.  When these women were found guilty of witchcraft, they were either burned alive at the stake or drowned.  Their cats faced the same fates because it was believed that the cats were the Devil who had transformed himself into a cat, which was most often a black cat.  Where do you think all of those myths about black cats actually came from?  Why are black cats singled out as bad luck?  Why do cats, in general, elicit such hatred even today?  The witch burnings also succeeded in destroying Women’s Wisdom, which many of these women possessed.  And, of course, their horrible deaths served as a way to keep women “in their place”, submissive, subjugated and compliant to men.  This is probably the beginning of my foreshadowing of my fate as well – I could envision a burning stake in my future. 

    VALUE #1:  A woman is as much of a person as a man.  Women are as smart as men, women are as capable and competent as men. 

    For the first 40 years of my life, I loved animals.  It wasn’t until my best friend and very first cat, Casey, died that I came to respect animals and their inherent worth.  My circle of compassion widened to include all living things.  I came across a quote that sums up my feelings better than I ever could.  The following was written by Henry Beston in his book The Outermost House:

    “We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

    VALUE #2:  All living things – be they non-human animals or plants – have as much of a right to live and as much of a value as humans.  We, as humans, have no right to question their purpose for being.  They exist and therefore they have purpose and value.  Their lives, their very survival, are as important to them as ours are to each of us.

    I don’t want to be misunderstood here.  I am talking about living things who exist, not fetuses who may or may not have the potential to be born alive.  I personally find it disgusting that there are those people who place a higher value on the potential life of a fetus than they do on living, breathing, already born children and women.  To ignore the health and well-being of a child, a woman or a non-human animal and dedicate one’s time, money and passion on a potential life is beyond cruel, it’s evil. 

    VALUE #3:  Humans are part of, not apart from, the animal kingdom and the rest of Nature.

    Do you remember the childhood game, animal/vegetable/mineral?  You would be given the name of something and have to determine which category it fell into.  Humans are neither a vegetable nor a mineral therefore, at least, in this scenario they are an animal.  Much of our behavior can be understood by a better understanding of the behavior of those non-human animals to whom we are most closely related – other mammals. 

    I plan to make this an ongoing series of posts.  I’m going to sign off for today and try to get some things done around the house.  There are dishes to wash, laundry to do and litter boxes to scoop.  Wish me success in getting my To Do list for today completed.  Hopefully, I’ll also get my potato soup made as well.  I’ll end with the recipe, in the event you’re interested in giving this vegan version a try.


    Russet potatoes – number depend on how much soup you want to make or the size of your stock pot
    16 oz bag of frozen peas & carrots
    Unsweetened soy milk
    Smart Balance vegan margarine spread (equivalent to half a stick of butter)
    Salt & pepper to taste

    Peel & slice potatoes.  Put them in a steamer inside a stock pot.  Cook until tender.  Drain the water from the stock pot and transfer the potatoes into the stock pot.  Fill the pot with the unsweetened soy milk until the potatoes are nearly covered.  Add margarine and the frozen peas and carrots.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook on low until the peas and carrots are fully cooked, stirring frequently.  Note:  I have never tried freezing this.  It’s too yummy and gone in no time at all.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

    Celebrating Female Vocalists

    Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of male singers and all male groups that I really, really like.  However, throughout the years I’ve found that most of my go to music, my all time favorites are female singers.  Most of them you have, no doubt, heard of.  Some, however, might be unknown to you.  

    Minnie Ripperton
    Far and away,  Minnie Ripperton is my favorite singer.  Her vocal range was amazing, spanning five and a half octaves.  On some songs you would swear it was actually a musical instrument and not her voice.  A high school friend introduced me to The Rotary Connection and Minnie was the lead singer.  She came out of retirement in 1973 with the album Perfect Angel, which had a number 1 hit, Lovin’ You.  She had two children, one of whom is Maya Rudolph of SNL fame.  I was fortunate enough to see Minnie perform in person at the Jai Lai Fronton in Casselberry in the 70s.  She was the opening act for England Dan & John Ford Coley.  She lost her life to breast cancer at the age of 32 in 1979.  You can watch Minnie at this link:

    Billie Holiday
    Another woman whose voice was simply incredible was Billie Holiday.  I only discovered her after seeing the Diana Ross film, Lady Sings the Blues.  I loved the film and the music and I proceeded to buy every Billie Holiday album that I could find.  I have never heard anyone make me feel a song like she does.  I’ve found myself crying while listening to her sing a blues song. Here's Billie singing Strange Fruit:  Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit

    Once again a film introduced me to nother woman who could transmit true emotions in her music.  The film was Sweet Dreams and the singer was Patsy Cline.  I developed an appreciation for her great gift and incredible music. 

    Laura Nyro
    My best friend in college, Sandi Whidden, introduced me to Laura Nyro.  Her name may not be familiar to you, but her songs probably are, if you’re 40 or older.  Some of the songs she wrote that became hits for other singers include:  And When I Die, Stoned Soul Picnic, Stoney End, Wedding Bell Blues and  Eli’s Comin’.  Laura died of ovarian cancer at the age of 49. Here's a video of Laura singing Save the Country: Laura Nyro 

    Carole King
    Few writers and performers have written as many hit songs as Carole King.  She had her first hit at the age of 18 and is still writing and performing today at the age of 70.  Her album, Tapestry, is considered by many as one of the all time greatest albums.  I have worn out both my album and CD of Tapestry…..and need to get a new copy!  Every song on that album is wonderful.   So many of her songs have been number 1 hits for a variety of artists from James Taylor to Aretha Franklin.  That first hit was Will You Love Me Tomorrow, sung by The Shirelles (one of my favorite girl groups growing up). 

    Some of my other personal favorite female vocalists and song writers include: Bonnie Raitt, Barbra Streisand, Lesley Gore, Mavis Staples, Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Gladys Knight, Karen Carpenter, Janis Joplin, Natalie Mains (of The Dixie Chicks), Roberta Flack and Bette Midler (Boogie, Woogie Bugle Boy originally made famous by The Andrews Sisters – love, love, love them). 

    Who are some of your favorites? 

    Celebrate Women’s History Month by listening to some great music performed and/or written by women.

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    March is Women's History Month

    How much do you know about women throughout history?  When I went to school, very little was taught about women.  In fact, they were almost entirely absent from the history books.  Betsy Ross sewed the flag and Sacajawea led Lewis & Clark on their exploration of the West.   

    Betsy Ross
    Very few of the books that were required reading were written by women.  Although we read Silas Marner, I don’t remember being told that the author, George Eliot, was in fact a woman using a pseudonym. 
    George Eliot/Mary Anne Evans

    And, it wasn’t until I was in college that I learned that women did not have the right to vote in America until 1920.  

    The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted all American women the right to vote, was ratified in August, 1920.  Did you know that prior to that date, women did vote in some locations in the U.S.?  Here are some interesting facts:

    •   Lydia Chapin Taft voted legally in 1756 at a town meeting in Uxbridge, Massachusetts.  The right was temporary and not protected by law
    •  Unmarried women and widows were granted the right to vote under New Jersey’s state constitution of 1776.  Their right to vote ended in 1807 when the law changed to include only white males.
    • Wyoming, while still a territory, granted voting rights to women in December, 1869.  Wyoming became a state in 1890 and women’s right to vote was codified in the state constitution.
    • The Utah Territory gave women the right to vote in February, 1870.  The United States Congress took away women’s right to vote in Utah in 1887 and it wasn’t restored until Utah became a state in 1896. 
    •  Colorado adopted an amendment granting women’s suffrage in 1893. 

    You can find a timeline of the Women’s Suffrage Movement here:

    But women’s participation in history isn’t simply limited to their work to win the right to vote.  Although all too often relegated as such, women have been more than window dressing throughout the history of the world and America. 

    Many years ago I read the series of books written by Inglis Fletcher.  The last books in her series took place in Edenton, North Carolina.  Although they were historical fiction, many of the characters were real, with some being residents of Edenton before the Civil War.  I had a chance to visit the Outer Banks and Edenton.  While there I found out about the Women’s Tea Party that occurred in 1774.  You can read more about it here:

    Take some time to learn more about the many women who have played important roles throughout history.  Celebrate their achievements and let them inspire you.  Women, like Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great and Cleopatra ruled powerful countries.  Others, like Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, Diane Fossey & Mary Leakey advanced science.  Delores Huerta co-founded the United Farmworkers along with Cesar Chavez.  Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, helped bring Zora Neale Hurston’s writings to worldwide attention.  Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm were groundbreaking African American women elected to Congress.  Women’s voices must be part of all nation’s dialogs.  Our voices have been marginalized and/or silenced for far too long.  Women’s history is our history, it’s every person’s history and should be celebrated each and every day of the year.