Tuesday, 2 September 2014 12:28 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Yesterday I was skimming the digital New York Times and clicked on the second-from-the-right item in the panel below, without noticing the "paid post" superscript:

This took me to an article about a new smartphone app called Somebody:

Here’s how Somebody works: when you send your friend or loved one a message through the app, it doesn’t go directly to them, but uses GPS to locate the Somebody user nearest to him or her. This person (probably a stranger) delivers the message verbally, acting as your stand-in.

I thought it was a bit odd that the piece was listed as "By Miu Miu", but hey. And I still didn't notice the small-font superscript "PAID FOR AND POSTED BY MIU MIU":

Instead, I read ahead in the article, which describes a short film illustrating the app in operation:

The companion film plays out a number of possible scenarios. Jessica — red haired, sobbing on her bed — wants to break up with Caleb. She opens the Somebody app, types the heartbreaking message, and selects ‘Paul’ from a list. Paul’s phone dings; he accepts the Somebody request. He eyes Caleb having a picnic. Paul — three times Jessica’s slight size, and seriously sweaty after a workout — delivers the bad news to Caleb… as Jessica. Paul’s is bawling and his arms are flapping. Naturally Caleb is devastated, and Paul is soon on his way.

Somebody, the app, goes on to save best friends Yolanda and Blanca’s busted friendship. It allows Jeffy to propose marriage to sad looking Victoria, despite the fact that she’s dining alone in a fancy restaurant. And it initiates two prison guards into a sexually enthralling ménage-a-trois with a parched potted plant named Anthony who wants much, much more than just water. “Somebody twists our love of avatars and outsourcing,” says Miranda July. “Every relationship becomes a three-way.”

At this point, I began to wonder whether I'd wandered into a new NYT deadpan social-satire section. Looking around, I discovered that instead I'd wandered into an advertisement for Miuccia Prada's Autumn-Winter Collection. The "post" eventually gets there:

The power of Somebody is quite literally in everybody out there willing to become somebody else.

Clothing, similarly, has the power to create instant transformation. The styling of July’s film for Somebody mixes items from the Miu Miu Autumn/Winter 2014 collection with vintage and street wear. In ten short minutes, action segues from bedroom heartbreak to prim waitresses to erotically challenged prison guards. Ordinary people: me, you and somebody we know.

There's more:

“Technology is like high fashion,” explains July, “It’s revealed to us mysteriously, season by season and we’re not meant to mess with it. But of course it only becomes meaningful when we do. Somebody is really half-human, half-app — I wanted to facilitate the giddy joy that comes from unpredictable, undocumented moments, but the technology depends on a daring human user.

These qualities are central to the hand-made look and feel of the app interface. A mouth button includes actions and directions for your stand-in (‘crying,’ ‘hug.’) The recipient can always decline a delivery (if it’s not a good time.) And users can rate Somebodies on their performance. If you’re feeling bold, “floating messages” are always awaiting delivery (and the rest of us can just read them voyeuristically.)

It took many weeks for Miranda July to think of the perfect name for her new project — it came to her with the perfect tag line: “When you can’t be there…Somebody™ can.”

Does Somebody™ actually exist? I don't want to know.


Why It Matters That Farris Strawmanned Patriarchy

Tuesday, 2 September 2014 11:33 am
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Posted by Libby Anne

Last week Michael Farris published his white paper, A Line in the Sand. As I mentioned at the time, I appreciate his efforts to distance himself, and HSLDA, from the more extreme voices of the Christian homeschooling world. However, as I wrote immediately afterwards, Farris mischaracterized Doug Phillips’ views and those of Phillips’ organization, Vision Forum, throughout his piece. He wrote that “patriarchy teaches that women in general should be subject to men in general” and that “women are not to be the de facto slaves of men,” suggesting that this was what Phillips and his associates taught, when it was not.

Look, I’ve read the writings of Phillips and other proponents of patriarchy in the Christian homeschooling world, and no one says that women are to be men’s slaves, or that women in general should be subject to men in general. Now yes, we can look at its teachings—that wives must obey their husbands and that adult daughters are under their fathers’ authority until marriage, for instance—and argue that this amounts to slavery (though even then I would not say it amounts to women in general being subject to men in general). But one reason that patriarchy has attracted so many followers in these circles is that it is presented as being protective of women, good for women, fulfilling and safe for women.

Doug Phillips founded the Christian Boys’ and Men’s Titanic Society, and has frequently harkened back to the Titanic as a time when chivalry was still alive and the cry of “women and children first!” was still honored. As Phillips wrote before his organization’s 100th anniversary celebration of the sinking of the Titanic:

Every element of the Titanic 100 is designed to leave your family with stories they will retain for the rest of their lives, inspiring them to remember the heroism of the past and to embrace a fundamental principle of Christian civilization—that women and children are to be honored and protected.

Vision Forum’s Titanic anniversary celebration was well attended and included full costume and a Titanic play put on by the children, in addition to tea and a variety of remembrance ceremonies.


Let me bring this back to Farris’s white paper. Farris’s portrayal of Phillips’ beliefs was in part a flat-out strawman and in part a description that, while sometimes true, would never be recognized or claimed by Phillips’ followers. By painting the picture he did, Farris gave Phillips’ followers ample room to to say “that’s not us” and carry on as before.

The problem, of course, is that Farris could not get at what Phillips actually believes, because he shares too much of it—the idea that wives must submit to and obey their husbands, for instance, and the idea that women’s role is in the home. Farris is as anti-feminist as Phillips. He, like Phillips, believed feminism has contributed to the “destruction” of the family, and that child protective services undermines the authority of the family, and so on. He can’t actually get at what Phillips believes because what he believes is too close to it. So instead he created a strawman version of Phillips’ beliefs and torched it.

This matters. It matters a lot. It matters because Phillips’ wife Beall could do this:


“Your representation of what Doug and I believe and what we have taught through Vision Forum was rife with gross error,” Beall says, and not incorrectly. “Your caricature of our views would be humorous if it were not so grossly offensive.”

It matters because it allowed Jennifer McBride, the homeschooling mother and author who runs the website Noble Womanhood, to write her own article, “A Line in the Sand and a Stab in the Back”:

We listened to almost every message VF [Vision Forum] ever produced and read almost every book or article they published on this topic and are extremely familiar with their stance. We agreed with VF’s stance personally. We are among the families that believe in Biblical patriarchy and we absolutely do not believe the things Mr. Farris has accused us of. We personally know many other families who also appreciated and agreed with Vision Forum’s teachings and they also in no way hold to, or practice patriarchy as defined by Mr. Farris.

. . .

It is one thing to address wrong teaching. That is necessary, well and good. It is quite another thing, however, to define what someone believes, accuse them of error and then attack them based on something that is a total fabrication, that they repeatedly deny and that can be proven as false from multiple public and easily obtained sources.

There is another reason it matters. It matters because it allowed Farris to argue, last spring, that Voddie Baucham is not part of the patriarchy movement he was beginning to condemn, even though Baucham has been and still is at the absolute center of that movement. Because Farris’ caricature of what he calls the “patriarchy movement” is that it does not allow its daughters to attend college, and because Baucham allowed his daughter to attend an online college called CollegePlus while living at home, Farris wrote Baucham out of the patriarchy movement, and was willing to speak alongside him at Virginia’s HEAV convention last June.

Of course, as I wrote at the time, the problem with this is that Doug Phillips and Vision Forum heavily promoted CollegePlus, which was in fact founded by homeschoolers for the purpose of enrolling homeschool graduates whose parents did not want to send them away to college. In other words, CollegePlus was arguably founded by and for the “patriarchy movement”—but this reality does not fit Farris’s caricature of that movement. Instead, for Farris, that Baucham’s daughter was getting a degree through CollegePlus meant he was not part of the patriarchy movement.

In the near future, we will continue to see people like Beall Phillips and Jennifer McBride being able to sway others by pointing out that Farris’s critique is a strawman and a caricature, and painting their own pretty picture of what patriarchy actually is. Now sure, they would likely try to wiggle out of Farris’s critique however worded, but Farris’s misrepresentation of what they teach has made their job easy. This is a problem because it will make them more effective at continuing their hold on other families.

Yes, Farris has distanced himself and HSLDA from Kevin Swanson. This is good, but it appears to be related to Swanson’s willingness to laugh at abuse and neglect in homeschooling circles, not Swanson’s embrace of patriarchy. It is also true that many more moderate Christian homeschooling families have interpreted Farris’s critique of patriarchy very broadly, and that his critique has alienated many supporters of patriarchy. These things are good, and I don’t want to minimize that.

But until Farris can be more honest in his critique of patriarchy, his efforts to combat it will be stymied by the fact that what he is combatting is a caricature rather than the actual thing. We will see Farris continue finding ways to defend and support some supporters of patriarchy (like Voddie Baucham) and being correctly and effectively accused of strawmanning by other supporters of patriarchy (like Jennifer McBride). But as I wrote earlier, the problem is that Farris can’t be more honest. He has to strawman Phillips’ positions, because Phillips’ positions were too close to his own for comfort. The difference between them is marginal, and appears to be centered solely on whether adult daughters remain under their father’s authority until marriage. In fact, I doubt there is even that much difference, or at least that there was in the past—it is my understanding that Patrick Henry College, the college Farris founded to raise up homeschooled young people for government and other culturally influential careers, originally required young men to get permission from a young woman’s parents before being allowed to date her.

I would say that it would help if Farris would come clean and admit that he used to believe the things Phillips taught, but I’m not sure he can, because I suspect he still believes most if not all of them. How can you call out patriarchy, really call it out, when you believe wives must submit to and obey their husbands, even when their husbands are wrong? You can’t. All you can do is create a strawman version of “patriarchy” and then burn it—which is exactly what Farris did.

Some Follow-up Thoughts about God and Genocide

Tuesday, 2 September 2014 12:12 pm
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Posted by Roger E. Olson

Some Follow-up Thoughts about the Bible and Genocide   Comments here responding to my earlier essay about Jesus, the children, and Old Testament texts of terror (e.g., God commanding Israel to slaughter infants) have often, in my opinion, distorted what I said—reading into my essay points I did not make. For example, I never suggested [Read More...]
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Posted by Roger E. Olson

Guest Post by John Inglis Re: Carl Trueman’s First Things article “A Church for Exiles”   From Roger Olson: I agree with those who have suggested that frequent commenter John Inglis is an excellent and insightful writer. I asked him to work one of his recent comments into a guest post for this blog and [Read More...]
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Posted by Rachel Held Evans

Today I am thrilled to introduce you to Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes, a theologian and psychologist whose mission is to serve as a catalyst for healing, justice, and reconciliation in the Christian church and beyond. 

I first learned about Dr. Walker-Barnes when Christena Cleveland wrote a stirring response to her first book, Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength, which examines the impact that the icon of the StrongBlackWoman has upon the health and well-being of African American women. I was so intrigued I read the book myself and was challenged, encouraged, and moved by it. The chapter on the Trinity profoundly changed the way I think about self-sacrifice and interdependence, particularly as a woman, so I knew the moment I finished the book I had to have the author on the blog. 

Dr. Walker-Barnes has earned degrees from Emory University, the University of Miami, and Duke University.  A candidate for ordination in the United Methodist Church, she is licensed to practice psychology in Georgia and North Carolina. She is currently Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling in the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University.  Born and raised in Atlanta, Dr. Walker-Barnes is married to Delwin Barnes, a mechanical engineer. They are the proud and very happy parents of one son, Micah. Check out her Web site here. 


RHE: I recently finished Chimamanda Adichie’s latest novel, Americanah, and one sentence in particular jumped out at me. In the wry voice of the story’s protagonist, Ifemelu, Adichie writes:  “In describing black women you admire, always use the word ‘STRONG’ because that is what black women are supposed to be in America.” That sentence took my breath away because it held so much truth, and yet it was a truth I’d never identified before. In Too Heavy a Yoke, you unpack this idea, identifying the StrongBlackWoman as “a legendary figure, typified by extraordinary capacities for caregiving and for suffering without complaint. She is a cultural myth that defines—and confines—ways of being in the world for women of African descent.” Where do we see this archetype/ideology in popular culture and in day-to-day life? Where might we recognize her?

CWB: It actually might be more appropriate to ask, Where don't we recognize her? Lifetime just premiered a new reality series called Girlfriend Intervention. The show's premise is that "trapped inside every White girl is a strong Black woman ready to bust out." It features four Black women who are "taught to always have it together and tell you like it is." They give makeovers and life advice to White women. The show seems to do a pretty accurate job of capturing the caricature of the StrongBlackWoman. Unfortunately, like most people, it fails to interrogate what that stereotype really entails. Instead, it celebrates it.

But that's not the only example. The StrongBlackWoman is ubiquitous in popular culture and in day-to-day life. It's hard to find a film or television character portrayed by a Black actress that does not personify the StrongBlackWoman in some way. You see her as Miranda Bailey in Grey's Anatomy, as Olivia Pope in Scandal, and as a key figure in every Tyler Perry film. Madea is the StrongBlackWoman on steroids! 

Unfortunately, examples of the StrongBlackWoman are not limited to film. You also see her in the African American women whom you encounter on a daily basis. One of the most striking experiences that I've had in writing this book is the fact that when I describe what a StrongBlackWoman is, nearly everyone I talk to, regardless of their own race and gender, can identify some woman in their life who lives into the role – a family member, friend, co-worker, or congregation member who constantly sacrifices herself on behalf of others, who carries an inordinately heavy load of responsibility, and who rarely asks for help. 

You write about how the pressure to live up to the StrongBlackWoman ideal affected your own health, self-esteem, and emotional and relational well-being. How does the pressure to be perpetually strong hurt Black women?  How is it "an ill-fitting suit of armor"? 

About ten years ago, I found myself in the midst of a stress-induced health crisis. I realized that my personal and emotional suffering came from trying to be all things to all people and taking care of everyone except myself—in other words, trying to be a StrongBlackWoman.

Over time, I began to realize just how widespread a problem this is among Black women and how it's impacting our health. First I noticed it among my therapy clients, many of whom were professional Black women on the verge of physical and emotional breakdown from trying to be strong. Then I noticed it in the church. And when I started looking into health statistics, I realized that there is a major health epidemic among Black women in this country that is hidden under the veneer of strength. For many indicators of physical and emotional health, Black women do more poorly than Black men and women of other races. Obesity, diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS—all these occur at higher rates among Black women. And Black women often have the highest mortality rates from many major causes of death.

On the outside, it may look like we have it all together. But inside, we're suffering, even to the point of death.

You say that often “the church reinforces the mythology of the StrongBlackWoman by silencing, ignoring, and even romanticizing the suffering of Black women.” Can you give us some common examples of how that happens?

I see this happen a lot in the church when Black women suffer tragedies such as financial struggle, a terminal or fatal illness, and the death of a child or spouse. Those women are encouraged to be strong, that is, to hide any signs of distress and to pretend as if everything is okay. Recently, an ordained African American woman posted on Facebook, "Pretending to be happy when you are going through a difficult time in life is just an example of how strong a person you really are." I decided not to respond, but it was really frustrating to observe as several other Black women co-signed that message. In the church broadly, there remains this view that suffering is women's lot in life. Of course, that comes from a distortion of Genesis 3. That view becomes even further complicated when it's layered with race. In the church, it seems to me that Black women - more than any other racial/gender group - are taught that strain and suffering are indicative of holiness. We are taught to put on a good face in the midst of our struggle, rather than to ask for help. That's pretty convenient for the church, because as long as they praise us for being strong in the midst of suffering, they're excused from having to do anything about our suffering.

I think a lot of Christian women, myself included, tend to internalize Christian teachings about self-sacrifice in ways that are unhealthy. You argue that a better understanding of the Trinity can help women see mutual self-giving, rather than self-denial and self-sacrifice, as the paradigm for Christian love. How is that?

Christian tradition has long held that humanity's primary sin is pride. So we are constantly being admonished to relinquish our pride and to empty ourselves on behalf of others. "No cross, no crown" is the way we often hear it. But for many—perhaps most—women, our fundamental problem is not that we have too high a view of ourselves; it's that we have too low a view. We do not view and love ourselves as fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of the Divine. Our issue is not that we need to empty ourselves of pride and learn to deny ourselves. Most women – regardless of race – master that pretty early in life. Our problem tends to be giving of ourselves to the point where there is no self left, to the point that we don't even realize who we are and who we are called to be. 

The beauty of the Trinity, though, is that it gives us a different model of relating to one another. In the Trinity, we have three beings who fully contain and are fully contained by each other without being diminished by one another. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one and yet they are also unique. It's a mystery that we may never fully understand, but it points us to the idea that being in relationship with one another is not about sacrificing ourselves to the point of losing our identities. It's about being interdependent in a way that our identities are supported and reinforced by our relationships.

It’s rare to find a book that so seamlessly combines the academic and the pastoral, but Too Heavy a Yoke does this beautifully. Who do you especially hope will read it and why? 

I am continually struck by the fact that there is little public discourse – in the church or anywhere – about the health epidemic facing Black women and it's connection to the myth of the StrongBlackWoman. I wanted to write a book that would raise the awareness of spiritual care professionals, to help them to see the realities of Black women's lives so that they could better minister to them. I want this book to be read by pastors, pastoral counselors, chaplains, and leaders of lay ministries. I hope, too, that it will extend beyond the church to health care professionals. And I even hope that it will find its way into the hands of Black women who are weighed down by the burden of strength.

At the same time, I didn't want this to be pop psychology. I am a professor, after all, so I wanted the book to be academically rigorous. My aim was to write the main body of the text so that it could be read by a wide array of people, sort of in the manner of bell hooks. I tried to keep the professional jargon to the footnotes. 


Be sure to check out Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength.

See You at Streaming October 9th-11th

Tuesday, 2 September 2014 05:00 am
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Posted by Richard Beck

Hope to see you at Rochester College's Streaming conference, just a little over a month away (October 9-11 in Rochester Hills, MI, just outside of Detroit). The theme of Streaming this year is "No Fear, Only Love."

Greg Boyd will be a featured presenter.

I'm looking forward to Greg's two presentations entitled "The Unveiling of the True God and the True Human" and "Cross Power and Babylon's Power." There will also be a panel discussion about Greg's recent book Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty.

For my presentations I'll be sharing reflections from my recent book The Slavery of Death. My first presentation is entitled "The Power of the Devil and the Shame-Based Fear of Being Ordinary" and the second one is “Perfect Love and the Exorcism of Fear.”

As you some of you might have noticed, the reference in my first title to "the shame-based fear of being ordinary" is a nod to the work of Brene Brown and her book Daring Greatly. Specifically, I'll be connecting my analysis in The Slavery of Death with Brene's work regarding shame and cultures of scarcity. Here is Brene describing the experience of scarcity:
We get scarcity because we live it…Scarcity is the “never enough” problem…Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack. Everything from safety and love to money and resources feels restricted or lacking. We spend inordinate amounts of time calculating how much we have, want, and don’t have, and how much everyone else has, needs, and wants.
As I'll argue it, the anxiety and shame associated with the experience of scarcity--not having or being "enough"--are symptoms of our slavery to the fear of death, and that this fear is the power of the devil in our lives (Hebrews 2.14-15). That is, there is a connection between scarcity, anxiety and moral failure. For example, in Daring Greatly Brene shares this assessment from Lynne Twist where Twist links scarcity, anxiety and moral struggle:
For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is "I didn’t get enough sleep." The next one is "I don't have enough time." Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don't have enough of…Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we're already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn't get, or didn't get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack…This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life.
In my first presentation I'll try to show how this "reverie of lack" along with our "internal condition of scarcity" are symptoms of our slavery to the fear of death and, thus, a tool of the devil.

On the last day Greg and I will have a conversation about the intersection of our presentations and work.

And there will be lots more. Sara Barton, author of A Woman Called, will be presenting on “Cultivating A Cross Shaped Heart for a Broken World." From Pepperdine University John Barton will present on “At the Foot of the Cross in the Middle of the World.” Our worship times will feature the preaching of Ben Ries and Jenn Christy.

Streaming also brings the arts into the mix. This year Jennifer Rundlett, author of My Dancing Day: Reflections of the Incarnation in Art and Music, will lead a time of reflection entitled “Stations of the Cross: An Exploration in Music and Art” using a blend of classic art and music, spanning the centuries from the Renaissance to the Modern Era, along with prayers and scripture readings to create a unique meditative experience.

Hope to see you at Streaming!

More on tonal variation in Sinitic

Tuesday, 2 September 2014 02:18 am
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Posted by Victor Mair

In a number of posts, we have discussed departure from stipulated tonal configurations in speech, e.g.:

"Dissimilation, stress, sandhi, and other tonal variations in Mandarin "

"When intonation overrides tone"

"Where did Chinese tones come from and where are they going?"

In this post, we will focus on the wide variation of tone in names for some family relationships.

In Taiwan Guoyu (Mandarin), 妹 is pronounced mèi, and 妹妹 ("younger sister") should be mèimei.  But I've heard that it is often pronounced as měiméi in Taiwan as a sort of diminutive (as with other nuclear family member designations, for which see below).

According to Jason Cox,

…[w]hen someone's trying to pick up girls, the phrase used is bǎ mēi 把妹, where 妹 is invariably read in 1st tone (i.e., neither 4th tone nor neutral tone).

[VHM:  After just this short survey, we have 妹 -- which is listed in dictionaries as having the reading mèi -- being pronounced in all four of the Mandarin tones plus the neutral tone.]

Loksin Loa notes:

…there was an old Mandarin slang term bǎ mǎzi 把馬子 ("pick up a girl; hit on a girl"), which is very seldom used now, and that's where the 把 comes from. In modern usage, the term 馬子 is replaced with 妹 meh/mei.

Now one might think the tone change indicates semantic difference between your sister and the girl you want to pick up; but this isn't totally evident, as the 妹 in làmèi 辣妹 ("Spice Girls") 4th tone and the 妹 of zhèngmèi 正妹 ("pretty girl; good-looking chick"), it seems, can be either 1st tone or 4th tone.

Is there any principle to these tonal variations of mèi 妹?

BTW, we also seem to have di3di2 ("younger brother", originally di4di4), ba3ba2 ("father", originally ba4ba), ma3ma2 ("mother", originally ma1ma1), ge3ge2 ("older brother", originally ge1ge1), and just maybe, sometimes a3yi2 ("auntie", originally a1yi2), which breaks the pattern on reduplicated characters)…, but I don't think any others. Not grandparents, not uncles, etc.

So far as you know, is there anything like this tonal variation for relationship names in Mainland Putonghua?

Melvin Lee, a native speaker of Taiwan Mandarin, observes:

As far as I know, 妹 means younger sister when it's pronounced as 4th tone. When pronounced as 1st tone, it means young girls, usually in a flirty tone. Therefore, the 妹 in 把妹 ("pick up a girl"), 正妹 ("good-looking chick"), 辣妹 ("Spice Girls") should all be pronounced as 1st tone. I know some people pronounce the 妹 in 辣妹 ("Spice Girls") as 4th tone, but I think that's actually a mistake.

As for 妹妹 pronounced as měiméi 美眉 (lit., "beautiful eyebrows"), originally that's a style of baby talk used in Taiwan. In fact, all the family terms are pronounced in the "3rd + 2nd" combination by kids, and these terms include parents, all the siblings, grandparents, even uncles and aunts. But again, now people in Taiwan also use měiméi 美眉 to refer to pretty, young girls.

I personally don't know where the odd use of 把 comes from, but I lean toward the explanation that it's influenced by the Taiwanese word pha 拋 [VHM:  as in pha tshit-á 姼仔 ("pick up girls")]

For proof that yéyé 爺爺 ("grandpa") can be pronounced as yěyé, see these two videos, where the term is actually written as yěyé 也爺 (lit., "also father / master / lord / grandfather / old gentleman") to indicate the changed sound.

Julie Wei comments:

Well, there's ba3ba2 爸爸 or ba3ba1, and di3di2 弟弟, both as a form of address (i.e., 2nd person), or ba4ba 爸爸 (2nd person).  My sister (who died at age 13) was called bao3bao1 寶寶 (both in 2nd person and 3rd person, though 3rd pers. was also bao3bao3). She was born in Beijing (Beiiping 北平then) and had a Beiping nai3ma1 奶媽 ("nanny"), so that must have been the Beiping pronunciation.

It seems that, in Taiwan Mandarin, they take more liberties with the tones than do folks on the Mainland.  In other words, on the Mainland they tend to stick closer to the book than on Taiwan where tones appear to be modified for a variety of effects.  My impression is at least partially substantiated by this comment from Liwei Jiao, author of a book on tones in Mainland Mandarin:

My personal sense is that Taiwan girls want to be ke3ai4 (adorable?) so they tend to challenge orthodox rules and alternate something. Of course they are bold enough to do that.

[Thanks to Jason Cox, Melvin Lee, Julie Wei, Liwei Jiao, and Sophie Wei]

Nth Xest

Monday, 1 September 2014 11:03 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

In the course of writing about the "fourth highest of five levels", I looked around at how the pattern "Nth Xest" is used in general. I found that uses of such expressions overwhelmingly count from the "top" where X names a top-oriented scale (high, big, long, etc.), and count from the "bottom" where X names a bottom-oriented scale (low, small, short, etc.)  In other words, unsurprisingly, "Nth Xest" normally counts (up or down) from whatever end of the scale "Xest" names.

Another (less logically necessary but still unsurprising) thing I noticed is that top-oriented counts are always a lot bigger than corresponding bottom-oriented counts, and that counts decrease almost-proportionately as N increases. Thus from Google Books ngrams:

second third fourth fifth sixth
highest 34447 9692 3148 1411 784
lowest 6006 1455 491 293 138

The numbers from COCA are pretty much in proportion, though lower:

second third fourth fifth sixth
highest 305 95 33 23 12
lowest 55 9 4 3 2

Here are the Google Books counts for a larger set of values of X (values of 0 generally reflect cases where the count didn't reach the threshhold of 40 required for retention of ngram counts):

second third fourth fifth sixth
highest 34447 9692 3148 1411 784
lowest 6006 1455 491 293 138
biggest 6001 1402 608 264 156
largest 124598 50022 20712 10595 6246
greatest 8333 1762 423 209 162
smallest 2703 605 200 92 49
most 114727 28723 8192 4028 2163
least 988 302 57 58 0
best 55695 7009 2337 649 426
worst 2417 501 142 95 0
oldest 14955 3041 661 202 128
youngest 2772 454 92 0 0
longest 3739 1660 713 412 171
strongest 3087 735 151 46 45
richest 1486 683 228 136 91
poorest 598 196 82 82 0

Adding them all up column-wise:

The left-hand figure below plots the counts on a log scale. And on the right, I've normalized the top-oriented and bottom-oriented counts, normalized by the count for "second Xest":

The same things for COCA counts:

It would be nice if the recently-developed distributional semantics methods could induce patterns of this type — but I don't think that they can do so yet.



Reach Out: An Interview With Sheila Heti

Monday, 1 September 2014 11:20 pm
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Posted by Monika

Collage by Minna, using a photo by Seth Fluker.

Collage by Minna, using a photo by Seth Fluker.

Sheila Heti has been one of my favorite writers ever since I read her novel How Should a Person Be? when it came out two years ago. The book is about two best friends, Sheila and Margaux, who are loosely based on Heti and her real-life BFF, Margaux Williamson.

Heti’s latest project is a book called Women in Clothes, for which she, Leanne Shapton, and Heidi Julavits sent more than 600 women a survey about what they wear and why. (“Do you address anything political in the way you dress?” “What’s the situation with your hair?”) What came out was a book of essays, conversations between women, and photo projects by the likes of Cindy Sherman, Lena Dunham, the whole Black Girls Talking crew, and some of our own Rooks (Amy Rose shares her eyelash secrets!).

I recently got to talk to Sheila Heti about how this awesome new book came into being, what dressing yourself is really about, and how to BE as a creative person in the world. Enjoy!

MONIKA: How did the idea for Women in Clothes come about?

SHEILA HETI: My boyfriend is, and always has been—I’ve known him since we were teenagers—a person who takes care with how he dresses. A couple years into living with him, I started to see dressing as an interesting part of creativity. I hadn’t really before. So I wanted to start thinking about dressing.

I went to the bookstore to look for a book that would reveal to me how women thought about what they wear, but there was no such book. I decided to pursue my curiosity a different way: I sent like seven or eight questions to a handful of women whose answers I most wanted. The questions were like “What’s your process for getting dressed in the morning?” and “When do you feel most attractive?”—things that I wanted to begin thinking about. I found the answers really, really interesting. Already just from those emails I was starting to have all sorts of new thoughts about visual aesthetics and our relationship to clothes.

Then Heidi Julavits, who I also work with at The Believer, proposed that this be a book. I said we should have Leanne [Shapton] be part of it too. I’d worked with her in the past: She photographed me for her [2009] book Important Artifacts. So I knew she was a wonderful person to work, and that she has a genius design and visual sense. The three of us got together the next time I was in New York, and it grew from there.

How did the survey grow into 50-some questions and get passed around to so many different women?

First, Heidi and Leanne added some questions. The first survey we sent out probably had about 20 questions. As the year went on, we took off questions that weren’t getting such interesting answers and we added new ones. We put the survey on the book’s website for people to download, and we promoted it through Twitter and Facebook and our friends.

We started contacting journalists in other countries and asked them to pass the survey on to their contacts. We also had these business cards that Leanne had designed that said something like “I like what you’re wearing! Would you answer a survey for an upcoming book?” When we were out in the world, we would carry these cards with us and just hand them to women we thought might be good respondents.

As much as the book talks about clothes and dressing and style, it is also very much about the relationships women have to other women-in-clothes. Can you talk about the range of responses you got about how clothing shapes how women interact with other women?

Yeah! I think that one of the warmest ways to strike up a conversation with another women is to compliment something she’s wearing. That says “I’m your friend. I’m not your enemy and I’m not competing with you. I like you! I see what you’re doing and I appreciate it.” I think compliments are a very natural and great way to open up a conversation and to become intimate with somebody right away. It’s just a way of saying “I notice you.”

[Clothing] is also something that everybody has to put a certain amount of thought into. Obviously, some people put more thought into it than others, but we all have to get dressed. So even if you decide “I’m not going to think about it,” that still says something about you and your values and your orientation—to yourself physically and to the world.

There’s a theme throughout the book of women looking at other women, sometimes with admiration, sometimes with envy. People often wrote in their surveys, “I want to be her, but I never will be” or “This is someone I really admire.”

It seems like a lot of women dress for other women. It’s different to dress with the idea of women as your audience. I mean, to dress with men as your audience is a pretty simple equation. But dressing for women is a more complex thing. But when you read surveys from 600, women you realize everyone is just expressing themselves. There’s not this ur-woman that everyone is trying to be. Everyone has their own idea in their head of who they want to be, or what’s admirable, or what suits them.

But I think that you learn who you are and who you’re not in relation to other people. You can’t, obviously, imitate all women—you can’t be the frumpy woman you admire and the manicured woman you admire. You can say, “I’m never going to be that woman, that perfectly manicured woman—but I appreciate her.” And by appreciating someone else, you can appreciate your own self more. For me, now, after doing this book, when I walk down the street, I notice and appreciate a greater range of women. And I also sort of feel more comfortable with myself and with my own choices, my own individuality, rather than feeling that I’m missing the mark.

Smart people saying smart things (9.1)

Monday, 1 September 2014 11:11 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

Peter Goodwin Heltzel, “Cross the Sea and Cleanse the Temple”

Naming the idols of colonization and whiteness is the beginning of transforming Christian theology in the Americas today. Through the long, hard work of dismantling these idols, Christian theology can begin the process of living into a new prophetic, intercultural future. As [Willie James] Jennings reminds us in his final chapter, “Those Near Belonging,” in order to push ahead, we must recover a lost wisdom — the liberating reality of Israel, the covenant people of God. Since Jennings sees supersessionism as one of the primary problems with western colonialism, a theology of Israel becomes vital for the realization of a more prophetic Christian theology today.

Mary McClintock Fulkerson, “The Colorblindness of a Diseased Social Imagination”

JenningsWillie Jennings puts this huge problem right up front in his book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race with an opening story illustrating obliviousness akin to my own, as he describes white Christian male missionaries coming to his house to invite his African American family to their church. The missionaries’ ostensibly “kind” sharing of the gospel illustrates a deeply troubling racism typically performed as ignorance of and the inability to respect the worlds of persons of color such as Jennings’ family, who were already deeply involved in another church. The missionaries illustrate, as Jennings says, “a wider and deeper order of not knowing, of not sensing, of not imagining,” found in whites and Christianity per se. Indeed, regardless of the ostensibly “nice” missionary intent, the behavior is an example of a “diseased social imagination.”

The gap between ostensible non-racist beliefs and actual practices is clearly ongoing, as sociologists such as Edgardo Bonilla-Silva’s work on “color-blindness as the new racism” illustrates. Most Americans define racism as an individual, malicious act against a person of color and define “race” as something only persons of color have. Since whites typically do not want to be designated as racist, this gets many of us (ostensibly) off the hook. However such color-blindness ignores the ongoing effects of social/institutional racism by reducing racism to an individual intentional act. And it clearly ignores the notion that “whiteness” is a race that comes with privilege, something very few whites even acknowledge, much less do something about.

Sarah Stillman, “Get Out of Jail, Inc.”

The industry aims to shift the financial burden of probation directly onto probationers. Often, this means charging petty offenders — such as those with traffic debts — for a government service that was once provided for free. These probationers aren’t just paying a court-ordered fine; they’re typically paying an ever-growing share of the court’s administrative expenses, as well as a separate fee to the for-profit company that supervises their probation and enforces a payment schedule — a consolidated weekly or monthly set of charges divided between the court and the company. The system is known as “offender-funded” justice. But legal challenges to it are mounting, amid concerns about abuse, corruption, and the use of state penalties to collect private profits. In a wide range of cases, offender-funded justice may not result in justice at all.

Bryce Covert, “Why America Gave Up on the Fight for a Family Friendly Workplace, and Why It’s Starting Again”

[Pat] Buchanan “connected Catholics with Evangelicals,” who had “never worked together like this, partly because there’d been strong animosity between the two groups,” said Sally Steenland, director of the faith and progressive policy initiative at the Center for American Progress (CAP). “It was very organized, it was well funded. This was not unprompted, spontaneous grassroots action; it was the religious right leading the charge.”

Those groups played on anxieties being kicked up by women’s changing roles. “It was the end of the era of a one-income family,” Steenland said. “Women from all ranks were going into jobs who had never been in jobs before. … In some cases the religious right exploited it, but in other cases it was just a genuine anxiety.”

Labor Day Scenes from the Class War

Monday, 1 September 2014 09:06 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

Click here to view the embedded video.

Without good workers, the ‘job creators’ can’t make it.”

“[Unions are] an international phenomenon that has flourished almost everywhere that capitalism has flourished. And that’s because they’ve played a critical role in making capitalism work for the people who make capitalism work.”

If union standards for pay, benefits, safety and health didn’t exist, there would be no pressure on non-union employers to, at least, try to approach them.”

“I’m amazed at how petty and abusive some of these practices are. … Cutting corners is increasingly seen as a sign of libertarianism rather than the theft that it really is.” (New York Times)

“There’s no reason that we should be paying for food stamps and Medicaid for employees of either company, though I’m sure we do, simply because those companies are able to get away with having a mostly part-time work force that has to bring their own equipment to the job.”

“Anybody who looks at CEO pay, even if it was reasonably based, they would say that person is paid way too much.”

LaborDay“The average U.S. household experienced a real wealth decline of more than one-third over the 10 years ending in 2013.”

“People working for tips are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty.”

The number of Social Security recipients losing part of their checks to pay back old student loans is likely to keep swelling.”

“This is an illustration of why a large portion of the American work force will never achieve economic independence no matter how hard they try.”

Nobody needs to bring back the shame of being poor and using assistance; it never went away.”

“That’s the funny thing about being poor. Everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone feels entitled to share.”

“I hope all the citizens of Alabama will be in prayer that the right thing will be done.”

“All three have been associated with the so-called prosperity gospel, which stresses God will reward the faithful with health and wealth, and all three have led ministries that have made them rich.”

Religious people who neglect God’s summons to care for the poor are not the people of God at all. God rejects their worship.”

Here are Kansas and California, moving in opposite directions after pursuing tax policies that suggest the right’s orthodoxy is simply wrong.”

States with higher minimum wages saw faster job growth in the first six months of 2014 than states that have not raised their wages.”

Tuesday’s action is the latest in a series of CFPB victories for consumers wronged by lenders, several of which have involved members of the armed forces.”

Taking all existing coverage expansions together, we estimate that 20 million Americans have gained coverage as of May 1 under the ACA.”

“The growth of federal spending on health care will continue to decline as a proportion of the overall economy in the coming decades, in part because of cost controls mandated by President Obama’s health care law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said.”

“Consumers in the developed world should be smarter than that. The producers in the developing world — the folks enabling our lifestyles – certainly are.”


Editor’s Letter

Monday, 1 September 2014 07:00 pm
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Posted by Tavi

Photo of an 11th grade class in Bahrain by Julian Germain.

Photo of an 11th grade class in Bahrain, from a series of classroom portraits by Julian Germain.

Hiiiii Rookies.

First things first (I’m the realest): This month marks Rookie’s three-year anniversary! Thanks for sticking around this long, or for joining us recently. We begin our senior year with the theme WORK. Schoolwork, job-work, self-care-work. I just watched All About Eve for the first time, in which Bette Davis gives this speech as Margo Channing:

Funny business, a woman’s career—the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you’ll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That’s one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we’ve got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we’ve had or wanted. And, in the last analysis, nothing’s any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed, and there he is. Without that, you’re not a woman. You’re something with a French provincial office or a book full of clippings, but you’re not a woman. Slow curtain, the end.

Now, obviously this speech is horribly antiquated and actually about the work of keeping a man, but when I first heard her get ready to discuss the “career” of “being a woman,” I projected a lot onto it and was like, “SING IT, SISTER!” This is because lately, I have felt like a crucial part of my jobs both at Rookie and in the play I mentioned in July is to spend time every day working on just my CONFIDENCE. Believing in myself, being able to trust my instincts, not letting my work suffer due to girlish tendencies to recoil or to get myself down. In the early run of the play in Chicago, I had a very specific routine for self-care before a show so that I would be able to go onstage and think just about the other actors in relation to my character instead of about what the audience thought of me. It involved listening to Eve and Lil’ Kim and dancing in my dressing room and running around it touching everything and following my instincts so that I could achieve on a physical level this total self-trust. And I would write down and say out loud—because that’s when things become true, when an intellectual emotion becomes a physical knowing—that I am awesome and mighty and cannot be made small. So when Margo gave this speech, before I really heard what she was saying, I was like, OH TOTALLY, THE WORK OF BEING A WOMAN, HAVING TO FORCE YOURSELF TO BE A MEGALOMANIAC JUST SO YOU CAN REACH A BASELINE OF CREATIVITY! I guess for me it’s a matter of picturing my life’s work without confidence/stamina/GUSTO, and then picturing it WITH, and the WITH one is much more full and real and plentiful. Think of how many incompetent assholes are successful just because they are confident! Or of how many competent people hold themselves back! If you can master both competence AND confidence, young grasshopper, then you ought to be able to do anything you want. And as humiliating as it might feel to write the words “I AM MIGHTY” down in a Moleskine…who cares about that, I guess. There is a bigger issue at hand.

So that’s all about job-work and self-care-work, but before I hand this month off to the rest of our contributors, I would like to share with you three games I played with myself in high school to make schoolwork more bearable:

1. Keep an ear out for any amusing dialog that could one day make for a good TV show and write it all down, seeing every class as research.
2. Make outfits in your brain by combining stuff different people in your class are wearing.
3. Bring a bag of your candy of choice to class and eat a piece every time the same student interrupts the teacher.

Have a solid back-to-school, and thank you again for being here with us as Rookie becomes a SENIOR. (Expect a lot more bullying and penny-throwing.)


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Posted by Sebastian Faust

by Ben Howard and Sebastian Faust

Reads of the Week

1) More Than Three Minutes: Resistance and Grace in Ferguson by Richard Beck

"Because that will be a temptation. Again, if Darren Wilson is "innocent" many will feel safe to move on. And if Darren Wilson is found "guilty" many will feel safe to blame him and judge him as a sinner. The shooting of Michael Brown would have been caused by one individual's moral failure, a lapse in virtue and piety. A mistake. Or the product of a "bad person." Which means the guilt of Darren Wilson gets the system and our history off the hook. Guilt can be reduced to an individual, reduced to those three minutes. Daren Wilson can become the scapegoat for the system."

2) An Ancient Prayer Saved My Faith by David R. Henson

"My faith was saved, again, that first time I blessed bread and wine, and realized I had come home after wandering so long. And in countless celebrations since, I've had my faith saved in the blessing of bread and wine, when something more than I can ever imagine or pretend happens, when simple things become holy things, revealing that all simple things are holy things. Like the oily mark of Chrism on an infant's head, on a teenager's forehead, the weight of a stole and chasuble, the new light in the darkness of an Easter Vigil."

3) Birthday Celebrations and Awkward Feelings: Let the Little Children Lead by Abby Norman

"Can I tell you that it is hard to feel awkward sometimes at a neighbor's birthday party? Can I tell you that sometimes, in a store where I am the only white lady, I am extra embarrassed when my children throw a fit? Not just because my children are throwing a fit, but because I hear the things that people used to tell me, about white parents and fit throwing children. Can I tell you that my black friends deal with this every single day, but it isn't just a matter of feeling awkward? It is a matter of making sure their kids stay alive."

4) Does It Help To Know History? by Adam Gopnik

"The advantage of having a historical sense is not that it will lead you to some quarry of instructions, the way Superman can regularly return to the Fortress of Solitude to get instructions from his dad, but that it will teach you that no such crystal cave exists. What history generally "teaches" is how hard it is for anyone to control it, including the people who think they're making it."

5) We Underestimate the Foolish and the Kind Ones by Sarah Bessey

"I'm also suspicious of empire tactics being baptized and employed to "build the Kingdom of God." My soul recoils from the use of the very tactics of the empire - silencing, bullying, judging, other-ing, dehumanizing, mocking, name-calling, ganging up and piling on, violence - used against the oppressed and marginalized, now somehow being used for "good purpose." I see this tendency in my own soul and it grieves me."

Honorable Mention

Sermon on the Beatitudes by Nadia Bolz Weber

The Foolish Debate by Nate Pyle

What Does It Really Mean to Have Faith? by Zack Hunt

Tweets of the Week

"No one saw it coming. The students took over on the 1st day of school, led by the Kindergarteners who weren't yet drones of the system." - @VeryShortStory

"NBC: We exist! Since….I don’t know, we sort of lost count." - @revlucymeg

"TV filmed This Is Where I Leave You on an iPod Touch over summer break with all its friends. TV’s mom said it was 'VERY good, sweetie.'" - @tvoti
Song of the Week

"The Mariner's Revenge Song" by The Decemberists

You can follow On Pop Theology on Twitter @OnPopTheology or like us on Facebook at If you'd like to help us pay the bills, you can donate via the button on the right of the screen.

Contact us at onpoptheology [at]  

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Enemies of the Sacred Heart

Monday, 1 September 2014 05:10 pm
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Posted by Leah Libresco

I’ve never encountered Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque before her name came up for me today on Jen Fulwiler’s Saint Generator.  It looks like she is best known for her devotion to Christ’s Sacred Heart (and for pioneering that devotion before it was general Catholic practice).  But, when I looked over her saint’s page, I was most [Read More...]
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Posted by Holly Roach

Welcome to the next incarnation and rebirth of what was the Emergent Village Voice and is now the Emerging Voices blogging community. As curators of this blog we have been listening deeply to the emergent conversation. We have been and will continue to be influenced by those in the margins who wish to speak to [Read More...]

Events Calendar for September 2014

Monday, 1 September 2014 02:21 pm
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Posted by Jennifer Rose Hale


Banner by caitie of curtains opening to show a stage with the words OTW Events Calendar

Welcome to our Events Calendar roundup for the month of September! The Events Calendar can be found on the OTW website and is open to submissions by anyone with news of an event. These can be viewed by event-type, such as Academic Events, Fan Gatherings, Legal Events, OTW Events, or Technology Events taking place around the world.

  • A Fantastic Legacy: Diana Wynne Jones Memorial Conference honors the life and work of the 20th century writer of British children's fantasy. The conference, for both scholars and fans, is hosted by Newcastle University and Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, and takes place September 5-6 in Newcastle, England.

  • HawaiiCon bills itself as the "first sci-fi, science, and fantasy tropical vacation convention." This year's event is scheduled for September 12-14 on the Kohala Coast. Guests include Jane Espenson, Walter Koenig, and Cree Summer.

  • Fanlore's Stub September encourages fans to contribute their expertise to the site. A stub is an article on Fanlore that is under-developed and missing important information. Right now, there are over 1,600 pages on Fanlore already identified as stubs. You’re invited to use the list to find a page where you know something about the topic, and edit the page to add your new information. Need help getting started? The Wiki Committee will host an editing party on Sunday, September 14, at 19:00 UTC.

  • The Metafandom Unconference is being hosted by the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute and the IMMERSe Research Network September 18-19 in Ontario. Unconferences are "gatherings of interested scholars and experts, where they have informed conversations on a particular topic--fandom and fan studies, in this case!"

  • Wolf Moon Con is the first unofficial Teen Wolf fan convention in Spain! Scheduled for September 19-21 in Madrid, the con will host actors of this series, including Tyler Hoechlin, Ian Bohen, and JR Bourne.

  • Rose City Comic Con takes place September 20-21 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, and will be co-produced by both Emerald City Comicon and Rose City Comic Con, combining the talents and organizational efforts for one event. Celebrity guests include Michael Biehn, Ernie Hudson, Wil Wheaton, and Sean Astin.

Calls for Papers this month come from:

  • The Cultural Transformations Research Group, Aarhus University, is hosting Otherness and Transgression in Celebrity and Fan Cultures in November and is soliciting papers by September 5. Topics may include "the Construction of Otherness in Fandom and Fan Works," "Monstrosity, the Abject, and Uncanny in Fan Fiction, Fandoms, and Celebrityhood," and "the (Im)Material Other Worlds of Fandoms and the Alternative Spaces of Fan Communities."

The OTW encourages anyone to submit an event that's not already listed, and to check out the calendar throughout the year!


“A Mommy and What Else?”

Monday, 1 September 2014 12:26 pm
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Posted by Libby Anne

When my mother was in grade school, her teacher asked each child to share what they wanted to be when they grew up. When the question came around the room to my mother, she said she wanted to be a mommy. “A mommy and what else?” her teacher asked her. My mother recounted this story to me many times, using at as an example of the evil feminist indoctrination of girls against their god-given maternal impulses that takes place in public schools. This teacher did not consider simply being a mother “good enough,” my mother told us.

Now first of all, as my regular readers know, I seek to affirm the choices of both career women and stay-at-home mothers. I sometimes find this tricky, as sometimes affirming the one can sound like a dig at the other. This is unfortunate, and is I think one of the things that has gotten in the way of a more cohesive women’s movement. We live in a world where stay-at-home mothers sometimes feel looked down on by career women—and vice versa.

But I don’t think the “A mommy and what else?” question was so very out of line. I suspect that that teacher simply wanted to make sure my mother knew that she could be a mother and have a career. It’s important to open up girls’ worlds and make sure they are aware of all of their options. Further, every girl—and woman—has interests and talents that should be fostered whether she stays home with her children or not.

It’s also worth noting that the dichotomy is not always so simple. I’m part of a local moms group on facebook, and I see mothers with careers, mothers taking a temporary break from careers to stay home with young children, mothers working part-time, mothers working from home, and mothers who are at home with their children but are counting the days till they can get a job or go back to school. I haven’t looked into the research on the subject, but I would imagine that most women who stay at home at some point also hold jobs or have careers at another point. I suspect it’s a minority of stay-at-home mothers who never have a career or job outside the home.

And what about my mother? How does the story end? My mother graduated from high school and went on to college. She worked as a professional for a year after college, and has kept up her license in case she ever needs to go back. She has used skills she gained through her degree and work experience constantly in raising her large family at home. For all her use of that anecdote as proof that public schools are bastions of feminist mother-hate, I suspect she is glad she went into a career, however briefly. Her life—and our lives—were better for it.

This brings me to another point. Women (and men!) who choose to stay at home with their children are better off if they have a backup plan in case their partner loses a job, becomes injured, dies, or leaves them. This means things like job training, higher education, or work experience. A stay-at-home mother with a bachelor’s degree, a teaching certificate, and several years of experience teaching will not only be better prepared to handle sudden family changes (such as job loss or divorce) but will also have more ready career options when the children are grown, or in school.

In other words, grade-school girls answering “A mommy and what else?” with “a teacher” or “an engineer” or “an artist,” that does not mean they cannot also also being full-time mothers at some point in their lives.

Having a degree and job prospects affected the power dynamics of my parents’ relationship in a very positive way. It meant that both of my parents knew that my mother could leave and support herself and us children on her own if need be. It’s not that she mentioned that or brought it up. It was a background noise kind of thing. In addition to her degree and her brief time working, my mother also had a myriad of interests she pursued, generally within the orbit of female interests but nonetheless genuine on her part. Things like quilting, scrapbooking, and home decorating have given her an outlet over the years. She may not see it this way, but she is much more than “just a mother.”

I have read many of the stories on Homeschoolers Anonymous and spoken with many homeschool alumni like myself, and I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern. The mothers who fare most poorly tend to be those without outside interests and without any prospects for supporting themselves. Those mothers who do have these outlets—whether in the form of hobbies, or autodidactic education, or part-time work on the side—tend to be happier and more fulfilled—and their children, too, tend to do better. Those mothers who have career prospects, skills, or a degree tend to be less likely to succumb to more abusive patriarchal relationships—not necessarily because they leave so much as because their partners know they could.

I am interested in a world where girls are inspired to pursue their dreams and interests; encouraged to think practically and pursue skills, training, and job prospects; and supported in their life choices, whether that be working full time or spending part of their lives as homemakers and caregivers.

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"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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