But, the constant devaluation of the lives to people with disabilities to the point where our murder isn't murder, where we aren't worthy enough for our lives to be considered stolen from us. I thought that really, people with disabilities don't have the luxury of 'future' when the present and the past are still so horrific.
Where millions of people with disabilities are still locked away in institutions.
Where our skin is shocked as punishment and our hunger used as a motivator for good behaviour.
Where our deaths are measured, not in tears shed but in dollars saved.
Where we are never really guaranteed freedom, or equality, or opportunity.
Where the pursuit of happiness begins up a set of stairs.
We can't get to future. We can't get to tomorrow. We still have to still the voices of today and squelch the practices of yesterday. We have to fight bigotry born of ignorance and hatred. We have to demand space, we can't even imagine safe space yet, that's, perhaps the future they talk about.
I want the past to finally be the past.
I want the present to be catalogued and put away.
I want to leave my home secure in the knowledge that I will not suffer social violence and ignorant assumptions.
I want to open my mouth and have my words weighed equally with the words of others.
I want to breath freely, without the constriction in my chest from knowing that others, others like me, are caged, prosecuted and found guilty of the crime of difference.
I want the past to be the past.
I want to close the door.
I want to lock it.
I want to feel secure that some politician, some ethicist, some accountant, won't find the key and a head for that door at their first opportunity.
I don't have time for future.
The past is still taking all my time.
I know someone who used to say that in their family, if you did something twice, it was a tradition. This used to be a sort of a joke, where you’d do something that the family or your friends enjoyed, and you’d think to yourself “note to self, so-and-so really liked that” and I’d write it on the Christmas spreadsheet to make sure it happened again, and everyone would laugh, and say “watch out! You’ll have to do it forever!”
Little did I know, that my family is so sensitive to tradition and ritual, and the little things we always do that make our family special, that for us, it doesn’t take twice. If the thing you did was really good, and it resonated, and everyone loved it, then whammo. It was an instant tradition, this time of year not the same without it. Such was the case with the Advent Calendar I made for Lou’s family two years ago. I thought I was making a calendar, but it turned out I’d made an instant tradition, so much so, that this year everyone asked. “Myrie is three,” they said. “Isn’t this the year for her calendar?”
I sighed, and started with the knitting of the tiny things again. All last month, tiny thing after tiny thing came off my needles and it was sort of a secret. I didn’t say out loud that it was Myrie’s calendar, but everyone knew. The whole thing culminated last weekend in a flurry of sewing and applique and a general sort of hysteria. I always remember too late that the sewing machine and nine oceans worth of felt is a bit of a production. I cut the whole thing out, and I embroidered all of the numbers on the pockets – I’d forgotten you can embroider over tissue paper then rip it away. Way easier.
I sewed those parts on, and then sat down to sew the buttons on, and in that moment, realized I didn’t have any. A trip to downtown and the button store later, I had all I needed, and sewed every single one of those twenty-four buttons on. (I tried to do it with the machine first, but after I broke two needles and the ones I’d done fell off anyway, I decided to rock it old school. I sort of had to, once I’d broken all my needles.) When it was done, I hung all the tiny things from the buttons, and then moved half of the buttons to the right places. (Little problem with the order of operations there.)
Then, I loaded it into the car, and did something I almost never do. I drove somewhere. Myrie doesn’t live very close to me, but she had to have it for the 1st of December, so off I went, wending my way along the highway, over the big hill to Myrie’s house. When I got there, Myrie’s mum Robyn opened the door and said “I think I know why you’re here!” and I went to the car and got the thing.
There is a danger in giving a gift to a three year old, unless you have your head on straight. The three year old could not like it. They could be afraid of it. They could cry and refuse to look at it, or they could promptly flush three tiny things down the toilet because they’ve just learned how the lever works. You cannot care. Gifts to three year old’s need to be freely given, in the spirit of the thing, and without ego. I marched in, hung it on the wall, and waited for NOTHING to happen.
It was my lucky day, as an auntie. Something did happen. All the ornaments were taken off, exclaimed over, cuddled, taken out of pockets, put back in pockets, and though I have no doubt that the kid has no clue what it’s for or how it works, she was delighted, and so was her mum, and that was enough for me. Robyn’s reported back since then, and apparently the star was hung on the first with much enthusiasm, and today the candy cane went up. (Unlike her cousin Luis, Myrie seems to be keen on doing them in order, and the candy cane was in the day two pocket, after all the shuffling.)
I didn’t know when I was making the first one that there would be a second, but I’m clear now that there will be a third. When my grandson is three. I’ve got three years to get it together. (That’s right, a grandson. We’re completely shocked and thrilled, Megan is expecting a boy.) I can’t wait to find out what tiny things he’ll like.
Santa Mouse for sure.
(PS. I know too that Gifts for Knitters is a tradition, and I’ll get right on it. Give me a minute, I’ll catch up.)
A president doesn't need a deep, personal understanding of every nuance of every complex international issue. He just needs to have people around him who do have such an understanding. And then -- and this seems to be the vital, missing piece for Donald Trump -- he needs to listen to those people and pay attention when they tell him what he needs to know.
The post ‘Fantastic,’ ‘terrific’ ways to tell when Trump is bluffing appeared first on slacktivist.
Sometimes there’s nothing to do but take matters into our own hands. A reader who is both a mom and a sociologist decided to do just that. After discovering that one of her daughter’s books required some “subversion,” she decided to do a little editing. Here’s to one way of fighting the disempowering messages taught to little girls by capitalist icons:
Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
There is a branch of psychology, nearer to its border with philosophy than with science, which deals with a concept called Social Representations. It is an intriguing field of study, with the central premise that an individual’s perception of reality is shaped inasmuch by cultural narratives as it is by direct physiological perceptions. And further, that physical sensations are, in of themselves, shaped by cultural narratives to begin with.
In the cycling world, trends in tyre width offer an almost too perfect real-life scenario to see this phenomenon at play.
Over the past few years there has been a distinct shift in the popular narrative regarding what tyre width is optimal. I am sure I can’t be alone in remembering that as recently as 5 years ago, 23mm was considered the standard width for road use, and 21mm were not uncommon. When I moved to Ireland, some cyclists were even riding 19mm. The 25mm tyres on my roadbike were seen as exotically wide. And slow!
“You are making things harder on yourself with those big fat tyres,” I was told by People Who Knew, by People With Experience. This was followed by convincing technical explanations as to why narrow tyres roll faster.
Which is all well and good. People are entitled to their opinions. Except…
A couple of days ago, I bumped into one of those people again. I don’t think he remembered our earlier tyre debate; it had been a while. As bike people do, he examined my bike. When his gaze fell on the tyres he gave them a critical look: “You’d do better with 28s sure!” As I listened in stunned and not undelighted silence, he then proceeded to explain why wider tyres run at lower pressures roll faster, referencing road.cc, which in turn had referenced “that clever German fella in Seattle.”
“But sure you'll feel it yourself!” he added, encouraging me to give wider tyres a try as we waved good-bye.
So what exactly is it that we feel as we ride tyres of different width and form impressions of speed and comfort? If the same people who were convinced they felt fastest on 21mm tyres a few years ago are now convinced they feel fastest on 25mm tyres, there must be some degree of external influence involved. To what extent are these physical sensations shaped by the current popular narratives - by the latest arguments in cycling magazines and forums, by the opinions of club-mates and bike shop staff, by what "the pros" ride?
I am no stranger to a 28mm tyre on a road bike. Or to a 32mm tyre. Or 42mm for that matter. And like everyone else, I sense - or think I sense - the so-called sweet spot. For road use, that sweet spot hovers at 25mm. Too wide by 2010 standards and too narrow by 2016 standards, it stubbornly persists in feeling “best,” to me. I cannot justify that feeling with a scientific explanation of rolling resistance. All I can say is 28mm+ feels clumsy and sub-23mm feels precarious, whereas 25mm feels like all is right with the world.
For mixed terrain, in the 650B size, I thought that I had settled on 42mm. Then recently I rode a pair of 38s for a bit, when testing a batch of tyres a manufacturer had sent. When I switched back to my original tyres I was surprised to find that I missed the slightly narrower width. In what way the 38mm felt better, I can’t exactly say. But I am open to re-examining optimal width possibilities.
How do you know what tyre width feels optimal? And has this changed for you over the years?
I was even harder for the staff.
And harder still for his parents.
But, oh my, was it worth it.
A discussion was happening about a fellow with an intellectual disability, regarding his future, in which a fairly major decision needed to be made. It was a decision that would alter the course of his life. Everyone was really concerned and everyone really cared about him and his well being. When this made it's way to my table my first question was, of course, "Well, what does he think about it?"
No one had an answer.
When pressed people were able to tell me what they thought he might think, but no one actually knew. I sensed embarrassment from everyone involved, we all do know better. But it's easy isn't it, to just subtly, and without meaning to, and certainly without malice, simply take control of another's life. And it's easy for people with disabilities to get used to riding the passenger seat as they journey from year to year.
So, the first decision was made.
Then the second.
It was first decided to ask him.
The second decision, was, simply, to listen to him.
Everyone expressed agreement amid a lot of concerns. Parents were worried he'd make the wrong decision. Staff were worried that he'd make a wrong decision. The clinician was worried the he'd make either of those two decisions when obviously a third option was the better choice. They all saw his life clearly and saw where he should be going. But each, if they were moving player pieces would be playing a different game.
But worried or not, he was asked.
And now he was worried. He knew what everyone wanted him to do, he knew everyone was at cross purposes but he knew that whatever he did, there would be those who disapproved and those who thought he did wrong and those who, maybe even, would be upset.
He tried to opt out.
He tried to get the team to decide.
It was really, really, really, and I need to say again, really, hard for people to stand back. Give information, not opinions, and then only if asked.
On his own.
Perhaps the very first decision he's ever made free of pressure, free of attempts to influence, free of any kind of influence.
It was hard for him.
And he did cry.
Today he decided.
He chose a 4th option that no one had talked about. He chose something that fit him like a well tailored suit. He chose something that was so uniquely him that only he would have been able to see it hiding amongst the options offered to him.
Not everyone is completely happy.
But he is.
And he's proud too.
The only thing that everyone agreed on was that it was time.
Time for him to speak freely and take control.
He is 62 years old.
SheFighter is the first self-defense academy for women in Jordan. It gives women the confidence to face harassment and domestic abuse in a country where men dominates the majority of society.
Writer and activist Amani Al-Khatahtbeh launched a subscription-box service expressly for Muslim women. It’s a familiar concept-a monthly shipment that curates a selection of expert-vetted products for a selective consumer.
Chinook Jargon was not actually used very much in the Yukon Territory, despite the impressions you may have gathered from Jack London‘s using it for local colour.
That’s why today’s Klondike gold rush-era find from Peter Edward Kern is valuable.
I think it says a lot that this Sitka Jimmy who we’re about to hear actually spoke a mix of “Chinook and pigeon English”, rather than straight Jargon. Such blends are frequently noted in the late frontier period, a time when, in contrast with earlier contact times, people possessed greater linguistic repertoires to draw on in order to be understood. Search this website for plenty more mixes like this, and read on today to see how much more mixed Jimmy’s speech was…
(I don’t always give trigger warnings, and this particular point wouldn’t have been noticed if I hadn’t pointed it out, but I’d rather you knew that “Lo!” is probably a bit of racist humour on the part of the writer.)
Here’s the bit I wanted to focus on:
Down in the little city of Dawson was still greater confusion. Simenstad paused only to take a dish of Klondike strawberries and bacon with his grateful friend of the piece of string and then, leaving Richter by the stuff, he struck the narrow trail to the City of Desire. The path wound among stumps, along sandy knolls and across swamps. Here and there a tent was pitched, and occasionally a cabin begun. “Hello,” cried a voice, and here came running to meet him a dusky visage, all agrin, a young Indian who pumped his hand, talking rapidly in Chinook and pigeon English, and lo! it was “Sitka Jimmy,” to whom long ago Simenstad had taught his letters. The Indian led him into his little tent-shack. “You come iscum muckamuck [get food–DDR]. Me plenty cowcow. Now me pack mail too. See my gold?” and he dug out from underneath his bunk a tomato can of yellow dust. “Why,” exclaimed Simenstad, “do you keep it that way?” “Oh yes, said Jimmy, “nobody stealem now. Gold too much hyas til (very heavy). You go lookem Dawson, come back eat with me,” and Simenstad went on.
— “Kern Genealogy” by Peter Edward Kern (1917, self-published), page 137
This particular pidgin English shows South Seas influence; compare Hawai’i Creole English kaukau “food” with Jimmy’s “cowcow”. I can only imagine how Jimmy, who may have been a Tlingit Indian if he was originally from Sitka, Alaska, picked that word up. For example, the same word, which Drechsel & Makuakane pointed out in a 1982 article was known as a Chinese (Pidgin English) loan into Hawaiian, is found in the Eskimo Pidgin that was used in northern Alaska in the 1890s…Interesting connection.
Here’s the rest of the sparse Chinook Jargon that I found in Kern’s book (same page):
One long street, if street it could be called, ran along the uneven margin of the great river, bending in where the banks had crumbled from the force of the current, and then out where the sturdy roots of the evergreens had held them firm. Picturesque signs greeted him: “Lost Charm,” “The Evergreen,” “Little Skookum [“strong/excellent”–DDR] Saloon,” “Go-as-you-Please.” On all sides mackinaw clad, moccasined and fur-capped men were pulling sleds, lounging aimlessly about or whispering eagerly together of the last “strike.” A company of Chreehakas [typo for Cheechakos, “newcomers” –DDR] were there, gullible as yet, credulous of the wildest tale, easily befooled, and yet men of the sturdiest fibre, a nation in the making, the foundation of an exceptional society. Down the bank swung Simenstad, not entirely a stranger in a strange land. A familiar name over the door of a saloon struck his eye. I wonder if that is an old Minnesota friend, Big Bill McGee?” he mused, as he pushed open the door of the large log-cabin saloon.
By the way, I don’t know if our man above is the same as this Sitka Jimmy. Hope not. But I bet you he was this Sitka Jim memorialized by Geo. Emmons and Frederica de Laguna, and he may be the highly adaptable Sitka Jim who went on to take up the trades of photography and silversmithing.
Muslim Mothering: Global Histories, Theories, and Practices edited by Margaret Aziza Pappano and Dana M.Owen is a compilation of essays focusing on what it means to be a Muslim mother. In the introduction, Pappano and Owen reveal that this “volume seeks to show how Muslim mothers experience mothering in their own words” (pg. 3). The stereotype that exists is the image of a Muslim mother as “shadowy, veiled figures in the background repressed by a violent domineering patriarchal religious culture and…silent appendages of their husbands” (pg. 3). Immediately after reading this I thought of David Cameron’s ‘traditionally submissive’ gaffe and more recently Donald Trump’s attack on Khizr Khan’s wife. This book seeks to challenge this stereotype by giving women a platform to speak out against the Islamophobic, sexist and racial abuses they have felt in their lives as Muslim women and mothers.
Throughout the introduction, readers are shown how the Quran elevated the status of women and mothers. The Prophet’s wives were not confined to their ability to procreate. In fact, only Khadijah bore children. But that didn’t lessen the importance of his other wives. Early sources indicate that motherhood and an active public life were not contradictory and not having children was not a cause for shame. The Quran “emphasizes that God creates in wombs what and however he pleases [Quran 3:6], which leaves humans with little to no control over reproduction” (pg 5). This is especially true of Maryam. The Quran refers to Prophet Isa as the “son of Maryam” “emphasizing his lack of paternity” (pg 6) and elevating Maryam’s status at the same time. Aisha, the Prophet’s favorite wife, didn’t bear children but reported the most hadith of all the companions of the Prophet (pg. 5).
The introduction was an educational read for me because it showed how so many of the patriarchal, cultures rules we fall under today don’t necessarily come from Islam. It is a theme that continues throughout the volume. As a Muslim woman, it helped me to feel validated. When I was a young mother, living in Damascus I remember feeling trapped by my role as a mother. I would see all of these young, single girls come to Damascus from all over the world to learn Arabic and Quran and I would envy them. I resented their freedom to go out and study without the obligations of marriage and motherhood. My conservative, Palestinian parents would never have let me travel abroad before marriage. Religious education is so important for this very reason.
In her essay, “Sister Mothers,” Maria F. Curtis explores the lives of Turkish women living in Texas who form sisterhoods to help them maintain their cultural connection to Turkey while living abroad. The women become big sisters to each other to teach and join in Islamic religious circles. Oftentimes female family members join them in America to care for children while they work or attend school. The older “sisters” or “Abalar” take it upon themselves to take the younger women under their wings and teach them that Islam is compatible with their modern, normal lives.
Part I of this volume, “Muslim Mothering Amid War and Violence” piqued my interest and it did not disappoint. These essays focused on the stories of actual mothers living in war torn Gaza, militarized Kashmir and politicized Iran. In the first essay, “Empowered Muslim Mothering: Navigating War, Border Crossing and Activism in El-Haddad’s Gaza Mom” by Nadine Sinno, we are regaled with stories of Laila El-Haddad, “Palestinian mother, journalist and activist” (pg 23). We watch as El-Haddad breastfeeds at border crossings and celebrates potty training her son because she won’t need to worry about access to diapers. Her blog entries are humorous and light-hearted even set against a heartbreaking backdrop of occupation. Reading this essay prompted me to buy her book, Gaza Mom. I found this essay to be relevant to my own experience of mothering in the Middle East, in particular in relation to what Sinno calls the “maternal thinking or concentrated effort that women put into mothering” that goes into raising children when your resources are not within reach.
The following two chapters of this part were harder for me to read. The essay “’God as My Witness’: Mothering and Militarization in Kashmir” by Nouf Bazaz relies heavily on interviews with Kashmiri mothers. This essay focuses on the hardships of male family members’ suspicious disappearances. These mothers and wives are subject to ridicule and abuse by the very army the women suspect responsible for these disappearances. The women speak of their reliance on God to get through their trauma. In a community where they “suffer the stigma of being the mother of the ‘disappeared” (pg 37), the women turn to God. As you read the essay, the burden of grief and stories of their abuses at the hands of the military can feel like tragedy-porn, so I appreciated the author’s noting the difficulty in relaying stories. Importantly, Bazaz admits to something getting lost in the literal “translations.”
The essay “Mourning Mothers in Iran Narratives and Counter-Narratives of Grievability and Martyrdom” by Rachel Fox shows how the loss of children becomes politicized. These mothers mobilize private mourning into public activism. Again, we are given an alternative to the stereotype often fed to us by the media. Here, we are seeing Muslim mothers being active and on the frontlines of political activism. Mostly because they, like the women featured in the Kashmiri essay, are the main targets of injustice.
These essays, along with others exploring domestic abuse , show how women going through some toughest situations never lose their faith in God. This too, will become a running theme. In all the interviews with the women, whether they have overcome abuse, dealing with single motherhood or isolation, none of them blame Islam itself for their suffering. All of the women do not seek to demonize their faith in the way we have seen become the norm across the media. Muslim women are often represented as a monolithic group, proving Islam’s oppressive patriarchal structures, but when reading the stories of these women we find that this is a simplistic understanding of oppression. Rather, there are many different facets to their experiences as well as to the challenges they face, whether as mothers or as Muslims. Here is where the compilation really shines. The narratives of these women show the reality on the ground that gets often gets lost in the collective stereotype.
For many immigrant Muslim mothers this makes them isolate themselves. They are faced with the burden of learning a new language which limits their ability to express or defend themselves. They are also adjusting to a new culture while at the same time trying to socialize their children. With the ‘War on Terror’ and rise of ISIS, Muslim mothers may find themselves “responsible for the ‘terrorist’ acts” (pg. 171) of their children. More often than not, every decision a Muslim mother makes will be attributed to her belief in Islam. When Huliya, a woman living in Germany, decides to not allow her daughter “to stay overnight with her friends,[this] might be explained within the context as ‘typical’ Islamic means to ‘protect her chastity’ (pg 193) instead of her desire to protect her from repeated sexual abuse which is appreciated by her daughter.
Muslim women are tasked with being all around Superwomen. Culturally they have been given the roles of caretakers, pleasure givers, educators of both secular and religious instruction and sometimes breadwinners. Muslim Mothering works to illuminate the difference between the Islam we see in much of the mainstream media and the reality that exists in the Quran and academic sources. When people don’t have actual contact with real Muslims, it is easy to fall for these stereotypes and misconceptions. That’s why I loved the chapters that focused on the women’s narratives. They drew us in with their own experiences. Books like this can help change perceptions both for Muslims and non-Muslims by tackling issues that are considered taboo. Post the presidential election in the United States, this book is timely in its discussions of Muslim women and mothers at the frontlines of discrimination. By the end of it, I definitely felt empowered by the stories of other women and comforted in the Islam that I believe in.
When we first entered the room we didn't understand what we were seeing. The accessible entrance is off to the side and back a bit. We saw that the room had large quilts hanging from the balcony above, effectively making a smaller room within the larger one. I rolled through a space between two quilts and then looked up.
And was punched in the gut.
These were quilts that were made, spanning about 10 years, to note the deaths and commemorate the lives of those who died during the AIDS epidemic. They were made as it was happening. The emotion and sentiment that rose from the words written in memory were those who were in the midst of a keening, angry kind of grief. I rode around and the first person, of many, who I recognized was Robert.
A pain struck my heart when I realized that I had forgotten Robert. I hadn't thought of him for years. But seeing his picture, reading the words written to celebrate his life and mourn his loss, I was flooded with images in my mind. I remembered particularly the effort that Robert went into to plan a birthday party for Phil, his lover - they weren't allowed to marry in those days.
We all knew it would be Phil's last birthday. Phil a wonderful, gentle man, with a wicked sense of humour and who had loved Robert passionately. He pretended that he didn't know of the party. He knew how much it meant to Robert, and he fought to live until his birthday. And he did.
But the party had to be moved to the bedroom. Phil was too weak to leave his bed. But what a party we had. It was joyous. We partied as if it were the last party before the end of the world. Because we all knew that's exactly what it was. Phil, in his bed, looked like he was on a raft sailing to the edge of time. He was so small. His smile huge in a face of skin and bone. He took presents he would never use and thanked people. He understood that each gift represented, for each of us, a wish we had for his future, a future in which he would live and thrive, a future he didn't have but that we would give him if we could.
Phil died days after the party.
Robert a year or so later.
They were both gone.
In front of me was a picture of Robert, on a quilt that kept his memory alive, and warm, and real. I called Joe over to see the photo and the words written beside it. We stood together for a moment and then backed up to the middle of the room and turned, there were names and photographs of so many people, so many very young people. For a second we were back in time, back in the midst of death after death after death after death after death.
When we left the room within a room. When we left the room draped by sorrow and loss and lives celebrated long before they should have been, we entered a different world. A world that believes that AIDS isn't what it is and doesn't do what it does. A world that refused to acknowledge the reality of AIDS then and a world that refuses to acknowledge the reality of AIDS now.
It's World AIDS Day today.
And I remember a raft at the edge of time and a party at the end of the world. And I remember what that meant then and what that means now.
It's not much, but it's all I've got to give.
So evangelicals believe that most people die without ever being born. And for evangelical Christians, death means Heaven or Hell. Evangelicals don't have the comforting elastic consolation offered by some notion of Limbo or Purgatory for unbaptized Pagan Babies. It's simply Heaven or Hell. So where do these "people" go?
The post White evangelicals cannot allow themselves to understand miscarriage appeared first on slacktivist.
By Lisa Smith (Regular Contributor)
One of the more elusive bogeymen is Rawhead and Bloody Bones. The Oxford English Dictionary notes references to this monster dating from the mid-sixteenth century and the tale was widespread enough to be imported to the United States, but actual early stories about Rawhead and Bloody Bones are scant on the ground. Rather, his name is more likely to be used as a warning: ‘Keep away from the marl-pit or Rawhead and bloody bones will have you!’ Although he was associated with pools of water, he might also be found living in cupboards or under stairs, sat upon the bones of naughty children. But the whys and wherefores of his determination to punish children is unclear.
Rawhead was also a creature lurking in the nursery—a terrifying assistant to the busy mother or nursemaid for keeping children under control. As John Locke put it in Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693):
This he will be in danger of from the Indiscretion of Servants, whose usual Method is to awe Children, and keep them in subjection, by telling them of Raw-head and Bloody-bones, and such other Names as carry with them the Ideas of something terrible and hurtful, which they have Reason to be afraid of when alone, especially in the Dark. This must be carefully prevented: For though by this foolish way, they may keep them from little Faults, yet the Remedy is much worse than the Disease.
(Dolly Parton has a charming account of her own mother’s invocation of Rawhead and Bloody Bones when trying to put twelve children to bed, which is well worth a listen.)
By the late seventeenth century, people were beginning to question the wisdom of relying on stories about bogeymen. The real problem, of course, wasn’t scaring small children – but its long-term damage, particularly when it came to training the men of the future. Locke noted that the minds of the young were impressionable and such fancies ‘frequently haunt them with strange Visions, making Children Dastards when alone, and afraid of their Shadows and Darkness all their Lives after’ (138).
He provided a cautionary true tale, beginning (oddly enough) in a fairy-tale fashion: ‘There was in a Town in the West a Man of a disturbed Brain, whom the Boys used to teaze when he came in their way’. One day, the man seized a sword from a nearby cutler’s shop and chased a boy. The boy escaped—just—to his house, and as he was about to turn the latch, he chanced to look behind ‘to see how near his Pursuer was, who was at the Entrance of the Porch, with his Sword up ready to strike; and he had just Time to get in, and clap to the Door to avoid the Blow, which, though his Body escaped, his Mind did not’ (139). The boy was haunted into adulthood by the memory, always having to check behind him when going in that door.
Dialogues on the passions, habits, and affections peculiar to children by James Forrester (1748) was much more specific about the damage, which Forrester blamed on nurses, mothers and grandmothers. Forrester mused that ‘something of Raw-head and Bloody-bones occurs to you as often as you look into a dark unfrequented Corner of a Church’, which came from ‘some Remains of the Nursery, some Remnants of Fear, and that Idea of Dread, which, Thanks to our Mothers and Grandmothers, is constantly connected with Churches, Church-years, and Charnel-houses’ (27).
The first stage of fear, connected to self-preservation, began before the age of five. Carers could use:
the Appearance of Objects, capable of giving them Pain; Objects, with the Idea of Pain, connected with them by the Imagination, such as Raw-head and Bloody-bones, &c. &c. Objects, that are new to them, with the Idea of Danger connected to them, and sudden Surprizes, which in Young and Old always create some Degree of Terror, but in Children more especially (33).
The second stage of fear was nurtured by the stories of women who ‘have strong Faith in Spirits, Apparitions, and Witches, love to hear and repeat Stories of that Kind’ (35). In this way, the children’s imaginations were trained to connect mischievous spirits with horror and dark places. The third stage of fear was connected to punishment. As the nursemaid switched from relying on the threats of bogeymen to using actual corporal punishment to ensure good behaviour, the child blurred the boundaries between the types of punishment in his own mind. And this was most dangerous of all, according to Forrester:
If the Spirit is kept long in this Subjection, Timidity becomes a Habit, and nothing afterwards can persuade it to look at the most visible Terror, and all he Marks of Cowardice, which is the lowest and must abject State, to which a rational Creature can be reduced (37).
The whys and wherefores of Rawhead and Bloody Bones’ punishment apparently didn’t need explanation, since the real terror of the nursery–for the Enlightened male–was the long-term effects masculine rationality, perpetuated by the wild imaginations of women and servants.
I leave you with ‘Rawhead and Bloodybones’ by Siouxsie and the Banshees, mashed up with a video clip from Jan Svankmajer’s “Neco z Alenky” (Alice)–which together evokes the terrors of the nursery and the suspension of rationality.
Originally posted at Race, Politics, Justice.
A few days after Donald Trump won the electoral votes for president, some people started suggesting that pro-immigrant people in the US wear safety pins in emulation of the movement in Britain after Brexit to signal support for immigrants. A social media debate quickly ensued about what this might mean, some asserting that the safety pin meant that an immigrant could view one as a “safe” White person, some ridiculing the exercise as a “feel-good” effort by Whites to distance themselves from the White nationalist vote, some interpreting its meaning as “I don’t agree with Trump.” (This latter interpretation was offered by both pro- and anti-Trump people.)
My entirely unsystematic observations were that it was African Americans who were mostly negative and White liberals (like me) who were trying to figure out what the “meaning” of the pin would turn out to be. I’m not sure what immigrants thought about safety pins, although I know they are generally frightened by the election results.
Through a neighborhood email newsletter I learned that a family in the area received a racist hate letter using the N-word after the election and that a resident who is also a minister ordered a bunch of yard signs that say “No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in English, Spanish and Arabic. I bought one and will put it in my yard. I really don’t know how this action will be viewed by actual immigrants.
There are some non-Muslim women who have taken to wearing scarves as a symbol of solidarity with Muslims (one story circulating talks about attacks on a non-Muslim woman who was wearing a scarf due to hair loss from cancer treatment), an action that has received (so far as I know) little endorsement from Muslims and some responses that say that this subtracts from the religious symbolism of wearing hijab. After Trayvon Martin was killed, many Black people put up pictures of themselves in a hoodie with “I am Trayvon Martin,” but also often objected when Whites did the same, because the point was that a White person in a hoodie was not treated the same.
In the 1990s, Madison had a flurry of protests and counter-protests in which out-of-town anti-gay protesters were picketing pro-gay churches. Many Madison residents, including me, put up yard signs distributed primarily through churches that said “Madison supports its gays and lesbians.” About the same time, the KKK came through, and we also put up “Let your Light Shine, Fight Racism” signs in our yards. (I recall having both in my yard in the same winter.) Also in the 1990s, many of us wore rainbow ribbons (I kept mine pinned to my purse so I didn’t have to remember to put it on), again as a symbol of support for gays and lesbians. During the first Gulf War, Madison’s lawns often featured either anti-war signs or “support our troops” signs or, often, both. Earlier this year, after a lot of Black Lives Matter protests here as well as around the country, in addition to the relatively small number of yard signs or flags supporting BLM, some streets blossomed the “Support our Police” yard signs. And, of course, yard signs are a staple of political campaigns, most Decembers see a flurry of “Keep Christ in Christmas” yard signs, and Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay Packer pennants fly all around town on particular weekends.
So how should we think about these visible symbols and the varying reactions they elicit?
Let’s begin with the obvious. Symbols are symbols, and displaying a symbol is not the same thing as showing up for a protest or taking other active steps to pursue social policies you believe in. Wearing or displaying some sort of symbol of support for a minority is not the same thing as being a minority, nor will the symbol necessarily be interpreted by others in the way it is meant. This does not make symbols meaningless. They are visible symbols of adherence to some cause or belief system and, as such, open the wearer to reactions from others. But, as symbols, they are subject to multiple interpretations and their meaning varies with context. So those displaying symbols and those viewing others’ displays of symbols need to do interpretive work to understand the symbol and to assess the consequences of displaying it.
If you display or wear a symbol that you are sure others around you will approve of, you have little to lose from the symbol and something to gain. Signaling support for a cause the majority supports signals your affiliation with the majority. Supporting a beleaguered minority in a context where the majority is at least tolerant is also a low-cost gesture. When I displayed pro-gay ribbons and yard signs, I had no expectation of negative reaction, and I doubt any other straight person in Madison did either.
But that does not mean it was meaningless. Gays and lesbians I knew personally were feeling attacked and the visible support was meaningful to them. The signs and ribbons were passed out at church by people I knew. In that context, I could either display the symbol or not display it but, either way, my action would be interpreted as having meaning. I felt the same way about this latest “welcome neighbor” sign. When confronted with the question, I could either put up a sign or not put up a sign, but either choice carried meaning. I know of at least some instances in the 1990s in which gay and lesbian people stated that the signs made them feel supported and better about living in Madison. Of course, you can “do” support without yard signs or ribbons. After 9/11, Christian churches and Jewish congregations reached out to Muslim congregations (and Muslim congregations for their parts held open houses) and Muslims generally felt supported in Madison, even without yard signs or ribbons.
In places where the symbol is low cost, one can justly be suspected of displaying the symbol just to go along with the majority or as a low cost way of feeling good about a problem you don’t plan to do anything more about.
The same yard signs and ribbons (or safety pins) in some areas would not be safe gestures but would open up a person to verbal or physical assaults, or worse. Whites who visibly supported Blacks in the old rural South or Chicago’s segregated White neighborhoods in the 1950s were violently attacked and had their houses bombed. Displaying pro-gay symbols in areas dominated by conservative Christians in the 1990s could lead to hostile interactions. Even displaying the wrong sports team colors can get you hurt in some contexts.
Displaying a symbol where you know you are an opinion minority, and especially where it opens you to attack, is a very different gesture than where it is safe. In these contexts, it is an act of dissent. It is especially meaningful to dissent visibly in contexts where a dangerous segment of the majority feels empowered to commit violence against minorities. In these contexts, the symbol does not necessarily mean “I am a safe person” but “I am willing to draw the attention of dangerous people” or “not everybody supports those people.” If the intent is actually to shelter minorities from violence, the goal usually is to get as many people as possible to wear the symbol of dissent, to signal to those who intend violence that they cannot act with impunity and cannot count on community support.
Conversely, yard signs and other symbols are sometimes used by majorities to coerce compliance or intimidate minorities. Pro-police, pro-KKK, anti-gay, anti-immigrant symbols and yard signs signal to minorities that they are not safe in the area. When you know that you are in an area where your views are contested, your visible symbol chooses sides.
Another dimension is the clarity or ambiguity of a symbol. This also is contextual. In the US today, it is not quite clear what a safety pin is supposed to signal. Does it merely signal opposition to violent attacks on minorities, or does it also signal opposition to deportations and registries? Can I assume that a safety pin wearer supports DACA and keeping DACA students in the US? Does a safety pin also mean the wearer supports Black Lives Matter? Expanded immigration policies? Or is it merely a signal that one voted Democratic and is vaguely against “hate”? Or that the person voted for Trump (or Stein?) and wants to disguise the fact in a liberal area? In the late 1960s during the anti-war movement I once tied a white scarf to the sleeve of my dark jacket when biking at night across campus so I could be seen. Several people stopped and asked me what my white scarf “meant.” Was it a new anti-war symbol? If so, they did not want to be late to adopt.
But non-verbal symbols can come to have very clear meanings. In Britain, the safety pin has a clear meaning, from what I’ve read, although its meaning in the US is not clear. In the US, a spray-painted swastika can be safely assumed to be the work of neo-Nazis meant to intimidate minorities and not a Hindu religious symbol. Text is often clearer: The phrase “let your light shine, oppose racism” is hopefully a clearer symbol that merely lighting a candle in your window in December, and “Madison supports its gays and lesbians” is also relatively clear. The latest sign about being happy my neighbors are here, written in Spanish and Arabic, also conveys pretty clear meaning in its language choices as well as its content, although could be criticized for its ambiguity about racism (as the impetus for the signs was a hate letter that used the N-word) and immigration policy (as the sign does not mention your document status).
The ambiguity of a symbol can make signaling one’s actual opinions complex. This is a Christian-majority country and there is a strong politicized Christian movement that is affiliated with White nationalism and/or strong anti-abortion sentiments and/or hostility to gays, lesbians, transgender and other sexual minorities and/or hatred of Muslims or, possibly, Jews. This makes any overt Christian symbol (a cross, a crucifix, a “keep Christ in Christmas” yard sign) an ambiguous symbol that is likely to be interpreted both by non-Christians and also Christians one does not know as a symbol of adherence to the Christian Right or at least Republicanism. Muslim women have a similar problem, as their hijab is often interpreted as symbolizing things other than what they think it symbolizes.
The minister who organized the welcome neighbor signs in Madison told reporters that part of his motivation was that as a White Evangelical Christian, he wanted to distance himself from White Evangelical Christians who are advocating messages that he considers hateful. In the 1990s, pro-gay churches similarly sought to distance themselves from the association of Christianity with anti-gay movements.
But even text symbols can “mean” something other than what the user thinks it meant. I interpret the pro-police yard signs in Madison as “meaning” opposition to Black Lives Matter, as I interpret “Blue Lives Matter” to have a similar meaning. I make this interpretation because there were no pro-police signs in Madison before Black Lives Matter, because the only contextual factor that could be construed as anti-police would be Black Lives Matter, and because the last time pro-police signs and bumper stickers were common it was the “Support Your Local Police” bumper sticker campaign launched by the far-right John Birch Society in 1963. In fact, a quick Google search reveals that the JBS has revived this campaign and there is now a movement among police to spread this slogan as opposition to federal attempts to supervise and rein in the excesses of local police. It could be that someone who put up that sign lives next door to a police officer and couldn’t say no when asked to put it up, despite the person’s private support for Black Lives Matter and concern about racial disparities in Madison. But the “meaning” of the sign still encodes opposition to BLM, regardless of private motives. Likewise, some of my neighbors referred to pro-Trump yard signs in the area as evidence of “hate,” a characterization which other neighbors objected to.
Symbols have to be collective to have any meaning at all, and that is why they tend to have a fad-like character and are typically promulgated and distributed by organizations. That is also why people may contest the meaning of symbols. They are superficial and elusive conveyors of meaning. There are no clear guidelines about when to display symbols and how they will be interpreted. But the use of symbols to convey one’s identity and stance with respect to important issues is an important part of how people come to perceive the opinions of those around them. And that is important.
Pamela Oliver, PhD is a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her specialty is collective action and social movements and, since 1999, she has been working intensely on the issue of racial disparities in criminal justice. You can follow her at Race, Politics, Justice.
We were in the line up at the grocery store, we both nodded to the woman working there as she is often assigned the accessible till. She is an older woman who speaks English well, though her accent, combined with the noise of the store, and I add reluctantly, my age means that I sometimes have to listen very carefully to hear what she is saying.
As she checked out our stuff I noticed that she had a locked display case holding for scratch and win lottery tickets. I am a sucker for an impulse buy so I asked her if I could have all four of the remaining tickets. She had to get a manager to come with a key, which she did, and the tickets were out and being scanned.
When we were done and the groceries were paid for, she picked up the tickets that I had asked for and ... Well let's start with what she didn't do. She didn't do what everyone else has ever done when I've been a victim of my impulses in the past, she didn't just hand them to Joe. Now, I never really noticed, we are together, he's closer to the cashier and handing them to him seemed natural. But, she didn't do that.
What did she do differently?
She looked at me and said, "Is it OK for me to give these to him?"
She enunciated very carefully every word, she wanted my permission to give lottery tickets to the person I was with.
I thanked her for asking and said that it was fine to give them to him. She smiled, said, "I thought it would be," and handed them to Joe.
She thought it would be acceptable to give them to Joe but even with that assumption she asked my permission first.
You might think that a small thing, maybe even to small to write about, but gosh it was big to me. I liked it. I liked being asked permission. I liked being put in the position of deciding what happened next.
So often I don't notice when assumptions are made and Joe is automatically deemed the responder, the receiver, the prime mover. And this was one of those times.
Not again though.
When The Ducktrinors first landed on MMW’s virtual desk, I volunteered to read and review it. Feauxzar’s novel is nothing like any of the other books I’ve read recently. These days, I tend to read a variety of nonfiction, but The Ducktrinors is advertised as a Muslim Science-Fiction Young Adult novel. I’ve been meaning to read more science-fiction, and I was in the mood for something interesting and lightweight. As it turns out, the book wasn’t very light, but it was certainly quite engaging.
The opening pages of The Ducktrinors feature a mix of character lists and notes on some of the Islamic concepts mentioned in the book. While the Islamic concepts might be useful for someone learning about Islam, I found the character list long and unnecessary, especially since a number of the characters listed are of little importance in the grand scheme of the story.
In the first few chapters, we learn the premise of the narrative: Hanifa Ducktrinor (the protagonist) and her family are pious Muslims who are hiding their faith because the Seculars (the ruling power) are persecuting anyone who openly practices their faith. Religion is banned, and education is discouraged because the leaders know that those with education have the power to overthrow the government. Despite her situation—and her parents’ explicit orders to keep a low profile—Hanifa attends all of her classes and finds a way to fulfil her religious obligations during the day. Eventually, the rebellious young woman decides to stage an uprising.
Because I haven’t read a YA novel in many years, I’m not quite sure how to critique The Ducktrinors. At times, I found the dialogue to be a bit forced; there were moments when the characters didn’t seem genuine. Rather, they seemed to be not much more than vehicles that move the plot along. Seeing as Feauxzar’s novel is meant for younger readers who might need a little more guiding, I forgave the painful dialogue. The plot, however, was an even greater disappointment.
In the beginning, the plot was exciting enough to keep me interested, but after a certain point, I could guess what would happen in the rest of the novel. Granted, part of this guessing was so successful because I know that The Ducktrinors is the first book in a series. Still, I was hoping for something that surprised me. Even though I feel like I can probably guess how the series will end, I’m willing to continue reading to see if my suspicions are confirmed. I’m also still holding out hope that something interesting will happen along the way.
The abovementioned criticisms are by no means intended to discourage anyone from reading the book. Actually, I’d recommend The Ducktrinors, simply because of the feeling I had when I finished the novel: I felt good. Sure, I was upset by the way the novel ended (Hanifa’s reaction to the turn of events seemed extremely uncharacteristic), but overall, I felt like I’d just read something good. Perhaps I found the Islamic influence that seeped through the novel refreshing, or maybe I was glad to read about another strong, smart, female protagonist. Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking about the book since I finished it several days ago, and I’ve recommended it to a friend or two.
Although Feauxzar classified The Ducktrinors as a young adult novel, the somewhat graphic violence, coupled with the suggestions of sexual activity (I think there’s even a suggestion of sexual assault in the novel, but it isn’t stated explicitly enough for me to say for sure) make me shy away from recommending this novel to anyone under the age of 14. While I’m not one to shelter children from the realities of the adult world, there are situations that might potentially be confusing for a younger audience. Parents who monitor what their children read might want to glance through the novel before handing it over.
The aspects that give me pause, however, are the very aspects I find endearing. Hanifa’s character handles quite a lot. Her relationship with her parents grows increasingly more strained as she struggles to keep her plans secret from them while maintaining their respectful relationship. In addition, she’s experiencing lust, loss, anger, and determination—in other words, she’s a teenager coming to age while trying to save the world. She gives off a strong Katniss Evergreen vibe, though I wouldn’t quite describe the book as a halal version of The Hunger Games.
After reading The Ducktrinors, I’m curious as to what else Feauxzar has in store. She has a number of books available on amazon but at a glance, The Ducktrinors appears to be the only young adult novel. Feauxzar’s current book list gives me a Judy Blume vibe; it seems like she’s going for a mix of young adult and adult contemporary novels. This mix is part of what interests me about Feauxzar, and I’m curious to see whether her writing voice changes depending on the age group of the novel. I hope to see a more complex plot and more refined dialogue in her adult novels, but I enjoyed The Ducktrinors despite its flaws.
If you're fired in disgrace for covering up a gang-rape, you can still get a job at Liberty University. Also: Landlords who fail to even supply stable land; burning a flag is not as offensive as shredding the Constitution, but it's still not cool; a rare misdemeanor for Alabama's felonious GOP; and it's not just sicko Calvinist preachers who want to punish women when a pregnancy ends.
I still remember how uneasy I felt when, 5 years ago, I decided to wrap the handlebars on my nascent new roadbike with leather bar tape. It is not that I am against using leather. I have owned leather shoes, bags, jackets, bicycle saddles. But in using leather, I feel a heavy sense of visceral respect for the material. And I reserve it for products which I know will see a lot of use; products which I hope are with me for the long haul.
This is why the leather bar tape gave me pause. Me and handlebar tape... we did not have a history of long and meaningful relationships. On my previous roadbike I must have changed bar tape (cloth and synthetic variants) more than half a dozen times within a two year period. On a couple of those occasions this was because I altered my handlebar setup and the tape did not survive the re-wrap. But in the other instances, I would simply wear it out with alarming speed - destroy it with my death grip, or corrosive palm sweat, or who knows what. The synthetic cork would quickly grow filthy, then curl at the edges and tear. The shellacked cloth would crack or wear down. The microtex stuff I'd tried toward the end lasted longest, yet still grew tattered in a way I cannot account for by the time that bike made it to its new owner.
Things did not bode well for the Brooks leather handlebar tape, with its aura of organic vulnerability. But I got it anyway, the pull toward its softness and beauty winning out over my misgivings. Stifling niggles of guilt, I hoped it would last me a year, which would certainly have been a record.
It has lasted me nearly five years so far.
The bicycle this tape was on, was my Seven Axiom - the bike I have put by far the most miles on of any bicycle I've owned. And after all those thousands miles, in the heat, cold, sun, rain and snow, the only signs of wear this tape showed was colour fade.
While the tape isn't waterproofed with any sort of treatment or top layer, I have found it untroubled even by heavy rain. To the scorching sun it is more sensitive.
The fade happened gradually. Having started out a dark and saturated violet, the colour moved toward a toned-down mauve in its first year of use. Then, slowly, over the following years, toward a bleached brownish-taupe.
A couple of months ago, I disassembled my Seven Axiom. Its frame being in transition, I "loaned" most of its components to another bike. And as I took apart the handlebar setup, I fully expected the bar tape to crack and rip. Instead, it unraveled with a graceful elasticity, revealing its hidden stripes of still-pigmented purple underneath the bits that faced the elements.
With renewed love for this long suffering bit of dressing, I transferred it to my 650B DIY bike. I was hoping for a neat stripey effect. The kind that some manufacturers produce deliberately. But the discoloration was too varied for that, and instead I got some rather half-hazard streaks of violet and brown and taupe.
Compared to its original state, it has now also attained a sort of glowing sheen - brought on, I am guessing, by years of greasy handling. It was almost as if the very things that destroyed every other bar tape I've used, have made this one thrive.
When I first got the Brooks leather bar tape, it had been an un-tested novelty. Now that it's been around some years, you will find all manner of feedback. Mainly: it is praised for its stretch and reusability, criticised for its colour-fading and price. Make of that what you will, and you now have my feedback to add to the mix. I should note that Brooks now also offers non-leather models: Cambium rubber bar tape, and microfibre bar tape. I have not tried either and can't comment on their qualities.
How much life does my tape still have in it? I have no idea. But I'll take whatever it's got to give. And I've now replaced the tape on my other two drop-bar bikes with its siblings, in different colours. The cost works out less in the long run. And the leather gets lots of use, and lots of love.