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Leslie Loftis

Leslie Loftis is a recovering lawyer, a housewife, and a mother of 4. She is also a serial Texpatriate, most recently returned from London, England.
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‘It Takes More Than Identifying as a Feminist to Understand Feminism.’

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

In the 36 hours since Beyonce’s muzzled, splayed, headless, and otherwise sexually submissive VMA performance, we’ve seen a comedy sketch at the Emmys that somehow is a setback for feminism because it objectifies women’s bodies. Mollie Hemingway heaped plenty of scorn upon that little inconsistency. But I’m still left wondering how any feminist loved Beyonce’s performance.

Yesterday afternoon, Jessica Valenti went up at the Guardian with this gem of an observation about Beyonce’s performance. After expressing her excitement about Beyonce putting “feminist” “literally in bright lights,” she talked about celebrity popular pressure:

I’m glad that [Taylor Swift] another celebrity  with mass appeal – to young women, especially – is touting a movement necessary for gender justice. But the singer-songwriter calling herself a feminist for the first time in the same week that she released a video in which she twerks and crawls through the disembodied legs of women of color shows that it takes more than identifying as a feminist to understand feminism. (Perhaps as Swift browses the feminist section of bookstores she could pick up something on racism and cultural appropriation. Maybe she could read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as Beyoncé clearly has?)

I agree with Valenti that it takes more than identifying as a feminist to understand feminism. I am on record claiming that women rallying around a term about which they know little is the major problem of the movement.  But Valenti’s position is that the problem with Taylor Swift’s understanding of feminism isn’t the objectifying nature of twerking, but that Swift is stealing the dance moves of women of color. Women of color are the ones who twerk. That is the essential assumption of the cultural appropriation argument. Maybe Swift isn’t the one in need of a book on racism.

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Beyonce’s VMA Perfomance: ‘What More Could We Have Asked For?’

Monday, August 25th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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My first notice of last night’s VMA performances came from my “Camille Paglia” Google alert. Someone wanted a Paglia analysis STAT. Curious, I checked my feminist feeds for some reaction context. They were either glowing about Beyonce’s Divine Feminism, asking as MTV did, “What more could we have asked for?” or silent.

Then I watched and I understood.

I’m all for sexy women. Being a feminist shouldn’t mean that old trope about not ever being sexy. But I’m more than sure that feminist thought fights against the notion of women as primarily a sexual being.

So I admit, I am stunned to find proud feminists this morning, like Jessica Valenti who is waiting to pounce upon the expected irrelevant feminism article, heaping praise on a performance by a scantily-clad Beyonce, with glitter-lubed backup dancers in thongs presenting their asses to all in face down submission, singing songs with refrains such as, “I can’t wait to get home and you can take my cherry out” and “Bow down bitches”.

All this from the performer who will feature prominently on the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack. (Beyonce sings the song in the trailer.) In case anyone is unfamiliar with the feminist implications of 50 Shades of Grey, here is a lengthy but worth the read book review notable both for the declaration that  even people who see a distinction between bondage sex play and misogynistic aggression consider 50 Shades solidly in the misogyny category and that Twilight–that nadir of women’s empowerment– is a much more nuanced and tolerant story. (I put both Beyonce’ s VMA performance and the 50 Shades trailer after the jump as neither are safe for work.)

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Katy Perry Doesn’t Need a Man to Have a Baby

Friday, August 15th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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In “Yes, Katy Perry, Babies Need Daddies,” D.C. McAllister wrote about Katy Perry’s declaration to Rolling Stone that this is 2014 and she doesn’t need a man to have a baby. But McAllister just touches the tip of the iceberg on both Perry and children’s need for fathers.

Perry is being more callous to her future child than the typical woman who realizes that she wants a baby, doesn’t happen to have a partner, and, therefore, for her convenience decides that she doesn’t need a man to have a baby. Perry left her marriage to Russell Brand a few short years ago because he was ready to have a baby and she wasn’t. From a piece I did in 2012 on pop rock and the hookup culture:

In her movie Part of Me, Katy Perry addresses her divorce, essentially stating the Love Myth. “I thought to myself, ‘When I find that person that’s going to be my life partner, I won’t ever have to choose [between my partner and my career].”

Before anyone thinks that this is just the silly and self-centered musings of a Hollywood starlet, this notion of easy love that never requires compromise passes for thoughtful feminist discourse these days.

Perry saw her husband’s desire to start a family as trying to force her to slow down her career when she didn’t want to. To be perfectly blunt, she chose her career over her marriage and her future child’s ability to have a father. She doesn’t have the typical excuse that she was unlucky in love and is now hearing the ticks of her biological clock pound in her ears.

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It’s Tough Being The Girl in a Country Song

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

Women’s frustration at being used as pretty props in music videos isn’t new and isn’t limited to country music. One of Lily Allen’s recent offerings, “Hard Out Here”, makes the same point as Maddie and Tae do in their debut, “Girl in a Country Song”—women aren’t just ornamental—but Maddie and Tae do it better. By using role reversal and putting the boys in the painted-on cutoff jeans, they successfully achieve the absurd to skewer the use of women as props. Lily Allen’s raunchy choreography and slow-motion closeups didn’t provide enough contrast to typical music videos to achieve the skewering. Plus, Allen’s song was about female physical exploitation in general yet all of her backup dancers doing the crotch slapping choreography were women of color. On the whole, her video leaned more to the hypocritical than the satirical.

Here are both videos for comparison. Allen’s “Hard Out Here” is after the jump as it is NSFW.

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3 Studies About Fatherhood that Will Shock You (But Shouldn’t)

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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Common law, case law, moves slowly. It basically crowd-sources notions of fairness and justice over time and turns them into rules. Normally this works well. But when the assumptions that informed the common law were faulty, then precedent drags positive change.

We can see this happening in child custody arrangements. The precedents set in the 1970s when the divorce rate rose were informed by Freudian attachment-theory studies in the post-war era on orphans, as they were the most commonly found victims of fractured families. As attachment theory developed, psychologists started studying mothers and young children. It seemed a logical first layer of detail to examine given the expectations that women took care of the children while men worked outside the home.

When the divorce rate rose in the ’70s and courts had to start declaring custody arrangements, the experts recommended primary mother care because they didn’t have data for anything else. From a 1992 “Origins of Attachment Theory” paper in Developmental Psychology:

Although we have made progress in examining mother-child attachment, much work needs to be done with respect to studying attachment in the microsystem of family relationships (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). Despite studies by Belsky, Gilstrap, and Rovine (1984), Lamb (1978), and Parke and Tinsley (1987) that show fathers to be competent, if sometimes less than fully participant attachment figures, we still have much to learn regarding father attachment.

Formal studies of children in broken homes didn’t really start until the ’80s when there were children of divorce to study and a fierce need for relevant data. And the father and child arrangements that the data recommend look little like the modern arrangements formed under the inertia of legal precedent.

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Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Mothers Being at Home Would Be This Hard?

Friday, May 23rd, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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I’m sick of this post. Not the specific post, “The Stay At Home Mom Conspiracy Theory,” but the gist of the post: career woman goes home and is shocked to find that motherhood is more intense, boring, messy, fractured—difficult, than she thought. That the details and difficulties of motherhood surprise career women is a commonplace complaint that hasn’t quite settled on a cliche to describe it.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this hard?” she, and countless others, ask. We tried, or at least some of us did. But during their office days, women don’t like to hear about stay-at-home motherhood. First, career women rarely listen to anything that contradicts what they think they know. Second, most stay-at-home moms, when faced with the vacant stare mask of disapproval, stop telling the truth. Much like the author did. (Oh, the confidence gap is not so much a gap as a canyon with many caves and crevices.)

Usually I have more sympathy for women surprised by realities—elder women do withhold a considerable amount of information from younger women—but failure to acknowledge and express some regret about past complicity in the silencing of stay-at-home moms buries my sympathy in annoyance.

I am not one of the SAHMs who stop telling the truth. (I blogged as An American Housewife precisely because I refused to perpetrate the notion of a “mere” or any other “no really, I’m smart”’ adjective modifying “housewife.”) So I offer some truth for after the shock: motherhood doesn’t have to follow the covered-in-spit-up-with-no-time-to-shower format that typically sees women run screaming back to the office in avoidance or plunging into motherhood in full submersion. It can be sane. But to get to sane, women have to stand against conventional wisdom and peer pressure. To use the Mommy Wars analogy, sane is walking though the crossfire and ignoring the bullets as they wiz by. (Don’t worry, they’re blanks.) In my experience, fewer moms want to hear about how to do that than want to listen to facts about motherhood.

There isn’t so much a conspiracy as a crisis of confidence in which women hide behind assumptions or seek safety in numbers. Nothing gets solved. And the same posts get written again, and again, as if it is all a surprise.

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image via shutterstock / Gladskikh Tatiana

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How Much Would You Pay for Grass Clippings?

Monday, April 21st, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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For Easter this year, Whole Foods sold Organic Timothy Grass for kids’ Easter baskets. The story sounds good, as usual—plastic is toxic and the stuff in the Easter baskets lingers for years on the planet. Not mentioned is how prevalent shredded, recycled paper has become for baskets or how the plastic grass lasts and gets reused year after year. That is, the menace of plastic grass is overstated. Also not mentioned in the real grass is great story, the price of the real grass.

As I first learned about the grass clippings in a Tweet from @johnrobison, “Salute the marketing geniuses at @WholeFoods for selling grass clippings for $23.96 a pound – More than good steak!”

Price Matters

A few months ago, Rhonda Robinson posted about a poor neighborhood that “ran off” a Trader Joe’s opening. The gist of the article and comments assumed the neighborhood had elevated politics over health and made a bad decision. She concluded, “The Portland African American Leadership Forum would much rather see empty decaying buildings in their neighborhood than give up their victim card.”

I doubt the neighborhood would rather keep vacant buildings. I also doubt that they objected to a grocery store opening. They likely objected to a Trader Joe’s opening.

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Which Game of Thrones Woman Is Your Favorite?

Sunday, April 6th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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Almost as dreaded as writing a cover letter or the first minutes of a job interview, I was stuck in one of those new group settings that needs an icebreaker. The coach made us each ask a question for everyone to answer. I asked, “Dogs or cats?”

I got compliments for a simple, illuminating question that didn’t risk TMI. Over the years, I’ve become a connoisseur of such preference questions. London or Paris? City or countryside? I think I’ve discovered a new one in Game of Thrones.

Female fans of the show like all of the badass women (who Elle has helpfully summarized and ranked by style) but I’ve noticed a strong preference for either Arya or Daenerys. Those who ship for Arya tend to think Dany is just cool and vice versa. So I started comparing their characters.

Both are women of privilege and duty. They are the younger daughters of two of the houses competing for the throne. They are no-nonsense, take charge women who maneuver over obstacles in their path with courage, cunning, and self-reliance. But Daenerys does it by embracing her femininity. She birthed and nursed dragons after the premature birth and death of her son, an event brought about by magic to revive her husband, a man she seduced to love after her brother traded her to marriage for an army for himself. Men give her their sword. She leads as a mother; that is the name the slaves she has freed have given her. When told by her new handmaid “Valar Morghulis” or “all men must die” she replied, “But we are not men.”

Arya, in stark contrast, overcomes her challenges by hiding her femininity. She escapes and evades capture by cutting off her hair and posing as a boy. She spies on her family’s enemies by posing as a cup boy. She is on course to become a dangerous stealth warrior and fights with a small sword given to her by her brother which she named Needle, a reference to her sister’s embroidery needle. “Sansa has her needle and now I have mine.”

The differences in Daenerys’s and Arya’s characters track with the major fracture in feminism: will women achieve equality by mimicking men or by or by unleashing feminine power?

So Arya or Daenerys?

For the record: London, Dogs, countryside, and Daenerys, unequivocally Daenerys.

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The 5 Most Under-appreciated Female Heroes

Saturday, March 29th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in in December of 2012 as “The 5 Most Underrated Pop Culture Heroines.” It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months… Click here to see the top 25 so far and to advocate for your favorites in the comments.

Recently, I argued that we like heroines who act like men and so writers construct stories enabling women to physically compete. So what about the female characters that don’t act like men?

If writers don’t have a female character fight for herself and by herself, then we typically ignore them. Sometimes we ridicule them. If given the opportunity, we rewrite them. Then, we complain that there aren’t enough of them. There are many, and the comment thread on the last article mentioned a few. These are my favorite five.

5. Princess Buttercup, The Ignored Heroine

In The Princess Bride, Buttercup lives on a farm and falls in love with a quiet and dedicated farm boy. The boy, Wesley, goes off to seek his fortune so he may marry Buttercup, but his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Buttercup despairs for Wesley’s death. Years later, the prince of the land choses her as his bride. Powerless to refuse him, she agrees. Soon, Wesley returns and rescues her and the land.

Targeted by an evil prince for her beauty, but with no physical way to resist him — no superpowers — Buttercup relies on her courage and wits to keep the prince and his henchmen at bay until help arrives. With Wesley’s help she escapes and together they save the kingdom from a needless war. But she got rescued and does not physically fight. She engages in elegant verbal sparring, of which I’d provide a video clip, but I can’t find any of those scenes online. They aren’t popular enough that anyone thought to upload them. I’ve rarely seen Buttercup mentioned as a feminist favorite even though The Princess Bride‘s cult following rivals Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s. Strong-willed and spirited she might be, but she’s just not manly enough to merit much attention.

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If World War I Was a Bar Fight

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

WWI bar fightBack in 2012, the blog Face in the Blue published the excellent post, “In a Mass Knife Fight Between Every American President, Who Would Win and Why? I commented at the time that this would be a valuable history teaching tool, especially for young boys trapped in girl centered education. (And I did hear from my middle school history teacher who was sorry he never thought of such a lesson plan.)

Now there is another. From The Meta Picture comes “If WWI was a bar fight. It starts:

Germany, Austria and Italy are standing together in the middle of a pub when Serbia bumps into Austria and spills Austria’s pint. Austria demands that Serbia buy it a whole new suit because of the new beer stains on its trouser leg. Germany expresses its support for Austria’s point of view. Britain recommends that everyone calm down a bit…

As we know, no one calmed down. The post continues and, just like the knife fight post, prompts some good history discussion in the comments as well as a few comments consistent with national stereotypes. I found it when one of my girlfriends, now a college history professor, posted a version of the picture captioned “The teacher who made this is a genius. This is by far the best way to learn about anything.” I wouldn’t go as far as best, but it certainly is a good way to learn. Read it all.

Note: the original text appeared a few months ago at imgur.com, but the discussion at The Meta Picture is more substantive, so I used that version. Imgur also has “If Facebook existed during WWII“, another post I recommend.

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Image via The Meta Picture. 

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Foreign Policy Problems So Simple Even Women and Children Understand Them

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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One of the many proofs of Sarah Palin’s stupidity was her foreign policy musings. Vice presidential candidate Palin thought that she knew something about Russian motivations. She thought that a weak and confused response from the U.S. regarding Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia would eventually embolden Russia to invade Ukraine.

The experts thought this foolish. Everyone who listened to the experts thought her dumb. (See comments to Camille Paglia’s 2008 praise for Palin.) Even as late as last week, fine foreign policy minds thought a Russian invasion of Ukraine an improbability. They were caught by surprise.

Who wasn’t caught by surprise? Simpletons like Sarah Palin for one. Mitt Romney, for another. My sister-in-law works for a Ukrainian company. Russian takeover scenarios have loomed over her professional life and our family dining room discussions. My husband and I had no problem explaining the events to our children (10, 8 and 6 years old) this morning. The only thing they didn’t get was why anyone was surprised by Putin’s move. “Don’t the experts know geography and history?” my 10 year old asked.

It is quite simple. It’s geography, really. Russia has many natural resources, all difficult to transport within and out of the country. Ukraine has seaports that don’t freeze over for months out of the year. Russia doesn’t. Russia’s national interest, military and commercial, needs the ports. She has seized them before and is doing so again. The fine point, nuanced politics that experts at State are ever so expertly analyzing? Those just signal the timing.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine isn’t surprising. It’s on schedule. And even Sarah Palin could see it coming from her porch.

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The Monuments Men: Is Art Ever Worth a Human Life?

Saturday, February 15th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

Babysitters acquired, my husband and I went on a double date with his brother and our sister-in-law last weekend. We all wanted to see The Monuments Men. With a promising ensemble cast and a great story to tell—the Allied soldiers who rescued masterwork art from the Nazis at the end of World War II—it was our unanimous choice. In hindsight, we should have gone to the The Lego Movie.

I didn’t find The Monuments Men quite as disappointing as The Times of London review, but I agree with the specific complaints: the cast wasn’t challenged by the script and the story was off for tone and accuracy.

For me, the problem became clear when George Clooney’s character wrestled for the second, or perhaps third, time with the question of whether art was worth a life when they lost their first member in defense of Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges.

Clooney is not a talented enough actor to cause me to forget I’m watching George Clooney. Listening to him give a fundamentally conservative speech about preserving the knowledge of the past jarred me out of the story. It is also why I instantly picked out a detail. The dialogue referred to the artists, that if we didn’t preserve their works it would be as if the artist never existed.

But great artworks aren’t about the artist. Masterpieces grant to us knowledge or an example of master craftsmanship that inspires us to greater achievement ourselves. The masterworks are worth defending not because they tell us the master existed but because, as a whole, they represent history and knowledge that we could not replicate.

Given most of the stuff Hollywood churns out, it didn’t surprise me that they couldn’t see the distinction.

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Did Ann Coulter Move?

Friday, February 14th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

No. She feels like she did but isn’t certain she could. From her weekly column, “Did I Move?,” again on immigration:

We’re living in a different country now, and I can’t recall moving! Had I wanted to live in Japan, I could have moved there. Had I had wanted to live in Mexico, Pakistan or Chechnya — I could have moved to those places, too.

(Although maybe not. They all have stricter immigration policies than we do.)

Yes, most places have immigration laws that would shock American open-borders supporters. My “favorites” are the report and deport laws for immigrants who fall pregnant. Expats trade immigration stories often and quickly learn what Milton Friedman thought obvious: welfare states need to restrict immigration. Racism and other forms of discrimination affect how the immigrants are treated after entry, but the welfare state closes borders and deports workers.

Europe is giving us a view of our possible future. From “Europe is falling out of love with open borders” in The Guardian, about upcoming elections expected to further restrict Europe’s open borders [emphasis mine]:

The usual use of obvious statistics showing that fit, young, ambitious immigrants pay more taxes and use fewer public services holds less sway than more tangible local examples of the pressure new eastern European families are putting upon already overstretched maternity wards and infant schools. Immigration, though usually good for the migrants concerned, is a bosses’ charter. Those with the upper hand range from owners of big food processing, care or hospitality companies to those in the middle classes cooing about how polite, hardworking and reasonably priced the eastern European workers are.

Of course, achieving such a huge U-turn on our continent will take time. The expected triumph of the extreme right and extreme free traders in six months’ time must finally wake us up to the need to put border controls and economic security at the heart of the debates about future alternatives.

Open immigration or generous welfare laws: eventually only one survives.

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How Ann Coulter Defends Chris Christie

Thursday, February 6th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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This week Ann Coulter “defended” Chris Christie. The governor is not a bully, as the papers suggest; he is only a weak-willed politician:

The gravamen of the media’s case against Christie on Bridgegate seems to be that he is a “bully” — which I painstakingly gleaned from the fact that the governor is called a “bully” 1 million times a night on MSNBC and in hundreds of blog postings and New York Times reports.

Christie is not a bully. If anything, he’s a pansy, a man terrified of the liberal media, of Wall Street, of Silicon Valley, of Obama, of Bruce Springsteen, of Mark Zuckerberg, of Chuck Schumer. It’s a good bet he’s afraid of his own shadow.

I cannot disagree. Other than preferring she left out the fat jokes, I only wonder why she would write about Christie at all at this point. Christie hasn’t been a serious interest since that lukewarm GOP convention speech, which Coulter skewers well. Why is anyone outside of New Jersey talking about him anymore?

I don’t think this is Coulter’s fault. She is following the news. Last week that led her to immigration and this week Christie—these are topics the legacy media and the GOP smart set want to debate, not topics right-leaning voters are actually concerned about right now. We expect, and the research Jonathan Haidt gave us some supporting data, that the left doesn’t understand our concerns. But the larger problem is that the GOP smart set doesn’t understand us, either.

Chris Christie fell into the untrustworthy-pol pothole months ago. Move along already.

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Morality, For Sale at a Store Near You

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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Preparing for the Houston Ice Storm 2014, Part Deux, I hit the grocery store. I was in that ready-alert state of mind that allows a person to see details usually missed. The promotional-items section at the front of the store caught my eye, as Kroger has designed it to do. They featured a new brand, Simple Truth. I think the product was potato chips, but I don’t recall because the name grabbed my attention.

A bunch of ideas came to my mind. One, the name reminded me of the Innocent  and Honest juices that annoy me so. These juice brands show up at parties, and when kids are running amok, tattling and the like, the names make me wonder if the branding is some sort of wishful thinking. Innocent even has a little halo in the logo. Honest goes for word play with Honest Tea, Honest Aid, and Honest Kids. The kid juices come in an annoying punch pouch that supposedly catches spills but actually makes the pouches almost impossible to puncture with the plastic straw. I avoid Innocent and Honest brands as a rule.

Two, I got an ear worm from Jonah Goldberg. I have a few of his old articles about consumer morality memorized. (I started reading him back in the days when one still had to print, rather than bookmark, favorite articles. I read them more than once.) The Simple Truth triggered this quote to playback:

Perhaps it was when Nietzsche pronounced God dead that so many decided to do His job themselves. Today, we are our own priests. Our truths are own “inner truths.” Our morality is bought retail.

I’ve seen this morality bought retail everywhere from furniture to fashion to food. A few years ago, I blogged about a WSJ article on triple-figure designer jeans. I wrote, “For the hefty price tag you get a pair of jeans and a public statement that you have enough money to afford such jeans and that you care about workers and the environment. … Fab jeans and good works for a couple hundred bucks–no actual action required.” I got comments about how cool this was. My sarcasm went largely unnoticed.  

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This Week’s Ann Coulter Column: How to Use Immigrants as Pawns

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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Ann Coulter got a copy of Phyllis Schlafly’s yet-to-be-released report on a meta-study of immigration statistics. The overall conclusions aren’t surprising to anyone with basic knowledge of U.S. history:

Immigrants — all immigrants — have always been the bulwark of the Democratic Party. For one thing, recent arrivals tend to be poor and in need of government assistance. Also, they’re coming from societies that are far more left-wing than our own. History shows that, rather than fleeing those policies, they bring their cultures with them. (Look at what New Yorkers did to Vermont.)

This is not a secret. For at least a century, there’s never been a period when a majority of immigrants weren’t Democrats.

From her article I gather that the Schlafly report merely updates the numbers.

But, as Coulter notes, this non-secret doesn’t deter the GOP elite, who are poised to capitulate to Obama’s State of the Union rhetoric about making 2014 a “year of action with or without Congress.” The GOP masterminds think that Democrats and Republicans can work together on immigration reform. Obviously, and per usual, they have failed to consider either the views of the GOP base or their own long-term political interests.

Leaving aside the political folly of changing the subject from the epic and continuing failures of Obamacare, the kind of immigration reform on which the Democrats will “work with us,” it will expand and harden a welfare class in the United States serving none but the Democratic power elite.

Immigrant assimilation isn’t an option. When immigrants assimilate, they don’t vote reliably democratic anymore, but current education policy stalls the assimilation and our culture of non-judgmentalism, the refusal of the successful to preach what they practice, locks the new immigrants into the servant classes.

With a permanent and growing welfare class, Democrats can recreate a patronage system and consolidate power the Boss Tweed way. Lest anyone think that a overly dramatic historical allusion to political corruption, two weeks ago, the New York Times published an article (“The Forgotten Virtues of Tammany Hall“) written by Terry Goldway, the author of the forthcoming revisionist history book “Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics.” It is nostalgia for the days Democrats used immigrants as pawns.

We are seeing the start of a Tammany Revival. And somehow the GOP elite thinks it a good idea to assist in this scheme. They won’t even get votes for this assist, only temporary patronage, very temporary patronage.

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The High Heel Cliche

Monday, January 27th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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The Hillary Clinton 2016 speculation began a while ago. Time is on topic this week with Clinton’s leg and black pump on the cover.

Over at Slate, Amanda Hess finds this cause for concern.

Clinton’s presumptive bid to become the first female president does position her as a powerhouse poised to stomp through the patriarchal status quo. But when publications like Time frame that feminist pursuit with images of women in pointy heels that leave feminized male “victims” in their wake, they undermine the female politician’s power even as they attempt to acknowledge it.

I surmise that these female domination images are acceptable when talking about flailing men—The Munk Debates used a similar image for “The End of Men”—but counterproductive stereotyping when talking about actual powerful women. Why?

Hess doesn’t state the mechanics of how such images undermine female power. I will. Women who found their power on breaking the glass ceiling cannot allow dominance imagery because they assume that they cannot withstand an attack, open or stealth, that they are against men. They assume they must engage in passive aggressive argument to win votes, which is ill-served by heel-grinding imagery. It’s also a tacit admission that women cannot dominate men without their consent.

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Who Is Jeff Davis?

Saturday, January 25th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

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The Wendy Davis coverage grows tired already. She is just another example of the feminist myth, a woman other women want to follow but who is becoming politically radioactive for not conforming to the narrative — in this instance, that women can do it all on their own. As usual, marriage and an extra income prove their worth to ambition.

The American electorate forgives many things, but not lies. Declaring your back story off limits works a bit like taking the Fifth in court. Everyone assumes you have something to hide. Add on her campaign’s secondary offense of insensitivity to disabled persons—Greg Abbot cannot walk a mile in her shoes as he is a paraplegic—and while Wendy Davis runs might continue for years depending on how hard her defenders and the press try to camouflage her back story manipulations, she is not a reasonably viable political candidate for elected high office anymore. (Think John Edwards or John Kerry.)

But something about the Wendy Davis coverage has caught my interest. The Austin-American Statesman published a how-I-got-scooped-by-the-Dallas-Morning-News article. I noticed a few commenters asked about Jeff Davis, her second and ex-husband.

Perhaps I’m spending too much time reading blogs and articles about child-men who refuse to partner with their wives or girlfriends or take on the duties of fatherhood, but Jeff Davis sounds like the kind of man modern women want. He prioritized her career needs, first by putting her through law school and then by taking custody of their daughter after the divorce so that she could realize her professional ambitions. He seems like a step-up-and-take-responsibility kind of guy. Women lament a dearth of these kinds of guys, either as partners for women or role models for boys.

It seems I’m not the only one wondering about Jeff Davis. From Ann Coulter’s column yesterday, The Heroism of Wendy Davis:

Hey — maybe Jeff Davis should run for governor! He’s the one who raised two kids, including a stepdaughter, while holding down a job and paying for his wife’s law school. There’s a hard-luck story!

As one of my girlfriends asked, “Is he still single?”

We need to hear Jeff Davis’s story.

*****

image courtesy shutterstock /  Tomas Urbelionis

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What To Do About the War on Women

Friday, December 20th, 2013 - by Leslie Loftis

Part I, by Leslie Loftis on November 14: Can We Rebrand Feminism?

Part II, by Susan L.M. Goldberg on November 20: Feminism Doesn’t Need Re-Branding, It Needs a Revolution

Part III, by Leslie Loftis on November 27: How to Overcome the Looming Feminist Collapse

Part IV, by Susan L.M. Goldberg on December 3: Brains Not Boobs: Re-Formulating for Feminist Success

Continuing the “What To Do About Feminism” series, I’m with Susan that we should aim to secure equal education for women, to be followed by equal opportunities. To that end, the video embedded above should  be what modern feminism does.

Frankly, my root point in this whole series is that women still need to fight and women of the Right will have to be the ones to do it, feminist label not withstanding. This isn’t new. Susan linked to an insightful Camille Paglia article from 2008 about how feminist history has insufficiently acknowledged how much it owes to capitalism, the industrial revolution, and religion. Until the 1970s, it was a diverse movement. Any call to embrace feminism’s powerful history, must recognize that it was effective when it was diverse, and furthermore — how it was diverse — with women on the Right.

Feminism is all but dead now because when Gloria Steinem and her acolytes took over the movement in the 70s and expelled the Right, they ironically turned modern feminists from pro-woman to pro-man. Regardless of what they say against men or for women, they implicitly accept that the man’s ways are the better ways. We can see this in the “lean in” professional pressure to keep a man’s career timeline and our preference for beat-’em-up heroines. We ape men and then claim that we do it better.

That’s what reproductive control absolutism is about, negating biology so we can live like men. Even if one doesn’t think it foolish, it can’t be done. And I worry that the alliterative “brains, not boobs” buys into a little of this biology denial. We can and should stress education and opportunity, but we will always be at the mercy of our biology. The Mary Wollstonecraft who Susan quoted for the proposition that women only seek control over themselves? She died in childbirth. Control over ourselves will only come with knowledge and acceptance of our biology. As Camille Paglia put it in a passage I can’t currently place, any higher education women’s study program should require at least a course in female endocrinology. So in Susan’s “brains, not boobs” terms, I submit a more inclusive and realistic, brains and boobs.

I also think Susan makes a common and fundamental error about the culture wars:

The moronic War on Women has nothing to do with genitalia and everything to do with quashing the threat of female intellect. Instead of driving this point home, the right’s bullhorn is monopolized with shouts about the evils of abortion. 

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How to Overcome the Looming Feminist Collapse

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 - by Leslie Loftis
shutterstock_139410479

banner on May 18, 2013, in Warsaw, Poland at a “Slut walk.”

After my post on whether we could successfully rebrand feminism, Susan L.M. Goldberg took issue with my pessimistic answer of “probably not.” Noting, correctly I think, that feminism needs to focus more on female oppression in the world and less on western women’s “penny-ante” problems, she asked for a plan to overcome the problem of women who disavow feminism because of how it is marketed. And we decided to make a back and forth series out of these feminist dilemmas.

So first a clarification from my first post: women don’t disavow feminism because of how it is marketed but because of how it acts. I claim that marketing can’t overcome what feminism actually does these days: focus on sexual hedonism and career success for western women. (It only manages the career success. The sexual hedonism is still elusive.)

A simple marketing trick won’t do, we have to actually capture the term. The plan that I’ve been testing for a few years was to have the new disillusioned feminists join with women of the right, who are experienced at disillusion with feminism. Frankly, we’ve been waiting for domestic and minority feminists to get fed up enough to rebel. I thought that a rebel alliance could change what feminism does and thereby revive the movement.

My pessimism is about that alliance forming. But alliance or no, Goldberg is right, there is much to be done.

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The Fastest Way to Annoy a Canadian

Thursday, November 21st, 2013 - by Leslie Loftis

Love CanadaA friend of ours, a Canadian serial expat, speaks at legal conferences. In the grand tradition of opening with a joke, he sometimes starts by telling a story about U.S. vs. Canada Olympic hockey. The last time the Canadians beat the U.S., he asked some Americans about it. The American answered, “It sucks to lose. But at least we lost to Canada. I’m happy to see Canada win.” “No, no, no!” our friend protested. “You are supposed to be spitting mad that you got beat by your mortal rival! We want a rivalry!”

In sports, this unrequited rivalry is funny. He gets laughs when he tells it. But like many funny things, the humor comes from just touching the truth. The actual truth has a bit of sting to it.

Last week I was in Toronto. I arrived just after the Toronto City Council stripped Mayor Rob Ford of his authority. In the non-stop news coverage, the local news was a little giddy that U.S. big media was covering the story. They even excerpted part of CNN’s coverage.

The reporter’s excitement at the big U.S. coverage reminded me of my friend’s hockey story, and that bothered me. This wasn’t about rivalry, but about us noticing them. Doesn’t the northern U.S. cover Canada? Down in Texas, I’m not shocked that we don’t cover Canada. We cover Mexico. (I don’t buy the internationally ignorant American conventional wisdom. We are quite big. I can hop in a car and drive west for 15+ hours and still be in Texas. The American Resident covered this point well a while back.) Regardless, it isn’t remotely cool, for CNN or Canada, that this story was getting play outside of Toronto.

I sighed, made a mental note to discuss this with my Canadian friends later, and picked up Kay Hymowitz’s Manning Up which I was using for debate prep. (I was there to attend a debate on “The End of Men.” ) I forgot about Mayor Ford and the exceptional case of Canadian coverage for a few hours.

But at the debate, America’s treatment of Canada came up again, courtesy of Maureen Dowd.

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Can We Rebrand Feminism?

Thursday, November 14th, 2013 - by Leslie Loftis
britney-spears-work-bitch-video-still-13

From Britney Spears’s video for “Work B*tch”

Feminism needs a makeover, or so many feminists think. Unnerved every time some starlet, superstar, or rising professional star shuns the term, feminists wonder why all women don’t automatically claim the description.

They assume women must not know the meaning of the term. So they launch various education and rebranding campaigns. Recently, Christina Hoff Sommers tried to get “freedom feminism” to take in the pages of The Atlantic, and UK Elle launched a straight rebranding PR campaign. Hanna Rosin wondered if it was worth rebranding since it has proven so divisive. She has gotten closest to the actual problem.

If someone as smart and successful as Mayer, someone who tours the country speaking to young women, can’t comfortably call herself a feminist, then maybe we need to take her objection seriously. Maybe there is a reason why that PBS documentary was so much better on the history than it was on the modern era. Maybe feminism is a term too freighted with history and it’s time to move on.

To gain new feminists, the movement will need to do more than rebrand. The term “feminism” has bowed, as words do, to the dominate cultural practice, which despite what the rebranders think, has little to do with the hairy leg stereotypes of old. Right now feminism is defined by the old line political feminists, who have no intention of releasing their grip on the term. Any attempt to make feminism more popular will have to confront and break this hold.

Currently women who claim feminism fall into two major factions (and a host of minor factions too numerous to go into here). I call them the equal opportunity feminists and the political feminists.

The first holds that women should be free to make their own choices without external limitations. This feminism focuses upon equal opportunity and individual autonomy and enjoys broad support across the political spectrum. In almost every casual feminist discussion, someone will claim this is The One True Feminism. Some claim it with grace and passion in blog comment threads, while more popular proclamations declare we are all stupid if we don’t get it, like this helpful visual from HuffPo that I found in my Facebook feed:

Youreafeministflowchart

It is a simple sentiment and the one that the rebranding efforts reach for, but it is not the dominate feminism today.

For the past four decades, high profile feminists have co-opted the term for specific policy positions. These are the feminists who mistook the means for the ends.

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The Movie That Should Have Been This Summer’s Blockbuster…

Friday, September 20th, 2013 - by Leslie Loftis

old familiar

Summer blockbuster season is over, thankfully. It was rather disappointing for fans. Man of Steel gave us two hours of CGI fighting smothering 15 minutes of an attempt at a story. Star Trek: Into Darkness was so full of naive and contradictory notions of human goodness that my husband almost made us leave the theater for my eye rolling and snorting. (I’ve never been a Trekkie, but that was ridiculous.) And those were the movies that were monetarily successful. The rest of the intended blockbusters failed decisively.

But as the summer movie season ended, it produced a little gem of a movie. Relatively few watched it. More should.

As movie buffs have noted time and time again, Hollywood tries to push themes too hard. They make morals of the story overt. Then the movie comes off as preachy. Conservatives making movies tend to make this mistake with vigor, figuring among other things that they have only one shot to get the idea across so they better feature it.

The World’s End avoids that mistake (probably because it didn’t come out of Hollywood). It hits themes of friendship, loneliness, despair, aging, the necessity of free will–all and more in a story about a pub crawl. Well, not just a pub crawl. It’s a Dusk ’till Dawn like pub crawl, only set in small town England with blue-blooded robots sent by interventionist aliens. Throw in some 80’s rock and Shakespearian speeches about beer, and I grant it isn’t for everyone.

But for those of you I had at Dusk ’till Dawn set in English pubs, see the movie tonight. If it has already stooped showing, watch for it on Netflix. I’m going to catch it again then because some of those speeches are worthy of memorization and inclusion into the pop culture canon.

“Good food. Fine Ales. Total annihilation.”

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To Marry a Man

Thursday, September 12th, 2013 - by Leslie Loftis

Wedding Dance

A friend started a “where were you on 9/11″ thread. Of course, I remember. Everyone does. But I hadn’t looked closely at my memories in a while. I wasn’t in any position of consequence. My account didn’t seem worth examining. But today I remembered something, something I’d gotten so accustomed to I’d forgotten it was once new.

I had started volunteering for Orlando Sanchez for mayor as his scheduler a few weeks earlier. My husband and I were just shy of a year married and had gotten fed up with double law firm life. We hardly saw each other. He traveled and I had a pager for weekend duty. (I was a maritime attorney. Ships collide on the same schedule that babies arrive — whenever.) I had resumes out for in-house positions but didn’t want to be unemployed while looking, hence the political campaign, which suited me well.

That day Orlando’s schedule was easy in the morning and loaded in the afternoon. So I had a leisurely walk and arrived at HQ after nine. It was quiet. Political headquarters are never that quiet.

After going though messages, I found everyone in the meeting room around a TV.  The second plane had just hit.

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