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Susan L.M. Goldberg

Susan L.M. Goldberg is a writer with a Master's in Radio, Television & Film. Her writing tends towards the intersection of culture, politics and faith with the interest in starting, not stopping the discussion. Follow her on Twitter @SLMGoldberg.
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The Real #WarOnWomen in One Easy Tweet

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

This is what happens when you lump in pregnancy with chlamydia and refuse to include any real discussions on family planning and career in sex education classes. Is it any wonder women believe the best way to self-advocate is to demand free access to drugs and surgical procedures so they can contain, control and abort?

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NYT Buries Research Revealing That Kids Need More Time With Mom, Less Dependence on Government

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
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The Old Gray Lady has decided there is “mounting evidence of advantages for children of working mothers.” It’s a politically correct headline that follows the newspaper’s classically liberal slant. But, like one of those extensive designer-drug warning labels, to find out what constitutes “advantages” you have to read the small print.

The “silver bullet” factoids boil down to daughters of working mothers who are 3% more likely to work than the daughters of stay-at-home mothers. The daughters of working moms are earning an average of 23% more and are 4% more likely to hold supervisory positions. And if those whopping statistics aren’t silvery enough, “sons of working mothers in those countries spent an additional hour a week caring for family members and 17 minutes more per week on housework.”

That’s it, myths about working mothers be damned. We’ve got a 4% increase in supervisory positions among their daughters and their sons are spending an extra 17 minutes a week cleaning house. Talk about numbers that change the culture. At this rate, if “working moms” were a TV show they’d be cancelled before their pilot even aired.

The Times brushes by a 2010 meta-analysis of 5 decades’ worth of data on the impact of working mothers on children, mumbling something about how working moms were defended by those statistics as well. However, the numbers beg to differ. According to that meta-analysis:

The positive effects were particularly strong for children from low-income or single-parent families; some studies showed negative effects in middle-class or two-income families.

Bottom line: If you’re a single parent, it’s better to work independently than to rely on or continuously demand more government subsidies. But if you’re part of a two-parent household, one of you should plan to be at home for the sake of your child’s long term well being, especially during those baby and toddler years.

In other words, the data still defends the limited government, pro-family position the Times is unwilling to take.

Nice try, New York Times. But once again you’ve only managed to prove that the hot air you blow is all “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

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Why We’re Addicted to Nihilism: The Psychology Behind Mad Men’s Empty, Pointless Ending

Monday, May 18th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
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Sonia Saraiya, writing for Salon, observes the frustration of many fans in the wake of Mad Men‘s rather un-poignant series finale:

I left this finale believing myself to be disappointed in Don Draper, but I’m really disappointed with myself. Disappointed for this narrative of settling for the modern world—which, along with its many perks, like lower infant mortality and longer life expectancy, comes with a horrifying feeling of emptiness from time to time, as we all seem to strive to live an existence that is not great or searing but just okay, just fine, just good enough to get by. Most of us in the first world don’t go bed hungry anymore—but as Peggy observed to the Burger Chef executives, “you’re starving, and not just for dinner.” Don and Peggy and Joan and Sally can’t really flame out beautifully in “Mad Men” because they are modeled to be people just like we are people, and yes, it is disappointing. Some kind of conflagration, of either the body or the soul, would have been so much more cathartic, so much more satisfying. It would have given voice to the roiling emptiness within. But instead we just get scenes from one more day in the lives of these people. One more day is all any of us ever get, until the day we don’t.

It’s a powerful statement coming from a mainstream media source. Not too many are willing to confront the rampant nihilism in today’s media landscape, let alone admit how personally depressed they are by it. Further case in point: Fox’s Backstrom ends with the lead going into rehab because he knows there’s more to life than misery: the show gets cancelled. CBS’s Elementary, facing a similar ratings struggle, has the lead succumb to his heroin addiction: the show is renewed. “Some kind of conflagration” seems to be the ethos of the day, the way to save a dying show. Give the viewers one more train wreck and they’ll keep staring. Depressing doesn’t begin to describe it.

The root of Saraiya’s complaint is that paradise, perfection, nirvana — whatever you want to call it — has been crafted into a commodity that we buy, sell and trade based on personal need. It’s a lame complaint at best, one that accepts the Marxist demand that world perfection is a human struggle instead of a Divine gift. In pursuing the Divine at a hippie retreat, Don retreats into his advertising ethos. Saraiya turns this into an argument against capitalism and, in doing so, caves to the inevitable reality that fed hippie-turned-yuppie disillusionment: You can’t force everyone to drink the Kool Aid (or, in this case, Coke).

Capitalists didn’t turn perfection into a commodity. Marxists simply took it upon themselves to manifest perfection on earth. Like every other revolution before them, the hippies got stuck in the “struggle” bit and have been caught in the muck ever since. Taking a cue from Burning Man, Saraiya’s wish for conflagration echoes the belief that complete destruction is the only way to start over. Think wacko environmentalists who believe humans are a disease on earth and you get the picture. The Kardashians may not be as extreme, but they’re just as pointless.

The sick truth is, no Mad Men fan was hoping for Don to enter some kind of therapy and exit a repaired human being. That was never the way the show was going to go. Right now they’re standing around their office water coolers relishing in their post-series misery the way one would reminisce about a good one-night stand. It was naughty, and now it’s all over, oh woe is me …I can’t wait to do it all again.

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Of Course America Is Giving Up on Christianity — We Gave Up on God Ages Ago

Sunday, May 17th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

If Ben Shapiro’s simply stated point isn’t enough to drive home the idea that the latest Pew survey on religious life in America reported absolutely nothing new, just check out one of the latest episodes of the Kardashians in which Kim Kardashian has to Google who baptized Jesus before concluding that she wanted to “find a guy named John” to baptize her daughter, North West. What’s worse, the “guy named John” concept, the fact that she had to Google it, or the reality that my Jewish friends took more offense to this absurdity than did a supposed Christian?

Jewish Americans had their panic attack over Pew two years ago when it was revealed that a full 66% of Jews agree you don’t need to believe in God in order to be Jewish. Sure, we’re the people who exist because God called us out and made a covenant with us, but really, we’re in it for the 6-figure salary potential. Now the Christians, genetically always two steps behind, have finally gotten their own slap in the face and panic over the moral integrity of America sets in, as if we’ve always believed our presidents and political leaders are really good Christians on the inside. You know, in that Sally Langston sort of way.

Here’s the positive side: There is something to be learned from the Jewish world when it comes to faith. It just means looking towards Israel, a nation that is statistically happier than we are, statistically less religious than we are, and statistically holds a higher rate of faith in God than we do. This past week, Israeli professors became overnight media sensations simply by supporting family values in their classrooms in the most practical way possible: By literally becoming the caretakers of their students’ babies while continuing to teach. When one American professor proceeded to breastfeed her sick baby while teaching in 2012, a national controversy ensued. Because you know how it goes with boobs and the Internet on this side of the ocean. So much for the efficacy of state-mandated sex ed.

Forget panicking over the fact that fewer Americans attend church. Churches (and synagogues, for that matter) have rendered themselves relatively meaningless in this day and age. If you wanted to panic over church attendance you should have done it 40 years ago when the pews began emptying out in favor of drug-laden music festivals and yuppie pursuits of McMansions and “having it all.” My colleague Michael van der Galien is right, we need to counter the secularization of America with biblical values. The answer, however, first requires countering secularization in our religious institutions instead of using them as a mere litmus test for the value and power of our belief.

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CBS’s Supergirl: Nothing More Than a Rehash of Pop Feminist Tropes?

Friday, May 15th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

At best, CBS’s new take on Supergirl is a cross between pop feminist trends and complaints. Pretty blonde girl (guaranteed to be noted as such by intersectional feminists covering the race beat) who spends her time being told by her bosses to get coffee (didn’t Marvel’s Peggy Carter already cover this one to death this year?) learns to embrace her true identity (yes, it’s a gay metaphor – literally) only to have the science of her outfit explained to her by a male colleague (cue the whining about the lack of girls in STEM professions).

You know you’ve read too much contemporary feminist criticism when you can pick apart a TV series preview in 30 seconds or less.

Kara, aka Supergirl, comes off about as bland as a Barbie doll in this preview. Worse yet, she’s constantly seeking approval from those around her for the choice she made to “out” her identity. Forget Superman’s quiet stoicism and rejection of fame in the name of the greater good (and retaining some semblance of a private life). Supergirl is louder and prouder and more demanding of acceptance than a gay pride parade. Except about her name, of course.

“We can’t call her that. She has to be Super Woman.” Snore. Didn’t the Spice Girls cover that one over a decade ago? They did, which is why Calista Flockhart (90′s feminist du jour Ally McBeal) was recruited to play the angry boss who reminds Kara how great it is to be a grrrl …in that b*tch sort of way. (Cue feminist whining about female corporate stereotypes …now!)

The bottom line that will make or break the show will be the writing. If they can make 3-D characters out of 2-D comics, they’ll have television gold, as Arrow, Gotham, and The Flash have proven (along with their Marvel competitors). Let’s hope this Supergirl doesn’t fall into the Venus Flytrap of contemporary feminist tropes. Up, up, and as far away as possible from that train wreck, indeed.

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So, Now We’re Supposed to be Outraged by “All Male Panels”

Friday, May 15th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

This week contemporary feminists chose to go ga-ga over All Male Panels, a Tumblr site dedicated to screen-grabs of all-male panels in a variety of disciplines:

This brilliant Tumblr page points out the lack of women in visible spaces (such as panels) in a way that’s funny, but also quite poignant. The Tumblr page doesn’t just call out panels—it points to books, boards of directors, and academic committees. Overwhelmingly male spaces are obviously prevalent in the world. This Tumblr just makes it even clearer for those who aren’t forced to recognize it every day.

What the Tumblr page fails to do is point out if any of those men happen to be gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, or questioning; if they’ve ever promoted the use of a non-gendered bathroom; if they’ve ever attended or supported a performance of The Vagina Monologues; if they identify as “feminists” because, thanks to Joseph Gordon Levitt, we know guys do; yada, yada yada. Could it be that feminists are just as biased as the guys who they claim run “The Patriarchy”?

The funniest thing about All Male Panels is their use of David Hasselhoff. But, given that Hasselhoff is well known to be the Anti-Christ of the Internet, aren’t they about one step away from employing Godwin’s Law when it comes to their oh-so-sophisticated form of visual argumentation?

The only thing contemporary feminists prove by praising such a simplistic site is that they are just as prone to stereotyping as they are to arguing against it. Shame on you, ladies. That’s no way to act like a grrrrl.

 

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Feminist Media Ignoring Greatest Thing to Happen to Muslim Women on YouTube…Of Course

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Nadia Manzoor and Radhika Vaz play Shugs & Fats, short for Shugufta and Fatima, two Muslim women attempting to negotiate their way into Western culture by encountering every feminist trend in the pop culture playbook. Their YouTube series reminds you of what Saturday Night Live could be, if it were still funny. An irreverent examination of culture clash, Manzoor’s experience as a world traveler pairs nicely with Vaz’s impressive improv resume to generate a fearless take on being Muslim and female in New York today.

Although the pair don hijabs, one of their goals is to throw off the culture of shame associated with Muslim women within Islamic culture. Needless to say, they haven’t always gotten a positive response from fellow Muslims. Using comedy as a shield, Manzoor and Vaz explore how Western culture can liberate even the most traditional of Islamic women. So, why the lack of attention from feminist media? Are they afraid that if they support the benign YouTube series they’ll be considered Islamophobes? If so, who exactly are they seeking to empower?

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The Muppet Show Reboot Takes a Jab at Reality TV

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

There will forever be one timeless classic following Gen-X and their Millennial crossover counterparts to the grave: The Muppets.

The new ABC prime time series promises to be a satirical take on reality television. It didn’t take long for ABC to green light the show revived by Big Bang Theory co-creator Bill Prady. Granted, the original Muppet Show played off the era’s popular vaudeville variety format, so the reality TV style is a plus when it comes to packaging. And we’re still guaranteed all those awesome guest star moments. What will be new? Getting into the backstories of our favorite Muppet characters. Apparently this audience is finally old enough to get the juicy details behind all those Kermit/Miss Piggy double-entendres.

Still, the show appears to target former kid fans, not current ones. So, are ABC and The Muppets cashing in on the rejuvenile trend? Will the show, like most children’s entertainment, be geared towards young and old alike? Or is it a smart way to attract a prime time audience that already houses their core fan base?

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It’s Not Even Funny How Wrong John Oliver Is About Paid Family Leave

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

John Oliver, HBO’s version of Jon Stewart, decided to celebrate Mother’s Day by using his late night platform to argue for federal paid family leave in America. It was a compelling, heavy-handed report loaded with half-truths meant to support an ideologically beautiful, yet economically unfeasible concept. Based on my years administering FMLA in New Jersey, here is the list of Oliver’s myths that need to be debunked if we’re going to take the argument for paid family leave seriously.

1. Selena Allen, whose baby was born 6 weeks premature. Oliver presents her as only being able to take a total of 4 weeks off of work, which indicates that Oliver is oblivious to the disability period associated with giving birth. According to the Department of Labor, pregnancy is viewed as a temporary disability the 30 days prior and 30 days after birth. That post-birth time frame automatically increases for women who deliver via C-section. The disability period can always be extended in either direction with a doctor’s note. While this may be considered an unpaid leave by your employer, you are entitled to run your sick time concurrent to the leave, and you may also pursue temporary disability payments from your state or private disability insurer. Allen should never have returned to work the week following giving birth. Whether or not she was correctly informed of the law is not included in Oliver’s story.

2. Oliver argues for paternity leave by pointing out that Major League Baseball fans didn’t appreciate one player taking off 3 games to attend the birth of his child. What Oliver doesn’t mention is that fathers are just as eligible to take advantage of FMLA to bond with their newly born, foster or adoptive children. You do not need to physically give birth to be entitled to FMLA.

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Sure, the Black Widow Action Figures Are Sexy, But Little Girls Still Want the Princess Fantasy

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

As if Joss Whedon weren’t in enough hot water along with the rest of the Marvel folks for not producing a Black Widow movie series, Disney adds the icing onto the sexist cake by rewriting Avengers: Age of Ultron to promote a new Captain America toy. That heroic motorcycle ride Black Widow took to save the day in the film? Captain America is the spokesman of choice to sell the Cycle Blast Quinjet. So much for the Widow’s most heroic on-screen moment yet.

At least I’m not the only one wondering where the Black Widow action figure is amidst all the Ultron marketing. Thanks to Disney/Marvel’s woeful lack of attention to a major on-screen character, entire websites have been created to “follow the symbolic annihilation of women through merchandise.” The main assertion is that Disney has “never” been good at marketing “non-Princess” or warrior-Princess (think: Leia) female characters through the toy market.

Which begs the question, why doesn’t Disney think female action figures will sell? Let’s not fool ourselves (like the ideologues do) into thinking this is about being anti-feminist. This is about money. If a toy company thinks a product will earn money, they’ll sell it. According to a 2005 MIT study on toys and gender, children prefer stereotyped masculine or feminine toys, a trait that extends to “young nonhuman primates.” An examination of the packaging and marketing of these toys determined that boys preferred aggressive, competitive toys like action figures, while girls aimed towards attractive, nurturing toys like Barbie or baby dolls. In other words, the historical biological roles of hunter/gatherer and birthing/nesting, by and large, still manifest as the preferred respective fantasies of children of both genders.

If contemporary feminists want to market a Black Widow action figure to girls, they’d better quit grumbling and follow Marvel’s suit in characterizing her as the nurturer and “mother” of the Avengers. They’d also be wise to take a cue from Time Warner’s DC Entertainment and Warner Brother’s Studio, who have paired up with toy makers Mattel and Lego to create a colorful line of attractive teen female superheroes to market to today’s young female toy buyers. Let’s face it: Black Widow’s black jumpsuit is sexy, but hardly appealing to a five year-old girl.

Forget about textbook ideologies. When it comes to sales, the customer is the only one who is always right.

 

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Is Motherhood a Blessing, or a Curse?

Sunday, May 10th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Women have innate superpowers. Thanks to a century-old patriarchal system of doctors, politicians and insurance companies, women have been fooled into believing they have no power. What’s worse, thanks to a cadre of covert female agents, women today willingly hand over their unique powers to the hands of government agents who control the “threat,” either through a strict drug regimen, surgical procedure or both.

Women who refuse to relinquish their power face fear and intimidation tactics: You will be in pain; you will lose your figure; your partners will leave you; no one will employ you; you will be alone. Who ever thought the power to bring forth new life would be so damned scary?

Despite our overwhelming biological urge to reproduce, young women today are told to push off pregnancy or avoid it entirely. The women who don’t fall for this charade, the ones who take the leap into pregnancy and motherhood, are punished with promises of horrific labor pain and traumatic birthing experiences. Think about it: When is the last time you saw a peaceful birth recounted on television? Walk into a new-parents-to-be class at your local hospital and you’ll find out the number one reason young women are attending: “I want to know how not to be afraid of the pain.”

Mother of modern American midwifery Ina May Gaskin has made natural birth a feminist crusade, and rightly so. The myth that women need to be strapped to a table and drugged in order to give birth (a common practice from the 1920s through the 1960s) has led to generations of women entering birthing classes out of sheer fear that their bodies will fail at exactly what they are designed to do best. Pregnancy fear is the culmination of a cultural obsession with obtaining the perfect female body. Gaskin explains:

Remember this, for it is as true as true gets:  Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine.  The Creator is not a careless mechanic.  Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo.  Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.

And yet, we live in a culture that correlates birth to illness, babies to growths that must be removed, and childbearing to disease. When is the last time a sex-ed curriculum didn’t lump in pregnancy with chlamydia as an unwanted, avoidable side effect? Is it any wonder, then, that the reproductive power of women is treated as a threat to the State to be feared and controlled?

This Mother’s Day it’s time to rethink the way we view mothers and motherhood in America. Fostering healthy pregnancies should be one of the top priorities of the feminist movement, as should supporting all mothers, whether they have given birth or given their hearts to an adoptive or foster child. Mothers are the providers and caretakers of life, the sustainers of a great nation. As Gaskin observes, “When we as a society begin to value mothers as the givers and supporters of life, then we will see social change in ways that matter.”

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The Avengers Pose the Greatest Argument Against Government Control: Motherhood

Thursday, May 7th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Spoiler alert!

Don’t let the contemporary feminists fool you with their whining about Black Widow’s lack of star power. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow had the most powerful dialogue in the new release, Avengers: Age of Ultron. For the first time, movie audiences learn of her past as a Soviet agent trained from childhood. They also learn the most devastating aspect of being raised to kill: forced sterilization framed as a graduation rite of passage.

“It’s supposed to make it easier for you to kill,” she explains wistfully. The psychology behind training a school full of girls to become Soviet agents? Their biological mothering instincts must be destroyed if they are to be efficient and effective servants of the State. Now, Natasha the Black Widow can only celebrate vicariously as friends give birth to children and name them in her honor. The State may have marred her biology, but the permanent scars are in her mind and her heart.

Contemporary feminists complain that Black Widow is the mother of the group, but never bother asking why, because their politics force them to be completely out of touch with statistical reality. Despite the vociferous demands for increased access to birth control methods ranging from condoms to abortions, 96% of women ages 18-40 still express a desire to have a child. Why, then, do they demand the State have greater control over their reproductive rights? As the case of the Black Widow illustrates, a demand for control is a contradiction in terms with potentially deadly results.

Also read: 

Avengers: Age of Ultron Spoilers Review

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Hollywood Reporter Uses Natalie Portman to ‘Sh*t on Israel’

Thursday, May 7th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

In the wake of the right-wing victory in Israel’s most recent elections, a number of famous Israeli artists made news in the Jewish blogosphere for their anti-Netanyahu tirades. Apparently the Hollywood Reporter caught on to the trend and attempted to manifest it on this side of the ocean with Israeli-American star Natalie Portman.

One huge problem surfaces at the beginning of the interview. She’s not as bold as her Israeli counterparts. Despite her Harvard education and worldly upbringing, she manages to sound equal parts informed and ignorant on a variety of topics ranging from Israeli politics to French socialism. The confusion is intentional. This is how Hollywood actors get away with “being political” without saying anything politically relevant that could later come back to bite them. Appearing informed while remaining vulnerable is how best to win your audience, as Portman illustrates throughout:

She sits, ramrod straight, plunking her iPhone in the middle of the table and hit­ting “record” before she has said a word, as if challenging me to quote her with razor-sharp accuracy — which, I must admit, casts a pall over our conversation.

…On life with her husband, French ballet dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, 37, whom she met on the set of Black Swan in 2010 and married in 2012: “The disappointments are always in myself…”

…she’s been fearless in proclaiming her Jewishness, even though she now lives in a country where anti-Semitism is terrifyingly on the rise. I ask if Portman feels nervous about being Jewish in Paris. “Yes,” she says, “but I’d feel nervous being a black man in this country. I’d feel nervous being a Muslim in many places.”

[On Paris:] “I feel like this country has a lot of religion and a lot of freedom around that; and there, the religion is almost like love. Love and intellectualism is their sort of way.”

And the grand poobah of her collection of double-edged lingo: While she made it clear that she is “very much against Netanyahu,” she quickly clarified that she didn’t want her opinions to be used to “sh*t on Israel.” That was the beginning and the end of it. So much for “sounding off.”

I once celebrated a hardcore Israeli Leftist’s (pardon, the term is “Labor Zionist” which translates best into American English as “Socialist”) 60th birthday party by being growled at repeatedly by the party boy himself that, in no uncertain terms, I needed to “change my politics” as guests looked on in awkward confusion. The guy literally ruined his surprise party for me in the name of Labor Zionism. Portman’s problem? She lost her teeth when she left her homeland. J Street has no problem “sh*tting” on Israel at this point and they’re a bunch of American Jews in suits. The most controversial thing about this interview? A pot-stirring headline employed the same anti-Semitic ethos for which Hollywood has become all too well known.

So, Portman, so much for not being used to “sh*t on Israel.” Did you really think the folks in Tinseltown would give a crap about your little Israeli movie?

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Stop Blaming Women for America’s Marriage Dilemma

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Anti-feminist Suzanne Venker went on a tirade about millennials who don’t marry. The problem, of course, are those women who give the milk away for free or let the man pick up the check at dinner. Seriously. If her rage isn’t stereotypical enough, check out the rom-com reasoning she quotes from Dr. Helen:

Men know there’s a good chance they’ll lose their friends, their respect, their space, their sex life, their money and — if it all goes wrong — their family…They don’t want to enter into a legal contract with someone who could effectively take half their savings, pension and property when the honeymoon period is over.Men aren’t wimping out by staying unmarried or being commitment phobes. They’re being smart.

Smart? Smart is noting that 70% of men ages 18-24 visit porn sites in a typical month. (Thirty percent of those monthly viewers are women.) Men don’t need to pay for dinner when they can pay for the milk (or get it for free!) with no consequences, STDs, pregnancy, or relationships.

The stat that sparked Venker’s rant is the one showing the number of never-married adults age 25 has doubled since 1960. What else has doubled since then? The percentage of college graduates. Whine all you want about women in the workforce, the economic reality (thanks to those obnoxious hippie Boomers) is that women today have to work, married or not. The fact that the unemployment rate nearly doubled from 1960 – 2010 didn’t seem to cross Venker’s mind, either. Unless you can swing a reality TV show in your youth, get “loaned” a house from mom and dad upon marriage, and cash in on those photo shoots and residuals when you start popping out babies, you’re at a loss for a serious, reliable income without some kind of post-high school education.

Severnty-five percent of millennials still want to get married and the majority still want to have children, statistics that effectively blow Venker’s claim out of the water. Want to beat the ethos of contemporary feminism? Your chief complaint needs to be a lot better than “Waaa, it’s not the 1950s any more!”

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Quit Negging America into Self-Destruction

Monday, May 4th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

NSFW: Language

In the second season premiere of HBO’s pro-guy, pro-small business, pro-capitalist genius of a counterculture conservative comedy Silicon Valley, the guys once again incorporate a sexual metaphor into their business strategy: negging. Negging is a method by which you insult someone in order to get your sexual desires fulfilled. Twisted? Yes. A functional strategy in a certain sphere of sexual culture? Absolutely.

And it works on the Internet as well.

Before you dismiss those who neg as perverts, keep in mind that negative, provocative, reactionary content drives the majority of clicks on the Internet. Case in point, my colleague Robert Wargas’s latest commentary: How Long Does America Have? His primary evidence that we’re in self-destruct? Baltimore riots, yet another media-fed frenzy that would die down if mothers like this one were more connected to their children than they are to the endless stream of panic-consciousness coming through mainstream and social media outlets.

Those riots, like the ones that turned Ferguson into Gaza, thrive off negging (what Ed Driscoll ironically refers to as “riot porn“). As does Wargas’s second piece of evidence involving Christian bakers, the gay mafia and a crowdsourcing site who my colleague Paula Boylard referred to as “jackbooted fascists” who “won’t be happy until all Christians are in ghettos.” So, a crowdfunding site cut off a fundraiser for someone you support. Whatever happened to bypassing the website and sending them a check directly? But the point of the thing isn’t to give the couple financial support, it’s the negging, feeding the idea that someone hates someone else and therefore the country is obviously going down in flames.

Why are Millennials “the poorest generation in 25 years”? Because their parents neg them, of course. According to S.E. Smith, “everyone loves to hate on millennials” and they have the Internet quotes to prove it. Millennials aren’t just despised on the Internet, they’re despised because of their attachment to the Internet. When analysts aren’t ragging on websites, parents are ragging on their Millennial kids for wasting too much time online. So much for the value of social networking.

Thanks to the relentless negging on the Internet there are entire movements devoted to disconnecting from virtual reality. Often referred to as “slow” movements (i.e. slow foodslow fashion) they’re usually dismissed as hippie garbage until they’re given more scientific twists, as in the new Positive Psychology, or spiritual ones as in the case of the mindfulness movement. Apps have been created to help you join in the social media detox craze.

Think they’re crazy? The rates of ADHD diagnoses among children ages 4-17 have gone up a steady 5% every year from 2003 to 2011. A full 20% of the US college population now has ADHD. The simple math tells you that these kids were born into the Internet age, and its more than the speed that boggles their minds. “Impulsivity” and “depression” plague them as well. Surfing the net at fiber optic speeds, it’s easy to figure out why: Even the most popular kitty is a grumpy one.

According to Urban Dictionary, negging consists of “low-grade insults meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman so she might be more vulnerable to your advances.” In other words, work hard enough to make someone feel worthless and eventually they’ll not only believe you, they’ll become dependent upon you for emotional support. Key word being “dependent,” a.k.a. everything a Constitution-loving, Declaration of Independence-touting American should work at great lengths to avoid. The “distended orgy” of which Wargas writes does exist …on the Internet. And gleefully so! The question is, if we stop feeding the beast will it cease to be a threat to our civilization? That would require the opposite of disconnect. It would mean connecting for a cause greater than negging one another on. And perhaps that is our greatest challenge of all.

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What Has Made Adulthood So Damned Scary?

Monday, May 4th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

First it was adult preschool. Now it’s adult summer camp:

Now you’re an adult and your life is all work and emails and commuting. And booze, which is a good addition. But Camp No Counselors wants to get that summer camp feeling back in your life. You and your friends can take a long weekend to the woods of Albany to travel back in time, with water sports, color wars, a talent show and other favorite parts of your childhood camp memories—but with the added benefits of dance parties with live DJs, co-ed cabins and alcohol at every turn. It’s gonna get weird.

Millennials may be poor overall, but the ones who can afford a vacation are mocking the accusation of immaturity by embracing the rejuvenile ethos to the hilt. Camp No Counselors isn’t the only business capitalizing on the summer camp for millennials trend. Time Out New York lists six camps in the region specializing in everything from glamping to zombie survival preparation. Could summer camp be for millennials what Caribbean beach resorts were for Gen-X? Granted, Sandals was all about growing up and getting laid. Summer camp, on the other hand, could easily be seen as a twenty-something’s attempt to grab onto the last vestiges of youth, which leads to the question: What has made adulthood so damned scary?

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HBO’s Silicon Valley Mocks Sexism in the Tech World

Monday, May 4th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Season 2 of the already-renewed HBO series finds the Pied Piper start up funded and ready to hire. Two of the employees, Dinesh and Gilfoyle, recommend a coder they met through a local tech network: Carla Walton. Jared, the business nerd, immediately jumps at the chance for Pied Piper to “diversify” by hiring a woman. The rest of the guys balk: “We’re all in agreement that we should hire the most qualified candidate.” Mike Judge-patented hilarity ensues.

“It’s like now we’re the Beatles and we just need Yoko,” Jared brightens.

“Dude, that is like the worst metaphor ever.”

But it’s the perfect one for affirmative action hiring. Jared goes about creating a harassment policy and forcing embarrassed company head Richard to review it in a “group meeting”. Adding yet another layer of humor to the plotline, new (female) hire Carla uses the affirmative action game to crack a few jokes of her own. “I have a friend named Kunti,” she details, “If I can’t call Kunti “Kunti” then I’m not going to want to have Kunti over at all, which I feel like kind of violates my rights… as a woman.”

Are the critics dubbing Carla’s actions “subverting the male-dominated system” missing the point? Was Carla mocking hi-tech’s lack of female employees, or the affirmative action demands to hire based on gender? Will the tech world, let alone HR at large, actually get Judge’s point when it comes to hiring based on qualifications, not demographics? How long will it take before the GamerGate chicks are up in arms?

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The Downton/Star Wars Mash-Up You Have to See

Friday, May 1st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Actor Rob James-Collier plays the evil butler Thomas on Downton Abbey, but in real life he must be quite the sweetie. He wrote and shot an entire Downton/Star Wars mashup on his iPhone in order to raise money for MS research. Episode One is available for free, but to watch more you have to donate to his cause at evilbutler.com.

What makes the idea so genius, apart from it being a mash-up of two mega-hits produced by a big star? Quite frankly, it’s funny. It’s also a bit nostalgic for us Gen-X/Millennial crossovers who spent their weekends making camcorder movies with friends. To his credit, James-Collier made the most of his pocket digital technology, even being sure to hold the camera correctly to avoid that awful Apple-trademarked rectangle framing that drives any film aficionado mad. Be sure to watch for the occasional boom mic or PA dropping into frame. The off-camera giggles are a great reminder that Thomas is really a fun guy after all. And, in the end, it’s quite the cute handcrafted production, offering fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the sets and the actors spoofing a beloved pop culture sensation, just like one of us.

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Forget Mom & Kid Time, It’s All About Me-Time

Friday, May 1st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

My PJ colleague Rhonda Robinson recently covered a study that concluded the quantity of a mother’s time with her children doesn’t have any real impact on their “academic and developmental outcome.” Quality time, not quantity time, is what matters. How much quality time is needed? The researchers only concluded that when the kids interfered with mom’s work schedule, causing her to stress out, the situation was bad for everyone.

The one area where science agrees that mother-child bonding on a 24/7/365 level is important is during fetal development. What a mother eats, breathes, hears, says, and feels directly impacts her child’s chances for living a successful, long life. And in the era of self-centered late in life parenting by-the-book, what’s more important than birthing a scientifically perfect child?

 

 

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If Only Al Sharpton’s Mother Gave Him a Good Smack Upside the Head

Friday, May 1st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

My colleagues Paula Boylard and Michael Walsh have declared Baltimore’s Mother of the Year, Toya Graham, a “bad parent” for slapping her rioting teenager upside the head. The essence of their argument: had she raised him better from the beginning, with good, solid biblical values, he wouldn’t have been there in the first place. That’s taking Bible-thumping to a new, bizarre level.

Scripture instructs, “Raise a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.” Notice the stage missing in the middle: young adulthood. At some point the child takes the values you raised them with and tests them against what the rest of the world is saying. Some do it the way the young man in Baltimore did, by throwing on a mask, joining a violent mob and wreaking havoc on a city, threatening lives in the process. Others, perhaps raised in a more religious environment, develop covert addictions to Internet pornography or drugs. Most just paint their nails black for a semester and go goth. In any case, these young adults are all in the same boat of questioning and testing the values they were raised with in order to determine if they are true. Hence, the Bible instructs they will return to the truth “when they are old”er and wiser, thanks to all the mistakes they’ve made.

The Mother of the Year’s son was in the process of committing violent acts that could have caused bodily harm to innocent people. Why doesn’t that justify a slap to the head? Experts from a wide range of fields have concluded that what this mother did potentially spared her son from a life of crime.

This is especially ironic given Paula’s opinion regarding the unfair prosecution of free-range parents by social services. Most of the teens participating in the Baltimore riots are the product of free-range parenting. So if we’re going to argue over 10 year olds being unsupervised in parks, this situation leads to the question: Should this mother not have allowed her 16 year old to ever leave her sight? Or is the difference simply that the 10 year old is growing up in a white suburb, far away from the threatening influence of ghetto culture?

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Christian Persecution Is a Resurrected Form of Antisemitism

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Paula,

I found your piece to be very timely based on the thoughts coming from my Christian friends regarding the growing persecution of the Christian church abroad and at home. One comment I received regarding a recent Tatler post acknowledges what many of my friends have already expressed:

Ms. Goldberg,
I have heard the expression “Sunday comes after Saturday,” which as I understand is the answer in the Muslim Middle East to why they persecute Jews so much and persecute Christians less. This is confirmed by your article. Once all the Jews have left, they will come after the Christians.
–Andrew W.

When we Jews hear your shock we respond with all-too familiar nods, as you are beginning to understand what we have experienced for thousands of years. I would like to reach out to you to highlight an essential concept you and my Christian friends have missed in the important discussion of how to fight back against persecution, so that you may be better equipped to handle what is already coming your way.

You cite Peter (Hebrew name Kefa) who was a Jew who wrote to a primarily Jewish audience (1:1 “exiles of the Dispersion” – i.e. the Diaspora of 70 A.D. that followed the destruction of the second Temple, or even the descendants of the first diaspora — Jews lived everywhere in that area in ancient times) who, joined with gentile counterparts, believed in a Jewish Messiah. These were outcasts because they were adherents to Jewish culture in a Roman (pagan) world. From that perspective I’d encourage all Christians to think along the lines of understanding the Biblical persecution which they reference as a contemporary form of antisemitism.

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The Best New York Cinema is Indie Cinema

Friday, April 17th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

In terms of New York while Mr. Wargas named many good box office hits, he left out the entire genre of independent, low-budget cinema that screams New York in ways big directors and big dollars cannot. Case in point: Crossing Delancey, my soul’s addiction that requires yearly viewing.

The almost Yiddishkeit story of a Jewish girl who shook off her Lower East Side roots for the promises of the elite literati, only to find herself falling in love with a Pickle Man from the old side of the tracks, Crossing Delancey is like the city itself. It is spiritually rooted in the past, firmly grounded in the present, ever-questioning the future. It is both literal and visceral, practical and mystical. It is the pursuit of love in person, place, and idea altogether inseparable.

Joan Micklin Silver directed the film produced by its star, Amy Irving. The shout-out to the Guerilla Girls was a snide flip of the finger at the grotesque bias against women in the film industry. Jennifer Westfeldt owes her career in part to these trailblazers of Working Girl-era film feminism.

Infused with the neshama, the spiritual nature inherent to the female sex, Crossing Delancey asks of its protagonist and its audience, “Who are you?” That is the question every immigrant, visitor and newborn has and will hear when arriving on her stinking golden shores. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” It is brutal, incisive and promises the gift of Divine truth if answered honestly. Crossing Delancey captures the idea of New York, the gateway to the goldena medina, the promised land where anyone, immigrant and indie filmmaker alike, can make their dreams come true.

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Why I Am a Feminist

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Roughly 30 million women have been aborted in America since 1973. The number of female babies aborted strictly because of their gender is unknown, but given the legalized practice of gendercide in China alone, that number is also in the millions. There is no greater feminist cause than the defense of the least among us.

It was a feminist who recognized that “every political good carried to the extreme must be productive of evil.” While one subset of the feminist world has replaced independence with entitlement, many other feminists are busying themselves advocating for the rights of underrepresented and maligned women for whom government does more harm than good.

The only women working to confront the ills of popular feminism are feminists. Camille Paglia, Christina Hoff Sommers, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are three of many feminists who buck contemporary trends with facts, all the while advocating for the feminist cause of equality for women across the globe.

Just because the role we play as silent leaders is often a psychological, emotional and spiritual one does not mean we do not deserve a physical voice at the table. Yes, women have achieved the right to vote, to own property, to retain our children in a divorce. In Western society we have crafted our gifts into entrepreneurial leadership roles as well as that of domestic goddesses. But, does this mean we are supposed to say “thank you” and call it a day?

Most of the folks who say they aren’t feminist, or are anti-feminist tend to turn feminism into a Battle of the Sexes. Contrary to popular opinion, hatred of men and equality of women are two distinct issues. More often than not, anti-feminists end up defending men over women, reminding the world why feminism became a movement in the first place.

*****

image illustration via wikipedia

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Why the Government Nannies May Be Right When It Comes to Eating Meat

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Like my PJ colleague Liz Shield, I dislike government nannies of any kind. Yet, I can’t help but be pleased with the latest recommendation from the Feds: “A dietary pattern that is higher in plant(s) … and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact.” And it has nothing to do with the quantity of methane in cow farts.

The reality is that a plant-based diet is better for your health. Note, I did not say vegan, nor vegetarian. “Plant-based” is a style of diet that puts plants before meat and any other processed product you’d put into your body. Mediterranean diets proffering fish, poultry and other lean meats are highly plant based and continue to prove to be one of the best diets for optimal health. And we aren’t just talking physical health, either. Mental health is hugely impacted by the quantity and quality of vitamins and minerals we take in on a daily basis. Both psychological studies and personal experience testify to the fact that kids and adults who eat veggies are happier, healthier, and less likely to be drugged on behavioral medications. What’s going to be a richer, diverse source of nutrients, a dinner that is 75% greens or 75% processed cow parts?

Yet, we cringe at the idea of public school kids being fed salad for lunch. Salad isn’t a bad thing, having the government tell us what we can and can’t eat is a bad thing. In our resistance to government interference, we risk missing the greater point: What we eat matters. Studies come and go and the factors that go into these studies, especially from a funding and lobbying point of view, are never adequately addressed. Surely this latest line is a political one meant to motivate environmentalist legislation above all else. But that doesn’t turn the grain of truth, the reality that a plant-based diet is good for you, into a lie. If anything, it abuses the truth for a political point. That abuse, not the recommendation to eat plants, is the sin in the conversation.

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