Sunday, November 30, 2008

Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions

71. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem

This collection of essays and articles by Gloria Steinem was just what I needed to read at this time. It reminded me of many things I already knew, but in a much needed way. I had two big takeaway points from this book:

1. Steinem is a nice, normal person who believes in equality for both women and men.
2. It is frightening to see how easy it is to forget the past and have to fight the same fight over and over again.

The first point in relevant because that is not the image I had of Steinem at all from what I have soaked up from the popular culture. I mean, I didn’t really think she hated all men and thought they should be disposed of, if only we could find a way around that pesky reproduction issue, but I thought she was a lot more strident than she is. I should have been suspicious of this image, because I had never actually read anything she wrote, nor had I seen her speak, but it was one of those things I didn’t much think about. It was background noise. I wasn’t really paying attention, but I remember the huge media coverage when she got married for the first time at 66. It was reported on radio and television news and in newspapers—you didn’t have to be paying that much attention to notice the coverage. I didn’t really understand the point of all that coverage—noticing that marriage as an institution is set up for the benefit of the male partner that treats the female partner as less than a full person is not the same as saying that men are repulsive. But I really didn’t know much about her at the time, and I was too busy with my regular life to do much investigating.

Still, while I certainly agreed with her that women’s rights were/are not what they should be, I did think that she was perhaps a bit strident, and dare I say, shrewish. I thought the conventional wisdom exaggerated her demeanor in degree but not type. I was very surprised then, to read this book and find a woman like many that I know: strong, smart, capable, ambitious, but nice, non-confrontational, wanting to make people around her happy. She just didn’t want to have to sacrifice her sense of self to make those people happy, which seems pretty reasonable to me. She discovered, however, that a very small amount of self-assertion earns you a shrewish label when you are female.

She also points out several times that a strict patriarchal society limits men as much as it limits women. It doesn’t seem as bad, since men have more privileges and rights, but it is still limiting. Men are encouraged to suppress all emotion, and choose manly activities, which is fine if a man is a stoic type who likes sports, hunting and other stereotypically “male” activities, but if he is interested in sewing, flower-arranging or ballet dance, he is swimming upstream, and likely to be smacked back into place. A truly feminist society would allow for the full range of human possibility in both females and males, with no preference to any one style. So you see? It’s not man-hating at all.

The most chilling parts of the book, though, are the sections where she details feminist movements in the past, where significant advances were hard-won, only to be suppressed afterwards with hardly a trace. I had no idea that the suffragist movement was so all-encompassing, going well beyond the right to vote. When these things are not reported in our history books and our popular culture, it is easy to believe that the things that feminists ask are working for have never been rights that women enjoyed or even wanted. When you get female anti-feminists like Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, or Caitlin Flanagan, mainstream media has something to point to when they say that women don’t really want these rights. No one seems to point out that these women have lucrative, busy careers taking advantage of the very rights they claim not to want. If they really thought that women should stay home and take care of their families, leaving the outer world to men, I can’t help but think that they would be housewives who stayed out of the public eye.

Overall this was a fantastic book, although difficult to read at times. I had to skip most of the article on female genital mutilation for instance. I am glad that I read it, and determined to see what else I am missing out there. Also, I think I am going to start yet another blog, so that I can continue to explore these concepts. I will probably invite some friends to join me there. I’ll let you know when I get that going.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Today's grammar nazi

In an article on Lori Drew's MySpace hacking trial:

The circumstances caused significant public outrage. But state and federal prosecutors here said they found no law that had broken.

Why would they be looking for a broken law? Don't they mean they found no law that had been broken?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Grammar Nazi, taking over my blog...

Okay, when I came across the first really bad sentence on my local paper's site today*, I decided to ignore it. I mean, maybe I am being too picky. Sure, these people write for a living and the editors are specifically paid to look over these articles, but I don't intend to be mean about it. I know they have had a lot of layoffs over at the Post-Dispatch, and they clearly got rid of a lot of experienced (some might say qualified) people. So, I was going to just read on and get on with my life. Then I came across this gem:

Police arrested two of his sons -- ages 19 and 21. Police also took away a back of evidence.

What the heck is a back of evidence? Sure, I know they meant bag of evidence, so this may be quibbling, but really, why can't they say what they mean? It is not my job to interpret what the writer means, it is their job to be clear.

* In an article about goalball, a ball sport for blind people: And even though not all students at the Missouri School for the Blind play goalball, or are physically unable to because of other disabilities, the playing field remains even for players and spectators alike. I think it is pretty obvious that not all students at the Missouri School for the Blind are physically unable to (play) because of other disabilities, isn't it? Didn't the writer mean that even though not all students play, including some that have other physical disabilities that mean they are unable to play, the playing field is level? Whatever that means--the playing field is level for players and spectators alike? Except for those that can't play, I guess, and I have no idea what she means about the spectators.

And, in the same article: The kids who play goalball together since seventh grade form tight bonds,... I don't know the name of this problem, but it should be: The kids who have played goalball together since seventh grade have formed tight bonds, or Kids who play together for long times, some since seventh grade, form tight bonds, or something else. It would also help if we knew what grade these kids are in now, or if every team member has been on the team since seventh grade, which is implied but not stated.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


67. The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twelfth Edition, Edited by Gardner Dozois

Always a great collection, this one was particularly good. There was one story I didn't quite get, but many I really loved.

68. Eden Close by Anita Shreve

Short, a bit predictable, but gripping. I mean, I guessed what really happened the fateful night when the titular character was blinded in a tragic scene, but not every detail. I had trouble putting this one down.

69. The Terrorists of Irustan by Louise Marley

I really enjoyed this, in an appalled sort of way. The book was frightening in it's parallels to our world, and in seeing a genuinely good person driven to commit terrible crimes because she really had no other way to affect the course of her own life or the lives of those she loves. I liked the way the end was both tragic and hopeful, although it was probably more hopeful than such a situation would be in real life, sadly. I thought the whole situation was handled very well, with things not being as black and white as they could be. This was definitely a book about male oppression of females, but the men weren't all bad, either. Some were good, some did terrible things without really thinking it through, but were capable of learning. Highly recommended.

70. The Marlow Chronicles by Lawrence Sanders

This was an interesting little book about a dying man and the effect of his death on his friends and family. I was expecting something different from this one, because Sanders generally writes about big conspiracy type things, like corporations or governments, but this was an intimate group. It was a fascinating look at how people get along with each other, how someone knows who he is, really, and what people who are close to each other really mean to each other. I really enjoyed this.


Let's see, between now and the end of the year, I am having a housewarming party, hosting Thanksgiving dinner, getting ready for Christmas with the kids at my house for the end of the year vacation this year, plus all the normal work, cooking, seeing friends, house-cleaning (and must finish unpacking!). I think that I am not going to read as many books as last year (93) or the year before (83). Still, I think I am doing quite well for someone who bought a house in the year! I will at least get to 73, within shouting distance of 2006, I believe. Sounds good to me.

Again with the Grammar Nazi

Two posts in a row on this! This sort of thing just drives me crazy!

From my local online paper:

The bishops discussed their failure to convincingly impress upon the country's 67 million Catholics the church's teaching that abortion (and, by extension, embryonic stem cell research) is "intrinsically evil" and must be the pre-eminent issue — above even than the economy — Catholics carried with them into the voting booth. [emphasis mine]

With a great amount of effort, I am going to put aside my feelings on the message of the sentence as a whole and focus on the grammar issue here. Above even than the economy? I think they mean 'above even the economy', or 'even more than the economy'. I am not sure if the issue is that the writer's grasp of English is that bad that he doesn't know the phrases, or if it is a editing issue, and I am not sure which is worse. I am guessing, though, that this is a careless editing mistake--switching from 'even more than the economy' to 'above even the economy' and forgetting to erase the 'than'.

Now, I do this sort of thing all the time in conversation. I have both phrases in mind, and I come out with a combination of them. But that's in casual conversation, not in a professional article that I wrote down, read over, and submitted to an editor. And, I wouldn't even care as much about it in the paper if it were a fluke (although I would still notice, because I am that kind of a picky person), but it's not, as evidenced by my second post in a row on this. I could come up with more examples off the top of my head, but I will spare you for now. I am sure there will be more examples to infuriate me soon, ;-).


Argh! I really don't go looking for errors on my local paper's website. I only read articles that I am interested in, and I am not trying to proofread them as I go. These things jump out at me, because they are so obvious and sometimes they are actually confusing. Here's another one, from a photo caption:

Michael Gerstner comforts Lisa Kaucher, a close friend, of his brother Mark Gerstner, who was remembered during a candle light vigil outside Steak N' Shake Tuesday night.

What is so hard about using commas properly? Putting 'a close friend' in commas makes it seem that Lisa is a close friend of Michael, but the sentence then goes on to say 'of his brother Mark', which means 'a close friend of his brother Mark Gerstner' is actually the phrase that goes together. As you can tell here, I am not an English teacher, and I don't know the technical terms that describe all of these grammar rules, but I know how to use English nonetheless. Why don't the people who get paid to work with words know how to use it?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Grammar Nazi (an occasional feature)

On the front page of my local paper's website:

Joe's Movie Lounge: The guessing game beings on holiday box office winners.

Ah, the perils of spell-check....

Or maybe it's just bad typing skills. Whatever. Doesn't anyone READ these things before posting them on the site?