Posts in Susan’s Musings

Ladies and Gentlemen

October 11th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 35 comments

Something has been troubling me throughout the #MeToo movement’s ascendancy and I’m sure that I am not alone. That our modern society has a problem in relationships between the sexes is not in question. Neither is the fact that historically there has been a power imbalance that allowed bad men to harm women more easily and frequently than bad women could harm men. This isn’t only a question of social and economic mores but also deals with the reality that, in general, women are physically less strong than men and, of course, are the ones who get pregnant. Despite the attempts of ideologues to deny it, most of us also acknowledge a reality of psychological and, for want of a better word, soul differences between men and women that leave women more vulnerable.

The #MeToo movement has done a service by exposing the extent of despicable treatment towards women that many of us, male and female,  were truly unaware of or dismissed as an unfortunate but unchangeable part of life. I am not speaking here of unquestionable breaches of the law such as putting knock-out drugs in a woman’s drink and then raping her. I’m also not speaking of complaints that are ludicrous like a woman claiming sexual harassment because a co-worker compliments her haircut. When we include those types of extreme instances in a general discussion we miss the opportunity to actually improve society.

What I would like to do today is to react to calls I’ve seen for men to behave respectfully. I am all in favor of respect. However, I do think that addressing men alone misses the complete story. Unless we want to advance the idea that women are helpless, incompetent and passive creatures, we need to demand an accounting on the distaff side as well.

One of the biggest mistakes we make is to view the #MeToo movement as a male/female issue. In my mind, there are and always have been moral men and women who treat each other well and there are and always have been immoral men and women who look to take advantage of members of the opposite sex. (Of course, history up to the present shows that interactions between people of the same gender are frequently less than upright, but that is not today’s prominent issue.) There are both men and women who respect themselves and those who do not.

Anyone who thinks that all men should be accountable for each other (being male, particularly a white male means you are privileged and as such deserving of being punished even if it is an injustice) or that all women are accountable for each other (we must believe all female victims) has to be willing to talk about enablers and manipulators (for the purpose of this Musing, I’m leaving aside liars).

A few months back, I heard an episode of NPR’s This American Life that featured a female reporter interviewing young men in Australia. It seems that it is considered a “game” there for a young man to run into a group of young women near the beach and slap one woman’s backside. The reporter was appalled and tried desperately to explain to a one of these men in particular what was wrong with his behavior.

When he said that the women didn’t object she pointed out that perhaps they were afraid to respond negatively. That was a good point. However, he countered that about 20% of the time, he ended up with a hook-up for that night and that more frequently than that he heard the “chosen” female boast about her attractiveness to her mates.

I have never been to Australia and don’t know the culture there. But this doesn’t seem to me to be a situation for which men bear sole responsibility.  As long as there is a plus side that is delivered by a fair number of “victims,” the responsibility has to be shared. It is perfectly plausible to imagine a responsible male chastising this young man and being accused of being a prude by both the young man and a number of the girls in the vicinity. Perhaps the females sometimes saunter in certain locations to get exactly the response our callow youth is willing and eager to deliver? How is he to learn which women want to be treated like that and which do not?

Shortly after my husband and I were married, he was asked to deliver a speech to a group of women, (not obviously Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist or atheist) on Christmas Eve. Why one would ask a Rabbi to give a talk on Christmas is obvious if one is looking for an available religious leader. But why were these women available?

Their organization – and I kid you not – was composed of women having affairs with married men. They told my husband that Thanksgiving and Christmas were the hardest days of the year for them. Other days each woman might believe that her boyfriend was leaving his family; on holidays they knew that to be a lie. Now, exactly how many men would be having adulterous affairs if no woman allowed herself to get involved with a married man? If women truly cared about other women enough, adultery would just about disappear.

We navigate a complicated world. Women and men are both unique individuals as well as belonging to numerous groups, one of which is dictated by gender.  Each behavior we choose affects others associated with us. This does not mean we should be interchangeable in the eyes of the law (in other words reprisal attacks) nor in other people’s eyes. But it is ludicrous to pretend that in our day and age men and men alone are responsible for women being mistreated, let alone when that word is not clearly defined.

It is not blaming the victim to suggest that if more women acted like ladies, the upside of being a gentleman would be greater.   The responsibility for more respectful discourse and behavior between men and women falls on everyone. If close to 50 years after the debut of Ms. Magazine women feel so victimized, perhaps both genders need to rethink which “reforms” led to a better society and which took us in the opposite direction.

 

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The Betrayed Conservative Woman Syndrome

October 4th, 2018 Posted by AAJC Happenings, Susan's Musings 107 comments

Like many others, I have been extremely emotional about the accusations surrounding Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I am pretty sure, based on past history, that some readers of this Musing will agree with me, others will violently object to my words and a number of readers will remove themselves from our email list. I could easily write about something less controversial. I am not doing that because I think that our country is worth fighting for and sharing my thoughts is my way of doing that.

As always, whether you agree or disagree, as long as your words are polite (and follow a few other basic rules) your comment will get posted.  It is rare for us to delete a comment. So, if you disagree and your emotions are running as high as mine even if in another direction, I would appreciate the opportunity to hear them. We can only grow and expand our understanding when we talk to each other.

For a few short years, mothers possess mythical powers. We can sit at a traffic light with our toddlers and know exactly when to tell them to say, “Change light change,” to make the light turn green. We can announce that it will rain after lunch, go to the park in the morning, and then cozily sit inside reading books in the afternoon as they marvel at how we control the weather. We magically pull out a new box of cereal from the pantry when the old one is finished. Of course, our children soon grow a bit and learn that the only power we used in all those cases was that of observation.

I’m delighted that Lindsay Graham reacted to Democrat politicians with anger and disgust during the Judge Kavanaugh hearings. Orrin Hatch too has found his voice. At the same time, I ask, “What took you so long?” You see, I am one of the women Republicans are supposed to represent in Washington DC. And I, along with millions of other conservative women, have been angered and disgusted for decades. Mostly, our ire has been directed at Republicans for leaving us undefended and unrepresented. Where were your powers of observation until now?

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Burying Justice

September 27th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 49 comments

I have a number of draft Musings on my desktop that I’ve started but not yet completed.  I am having trouble finishing them.   Some are frustrated and angry; others seek a glimmer of hope. I am leaving them for another time. You see, they are all predicated on seeing a future for the United States of America.  But today, I feel like I am attending her funeral. 

I hope and pray that tomorrow America rises from her knees.  Tomorrow I hope I shall see where and how I can fight and help us move forward, but today I am in mourning.  That is awkward, as right now I am in the midst of celebrating the Festival of Tabernacles/Sukkot, known as “The Time of Our Happiness.” It is the most joyous of the Jewish festivals and a rather demanding God insists that we celebrate it in happiness. 

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The Daggers are Unsheathed

September 20th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 46 comments

On November, 29, 1981, my husband and I were sleeping on our sailboat, anchored  in Avalon Bay on Catalina Island. On that night, as we slumbered, we were just a few hundred yards from where Natalie Wood drowned under suspicious circumstances. The next morning, when we emerged on deck with our coffee, the tranquility of the bay was disturbed by a small fleet of police vessels.

About a year earlier on December 8, 1980, we were dining with friends at a restaurant in Manhattan when word arrived that only a few blocks away, John Lennon had been murdered. In other words, I was close to the scenes of at least one and possibly two crimes at opposite ends of the country, in surroundings starkly different from each other. If that isn’t suspicious, what is?

The above facts are bad enough, but I am sorry to tell you that as a third-grader, I participated in teasing an unpopular schoolmate. A few years later, I cheated on a test when a teacher let me take it home, trusting me to take it honorably.  While I am ashamed of both those things, there are other actions I have done or not done that to an even greater extent I wouldn’t want to see on the nightly news.

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Let’s Hear It for Gender Quotas

September 13th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 26 comments

California is moving towards requiring her publicly traded companies to enforce gender quotas on their boards. I am against quotas in general and find that, as with most social manipulation, the results are rarely those that are promised by their promoters. While I think there is every chance that this legislation will move forward, I worry that the biggest outcome will be more California businesses relocating to Texas. Unfortunately, the relocated management will then probably retain its destructive voting habits and continue to support the types of politicians and policies that made California uninhabitable. However, despite my usual wariness of quotas, and my concern that Elizabeth Warren is pushing for this on a national level, I am wondering whether my own family needs to use strong-arm techniques to get more equitable representation on our family What’s App chat. 

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Generational Joy

September 6th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 45 comments

Simcha is usually translated from Hebrew as happiness. I prefer to think of it as joy. I don’t know if an English scholar would agree, but in my mind, happiness is fleeting while joy, even when other events or the passage of time overtakes it, leaves a lasting impression. Eating ice cream makes me happy, but I can summon up the emotional atmosphere of eating ice cream with a good friend long after the treat has been consumed.

We have been blessed with a wonderfully busy summer. It began with the birth of a healthy baby grandson and ended with another similar gift. In between the two births, we celebrated the weddings of two of our children. While our basement flooding was not a highlight of the season, the tireless support of our son-in-law and grandsons in toting, carrying and sorting pounds of water-laden possessions certainly was.

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It’s a Miserable Life

August 29th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 19 comments

If you were unaware of the inaugural Summit on the Research and Teaching of Young Adult Literature that took place recently in Las Vegas, so was I. If you have pre-teenage and/or teenage children, you can’t afford to be.

This morning’s Wall Street Journal features an article about the summit by author and journalism professor Steve Salerno.   (You need a subscription to read it online.) To anyone has been paying attention, young adult literature is increasingly dark and this summit suggests that things are getting worse. Unless you live off the grid and completely isolated, your children will be exposed to this form of literature. If your children go to school, some of it may very well be required reading.

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Every Doctor Needs a Mama Bear

August 23rd, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 28 comments

I have never been a helicopter mom. I don’t think my children are perfect (though they come pretty close). When they fought with friends, I didn’t assume that they were automatically innocent victims. My children learned how to cook, do the laundry and clean up after themselves at a young age. I have never called a teacher to protest a grade, nor have I written school papers for my kids. I have certainly never shown up at a job interview with one of them, at least past the age of ten.

But there’s a time when enough is enough and this mama bear is ready to go on the warpath. You see, to the utter amazement of my husband and myself, two of our children are in the medical field. Our son is an emergency room physician and our daughter, after a number of years of nursing on a general ward and in the Intensive Care Unit, is now on her way to becoming a nurse anesthetist.

This has given us a bit of an inside view into the medical profession. We have watched our children and their peers work 12 hour shifts and more. We have seen them heartbroken by patients’ deaths. We have sensed their frustration at giving their all to save a patient who they know will be back in the hospital soon after release because she won’t change her self-destructive behavior. We have watched in awe as these doctors and nurses pushed themselves beyond human limits to help those in need. We cheered as they got  jobs with good salaries that let them start paying back the exorbitant amount of debt they accumulated while training.

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Comparison Shopping

August 16th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

This week was very unusual for me. While plenty was happening around the world and across our land, within our family, nothing out of the ordinary happened. No holidays, celebrations or guests; no illness or crises. While time often seemed to drag when I was a child, as an adult the weeks usually speed by as if on a dizzying roller coaster. Next week, a crowded calendar beckons once more, but this week was blissfully clear.

I actually managed to look at my non-urgent-to-do list and methodically worked my way through parts of it. I trashed a pair of hole-ridden slippers and a three-decade-old pot that desperately needed to retire and replaced them. I added cuffs to a dress and replaced the battery in my phone. I organized photos for a Grandma Camp project, exercised, and, to my husband’s delight, made supper every night.

This unusual spurt of activity led me to drop in at stores I don’t often frequent and also to spend time browsing online. I found myself caught in a shopping conundrum that is new for our time. I went to a craft store hoping that browsing the aisles might stoke my creative juices as well as to get advice on the best adhesive to use for a particular undertaking.  I was confronted by a befuddling array of glues. Asking the young salesgirl to explain the difference between two products resulted in her shrugging her shoulders and telling me that she had no idea. She was probably a summer hire and could just as easily have been selling hammers or ice cream. I went home, did some online research reading buyers’ reviews of the various products and ordered.

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Why Discriminate?

August 9th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 25 comments

Have you ever played the game Taboo? The goal is to get your teammate to guess a hidden word by giving them clues, but there are certain words you mustn’t use in guiding them. So, if the mystery word is “lemon,” the words “tea” and “car” might be taboo – if you say either of those your turn ends.

Our society has started resembling a game of Taboo. I thought of this when I read about the recently reported scandal at  Japan’s Tokyo Medical University. Entrance scores were rigged to penalize women so that they had to score much higher than men in order to get into the medical school. I’m not a fan of cheating, but I admit to feeling sympathy for those who are trying to run schools, businesses or organizations in the real world while hampered by high-sounding, unrealistic pronouncements unrelated to actual life and which are intended to signal virtue.

While we lived in Los Angeles, there was a period when newspapers were banned from stating that an apartment had a scenic view. The elite powers-that-be decided that this was a hidden form of discrimination against the handicapped, discouraging those who were blind from renting. Foolish as that sounds, the absurdities of anti-discrimination laws has only abounded.

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