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I’m Neit

Indeed, I am 79% erudite, 83% sensual, 70% martial, and 79% saturnine.

NeitNeit, who was said to have emerged from the primeval water to create the world, is one of the oldest Egyptian Goddesses. Although the Egyptians believed that Neit was of both a masculine and feminine nature, as she was self-produced, she was usually depicted as a woman.

The Egyptians believed her to be an ancient and wise Goddess, to whom the other Gods came if they could not resolve their own disputes. Besides being the ruler of the lower Heavens, she was also the patron to hunt and warfare, domestic arts, mysticism, as well as women and marriage. All this makes her some kind of a “jane-of-all-trades.”

As a deity, Neit is often shown carrying a bow and arrows, linking her to hunting and warfare, other times she is shown with a sceptre, symbol of rule and power, and the ankh, symbol of life.

Which goddess are you?

November 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Too Crazy? Or Too Pretty?

I'll admit it: I find it hard to resist a Yahoo! headline like “Florida teacher pleads guilty in sex case”. So, I read the story of Debra Lafave, considered that it sounded a bit like the story of Mary Kay Letourneau—except without the fairy-tale ending—and was musing to myself that perhaps middle schools should stop hiring blonde teachers with French surnames when I got to this:

Fitzgibbons said in July that plea negotiations had broken off because prosecutors insisted on prison time, which he said would be too dangerous for someone as attractive as Lafave. He said then that she planned to plead insanity at trial, claiming emotional stress kept her from knowing right from wrong. [emphasis added]

After reading this paragraph a couple of times to make sure I’m understanding it correctly, all I can say is, “Um, what the fuck?”

November 22, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

“Is Narnia a place of Christian faith or a place to get away from it?”

The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeI loved the Chronicles of Narnia when I was a kid. If memory serves, the last time I read my family’s copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the book had to be held together with a rubber band because pages were falling out.

Christianity did not factor much in my upbringing. I had nothing in particular against Jesus or God, but what little I knew about Christian belief and practice just seemed kind of creepy and weird. That the only obviously religious person in my family, my great-grandmother, was a maudlin alcoholic with a pronounced mean streak and a naïve, desperate faith only reinforced my childhood views. I mention all this by way of pointing out that, when my parents recommended the Narnia books, they recommended them as fantasy, not as Christian allegory.

By the time I understood that some folks read C.S. Lewis’s fiction as Bible stories my childhood fear of religion had turned into curiosity: I was a religion major concentrating in New Testament studies. I knew a great deal about Christianity at this point, enough to know, for instance, that Aslan makes for a truly crappy Christ figure. Jesus was the suffering servant, the sacrificial lamb. He was not lord of the jungle. I was also struck by how very odd it is to include fauns and Silenus and such in a Christian fable. And I recalled how very much I didn’t enjoy The Last Battle when I was a kid; its apocalyptic existentialism and eternal ending really freaked me out, just like imagining nuclear war or trying to envision heaven freaked me out. This is to say that, from my perspective, the Lewis’s novels were least successful when they were most Christian.

I’ve been thinking about all of this as I’ve watched the progress of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: The Movie, which is, it seems, an effort on the part of Disney to make up for all the dollars they lost when they passed on The Lord of the Rings, and to tap into the “Christian” audience—that is, all the people who paid to see The Passion of the Christ and who have made the Left Behind books bestsellers. And Walden Media—Disney’s partner in the project—is an explicitly evangelical entertainment company.

Given that the Christian apologists seem to have won Narnia for now, Adam Gopnik’s recent New Yorker piece on Lewis is a provocative reassessment of the situation. It’s also a lovely piece of criticism, and it introduced me to Lewis’s apparently quite brilliant scholarly work on the interplay of religion and imagination in art. Really, it’s one of the best things I’ve read in awhile.

November 22, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Off Target

As you may or may not know, Target has been in some trouble lately with Planned Parenthood and other reproductive-rights organizations. The trouble stems from the fact that, on September 30, a woman tried to get a prescription for the emergency contraceptive Plan B filled at a Target pharmacy, and the pharmacist refused, apparently on religious grounds.

Anyhow, Planned Parenthood asked supporters to write to Target and complain. As of Monday, Target is replying with an email that says, in part

In our ongoing effort to provide great service to our guests, Target consistently ensures that prescriptions for the emergency contraceptive Plan B are filled. As an Equal Opportunity Employer, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also requires us to accommodate our team members' sincerely held religious beliefs.

The email also says (you can read it in its entirety here) that Target pharmacists are supposed to make sure that the prescription is filled—either by another Target pharmacist or by another pharmacy altogether—and that these exemptions and procedures only apply to Plan B.

Obviously, this is ludicrous. It is ludicrous that Target feels compelled to honor its employees’ “sincerely held religious beliefs” only with regard to emergency contraception—presumably, Target will not defend a cashier’s right to, say, not serve Jews because they killed her Lord, nor does it protect the atheist clerk from the necessity of restocking the Veggie Tales DVD display—and it is ludicrous because Target is a retailer. When I worked in bookstores, I had to sell all kinds of things that offended me theologically, morally, and aesthetically. It was my job to do so. If service employees were allowed to abstain from all the tasks they found offensive, we would not have service industries. Target is setting a precedent that is untenable.

Except that maybe it isn’t. What’s most disturbing to me is that Target clearly believes that they can isolate this policy, that they really can make it just about Plan B, that they’ve calculated that public support for such a move is so strong that they can gratify a vital demographic without causing any serious damage to their bottom line. It disturbs me that they’ve done the math and decided that the customers who will support this policy are more valuable—or more numerous—than people like me who will stop shopping at Target because of it.

November 16, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Is Maureen Dowd Any Good?

It seems that a lot of people took issue with Maureen Dowd’s report on the war between the sexes in her new book and the excerpt from same recently published in the New York Times Magazine. This does not surprise me. What does surprise me is that so many critics seem surprised by their own displeasure.

Early in her contemplative and carefully argued critique, Katha Pollitt notes that she reads Dowd’s column and adds “We all do,” a sentiment echoed by Echidne of the Snakes when she writes, “Yes. We all read Dowd. We all read thirstily the few female political columnists we have, and we listen to what they have to say about women.” And, before she commences to rip Dowd a new one, Katie Roiphe (I’ve got to tell you, I never imagined the day when Katie Roiphe and I posted opinion pieces with the same title) pauses to lavish praise:

She is, at her best, a brilliant caricaturist of the political scene, turning each presidency into vivid farce. As a caricaturist, she has a fondness for punchy one-liners strung together, and for the one-sentence paragraph: “Survival of the fittest has been replaced by survival of the fakest”; “We had the Belle Epoque. Now we have the Botox Epoch”; and “As a species is it possible that men are ever so last century?” Her style evokes a brainier Candace Bushnell, whose oeuvre she frequently refers to, but it is given extra weightiness by her position at the Times.

“Survival of the fittest has been replaced by survival of the fakest”: That’s brilliant? Katie, you’ve got to be kidding me. It’s cheap, barely clever, and—if you give any credit at all to evolutionary psychology—just plain wrong. This kind of stuff is precisely why I can’t—physically cannot—read Dowd. Half a column inch of that preciousness, and I’m too agitated to read anything.

Kathryn Harrison—who reviewed Are Men Necessary? for the New York Times Book Review—is the only critic I’ve seen who has any problem at all with Dowd’s style:

[S]mart remarks are reductive and anti-ruminative; not only do they not encourage deeper analysis, they stymie it…. Producing one of her trademark staccato repetitions—for example, on cosmetic surgery: “We no longer have natural selection. We have unnatural selection. Survival of the fittest has been replaced by survival of the fakest. Biology used to be destiny. Now biology's a masquerade party”—Dowd effectively dismisses a subject by virtue of proclamation. Does she let loose three arrows instead of one because she can't choose the cleverest among them? Typically, her formula is to articulate a thesis, punch it up with humor and then follow with anecdotal support or examples taken from TV shows, advertisements, overheard conversations—all cultural detritus is fair game. Often she quotes from reputable sources, CNN or The Times or a professional journal like Science; more often she applies witty asides, snippy comparisons (“Arabs put their women in veils. We put ours in the stocks”) and tabloid-style alliteration (e.g., “dazzling dames” and “He mused that men are in a muddle”).

From time to time, I’ve thought that maybe I was missing something, that maybe I’d just tried Dowd on an off day—or, rather, several off days. Now, having Harrison’s corroborating opinion, I think I can just relax, secure in the belief that I was right all along.

November 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Whole Wheel of Cheese

the whole wheel of cheese
I live close to campus, and I pass a lot of student housing on my walk to and fro school. Thus, I walk past a lot of trash-strewn lawns—lots of beer bottles, fast-food wrappers, and the big plastic cups that you get when you buy a keg. Anyhoo, I walked past this discarded Camel Lights packet many, many times before I decided to send it off to my friends at Found Magazine. It was only when I picked it up that I discovered that there was a message on the back, too.

I’ve got to tell you, I’m pretty glad that I wasn’t at this party. And I’ve got a feeling that these kids won’t be getting their security deposit back, neither.

November 11, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Me, Live

Should you find yourself in the vicinity of Central Michigan University around 7 o’clock, and should you find that you just don’t get enough of me blathering about myself by reading this blog, drop by the Lake Michigan Room at Bovee University Center, where I’ll be giving a little talk. I’m a guest of the women’s studies program, and—to quote the event’s promotional literature—I’ll be discussing my “work and life.” I’ll also be doing a little reading. I have no idea as yet what I will be wearing.

November 7, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Is Maureen Dowd Necessary?

I do not much care for Maureen Dowd. I tend to avoid her column, and, when I do skim it, it’s sort of like an 8-year-old sticking her tongue on a 9-volt battery: If it offers any pleasure at all, it’s the perverse pleasure of a reliable irritant.

I should have known better than to read her article in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. I fully expected to be exasperated, and I was not disappointed. But I was surprised by just how boring and insipid the piece was. Just a few sentences in, I found myself thinking, “She is totally going to quote Helen Fisher,” and I was totally right. Helen Fisher is the go-to girl when you want to bolster your sexually Manichean worldview with a little evolutionary psychology. She is also, in my opinion, a poor scholar and possibly a bit of an idiot—in her abysmally stupid The First Sex, she explains that women are valuable networkers and team-builders in the business world because of they’re so wonderfully chatty and delightfully social, for example (I don’t recall if she makes any specific mention of their ability to brew coffee and organize office birthday parties, but I’m sure she would have if she'd thought of it.)

And Dowd’s certainly not saying anything that hasn’t been said a thousand times before. Indeed, the entire article is utterly devoid of new or newly provocative material, unless we feel that Ms. Dowd and her lady friends are so smart and fascinating that oft-repeated truisms about the war between the sexes only become meaningful when they issue forth from their particular mouths. It’s hard to believe even Ms. Dowd’s prodigious gift for puffery could spin this crap into 352 pages.

The decision to run this piece was, I think, either a product of Ms. Dowd being too powerful for the editors of the magazine to refuse, or it was an example of the Times having its head up its ass—and I realize that these are not mutually exclusive. A point-by-point critique of the article seems ridiculous to me—in part because it would be longer than the article itself, and in part because it practically critiques itself. If you’d like to enter into an thoughtful and interesting discussion of Are Men Necessary?, the meaning of manhood, and the plight of the nice guy, you should check out these postings and their related comment threads over at Obsidian Wings.

[THANKS TO TED—A NICE GUY WITH A SMART, INDEPENDENT, AND DEEPLY SARCASTIC WIFE—FOR THE OBSIDIAN WINGS LINK.]

November 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack