Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Please, please, don't be a Philistine...

I have to laugh at the irony of a Negev eco-community being evacuated עברית on the grounds that it was 1) illegal and 2) damages the environment. My favorite quote was that of Judge Yosef Alón remarking, “public lands are not up for grabs for anyone who wants to take possession of them.” Really? It appears that this is true only in Israel proper, or has His Honor not heard about West Bank outposts erected precisely on land “up for grabs for anyone who wants”? Moreover, you want to talk about environmental damage caused by the settlements? A search turned this up in seconds. Hard to see how a bunch of geodesic domes causes as much damage as this or this or this.

Oh, but wait: Why should we believe a bunch of olive farmers and shepherds? Perhaps because our patriarch Abraham had this exact problem in Genesis 21:25 (which I believe we’re coming up on this very week in Parshát Toldót), except the roles are switched: Abraham complains to Abimelech that Abimelech’s servants filled Abraham’s well with earth. And guess what Abimelech replies? The same thing that the IDF Military Liaison rattles off every other day in response to Pali complaints of harassment, vandalism, or other settler recreational pursuits: "I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, nor did I hear of it until today." [Gen 21:26]. Fast forward to 2013: I would hope that having once been shepherds ourselves – utterly dependent upon accessible, uncontaminated water – we could do better than the Philistines did to us.

אנא, במטותא מכם, אל תנהגו כפּלישתים...


לא יכולתי שלא לגחך בקוראי על פינוי ישוב אקולוגי בנגב ושהעילה לכך היא כי: 1) הוא אינו חוקי ו-2) הוא גורם נזק סביבתי. יותר מכל חביבה עלי קביעתו של השופט יוסף אלון, לפיה "מקרקעי הציבור והמדינה אינם הפקר", ושלא כל מי שחשקה נפשו בהם רשאי לפלוש לתוכם. באמת? נראה כי זו אולי האמת רק בתחומי הקו הירוק, או שמא לא שמע כבודו על המאחזים בגדה המערבית שהוקמו דווקא על מקרקעים שהיו בבחינת "הפקר" לכל מי שחשקה נפשו בהם? יתרה מזאת, רוצים לדבר על נזק סביבתי שנגרם על ידי התנחלויות? חיפוש מהיר מעלה תוך שניות את זה. קשה להבין כיצד גורמות כמה כיפות גיאודזיות יותר נזק מזה, מזה, או מזה.


אך רק רגע – מדוע שנאמין לחבורה של מגדלי זיתים ורועי צאן? אולי משום שאברהם אבינו נתקל בדיוק באותה בעיה בספר בראשית כ"א כ"ה (שדומני כי נקרא אותו השבת בפרשת השבוע "תולדות"), אולם שם התהפכו היוצרות: אברהם מוכיח את אבימלך על שעבדיו סתמו את הבארות אשר חפר אברהם. ומה משיב לו אלימלך, תנחשו? בדיוק מה שמקשקש קצין הקישור הצה"לי כל שני וחמישי בתגובה לתלונות הפלסטינים על הצקות, השחתת רכוש, ושאר מיני שעשועים החביבים על המתנחלים (בראשית כ"א כ"ו): "לֹא יָדַעְתִּי מִי עָשָׂה אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה; וְגַם-אַתָּה לֹא-הִגַּדְתָּ לִּי, וְגַם אָנֹכִי לֹא שָׁמַעְתִּיבִּלְתִּי הַיּוֹם". הרצה קדימה לשנת 2013: הייתי רוצה לקוות שאנו, אשר היינו פעם רועי צאן בעצמנו, ולפיכך תלויים לחלוטין בנגישות למיים לא מזוהמים, ננהג יותר בהגינות כלפי שכנינו מכפי שנהגו הפּלשתים כלפינו.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Widger, stop your weepin'

OK. I’ve officially had it with the mopey, maudlin reflections on digital technology the likes of Caeli Wolfson Widgers Why I Silence Your Call. Specifically regarding the practice of letting calls go to voice, as Miss Manners has been telling any of us who will listen ever since the answering machine was invented, it’s not impolite to screen your calls; it’s simply the modern-day equivalent of instructing one’s butler to tell callers, “Pansy is unable to take callers right now. You may leave your card.” If you were unfortunate enough not to have a butler, you delegated this duty to another household member, or simply didn’t answer the door. Perhaps you hung a note on your door to that effect, Martin Luther style. See? Nothing new here.

What some fail to grasp is that a phone call is by its very nature intrusive: It’s by definition someone demanding your immediate attention and time. Thus phone calls should be reserved for emergencies. On the rare occasions when I initiate a phone call, I ask the recipient, “Is this a good time for you?” or “Have you got a minute?” Diving right in is now considered presuming on someone’s time. Even then I often preface a call with a text, so the recipient has an idea of what I want and can respond at their convenience.

In a related vein, can we please stop moaning that e-mail “just doesn’t have the nuance / tone / voice cues” of telephoning? And that e-readers “just aren’t the same as a ‘real book that I hold in my hands’”? If e-mail doesn’t allow for voice cues, then it certainly shares an epistolary tradition that goes all the way back to the first chiseled word. I’m sure that when the first printed book rolled off the presses, a chorus of monks could be heard from their collective scriptoria: “But it’s just not the same as ink and parchment!” And the first papyrus users no doubt heard their moms say, “But it just doesn’t have the same feel as that cold, chiseled stone!”

Folks, e-mail is simply a newer way to convey text. That’s all it is. It has no inherent inferiority to what preceded it, nor does an e-reader. The phenomenon of mass-produced paper books only existed for the few generations growing up post World War II. Remember Scholastic Books that we all take for granted? Those didn’t exist pre-WWII; before that, only the wealthy had regular access to paper books. So there is nothing more inherently book-like about a paper book than there is about a book read on an e-reader. The same information is being conveyed (at even less cost), just digitally.

That having been said, I’m expecting not to hear any more weeping and wailing about technology and how it was in the good ol’ days before we had it. Get over it. And feel free to call me if it’s an emergency.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Jezebel goes for the name-change jugular

Wanted to share with my readers some comments on Jezebel’s Lindy West’s “Men Who Insist You Change Your Name Make Terrible Husbands”. Readers’ remarks are surrounded by quotes. My remarks are in red. I edited many comments to render them smoother / more readable (what’s new?):

“I took my husband's name. It was a really hard thing to do!”

Well, why’dja do it, then?

[same poster as above]:
“…Then he died, and I have his name. It's been almost 10 years, now. I feel like if I ever remarry, I'll be obligated to take on a new name again. Because I can't be married to one person while keeping my dead husband's name, can I?”

Huh? Sure you can, but I’m surprised you don’t see one other option waving its arms wildly up there: Revert to your birth name. Then you’re not dissing anyone, dead or alive.

“Before we got married, I suggested that we blend our names to represent our new household. His response: ‘I would spend the rest of my life actively taking sh_t from every man I know and meet about this. Yes, the married name is a double standard, and yes, it disadvantages the woman. But patriarchy doesn't just limit women's choices."

Aw, poor patriarchs. Their choices are limited too, boo-hoo. Yes: limited to having power over women. I feel just terrible about it. Bet sh-t-taking husband does too.

“We couldn't hyphenate; both of our names were 10 letters long!”

Imagine! That’s why we have this device called “initials”. For instance, we got used to writing our daughter’s surname as “E-S” / א-ס. Rarely does The Whole Thing need to be spelled out.

“I have an 11-letter first name and I've had issues entering it on forms my entire life. I'd HATE to have to try and squeeze in a long, hyphenated last name.”

[BarelyLethal replies]:
“I keep seeing ‘Oh! It's terrible on forms! Woe is me!’ Don't you think that as more of us have multiple or hyphenated names, the forms would change to accommodate us? I haven't seen a credit card application in the last five years that doesn't have at least 25 spaces for Last Name… if more of us adopted hyphenated and / or multiple last names, the forms would have to catch up. So ‘I'm not going to name my kid thusly because forms’ doesn't hold water if it's really something you want to do.”

Elegantly said, BarelyLethal. Just like so many things in life that cause us to extend our comfort zones: There will always be plenty of excuses not to; if you really want to do something, those excuses won’t stop you.

“For the record, I'm taking my husband's last name in the future because my dad is a jackass. Nothing to do with his name whatsoever. Sorry, future husband!

First off, why’re you apologizing to a man you’ve never met? Second, supposing you remain unmarried? Why not unload your dad’s jackassery now? No time like the present…

Have a listen to what Homosaur said about the possibility of taking his wife’s surname:

“The day I take her father's name is the day I cut my d_ck off with a scissors.”

Uh. There is so much macho patriarchy dripping from that remark, not to mention plain old generic anger, I’d be afraid to occupy the same ZIP code as this guy. And to think someone is married to him. Goddess keep her.

Perdue wrote: “If you're so hell-bent on One Family, One Name (which I personally don't care about, having seen approximately eleventy billion kids with different last names than at least one parent in my time on this earth, and exactly zero mishaps as a result)…”

Aspirellls: “I was listening to a fascinating story the other day about engaged couples who both have hyphenated last names and have no clue what to do. I don't know where to even begin navigating that one.”

That story indeed sounds fascinating, Aspirellls. Gee, this is rocket science: How about each retains one name and drops one name, then combine? Or combine all four? Whatever these mysterious engaged couples decide, the earth will keep spinning on its axis, I’m quite certain.

“My best friend growing up was hyphenated and she HATED it.

Oh. Well, then. End Of Discussion. Because we all know that one anecdote equals data. Well, I venture another anecdote: Two of my hypho-kids dropped the post-hyphen name; the third as of this writing is remaining hyphenated. Stay tuned.

“The fact I have a different last name from the other 3/4 of my family has caused a problem exactly .... never. And I certainly don't think it makes me less married or less committed in any possible way.”

Yowza. Amen, Sister. Preach it.

Yoana’s answer to the claim ‘A woman who won’t take her husband’s surname puts herself ahead of her marriage.’
Translation: She's reluctant to be my personal life assistant.

LaurelTreeDaphne: “Is it OK for us to participate in something that contributes to our own disenfranchisement in the interest of holding onto tradition? I wish there was more acknowledgement that taking your husband's last name is inherently problematic, no matter what your reasons for doing so. When you do, you're contributing to that culture that makes 96% of men believe it's emasculating to take a woman's name, a fact that tends to get lost in the ‘choose your choice’ chirp that usually surrounds this topic.

“See, that overwhelming number (96%?!?!?!) is why I am not OK with women taking their husband's last name. Every time this topic comes up, women come out of the woodwork with their personal stories about why it was really important to them to take their husband's last name. OK, ‘your name, your choice and all that’. But on a societal level...oof. That percentage is staggering, and it is not going to change unless we as women start pushing the issue. And it's important to start pushing the issue, because the automatic ‘We want to be one family, one name’ thing is rooted in some really problematic history of women and children being the property of men.

“96% of men believe that taking on a piece of their partner's identity diminishes their manhood in some way. And it's completely reinforced by society: Not only do most people just assume that women will take their husbands’ last names, but the bureaucracy is set up to make it really, really difficult for a man to change his name. You say that it's fine for feminists to want to hold onto traditions, but is it really, when the tradition is so problematic and so reflective of the lesser value men place on us?

Sigh. I think I love you, LaurelTreeDaphne.

“Changed my name when I married the first time. After 10 years when I divorced, it still felt borrowed, so I went back to my maiden. Changing when I married was no sweat; going back to my maiden was a pain in the butt! Everyone wanted double proof that you got divorced and that it was stated in court that you went back to your own name. When I married and wanted to change it, everyone was 'okey-dokey!' Decided I would never change it again, I don't care if I marry a Rockefeller.”

Woo-hoo! And picture me bowing down to these next three:

“I'm glad I did it [reverted to my birth name post-divorce], but it infuriated me how much of a pain they made it, like it was further punishment for me for daring to break away from conformity.”

“Plenty of men have names that are ugly, silly, or difficult to spell or pronounce, but funnily enough, this doesn't usually result in their taking their wives' names. I'm not saying that makes other reasoning invalid, but I am saying you can't divorce it from the larger patriarchal construct. If it was really just about getting rid of a ‘bad’ name, men would change their names as often as women do.

“I have had people tell me they ‘wouldn't feel as connected to their kids’ if they didn't share the same last name. I always thought that was a weird response. It's not like when I pick my kid up from daycare she looks at me quizzically and asks for ID.”

The problem with this "doing what makes the most sense for you" is that often that segues into taking the path of least resistance, which in many cases is simply Taking His Name. This irks me. Keep. Your. Name. If you dislike it, by all means change it, but NOT because there's a man involved.

FeministFury knocks it outta the park:

“The argument, ‘well, you're just going from your father's name to your husband's name’ is stupid (sorry, it is). If more women stopped passing on their husbands' names to their children, the names wouldn't just be fathers' but mothers' as well, which would resolve the problem, so that response is ultimately self-defeating. It also obscures other naming possibilities, thereby closing off creativity. For instance, women could change their names to their mothers' names upon marriage. They could invent new names. They could resurrect a long-forgotten matrilineal name from their ancestry. The options aren't reduced to two, and I bet we kind of don't want to resolve this problem creatively because it's a lot easier to feel defeatist, i.e., ‘well, we're damned if we do, damned if we don't, aren't we? Our hands are tied either way.’ Right. So isn't it easiest just to capitulate (nope, we're not, and nope, that isn't the best response)?”

And the Final Three:

“Pretty much if your life partner who's supposed to be your equal ‘makes’ you do something, or decides to ‘let’ you do something, or issues an ultimatum - you are looking at a giant red flag.”

“What year is this? If there's one tradition that should've died out 50 years ago, it's that one.”

“I'm keeping my name. If you're curious as to why, please go ask my fiancé if he is keeping his name, and why. There you go.”