Friday, June 19, 2015

Identity

I have been mildly stressed lately by the following:
1) How few pie baking days there are in the summer (pie season) in relation to how very many pies I want to bake (and eat), not even considering ones that I would like to make multiple times
2) How many New York Times articles I want to read
3) How meagre my many vacation days seem in light of the fact that I had TWO SUMMERS OF MATERNITY LEAVE (TWO!). Summer babies are the best, guys. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.

So the whole Rachel Dolezal thing burning up the “news.” It’s not really what I would consider to be “news” but it is the current hot button issue for getting the talking heads a’ talkin’.

Let me contextualize my take with this preamble. When Pingy and the Roomie were over, we had a big conversation about transgender issues (kick-started by the big Caitlyn Jenner reveal that had happened the day before the dinner). Pingy had taught a girl who identified as a “cisgender polyromantic woman” and Pingy, bless her patrician heart, was all like, “What does that even mean?!” So we parsed it out (short story – I think poly-romantic means that the person felt they could fall in love with anyone, a distinction that’s made against the body-parts oriented context of identifying as “homosexual” or “bisexual” or “straight.” I was a little bit weirded out that Caitlyn chose to reveal herself in ye classic exploitive, sex bomb fashion and it kind of offended me as a feminist. The Roomie made the point that since she’s now a woman, she could be objectified like women are. Errr…is that progress?

Then I read this: What Makes A Woman, and the author identifies some of the ways that I situate the transgender movement. If, like me, you consider binary gender distinctions a total social construction (and I do), then I feel like the transgender movement is a temporary way station en route to the total negation of social gender constructions. We are moving towards a point when you won’t “feel” like you were born in the “wrong body” in a way that’s related to gender. Maybe you’ll want a penis, that’ll be cool – it will just be like wanting to wear coloured contact lenses. It won’t be about gender. You won’t feel like you’re in the wrong body, because being in any body won’t MEAN anything in particular, insofar as your gender is concerned. Great. We get that. We’re all on board, right?

So when Rachel Dolezal identifies as “black” but isn’t “black” per se – why can’t we apply the same logic? Being black isn’t a quantifiable thing, it is arbitrary and sloppy language for having more melatonin than (what? What’s our baseline here?) than others. There is no genetic underpinning for race – it’s even more of a social/cultural construct than the concept of gender. Before it came out that she might not be the greatest person (suing Howard for discrimination, possibly making up claims of harassment and discrimination), then if she wanted to identify as black, then why not? What’s the big deal? People accused her of trading on the oppressed while still having the security of her white privilege. Yet, people don’t accuse women, who transition into being men, of trying to hop on the tails of patriarchal privilege. No way. If you did suggest that, then you, like the author of the New York Times article above, is accused of being transphobic. I think there’s a gap in my understanding here that I would like someone who does consider the New York Times article transphobic, to illuminate for me, because as of right now, I’m not getting it. I think it’s because I do so believe in the social construction of race, but this quote from this Washington Post  article gave me pause:

“Race is a social construct. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real as a lived experience in America, and it wasn’t constructed out of thin air. On this broken foundation, African Americans led, created communities and built a movement that transformed, and strives to further transform, America for the better.” 

I think I do have a tendency to jump forward to the world that exists in my head, and assume that this is the norm (or should be) for everyone. This is a classic problem for me. My mum has told me since I was a kid that I have a problem seeing things from other people’s perspectives. Her working theory is that I was delivered by forceps (I was a breach baby with my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck – which in earlier days would have had me killed for being a witch), and that the forceps crushed the empathy part of my brain. The Dotytron and the Roomie generally endorse this theory. LOL!

Anyway, yes, race is a lived experience with real results, but even knowing that, while I don’t want to avoid questioning and problematizing Rachel Dolezal’s motives and privilege, I’m curious about why, as a theoretical exercise, a white woman choosing to live her experience as a black woman is substantively different than a woman choosing to live her experience as a man. Insert your thoughts here.

[edit: in light of the horrifying, racist, terrorist murders of Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59; I would like to further underline my solidarity with people who are living the lived experience of race and the very real, deathly implications of it.]

When I read the profiles of the people who were shot, I cried and it makes my heart hurt. I’m also angry. I am enraged by the entrenched, institutionalized racism that infects the world generally and the United States in a particularly acute fashion. I am sickened by the “friends” of the shooter who blithely passed off his racism (the unspoken subtext of the articles reporting their comments is that they themselves share his views, if not the desire to act on them?) and are quoted as saying things like, “He was racist, but I don’t judge.” Probably because you’re a white supremacist bigot yourself.


The other night we watched the documentary After Tiller, which is about the last 4 doctors in the United States who still perform late-term (past 20 weeks) abortions after the murder of Dr. Tiller at his church by a pro-life fanatic. It was admittedly, a sympathetic portrayal of these doctors, feminists all, and the women who seek their assistance. The doctors seemingly didn’t undertake the task lightly and neither did the women – very often there were compelling medical reasons (fetal abnormalities that would grossly impact their child’s quality of life, shortened life expectancies) and social reasons (rape). To see these people put their lives on the line to offer a legally protected right to women was inspiring. To see the lengths that people are willing to go to out of misogynistic ideology was repellant. The film doesn’t really tell you anything you don’t already know or suspect, but it is an important voice in the diminishing conversation for women’s reproductive and bodily rights.



video

Now on to more mundane matters. Last weekend we celebrated the twins birthday for the fourth or fifth time, with Momma D and Ehmdo and the Dotytron’s Nany (the kids’ Great Nany D). I love me some Great Nany D. She is a treat. She is mostly well of body and very sound of mind and I just GET her. She’s so practical and prosaic and her parenting advice is almost always sound. She’s a very relaxed, non-intensive mother parent who has been through 4 kids and consequently, just gets it, ya know? She doesn’t get fussed if the kids are loud or misbehave and has a generally “eh, so what” attitude about little ones that I love. I picked her up from her place in the west end as she shouldn’t be driving anymore and she kept up a steady stream of companionable, interesting chatter. Aside from some mild racism (the old person kind) and social conservatism she’s the greatest. Momma D made corn on the cob and I gave each baby half an ear. Nany wanted to know if it was buttered. I said, no. Momma D said, “they don’t need butter.” Nany: “Well of course they need butter, it makes it taste better.” I said, “Well, we don’t give them butter on their corn so they get used to eating it without, and then when they’re older and they already like the taste of corn, we can add butter and it will be even better.” Nany stopped, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “That makes no sense.” LOL!!! I about died laughing. So good.

The Big Yam’s best friend at school, F, is like a negative version of the Big Yam. They share similar wide, closed mouthed smiles and eyes that disappear into crescent moon squints. “F has white hair” the Big Yam told me, early on in the school year. He is a white-blonde kid and has a similar bowl cut. It’s a little sad because F goes away to Europe all summer. “F’s going to Plogg, soon” the Big Yam informed us the other night. Need I also mention that F has a million allergies and always speaks with a stuffed up voice?

I spent the bulk of the one beautiful day we had last weekend driving across town to grab Nany and so this weekend I’m trying to make it so that I actually have time to savour my weekend. I want to take the kids to a picnic at the Scarborough bluffs or on the beach, for a long bike ride, for a garden putter. We have plans to eat dinner with MHui and her family and for Father’s Day, I’m fulfilling the Dotytron’s greatest wish and making ourselves scarce for a big chunk of the day.

The muumuu and America's Next Top Model posing beside me so smyze-ing his heart out.

Here’s what we’ve been eating lately:

Moco loco for dinner!  Spam, fried eggs, gravy on rice!

Lamb rogan josh and muttar paneer

I am going to talk about this dinner at length because it was so delicious and because it came to me in a dream and I executed it and it was “the stuff that dreams are made of” (when you read that line you actually have to sing it out loud in your best Carly Simon voice, which I know you have in your back pocket, at the ready, just in case. THAT IS VERY WISE OF YOU). 

Here’s the thing about Cobb salad: it’s like, fake salad. Minus the blue cheese, which I’ve become less enamored of as I get older (being less tolerant of strong blue cheeses and having to wear bike shorts under my skirts are two of the harbingers of old age that I’m the most bummed about), it’s basically like a breakfast sandwich, minus the bun. What’s NOT to like about bacon, chopped hard boiled egg, avocado, and tomatoes and chicken? Sauced in a creamy, mayo-based dressing (or in my case, a buttermilk dill dressing) and with some chopped romaine to avoid a talking-to from My Fitness Pal, you’re good to go. Here’s where my dream came in, though. In my dream, I had replaced the standard cubes of cold, chicken breast in the classic Cobb salad with buffalo fried chicken. *Pulls record back on turntable*. 

Yes. Genius! I took boneless, skinless chicken thighs, the existence of which, in quantity, is but one of many reasons why I will never give up my Costco membership (seriously, like, 5lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs for $20?! Get outta here!), soaked them in a buttermilk brine, tossed them in some seasoned flour jacked up with some cornstarch and a bit of baking powder, and then fried them in lard. Once they were crisp I took them out, let them drain on paper towel, and then dragged each one through a mix of equal parts butter and Frank’s Red Hot (which, spoiler alert: IS BUFFALO SAUCE. You don’t have to buy it pre-made!), before arranging them lovingly on the salad. The resulting dinner salad was spicy, cool, crunchy, substantive, and each bite was different, which is generally one of my salad prerequisites. I will definitely put this on the rotation again (which means we’re lucky if I get to it before summer is up).

Strawberry shortcake made with Claudia Fleming's genius shortcake recipe.  It is so good, guys.  The perfect sweet biscuit.  Crisp edged and so, short, almost like a shortbread crossed with a biscuit.  Sturdy enough to soak up copious macerated strawberry juices and absolutely lugubrious with softly whipped cream.  

Shrimp and tofu pad thai

Ottolenghi's cauliflower cake is delicious.  It's also Quincess' platonic ideal of a vehicle for vegetable consumption.  That kid loves a quiche/cake/vegetable patty/fritter like no one else.


Fin.

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