Friday, March 28, 2014

in other news:

My kid is TALKING now.

As someone whose first love remains words -- some people retain a soft spot for their high school sweetheart; my husband knows that suspicious absences or vague "mm-hmms" on my part mean I'm either furtivereading or furtivewriting, face covered like a two-year-old convinced that, by not seeing those around me, I have effectively hidden myself from them -- this is a weird thrill.

The new object of my ultimate concern now greats me with a mouthful of my previous object of ultimate concern, and it's a little like what I must imagine your average hipster would feel should -- I don't know, Natalie Portman? -- show up with a case of craft beer, eager to hear your thoughts on how V for Vendetta translated to screen. (Believe me, as someone who has unthinkingly brought up the subject of comic books on dates, I can assure you that those scenarios hold an equal potential for adult content).

A few amazing things about my son, talking:

1. He now sings along to the SuperWhy! TV show, which, I have to say, is a show I would cheerfully watch on my own, possibly with a bottle or two of wine, on a night in. I do not prefer the gender politics of SuperWhy!, but if I am honest, I think I might just be being curmudgeonly. As far as I can see, the princess-gown-clad female characters do not allow their impractical adventure attire to keep them from the show's agenda of using literacy skills to get them out of various scrapes. It's like Macgyver, but with rhymes instead of screwdrivers.

Also, if you're into this sort of thing, half the ensemble cast manages to fix said problems while clad in ball gowns and tiaras. (Mac and I have about the same interest in that detail, but on behalf of budding femmes everywhere, SuperWhy the eff not?)

2. He does not differentiate between "me" and "you", which makes for some unintentionally sophisticated meditations on the nature of self versus other. "Hold you, mommy!" for example, is strangely heart-melting in its ability to sound like an offer of comfort when, in point of fact, like every other thing my son says, it can only ever be an imperative.

3. Repetition: a literary technique I'd written off as sophomoric, used to stunning effect by toddlers everywhere. You know how a somewhat sloppy aside becomes increasingly hilarious upon reiteration? If you experienced either pop culture in the late eighties/early nineties, or attended third grade in any cultural moment ever, you must. This phenomenon is last best hope in Mac's verbal arsenal, and it inevitably comes out when he finds that a vocabulary of 150 words fails:

Hold you, mommy!

In a minute, Mac, Mommy is straining boiling water/handling cat feces/carrying heavy items across Atlantic Avenue.

Hold you, Mommy!

Mac, Mommy will hold you as soon as it is safe. 

HOLD YOU, Mommy!

Mac, in like five seconds I can hold you, and also not get hit by a car --


OKAY, see,  I guess we can just leave these groceries on the sidewalk for the less fortunate NOW I can hold you.

(Indistinct sounds of abandonment, then): 

More milky, mommy!

Clearly, the rest of us have forgotten how to best exploit language in its purest form. I can't simply repeat the same words louder and louder and expect any response short of expulsion from whatever public place I'm occupying.

Something about these words coming out of a three-foot-tall redhead, however, renders them strangely compelling -- like how you initially thought "We run things, things don't run we" MADE NO SENSE and now you must fill your head with sounds at all times to keep it from burrowing back into your subconscious.

I once spent my time arguing over the nuances of enjambment in Walt Whitman's writing. I have read, and reread, Ulysses, allowing that book to absorb hours of my life that could have been spent doing anything. People have paid me for my thoughts on how nineteenth century American authors used language to construct both national identity and a culturally specific understanding of self.

However, I am now unshakable in my conviction that language evolved, not for the personal use of James Joyce or Faulkner or Shakespeare, but so I can hear my son tell me, Mommy NO BRUSH teeth! Mac brush teeth, see teachers! 

This is why I learned English, myself. This is why I have ears.

And if, sixty years from now, these are the only words I can remember from my entire life, just prop me up, turn me Q2hrs, and leave me to it. (If my experiences of long term care are at all representative, I have every confidence you will.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

boys who like boys, girls who look like boys, and Christians who (tough) "love" them all

Okay, so tonight is my second evening shift, and also, it is painfully clear to me that non of my cute little projects to get my eating problems in hand(no meat! meat, but no carbs! carbs, but no sugar!) are actually going to work. Which means I'm back to reality not meshing with the perception of myself I want, because I want to be reasonable and mature and not beholden to the questionable belief system in which I was raised,. Only here is the problem:

When I try to feed myself and not act crazy, I crash and burn. When I ask this "Jesus" to help me, I eat like a non-eating disordered person, albeit possibly a preschool-aged one -- your foods can't touch each other if you insist on eating them one at a time, kiddos! But: I eat foods, don't throw them up, and (mostly) avoid tearful confrontations over whether consuming a bagel and an orange at the same time renders subsequent meals unnecessary and excessive.

Alternative explanations of this phenomenon notwithstanding, in my experience, in over twenty years of disordered eating, the only thing that has helped me is asking a Higher Power for assistance. I feel like a schmuck writing it -- the last thing I want is to be accused of some sort of sloppy attempt at apologetics or evangelism -- but after the last thing I want is to relapse in an effort to find a less embarrassing means of staying healthy. So, there it is.

A predicament, because mostly I just want to punch Christianity in the face right now, between kicking little kids out of school for not being girly  (a phenomenon that got its own post, but which I'm waiting to edit until after my two twelves in forty eight hours) and this whole crazy World Vision craziness, which, I just, you know, can't. 

I'm saying this with the peculiar caveat that I spent most of my teenage and adult years wanting to be with a woman, but dating a self-selecting group of men -- for a bunch of tedious and depressing reasons, I honed a performance of femininity designed to appeal to lonely heterosexual men, men who like smart girls, but not really -- and then, in a charmed turn of events, meeting and falling in love with a straight guy who in any other set of circumstances would have been out of my league, but who happened to be slumming it at the time. So, I have a lot of privilege going on here: I'm not straight, but I get treated as though I were.

And it may be  is a function of that privilege when I say that the outrage here is that people care more about what gay American adults are doing in their personal lives than whether or not the kids World Vision serves can continue to live.

I'm really depressed about World Vision reversing this decision, but honestly, I feel like in their position I might have done the same thing, because they were losing money that they needed to save kids' lives. I don't know; it's a shitty choice to make, and maybe they could have gone about this switch differently, moved more slowly, made sure to have a back up plan should sponsors pull out over this.

But then, maybe they thought that people who professed belief in a Savior who commands us to feed the hungry and bring little children to Him would not withhold money from hungry children because someone else wants to help, too, and that person is a man with a husband.

It is really effing depressing to read that two thousand people felt that World Vision's willingness to employ gay married people in the service of starving kids worldwide was a legit reason to stop sponsoring said kids.

It's clear to me that just like the only answer for my eating disorder right now is to go back to soliciting help with something I clearly can't control, the only answer for the plentiful bullshit that seems to come tumbling down every time I shift my weight towards Christianity is to quiet down and then beg for the kind of love that can keep me charting at 2 am and acting civil towards my husband, the kind that engenders fuck-giving when everything seems stupid and pointless.

A few things that help:

I try to remember that people have always said things like, "The Bible is clear on [x]." They said it about slavery, they said it about "the Jews", they said it about divorce and stoning prostitutes and beating kids. It does not change the (polyglot, haphazardly assembled, contradictory) history and nature of the Bible.

I try to remember that I am not actually required to do something that I think is wrong, just because someone else thumps a book in my direction -- fingers casually laid over any number of other "self-explanatory" texts -- and tells me, look. No, not there, here. This is God's Word.

I try to remember what love is and is not: that when I love someone, I want them to be happy. I'm no scholar, but I know from being shamed and ostracized, from being lectured and edited and gaslit, and I know that it did not make me happy. I do not believe, in retrospect, that the people doing those things to me loved me. If I would not accept a certain kind of treatment from a parent or girlfriend or sister, I am not willing to excuse that behavior as "tough love" when it comes from a pundit or pastor or poster of comments online. And I am not willing to attribute that behavior to God.

I do think that God, such as He or She is, has it together enough to care for me even if I'm not willing to shame or discriminate against gay people for Him (Her?) or to believe in the literal truth of the Bible when that seems so totally inappropriate a way to read a pre-modern text, the original of which no longer exists.

Critical to my faith as it stands (wobbles?) right now, is the belief that insofar as a God exists, His presence in our lives should move in ways that make other peoples' lives more tolerable, not less.

It's okay to believe in God and say: I don't know what else that belief implies, other than hope that, my innumerable frailties notwithstanding, I actually am, and will be, okay. And that, whatever God is, She is not the bitchy lab partner holding Her favor over your head until you've established your bone fides at the expense of whoever's on Her cosmic shit list.

The reasonable part of me cannot believe I still need to repeat this -- to anyone, let alone to myself -- but here it is: God's not asking you to hurt other people and call it love, to stop sponsoring children and blame it on someone else's refusal to discriminate, to call the withholding of employment opportunity from a category of human beings anything other than what it is: discrimination.

Right now, all I can do is beg this mysterious God for love, when what I feel runs closer to panic and frustration and an exhaustion that no amount of sleep seems to cure. All I can do is breathe in and out, exist in this exact moment, and apologize for that being so little when there's so much need around me. And hope that maybe the people who have all this energy to patrol the various "sins" of others, and to tantrum when others refuse to do the same, might hit a similar wall of exhaustion, and soon.

That, or that their internet providers might themselves endorse equal rights for gay couples, inciting a boycott that might cut just a little closer to home -- their homes, not those of others -- than does withdrawing charitable dollars from children in the developing world.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

zinc oxide: it's actually butt paste, and other things we've learned

Yesterday's Idiot Move of the Shift: happily, I was not the only person who failed to notice that the active component of the Butt Paste stacked at our patient's bedside is that same zinc oxide that my preceptor and I spent the first six hours of our Saturday calling the pharmacy and demanding. We "only connect"-ed just in time for me to spray myself in the face with wound cleanser while attempting to spackle said paste onto a butt. Excellent!

Also: a couple of excellent things I'm reading when I'm not nursing:

Culkin's book is the closest I've gotten to "spiritual community" so far this Lent -- which is either evidence of how far astray I've stumbled, like Hester Prynne after she had her baby, or is a function of the fact that exploring anything, even faith, is a meaningless endeavor if it doesn't lead to disparate uncomfortable and lonely places.

As the Seventh-Day Adventist faction of this blog's readership (snerrrk) will attest, we don't really do Lent. My former paster, now engaged in his own blogventure away from faith, blames this on our aversion to all things Catholic. I'm only a few years younger than him, but that, combined with my parents' decidedly readerly take on Seventh Day Adventist doctrine (all church and no trips to the movie theater make Sabbath totally effing intolerable!), means that I totally missed the boat on "our" collective hysteria about Catholics. I've always felt like devout Catholics have the best of both worlds when it comes to organized religion: all of the time-consuming ritual, and none (less?) of the intractable craziness. However bizarre the doctrines Catholics officially espouse, the community -- if not the dogma -- seems to allow for a recognition that hey, we maybe don't mean this literally, where "this" is, say, the oft-translated claims of sundry scattered documents from the ancient Near East.

Talking to other extremely religious people often leaves me feeling like I'm talking to a drunk person: it's not that they aren't making sense, but some essential part of them, a part that would enable me to approach them collegially, rather than as I would a client or student, is missing. I have to use all these people skills that aren't required when I'm just relating to another human being: listen actively, studiously withhold judgment, and et cetera. I have to indulge them because they don't know any better. It breeds a kind of condescension that I loathe in myself.

Transubstantiation aside, I feel like Catholicism allows one to say Oh yeah, dinosaurs, in a way that fundamentalist Christianity doesn't. And so, around Catholics, I feel less like I did back when everyone else was under the impression that Santa was bringing them presents, and I was like, No, your mom -- and only if you don't piss her off.

Anyway, Culkin describes herself as swinging between atheism and agnosticism, and yet these incredible moments that I read as spiritual really anchor a book that might otherwise be too painful to read. She moves really seamlessly between the life and death experiences of her patients and those in her personally life -- which are many, since a significant part of her career was spent as a flight nurse in the Pacific Northwest. (This is not a career choice for people not yet reconciled to their own mortality). It is totally, totally beautiful. Read it and then give your copy away -- possibly to me, because I had to return it to the library and I'm already craving a reread.

Speaking of rereads:

I would totally be making an amazon wish list for the sole purpose of adding this book, if a significant subplot of said collection did not address's takeover of the book industry. I absolutely will not make any discouraging, held-empty-glass-seeing comments on why this book sticks out in my mind four years after I read it as a rare example of female subjectivity in things I read. I am sure that only reflects the impoverished state of my own body of cultural knowledge and the many happy hours of discovering strong, actualized characters of variant genders and ethnicities I can look forward to!

You can find it here, although I'll point out that Alison Bechdel herself links you to amazon on her website. Whatever.

If you are missing a time and place in which your topics of ultimate concern all revolved around your Platonic ideals of social justice and progress, unadulterated by tedious details like rent and APRs and what box to live in at eighty when you retired -- you know, that golden era between getting your driver's license and beginning to pay off student loans -- Dykes to Watch Out For transports you to a world where all of those concerns exist in a glorious tension. Not that it makes the heroine, Mo, any less crazed -- but for someone currently consumed entirely with not losing her job, damaging her child beyond repair, or defaulting on her student loan debt, Mo and her book-slinging, girl-chasing compadres are basically the literary equivalent of chomping cooking dough and swilling red wine in one's pajama's for an entire weekend. It reminds me of reading before I discovered the particular delights of reading to learn and grow -- back when I read just because it was the only thing that consistently made me happy, made me feel like even if my immediate circumstances could induce catatonic depression in a freaking Zen master, the world, taken in its entirety, was huge and wide and full of excellent things.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

full assist

I am so, so grateful to have my job. So much so that I no longer obsess about death and Lou Gherig's Disease because now, it's all about What if I Lose My Job?

However, a few of things:

1. I have an unusually difficult time priming lines; I've actually had to throw out bags of saline before because I ran too much through in an effort to get rid of every single bubble, because OCD. Last week, I was delighted to have overcome this and learned to live with a few small bubbles, as per my preceptor's advice. My self-satisfaction dissipated like so many tiny/insignificant air bubbles when the pump grunted, clicked, and then flashed: air in line!

2. WHAT IS HAPPENING, MY BODY. It's clear to me that what I have right now is a cold of some kind. As to why said cold has lasted fully eight days now, and I am carrying into a series of five days, four of which I will spend completing 12 hour shifts -- well, I can't help you with that.

3. Beyond those two things, modern medicine, keep doing what you're doing. I meant to be as diplomatic as I can about this, but it's discouraging to me a seemingly huge -- but possibly only unusually vocal ? -- subset of the population has no time for magical thinking a la literal interpretations of the Bible, but totally accepts that complimentary medicine is somehow more "progressive" than, say, antibiotics or morphine or chemotherapy. There is a time and place for these things: after you've tried the things that have been shown to work most of the time.

4. And also: my somewhat tumultuous relationship with God aside, should you ever read another blog post or see my face again, please know that He apparently believes in me, as evidenced by my getting through today. Because for real, I'm about as broken as a human being can be when her life is nothing but bagels and dream jobs. I am having serious doubts about my ability to ambulate to the shower this morning.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

ten awesome kids and a somewhat despicable me

First, stop what you are doing and freaking read this:

To single out just one of these amazing kids, I want to just plunk the picture below in front of your eyes:

Eff effing Jared. It is ALL ABOUT Denzel Thompson.

In case, I don't know, you're not interested in what's awesome, or managed to resist the siren call of my link above, or didn't make it down to #4 on this list, Denzel Thompson apparently dropped out of school in 8th grade, depressed and obese; travelled to New Orleans to help out after Katrina, where he helped construct greenhouses and community farms and gardens, came back to North Philly and proceeded to:

  • co-found the Philadelphia Urban Creators, a  "group of young change agents in North Philadelphia, building relationships with local communities in order to develop our urban landscapes sustainably, and equitably, from the ground-up";
  • lose 150 pounds eating the food he grows in the gardens and farms he spent his teenage years building and sustaining;
  • and go back to school, graduate, and move on to Temple, where he's dual majoring in agriculture and liberal arts because of course he is, because he's amazing. 

I've been thinking a lot about why sexism and racism are so intractable and metastatic and why they seem to me to be worse, rather than better, than they were when I was a teenager. And I think some of it is because for all the various strengths of my generation and the twenty somethings right behind it, we all share a common inability to tolerate discomfort -- to delay gratification, to go without, to take no for an answer. One of the things that depressed me so much about Occupy Wall Street was the incredible myopia of college graduates who seemed intent on establishing solidarity as part of the 99% without owning, or even acknowledging, the fundamental difference between history majors from New York University who can't find work "in their field" and incarcerated survivors of domestic violence who cannot read, or families attempting to feed their children with food stamps, or disabled veterans in homeless shelters. 

But really, I am pretty much the same as they are. I respond so intensely to issues of gender because my experience of my own gender makes me so frustrated and angry; because I've been affected in immediate and concrete ways by a system that just, you know, fucks with women, even women who, like me, are otherwise very privileged. I am less inclined to look at and speak about the equally intractable and often "more damaging" -- if there can ever be any meaning to that sort of comparison -- systems that afford me privilege at the expense of other people. 

I don't think that what's holding me back from this kind of investigation is as simple as not wanting to admit my privilege -- that is, not wanting to feel guilty or ashamed about being white, or about the ways in which I participate in a system that damages others, or about the fact that the things I have are not so straightforwardly earned, not so truly mine, as I'd like to think. It's more that I don't know how to go about examining and dismantling a system to which I'm essentially blind, a system on which I can never speak authoritatively. 

I like to have opinions, and I exist in a cultural moment in which the act of saying what you think is treated as a moral good, especially if you can do so with any kind of finesse. But really, so much that needs to be done for progress to really happen, seems to hinge on people like me shutting up and positioning ourselves to hear from people not like me. 

And that's hard, because, in the first place, I'm not very good at listening, full stop, and, in the second place, the people I've been socialized to listen to -- the people whose views and faces and thoughts on everything, even issues like race and class and gender, are most accessible and most palatable -- are not the people who I need to be listening to, if what I want is to be part of making things suck less. 

There seems to be no end of white people with things to say about race and class and gender. But I've got to be honest: if I made a list of the public figures who actually are African American or Caribbean American or African or Caribbean, who I know and whose thoughts on race I've read or heard, I'd be really embarrassed by it. Same thing for class: I have lots to say about money and poverty, but I've logged very few hours listening to poor people. To the degree that it's possible to find these voices in writing, I don't know where to start; to the degree that I'd need to actually ask real live people for their thoughts rather than Googling them, I'm both unsure of how to initiate such a conversation and situated in too insular a space to do so without actively seeking out new acquaintances and friends. 

Initially, I had planned to give up meat for Lent. (I've had to modify that somewhat and eat fish since apparently Just Effing Eating, Already, remains an ongoing project for me.) But the other thing I want to do this Lent is to reset myself to listen rather than talk -- specifically about issues on which I clearly know nothing, but also in everyday life. 

One of the functions of my privilege is to facilitate my aversion to shutting up and listening, to admitting that other people have more authority and credibility than I do. However, the initial resistance to listening itself is human and intrinsic to me. I'm not much better at listening to my husband's thoughts on our personal interactions than I am at listening to those who have experience racism weigh in on what it is, the role I play in it, and how I can be useful in dismantling it. The basic skill of admitting my own limitations, of shutting the eff up, for Crissakes, is thankfully one which I have the opportunity to practice regularly in my home, while I seek out the opportunities to apply it in my community.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

You cannot even handle the amazing that is

Dinosaur Train.

Basically, if one were to reread everything I complained about in last Tuesday's post and find oneself unable to continue life in the world it describes, and if one then were to personally procure Jim Henson (or a subsidiary thereof; I don't really understand what's involved in getting his name attached to things like this, but I like to imagine him just slamming crappy bodega coffee and storyboarding this his damn self at 2 am somewhere) to correct All of It, one might have just made Dinosaur Train happen.

What am I doing in a Pteranodon nest? Rocking the eff out. 

Like Mac, I was pretty much sold once I heard the (genius!) title, because who would ever want anything in life besides dinosaurs on trains OMG.

But there are other amazing features of this show! For one, Tiny and Don are totally gender indeterminate; I had to look up the show on PBS Kids (had to! this is research!) in order to verify that Tiny is a girl dinosaur and Don is a boy. In fact, I spent a good three weeks believing that the latter's name was Dawn. Moreover, the gender reveals on the PBS website did nothing to change the characters for me. It was exactly like their gender didn't matter.

(Even) more awesomely, on the accompanying website for parents, which you will go to and never leave, Tiny is described as follows:

Tiny, who loves to make rhymes, is quite clever and very brave. Tiny approaches every dinosaur she meets with the confidence of a news reporter trying to get the full scoop. Tiny is so brave that she often wanders a little bit too far; but, Buddy is always there to help her get back on the right track. And in return, Tiny is fiercely protective of her brother Buddy. Tiny also has two Pteranodon siblings: Don and Shiny.

You can tell she's a girl, because eyelashes!

So simple, right? To just make a character with strengths and weaknesses and loves and features, and who -- in addition to having, like, an eye color and hands and feet and lungs, has a gender?

It's simple, that is, until you consider how "female" is the compelling characteristic that determines every other aspect of every other female cartoon character I know -- from the effing eyeshadow on Nala the lioness to the fact that, inevitably, Nala has to re-emerge in the second half of the Lion King as a love interest for Simba rather than an even-remotely-interesting character in her own right. Because lionesses totally wait around for male lions to get things done, except how that never happens. Check out the Discovery Channel: it's a busy life, being a lioness.

So, I've basically become a full-fledged, street-corner-testifying, evangelical congregant of the church of Dinosaur Train, since all I really want is to be a human being and not a "female" (that adjective that inexplicably grew legs and became a noun, allowing my gender to become The Thing I Am).

I get that this may not look like winning to every female person who cares about how other people who share her gender are represented in cartoons. I know that there are women who don't want their gender not to matter; who prefer to celebrate it as an important part of who they are. Were I making a case that racial or ethnic identity should be treated as an afterthought, well, that'd place me somewhere along a continuum of obtuse privilege and flat-out racism.

But I am a woman, see, and while I certainly don't speak for any other women, I am also proof that there exist human beings who are female but who do not find any aspect of a "female identity", as I understand it, appealing. I don't know how good it feels to "get all dolled up" or to "celebrate my body" by "flaunting my curves". I believe other women when they say they do -- that manicures, "skinny jeans", and dancing in public are acts of self-affirmation for them. For me, these things are chores, like dishes or laundry, only my husband and brother and dad are not expected to do them, so I can only surmise that they are optional. And I opt to not do them, since I gain nothing from them: I find it life-affirming to do my job and play with my kid and run and read and write -- much as you may, hypothetical male reader.

Honestly, I am pretty sympathetic to arguments that with so many immediate, material injustices in the world, gender inequity -- especially at it is experienced in the developed world -- is a privileged sort of cause to take up. I get why someone might be unable to care about bullshit gender programming in a world where kids are starving to death and economic and racial oppression have effects that are often much more tangible and immediately damaging.

However, feminism remains important to me because I do not like the way that what we tell our girls and women to be so rarely intersects with what we'd like for children and adult people to be. I would love Mac no matter what and who he was; but when I look at the shape that love takes, the things I think about when I am loving him and celebrating him, they are: his curiosity, his joy, his passion, his energy, his courage, his ingenuity, his stubbornness, his fascination with the world around him, his consistent turning outward towards things and people and places rather than inward, to himself. He engages the world rather than marketing himself to it.

And I am enormously proud of that, because it is hard to approach the world relationally, rather than appropriatively, as a would-be consumer or product, regardless of your gender. I wish I could live in the world that way, but for me, that would require an overhaul of my basic understanding of myself so total that I don't know that I would be myself if I ever accomplished it.

If I had a daughter, I'd want the same from her as I do for my son, though I often feel like I'd be alone, there. I'd want her to see the world as a site for awesome action and projects, not a stage or a mount for the product she makes of herself. But over and over, I see girls trained to fill a role in the lives of the male characters, to be marketed as products, most often to those with more power than they have (boys, grown ups, the omnipresent arbiter of who is good enough -- no one -- and what everyone else needs in order to become good enough).

This is why the Bechdal test is such a genius way of evaluating shows and films; because overwhelmingly, female characters do not exist independent of what they do to propel the male characters' stories. And, because this unfortunate and constructed set of circumstances announces itself as real, as part of some sort of inevitable female condition -- the projects which women are encouraged to undergo are so much more likely to be acts of "self-creation" that overlook the reality that we become the people we are, not by hyper vigilantly patrolling our bodies and responses and functions in the lives of others, but by going out into the world and doing things.

On Dinosaur Train, girls do just that -- so regularly, so unselfconsciously, that we can't tell the girl characters from the boy characters if not for the eyelashes (even with eyelashes, some of us need help). Because the show is also astoundingly pro-science and pro-learning and pro-doing-shit-rather-than-buying shit, all of the Pteranodon family adventures revolve around things scientists do: explore, create, problem solve. Their conflicts are external -- like Mac, they are oriented facing outward, at the world around them. Tiny and Shiny go on adventures, solve problems, and creature things ranging from gardens to Tiny Places to installation art featuring dinosaur representatives of each letter of the alphabet singing a song called "Dinosaur ABCs" on a moving train -- a train which, if I am understanding the show correctly, is able to move not only through time, but through space, unifying dinosaurs native to different periods as well as different times. (This is the actual plot summary of an actual episode of Dinosaur Train.)

Tiny and Shiny don't fall in love or attempt to make themselves worthy of loving to other, more interesting characters. They are not subject to the asinine "realities" of being female, mostly because they are dinosaurs, but also -- and this is important -- because their creator has put them in a world in which girls are smart and brave and curious to a fault, and this goes entirely un-interrogated. Because creatures sometimes are that way, and girls are creatures, so why would they not have those features?

On the one hand, it's sad that I am so excited to have a TV show for children not insert itself into this unsolicited cacophony of what girls should be and how one should go about being a girl, as though this were a fundamentally different question from what people should be and how one goes about being a person.

On the other hand, I think the problem is more complicated than: sexist culture versus feminist culture. I don't know if it's temporary, a culture moment that's dilated somehow -- though we can hope! -- or whether this is itself a universal reality, but people seem to enjoy showing how bad things "really are" than in using art to remake how things are, to point to how things could be and create a space in which we can recreate the world rather than simply replicating it as it is.

I could tell you why I just hate that Disney exists, why I find even Sesame Street's female characters somewhat unsatisfying, why Frozen makes me want to beat my head against the wall. But I am tired of writing papers and rants and blog entries about all the lame culture we're creating. I'm less interested in indicting the heavily marketing narratives/ merchandising vehicles with which we are all preoccupied with than I am in my new mission of guerrilla positivity. For March, maybe forever, I'm aggressively seeking out things that are legitimately awesome, ways the world could be more livable, more humane, more and better fun -- because I do believe than fun that leaves out half the world is ultimately hollow. That's not the fun I want for Mac, however enthusiastically it's being marketed to him as his birthright as a Super Special White Boy.