Monthly Archives: June 2008

Friday Feminist – Anne Else

Cross posted on The Hand Mirror

Market Woman vs Family Man

Conflict also arises over the extent to which the boundaries marking off male and female natures and functions, the essential basis for the gendered economy, are to be blurred or emphasized. The mass entry of post-war wives and mothers into formal employment cannot be reversed; most men’s earnings are insufficient or unavailable to support their ‘dependants’. But women who ‘choose’ to enter the labour market are commonly treated as if they embodied selective aspects of both ‘natures’. Thus they are assumed to lack the ‘incentive’ of being wholly or even partly responsible financially for the support of family members; but they are also assumed to have actual or potential family care responsibilities. These twin assumptions justify lower pay, less training, and fewer promotions for women.

The path to better pay and promotion, where it exists at all, appears to require market women to act and be treated entirely as unconnected individuals with no family – that is, as ‘not-women’, rather than as men, since men are tacitly acknowledged to be attached to families as earners (though not as caregivers). It also requires market-women to out-perform any domestically supported man.
At the same time they must remain ‘feminine’, even to the extent of accepting sexual harassment.

Given these harsh terms, the authoritarian right assets that women are better off trading their individual freedom to enter the market for financial dependence within the family, thus preserving the major ‘incentives’ which keep men hard at work. The libertarian right supports market equality for women, as long as they do not also try to claim any ‘special privileges’ (such as time off for bearing and rearing children).

Anne Else, “Gender and the New Right”, in DuPleiss, Bunkle, Irwin, Laurie and Middleton (eds), Feminist Voices: Women’s Studies Texts for Aotearoa/New Zealand, Oxford University Press, 1992

Child rearing tips – the chocolate frog technique

Inspired by the current Public Address topic on sharing handy hints, I thought that I might share with you one of the most effective child management techniques I know. I have already given this tip an outing, about 18 months ago, as a comment on Public Address, but that was before I had a blog of my own.

This technique is for use on long car trips, when you just know that sooner or later, the children will start squabbling and fighting (or as we say in our household, fobbling and squighting) in the back seat, driving the adult occupant(s) of the car crazy.

You can, if you apply this technique, stop the fobbling and squighting in an instant.

Before you start the car trip, buy a packet of chocolate frogs.

As you all get into the car, children in the back seat, adults in the front, the adult(s) should open the packet of chocolate frogs. The packet of chocolate frogs should be left in full view of the children.

Then, start driving.

Sooner or later, the bickering, the shoving, the kerfuffle, the noise, the complaints from the back seat will get to be too much for the grown-ups to bear.

At that stage, the adult(s) should reach for a chocolate frog. They should wind the window down, and throw the frog out.

At the end of the journey, the children may eat any frogs that are left.

This is a remarkably effective technique. Generally it results in an appalled silence from the back seat, and peace and quiet for at least 10 minutes.

There is a variant technique. Instead of throwing the frog out, you can eat it yourself. However, this variation may well end in tears.

And in reality, we have only tried this once. Alas, we couldn’t keep our faces straight, so the impact on the back seat behaviour was minimal. But the thought was fun….

Send me your posts

Remember to get your posts in for the second ever Down Under Feminists Carnival, which I’m hosting here on In a Strange Land. I’m planning to start working on the carnival over the weekend, and I’m aiming to get it up by Saturday 5 July, so you can spend a lazy Sunday reading all the wonderful things Down Under Feminists have been saying over the last month or so. Last day for submissions is Monday 30 June. So this weekend, look through your posts, and send me the ones you like the best. Or send me any posts you have spotted on other blogs that you think fit the brief for the carnival.

Here are the submission guidelines:

Submissions of all types are welcome: long thinky pieces, quick hits, images, vlogs, whatever you’re writing. All flavours of feminism are welcome, too. New bloggers and established bloggers. Formed ideas and unformed ones. Please don’t be shy – submit, submit, submit.

If you’d like to write something but don’t have a blog and don’t want one, you are welcome to send it through and we’ll consider posting it as a guest post. But blogs are quick, easy, and free, so why not get one of your own? Check out wordpress.com, or livejournal.com if you’d like a private/friends-locking feature for more personal posts. Carnivals are a great way to publicise your new blog or your old one, and to network with other feminists.

When you submit, it is useful if you choose a category, and write a brief description, perhaps with a pull-quote (a sentence or paragraph) that struck you.

*Note: If you’re submitting someone else’s post, please put their blogname in the Name box, instead of your own. This helps the host immensely!

Take a look at the inaugural carnival if you want to see how a carnival works, or indeed, just to find some good reading.

To send in a post, either go to the Carnival home page, and click the submission link, or got directly to the submission page, or at a pinch, e-mail your posts directly to me at my hotmail address: dfr141 at hotmail dot com.

And if you would like to host the carnival yourself sometime, contact lauredhel at her gmail address: lauredhel at gmail dot com. She’s got hosts for the carnivals planned for August, September and December (hurrah for Blue Milk, Audrey and the Bad Apples, and Queen of Thorns), but so far the list on the carnival home page doesn’t show hosts for October and November this year.

Lamb galette. Yummy yummy yummy.

I have a tax return to do, and essays to mark (again!) so what better thing to do than write a blog post, about comfort food.

According to wikipedia, a galette is a round and crusty cake. I’m more inclined to think of it as a pie that is not cooked in a pie dish, but instead, the pastry is folded up and around the filling, leaving a hole at the top. I often make a lamb galette, mostly because it is one of my daughters’ favourites, and all three of them eat it con gusto. I got this recipe from my father, who amongst many other things (shearing, carpentry, fencing, general maintenance, accountancy, singing and music in general, interested in literature, conversable, just being a wonderful father and a superb grandfather), is an excellent cook. (He also taught me how to make potato gnocchi, but I will bring you that recipe another day.)

Pastry

First, you need to make your pastry. You can buy pastry, but I find that unless you are buying pre-made pastry in huge quantities for catering purposes, the only places where you can buy pre-made pastry are supermarkets. Alas, supermarket pastry is all to similar to cardboard. I make my own. You can also make perfectly acceptable pastry in a food processor, but I find that the hand made stuff has a better texture. Making good pastry takes a bit of judgement, and you really only gain that judgement through practice. Give it a go (‘though perhaps not the night you have invited your boss or your prospective in-laws over for dinner).

Pastry is best made with chilled water. About an hour before you are going to start making it, put a jug of water in the fridge (about 1 cup). If you have a lemon handy, add a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s not a problem if you don’t have lemon, but the pastry will taste a bit better if you can add some. If, like me, you’re often not so well organised, then put the jug of water in the freezer for 10 minutes, while you get the rest of the pastry mix ready.

Sift 2 cups of plain flour and a small pinch of salt (maybe 1/8 teaspoon) into a large bowl. Again, you can omit the salt if that’s your preference, although the pastry will taste better with it. If you are living in Australia or New Zealand, you will of course be using iodised salt for cooking purposes, because our soils are deficient in it, and consequently, so are our diets.

Then, you need to rub in about 200 grams (6 ounces) of butter. That’s right. Butter. That fatty stuff. But relax. A bit of butter won’t hurt you. It’s only when you get carried away and slather it on everything you eat that you run into problems. As long as you are only using it occasionally, or as a condiment or flavouring rather than a basic foodstuff, you should be fine.

Rubbing in is the process of getting your hands nice and floury, then pressing the butter through your floury fingertips, again and again, until it is mixed with the flour. It should end up looking rather like fine breadcrumbs. Or indeed, something like this.

It can be a bit tricky getting it right. You don’t want the butter to melt and get greasy in your fingers, so you need to keep your hands cool. I find that running them under cold water, and then drying them thoroughly, cools them down, and keeping them well floured so that the butter doesn’t stick and melt helps too. And I have a secret technique. Actually, I suspect it’s not so secret, but it is something that my mother doesn’t do, so I regard it as something I worked out for myself, and perhaps just a little on the cheating side. But it works.

A grater.

Get the lump of butter all floury, then grate it into the flour, every now and then tossing the gratings through the flour, and covering the remaining lump with flour again. Then start the rubbing in.

Next step, add enough (hah! I love inspecific directions like that) of the chilled water to mix the flour and butter to a stiff dough. Don’t add too much water at once – just a bit at a time. And mix it in with a knife (an ordinary old table knife), cutting back and forth through the dough until it gets to about the right consistency. If you do add too much water, don’t despair. Just add a bit more flour as needed.

Then, roll the dough out on a floury board, to about 3mm or 1/4 inch thick, and cut one large round (about the size of a large dinner plate) and three small rounds (about the size of a saucer). If you are feeling particularly clever, you can cut some decorative leaves too while you are at it. You may need to re-roll the pastry in between cutting the large round and the smaller rounds. If you do, remember not to scrunch the pastry into a heap, but fold it up, so that you keep it aligned top to bottom and side to side.

Put the pastry on a sheet of paper (waxed or greaseproof paper will do nicely), and cover it with more paper, and put it into the fridge to chill. You should put a layer of paper in between each sheet of pastry.

Filling

You need to make a basic meat sauce for the filling. Start with about 150 – 200 grams of minced (ground) meat per person. I always use lamb. You can use beef, but for some reason, I have found that lamb works better.

As usual for a basic meat sauce, put some olive oil in a pan, add some crushed garlic, and maybe some finely diced fresh ginger, and a finely diced onion, and fry gently until the onion is translucent. I add some chilli at this stage too – it cuts the fattiness of the lamb quite nicely, and adds a certain zing to the finished product. Then turn the heat up a little, and add the minced (ground) lamb, and brown it. Once it is browned, add a good tablespoon full of tomato paste. (My dad’s recipe calls for semi-dried tomato pesto, which no doubt adds flavour, but it also adds expense, so I use much less expensive tomato paste instead.) Stir it in, and then leave the mix to cook gently for about five minutes. At this stage you can also add a tablespoon full of pine nuts (or as my girls call them, pie nuts). The pine nuts are very nice, but not necessary. And add some herbs – whatever takes your fancy, really – and seasoning.

Once the meat mix is cooked, set it aside to cool a bit. If your lamb mince is very fatty, it’s worth tilting your pot on the side, so that the fat can drain out. Just before you use the mix, spoon the fat out.

This is a fairly dry meat sauce, but it needs to be dry, or the pastry will go soggy.

Assembling your galette

Heat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit).

Grease an oven slide, and put the large pastry round on top. Then, grate a handful of cheese, and spread it over the centre of the pastry. The original recipe uses parmesan, but I just use whatever basic cheese I have in the fridge. The purpose of the cheese is to provide a protective layer between the meat mix, and the pastry. Otherwise the pastry will go very soggy. So don’t leave it out! Use a tasty cheese if possible, to add more flavour.

Then mound the meat mix over the cheese, and fold the pastry around it. Hold the edge of the pastry and fold one point up over the meat mix mound, then form a pleat, and tuck it down. Move on a few inches around the pie, then repeat. Keep on repeating until the edge of the pastry is all folded up over the meat mix.

At this stage, if you are being fancy, you can glaze the pastry by brushing it with a mix of egg yolk and milk, beaten up together. Usually, things don’t get so fancy around my house. Then put the galette into the oven, and cook it for 10 minutes. When the 10 minutes is up, reduce the heat to about 180 Celsius (360 Fahrenheit), and cook it for another 30 minutes or so.

Et voila! One lamb galette. Yummy yummy yummy. Serve it with jacket baked taties and green vegies.

I have found that the galette concept works well with all sorts of mixes. The greatest success I have had was cooking a galette for vegetarian friends. I made a mix of lightly boiled sweet potatoes, cubed and steamed baby yellow squash, grilled red capsicum (bell peppers) and frozen green peas, all mixed together with a couple of tablespoons full of homemade tomato sauce, and baked it up in a galette. Also yummy yummy yummy, especially served with a good chutney.

You have not, I hope, forgotten the three small rounds of pastry, and the pastry leaves? With these you make three mini-galettes, and you put them in your daughters’ school lunches the next day, and they say gratifying things like, “Mummy, you are the best mummy in the world.”

With grateful thanks to the eldest Miss Strange Land for her assistance with photography at critical junctures.

More on abortion – the female foeticide issue

Cross posted on The Hand Mirror

Another instalment in what will be three posts following up objections to my original post on abortion. I’m rather wimpily leaving the one on disabilities until the last, not because I’m not sure about what I want to say, but because I want to think a bit more about how to say it. Meanwhile, I want to tackle the issue of female foeticide.

I’m going to use the term ‘female foeticide’ to refer to the practice of aborting female fetuses because the parents would prefer to have a boy. The term is loaded; it carries connotations of ‘homicide’, and that carried connotations of moral wrongdoing. So I am, as it were, helping myself to some moral disapproval before I have even made a case for it. However, please accept it as shorthand for “the practice of aborting female fetuses because the parents would prefer to have a boy.”

Here’s the issue that was raised.

“But since Deborah has poked her head in, I’d love to get a feminist perspective on abortion being used to get rid of ‘useless’ and unwanted girls.” (Raised here.)

I want to unpack this a little, putting it in a form that I think may go beyond what the original questioner meant, but nevertheless a form that I think cuts to the heart of the question.

(1) Feminists support abortion on demand.
(2) Feminists decry the abortion of female fetuses.
(3) These two positions are inconsistent.

And therefore, feminists should either abandon (1), or abandon (2), or abandon feminism.

I do not think at all that my interlocutor was pushing this sort of position. Nevertheless, he was raising a serious point, viz, that at face value, there seems to be a serious issue for feminists who on the one hand support abortion on demand, but on the other, reject the abortion of female fetuses because the fetuses are one gender (female) rather than another.

As a feminist, I hold both (1) and (2), and I do not think these positions are inconsistent.

First, I do not think any individual abortion is inherently morally impermissible. That’s the conclusion I reached in my first post. And it’s one of the major reasons that I support (1). Very roughly, there are good reasons to support the availability of abortion on demand, such as this, and the increased autonomy for women (as I argued in my original post about 2/3 of the way through).

However in that original post, I also argued that we can make moral judgements about people who have serial abortions. Not because of each abortion per se, but because they care so little about taking care of themselves and taking care of the beginnings of life, that they are negligent. This is the moral error they fall into. As I said earlier:

it isn’t the actual abortion that is the problem; it is being flippant and casual about the beginnings and endings of life that matters.

I think we can make the same sort of judgement about female foeticide. Female fetuses are aborted in alarming numbers in some countries (notably India and China) because girls are not valued as highly as boys. In fact, girls are disvalued, and it is regarded as bad fortune to bear a daughter, and good fortune to bear a son. This is no doubt the case for cultural and financial reasons; in China, sons traditionally look after their parents, while daughters end up joining another family, and looking after the elderly people in that family, and in India, parents must pay heavy dowries when their daughters marry. Girls are a financial liability there. Other cultures have strong male preference too – see for example, Stef’s post about male preference in South Korea.

So the problem with female foeticide is not the abortions themselves, but the fact that they are brought about because girls and women are not valued, are thought to be lesser beings. The moral failing in the case of female foeticide is to do with the lesser valuation placed on women and girls. As for how to fix the problem? Danielle hits the nail on the head when she says:

If you’re functioning within a society in which women are consistently undervalued, then individual actions like sex-selection abortions do, as B says, end up having a societal cost – and a bias. If you change the ‘value’ of women, you change the abortion patterns. Easier said than done, of course.

Friday Feminist – Iris Marion Young (4)

Cross posted on The Hand Mirror

I found this piece while searching for what my favourite feminist philosopher (along with Marilyn Waring, that is) might have said about abortion, and liked it so much that I stopped searching, and just posted this instead.

Mothers, Citizenship, and Independence

In the tradition of modern political theory, independence is the citizen virtue of the male head of household and property owner. The bourgeois citizen meets his own needs and desires, and those of his dependents, by means of self-sufficient production on his property and by means of independent contract to buy and sell goods. This social organization depends on a distinction between private and public. Productive activity of meeting needs and desires is organized privately, with dependent wives overseeing their day-to-day provision, and the raising of children. This frees the male head of household to conduct the contract business that will enlarge his property and to meet with other independent citizens to discuss affairs of state.

Independence is an important citizen virtue in the modern democratic republic, because it enables citizens to come together in public on relatively free and equal terms. If every citizen meets the needs of himself and his dependents through his own property, then citizens are immune to threats or particularist influence by others on whom they depend for their livelihoods. With independence in this sense they may deliberate on equal terms and consider the merits of issues in terms of the general good.

Thus the citizen virtue of independence also entails personal autonomy, a sense of self-confidence, and inner direction, as well as the ability to be reflective, not swayed by immediate impulse or blind emotion in the making of political argument. Paradoxically, such autonomy and personal independence is through to require the loving attention of particularist mothers who devote themselves to fostering this sense of self in their children. Attentive love disqualifies the nurturers of the individuality and autonomy of citizens from the exercise of citizenship, however, because the character of mothers tends to be emotional and oriented to particular needs and interests instead of to the general good. A sexual division of labor is thus appropriate and fitting, between noncitizen women who are emotionally attached to men and children whose autonomy they foster by nurturing their particular individuality, and citizen men who have become autonomous and independent thinkers thanks to the loving care of mothers, who exercise autonomous political judgment for the general good.

Iris Marion Young, “Mothers, Citizenship, and Independence: A Critique of Pure Family Values”, in Intersecting Voices: Dilemmas of Gender, Political Philosophy, and Policy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991

More on abortion – the infanticide objection

Cross posted on The Hand Mirror

Here and elsewhere in the NZ blogosophere, people have raised objections and worries about some of the arguments I made in my earlier post on abortion. I want to address these issues here, rather than take them back to the blogs where the points were raised, in part because the conversation on at least one blog has been dominated by someone who is thrashing away at his own views, without paying any attention whatsoever to anything anyone else is saying. I have no desire to try to make myself heard over that kind of racket.

So, the three major objections / points:
(1) But your reasons for supporting abortion must also result in you supporting infanticide. (Raised here.)
(2) What about babies with profound disabilities, who don’t fit your criteria of being fully human? Why is it generally held to be morally okay to abort a fetus with severe disabilities but not to allow a baby born with severe disabilities to die? (Raised here.)
(3) “But since Deborah has poked her head in, I’d love to get a feminist perspective on abortion being used to get rid of ‘useless’ and unwanted girls.” (Raised here.)

It’s going to take a while to discuss them, so I’m going to divide this into three posts.

The infanticide objection

I argued that it was not morally impermissible to end the lives of human beings that are not ‘full human beings’. A full human being is one who has hopes and dreams, thoughts for the future and the past, it can conceive of itself as existing in relation to itself, in relation to other people. Killing a full human being is morally impermissible, because it ends that being’s future, it ends its connections with other people, it ends the existence that it values. However fetuses are not full human beings, so it is not morally impermissible to end their lives.

Here’s the rub. It seems that new born babies don’t have hopes and dreams, thoughts for the future, can’t conceive of themselves as existing, either in relation to themselves, or in relation to other people. If that’s the case, then infanticide would not be morally impermissible either.

I don’t know about you, but I think that most people, including me, feel that infanticide is wrong. We have what we think is an instinctive reaction against it, a basic, primal gut feel that infanticide is simply wrong. So any argument that allows infanticide must be a bad argument.

This is a standard philosophical move, pointing out the unpleasant consequences of what seems to be a perfectly good argument. The person who put the argument forward then must choose whether to abandon her argument, or modify it so that the unpleasant consequence no longer ensues, or she can simply bite the bullet, and take the consequence.

I’m going to do the latter, and embrace the conclusion that my argument for the moral permissibility of abortion does also admit the moral permissibility of infanticide.

Before you think that the possibility of infanticide makes my argument totally untenable, I want to take a step back and think about slippery slope arguments.

Some theoretical stuff which you should read, because it underpins the rest of what I’m going to say, and because Philosophy is good for you

Here’s a lovely slippery slope.

White
Whine
Chine
Chink
Clink
Blink
Blank
Black

At what point does white become black?

I can’t hear your answer, so I’m going to have to put one in your mouth… sorry! The answer is that there is no clear point at which white becomes black.

I think it would be bizarre to say that there is a particular point at which ‘white’ becomes ‘black’. Yet we can quite easily make judgements about either end of the scale: there is a clear ‘black’ and a clear ‘white’. However we have nothing sensible to say about the exact point at which ‘white’ becomes ‘black’, because there is no exact point.

This is a common feature of slippery slope arguments. We start at one point, then change bit by bit by tiny bit, until we end up at quite a different point. Yet the changes are so small that we cannot say exactly where A becomes Z. It is simply quite clear that A is not Z, and never will be. Nevertheless, because the change from A to B, and then from B to C, and from C to D, and so on and so on, is so very small, we are tempted to apply the same judgements to B that we apply to A, the same judgements to C that we apply to B, the same judgements to D that we apply to C, until we reach the point where we make a judgement about Z, and think that exactly the same judgement ought to apply to A.

I think we should resist doing this. Often, we can quite reasonably make one judgement about A, and a completely different judgement about Z. That’s because even though A changes incrementally into Z, A and Z are themselves sufficiently different that we can make judgements about them easily.

Back to abortion and infanticide

So yes, the criteria for ‘full human being’ that I have used do seem to apply to new born infants too. It is not at all clear that newborn infants can hope and dream, are aware of themselves existing, are aware of their connections to other people and value those connections. And if that’s the case, then all other things being equal, infanticide is not morally impermissible.

(That ‘all other things being equal’ clause is very important. It does seem to me that if there are people who are ready and willing and indeed longing to bring up a child, then it would be better to pursue adoption than infanticide. But that’s not to do with the morality of infanticide per se.)

However, based on my own experience, and the reported experience of other mothers, it’s not clear to me that newborn infants have no connections to other people. My own newborn infants recognised my voice. They settled and slept in my arms, in a way that they would not with other people. I have very precious memories of one of my twins, unable to sleep in her crib, but falling asleep so peacefully early one morning as I lay back on the pillows, and gazed at her beautiful little body cradled in my arms. More than that, my daughters recognised their daddy. Our eldest daughter arrived screaming (good girl!), but calmed when her daddy held her so tenderly for the first time, and sang to her.

I don’t know whether this means that our daughters valued their connection with us, that more than anything else, they were connected to us. But that doesn’t lead me to reject abortion. Instead, it leads me to say that I am not sure about abortion in the later stages of a pregnancy. Because I am not sure, I want to push the threshold for the moral permissibility of abortion back to sometime before birth (in a standard pregnancy). Perhaps the start of the third trimester (all other things being equal). Even then, I will want to place the mother’s health before the fetus’s health. Why? Because I know for sure that the mother is a full human being, and her needs come before the needs of a being that may or may not be a full human being.

Equally, just not being sure about the moral status of new born babies doesn’t mean that I can’t be sure about the moral status of newly fertilised eggs, or blastocytes, or embryos, or early stage fetuses, before the critical brain connections have been forged. These beings are certainly human, but they are quite clearly not full human beings. Anyone attempting to describe them as full human beings is making bizarre claims, which can only rest on some sort of theological beliefs. A blastocyte bears no resemblance to me, even though I was once a blastocyte. Ending the existence of a blastocyte, of an embryo, of an early stage fetus, is not morally impermissible, just because ending the life of an infant is impermissible. We should not apply the judgements we make about new born infants to blastocytes, embryos and fetuses, just because we can’t draw a clear dividing line between blastocytes and infants.

The ‘yuck’ factor

Famously, some philosophers do say that infanticide is morally permissible. And of course, our reaction is to say ‘yuck’. But equally famously, that is just a cultural construct. The Greeks and Romans exposed unwanted infants, and Eskimaux did the same, with no moral consequences attached. Our culture has learned to regard infanticide as repugnant. So just thinking that it is yucky is not an argument in itself. It’s just a reaction, and one that should invite us to think hard about exactly why we find whatever it is yucky. To be sure, some of our ‘yuck’ reactions are based in well-founded worries about disease – there are good reasons for finding rotting dead bodies to be revolting. But it’s not clear that there are good reasons for finding infanticide to be repugnant. If you do find it too horrible to contemplate, then I suggest that you get over it, and spend time contemplating it, and thinking about exactly why you find it repugnant. If you can pin down a reason, then you need to to think about whether or not it really applies to fetuses. If it doesn’t apply to fetuses, then the fact that you find infanticide to be repugnant is not a reason to find that abortion is repugnant.

Finally, none of what I have written here is new. It is commonplace, everyday, basic level, applied ethics. It’s the sort of material that is covered in every introductory applied ethics course in every university in the English speaking world. I urge you, please, if you want to think about this issue some more, then go and get yourself an applied ethics textbook. As I said in my earlier post, we are happy to spend millions of dollars supporting philosophers in universities, people who spend years and years learning how to argue, how to tease apart issues, how to think carefully and clearly about the most complex of issues. But somehow, when it comes to the most perplexing moral issues, we just ignore them. What a waste.