Blog

Liam Fox Running For Conservative Leader

POSTED ON Jun 29th 2016 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Diplomacy, London, Politics, UK Media, US/UK compare and contrast

We moved home too early, I think. I wish we had stayed in London for primary school. We loved ours in London. We are less pleased with primary eduction here. But that’s all regret I’ve covered previously.

This regret is new. Lately, I have far more hope in British politics than our own. While I’m stuck choosing between Clinton or Trump over here, Liam Fox will announce his run for Tory leader over there. Oh, to be able to vote for him!

I was never a Cameron fan. He seemed so pliable. Back in 2011, Liam Fox was still Defence Minister. Fox was not pliable. I wrote at least two posts on Fox back at my expat blog. They are good background and I enjoyed revisiting them when one of my editors sent me a heads up that Fox was announcing. The first, Keep an Eye on the Fantastic Mr. Fox, is from June 3, 2011, back when bloggers used to fisk things.

***

Utter nonsense and wishful thinking for the day: What Cameron Can Teach American Conservatives: [comments mine]

British Prime Minister David Cameron has emerged as the most admirable of anomalies: the budget-cutter as leader of conscience. [This will go well.]

If relocated to America, Cameron’s program of austerity would make him an unrivaled Tea Party darling. [Crap.  Tea splattered all over computer. Hang on a sec… Clean computer so I can type witty actual response: What?!]  What serious American has made detailed proposals to cut spending in each government department by an average of nearly 20 percent during the next four years? [I assume that by the “serious” qualifier, the writer is excluding all the republican proposals which have proposed deep cuts?  Neat trick, that.]  Who would choose to simultaneously slash government jobs, social services and military spending? [No one. But sometimes choice isn’t a choice.]

The extremity of Britain’s fiscal crisis, of course, left few alternatives to budget-cutting ambition. [Precisely.  But it isn’t much good to claim what a great guy you are for remaining seated when it is no longer possible to stand.]  Yet many British politicians have opted for less-responsible approaches. Cameron campaigned, won and generally has governed on a platform of fiscal discipline. [Campaigned and won, yes, generally governed?  Does he have an NHS plan yet?  I mean one he hasn’t backtracked on or scrapped?  He did cut defence and then had to back door funds when he went into Libya.  The VAT went up.  That “generally” seems to be hiding a lot of details, no?  That Cameron might be one of the least bad options isn’t really cause for optimism.]

Still, Cameronism is defined not only by austerity but by a few notable exceptions to austerity. The prime minister has protected some spending categories from reductions, erecting what’s called a “ring-fence” around health programs and foreign assistance. [And here is why Cameron would not be a Tea Party darling.  If you don’t understand that these are things the Tea Party types would not ring fence, then you aren’t informed enough to be writing political commentary.]

[Little did we know then how under informed the bubble dwellers were. The fisking continued for a while, and then I got to Fox.]

Giving away other people’s money is not generosity. (h/t The Corner)  The British pol who figures that out, that person might be a Tea Party darling.  Daniel Hannan comes to mind.  Then there is the Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Noted last week, the Fox is the one to watch.  (h/t Conservative Home)

But the biggest factor in Dr Fox’s favour is the growing perception that he was prescient to warn of the impact of defence cuts. Mr Cameron’s zealous intervention in Libya, which came just a few months after he signed off on the spending reductions, has drawn attention to the gap between British ambitions and British resources. There is thought to be concern in Washington at the prospect of a close ally downgrading its military capabilities. (America, incidentally, captures the gap between Dr Fox and the Tory leadership like nothing else: he strives to maintain contact with the Republicans; Mr Cameron’s people are fervent fans of Barack Obama.)

***

Cameron had to smear Fox out of office for asking too many questions, causing too many problems over British defenses. Downgrading British military readiness while America retreats—that has tuned out as the experts expected, no?

That “noted last week” link with more Fox is still up, but here it is so you don’t have to click:

***

After the US State Visit

The basic take: British pols are still in thrall to Obama, but the public is wary. I made a great effort last week to get a read on public opinion of Obama. Mind, I am an experienced expat and did not go around asking direct questions to any Brits, save M&M. I have long since learned to be a shameless eavesdropper.  I have also learned how to ask leading, suggestive questions that don’t mention the topic I really want to discuss. During the US election and the previous Obama visit, getting a read on public opinion on Obama this way was easy.  

This time, there was complete British silence. The only people to mention the visit were Americans, and only two of them at that. Yasha suggests two reasons for this. One, people no longer trust Obama.  The Guardian article I posted on last week is probably an overly optimistic version of this. The Guardian is a leftist paper whose readers want to trust Obama.  Non-leftists, however, aren’t so invested in trusting Obama and gave up on him a while back.  (Time Traveller says the Nobel Prize did it for him, and I think that might have been a pivot point for Brits.)  Two, the UK has her own problems and while the rest of the world does pay attention to US politics, they pay less attention than the American press would have us believe. They will pay more attention during the election.

British pols and press, however, are another story.  Are they really that gullible? George Bush gives Tony Blair a nickname and pals around a bit after they had spent years in the political trenches getting shelled for the Iraq War, and that makes him a strangled poodle on a short leash and prompts sneers about a “special relationship.”  Obama and Cameron high five after a photo op ping-pong match in an unveiled attempt to look like best mates after three years of frosty and ham-handed diplomatic exchanges, and the pols and press believe it indicates some genuine bond?!  

The only pol not fooled was Liam Fox, the UK Defence Secretary.  While Obama was hanging out at the Palace and in No 10’s rose garden, Fox was in the states.  (h/t Conservative Home) The Mail wrote: 

As the President prepared for talks with Cameron and Cabinet Ministers on Wednesday, Fox was about to jet off to the States.

One bemused No 10 source says: ‘He didn’t go to any of the main meetings with Obama. 

‘One of the advantages of going to Washington is to see the key players. But the key player, the President, was here.’

That “key player”, the one who devastated the Middle East peace process then headed out of town while Netanyahu gave a powerful speech to Congress?  The one who has acted decisively on Libya?  The one that rumors suggest had to be dragged into the OBL raid?  Perhaps Mr. Fox knows something about the “key player” that others don’t, like perhaps he isn’t really all that “key.”  

For my American friends, Mr. Fox is the man who has battled with Cameron over the defence cuts.  

UPDATE October 2011: He was soon after forced out on a trumped up scandal about him using government funds to entertain a—whisper-whisper, this is the real scandal—secret gay lover. I’m with this guy

David Pasley, a Tory councillor in Mr Fox’s North Somerset constituency, described the MP as “hard working” and “diligent”, and said he was “deeply saddened” by Friday’s events.
But he added: “He’s someone who you can’t keep down.
“He has got such experience in his political career that I’m sure it will just be a question of time before he’s back, and I hope he’s back very soon in a high profile position.”

One can hope.

***
And sometimes that hope pays off. Good luck, Mr. Fox, some of us over here are rooting for you.

From Days of Long Ago…

POSTED ON Jun 10th 2016 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Pop culture, storytelling

Today is June the 10th, when Netflix takes its shot at rebooting an epic tale. I have a little more faith in Netflix than Hollywood. They do more homework. Still, I did not wake up this morning and start binge watching Voltron, Legendary Defender. After the disappointment of The Force Awakens, I’ve lost faith. But the Voltron buzz sounds promising. So it seems a binge is in order for tonight, but I’ll likely end up reading fan fic by weekend’s end.

I dove into the reading fanfic rabbit hole a few years ago when I was looking for new shows for my kids and discovered what WEP had done to my one of my favorite fandoms from the 80’s, Voltron. Provided with a timeless tale of good vs. evil, loyalty, hardship, duty, and passion, WEP served up a music concert for the environment and peace. They obviously had no clue about what made the original cartoon successful, much less why it still had fans 20 years later.

I quickly learned that women had retreated into fan fiction to preserve epic stories and characters. (And un-PC as that sex observation was/is, it is no less true. Fan fiction is to women what sports radio is to men, one of the few places where one can hear them speak freely.)

Authors, screenwriters, and other assorted Hollywood powers that be have forgotten how to write myth. From a death of the blockbuster article:

They often start with a good premise, but then bend the story to tell a modern morality tale that they, the good little Relativists they are, believe morality to be. Any storyteller worth his salt should know that ‘there are fates far worse than death’ is one of the central themes of the Harry Potter books, yet the significant line was dropped from the film. The Twilight screenplays were penned by a woman who had difficulty comprehending the ideals of the hero and heroine; the lukewarm fan reception to Prince Caspian came out of TPTB worrying about the story’s religious basis. At least they learned the lesson for Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but then it was just to literally transpose Lewis’s dialogue to screen.

SupermanEnder’s Game—is there a franchise in which the Hollywood adaption got the story right?

I get particularly annoyed at the trashing of heroines. 

Hollywood writers don’t recognize what makes heroines iconic to the fans. They pay attention to the feminist formula for the Strong Independent Woman (TM) and write guys who happen to be female. They often modify women to give them mystical powers in order to explain why they can hang with the men in battle.

The heroine shouldn’t be too beautiful and certainly not sexy—unless she is going for empowerment sexy, a la Wonder Woman teaches men to submit style. And she can’t be dependent in any way or men. No rescuing. No romance. Either she does it all on her own or it doesn’t count.

Outside of Game of Thrones, the woman who doesn’t need a man like a fish doesn’t need a bicycle because a woman is just a man with boobs is everywhere. Pan from ‘don’t hold my hand, I can do this myself’ Rey to Wonder Woman as backdrop in Superman v Batman.

Such heroines are predictable and dull. They are also lies. They present young women with role models who overcome every and all hardship with a confident attitude, as if merely thinking you can is ever enough.

The Force Awakens is the worst offender. When we seen ‘new and improved’ Princess General Leia in TFA, she is a ruler without a planet, a daughter without parents, a sister without a brother, a wife without a husband, and a mother without her child. Any one of those could, and has, broken a woman. Any combo of two would see a real woman struggle. But carrying all of them, Leia is still quipping. Because that’s what we are told strong women do—endure everything, on our own.

And then we wonder why women are so exhausted. We do as we are told and chase the impossible with no option of grace.

I really, really hate modern heroines. They forge brittle women.

 

A wretched HIVE of scum and villainy

POSTED ON Jun 03rd 2016 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Federalism, Houston, Law, Texas, US Media

Vanity Fair has a new email newsletter, HIVE. The tagline is “Where Wall Street, Washington, and Silicon Valley meet.” I’d bet more than a dime that the name is a play on the famous description of Mos Eisley, the “wretched hive of scum and villainy.” It does fit.

I note, too, the bubble assumptions of it all. Granted, Houston would be better poised to take her place as urban leadership if we had managed to elect a strong leader mayor last year. But still, we get written off as some backwater. Few appreciate how we influence the country.

Joel Kotkin noted this in Battle of the Upstarts. New York City will its influence because of its history and Wall Street, DC because of government. He thinks the San Francisco Bay Area will square off against Houston for significance.

Throw on the dual challenges to Washington DC, lead in significant part by Texas, and the problems facing some of the Silicon Valley powerhouses (see assorted links at HIVE) and Houston will end up leading, whether it is ready or not.

 

I also note the banner ad for the HIVE newsletter, Shinola, high end fashion leather goods…from Detroit. Not usually the city one thinks of for fashion, but I respect the initiative of a company trying to grow in that city. And the blue shoulder bag is a beauty.

You just don’t know what feminism means.

POSTED ON May 16th 2016 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Feminism

This is a post for an answer I repeatedly have to give.

Almost every time I point out weaknesses in feminist positions, someone replies with “you just don’t know what feminism means.” That is, they assume I disagree with them because they are well informed while I am ignorant.

Actually, I’ve researched historical feminism, Second Wave feminism of the 60’s, the debatable Third Wave and the growing New Wave. I’ve written on modern developments from fertility to misandry to free bleeding, which, contrary to blustering defenses, is really a thing. I have original copies of Red Stockings. The Feminine MystiqueI’ve actually read it.

I am quite familiar with the variety of definitions of feminism, how they conflict, and generally who promotes which one. Anyone who comes at me with a “just” definition of feminism, I know they are a pop feminist. And I know that by their overriding concern for the term, they intend, knowingly or not, to put discussion out of reach. Like the intersectionalists, they might cry “My feminism will be happy “just” feminism or it will be bu!!sh*t!”

Trouble is, we cannot have a productive discussion about community breakdown, family, or women’s success without addressing feminism’s negative effects over the past 50 years. I know that isn’t a pleasant thought. It isn’t affirming, and women want affirming. But it is the truth. We can avoid being rude about it, but if we continue to avoid confronting it, then young women will continue to crash.

So no, I do not fall for the “feminism is just about equality” nonsense. And I do not believe that the term will return to full favor until those who claim it expend more effort calling out the misandrists, the traitors, the pitiable, and the precious rather than insulting women like me who live out the equality that pop feminists so desire.

 

SHARE: Twitter / Facebook / PIN / LINK
category: Feminism
tagged:

Chumps on the Right [Updated]

POSTED ON May 03rd 2016 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Politics, The Federalist Links

From yesterday’s Transom:

THE ONLINE TRUMP ARMY:

As with so many of the phenomena surrounding Donald Trump that demand further investigation, it is only as he is about to become the Republican nominee that the press is taking interest in his prior dealings, and developing new curiosity for the activity surrounding the candidate. The general rule that journalists only become interested in digging into things when they have a personal experience with the matter also holds true for the online Trump army, which went after journalist Julia Ioffe this past week. The amount of surprise expressed by journalists for an experience many writers on the right have had for months is one of the odder elements of this cycle, as was illustrated last week in the reaction to Ioffe facing a barrage of anti-Semitic attacks after profiling Melania Trump. “But why?”, the Washington Post asks. http://vlt.tc/2doz

I recommend reading the WaPo link, but two thoughts. First, the surprise has long since gotten old. This has been going on for months, and not just for anti-Trump commentary, but for pro-Cruz commentary. They threaten female journalists with adding them to the list of Cruz’s alleged mistresses. There isn’t even an attempt at plausibility as some of these women have never even met Cruz in person. Plus, Trump’s run isn’t the first time legacy journalists have been horrified by what is standard fare against their colleagues in right media.

Second, this is another instance of needing to analyze when to blame a group. How accountable are Trump’s supporters—or Trump—for the abhorrent behavior of a subset of supporters?

Here is the “When to blame a group” matrix I published in The Federalist:

  • When was the act done? Centuries ago or last week?**

  • Who is doing the act? A leader of the group or a follower?

  • How many are doing the act? A large group or a lone wolf?

  • What is the nature and magnitude of the act? Words or violence? A slap or a slit throat?

  • And how do other members of the larger group respond? With silence, condemnation, or celebration? Calls to imitate or to cease?

In this instance, we have words by a loud, perhaps small, group. The words are slander and anti-Semitism, not just insults. And the leader and the others respond with silence or excuse. That’s leaning pretty culpable for me.

I have been sympathetic to Trump’s supporters for most of this cycle. Early on I asked others to understand their anger and frustration. I liked my editor Joy Pullman’s description of forgotten Americans in Indiana. They do feel forgotten, forsaken.

But that sympathy dissolves for those who will not condemn the tactics of their allies and Trump’s complicity, especially since his candidacy has made sure that their concerns got air. His run has had some positive results. Among others, even David Brooks, the poster boy for GOP elites in a bubble, has admitted that if he missed Trump’s rise then he needs to completely reassess how he does his job.

Now, Trump’s supporters are sacrificing the sunlight his run brought. And Cruz is right, Trump is playing them for chumps. When he tries to win the election by betraying them in moving left and Hillary Clinton wins anyway, they will still be powerless. Worse, they will be powerless and completely discredited. Even Trump himself won’t respect them because they were just gullible folks that he used to make the deal. Big, swinging power doesn’t respect rubes. It uses them. (And Trump is a user.)

Hillary will occupy the top office and have all of the federal bureaucracy at her disposal. The recoil from Trump’s run will likely devastate the down ticket as well.

I will fight against his nomination until the bitter end.  Should Trump win the nomination, I will divert all of my election efforts to state and local races and the Convention of States. If the federal government can be headed by a criminal, then I certainly want it back on its leash. This holds true even if Trump could win and the federal government headed by a charlatan.

A final note about those who would hope to keep the GOP together. I have to laugh. Their deafness and power preserving nomination rules and their self-serving power plays best seen in Kasich and Rubio’s refusal to rally to the conservative candidate and Boehner and Christie currying favor with Trump brought us here.* What fool would trust them? Some pundits are also advocating for Clinton over Trump. When the choice is slippery un-convicted criminal or fickle robber baron, one works against the criminal. To do otherwise does not inspire leadership.

A Trump nomination will kill the party. Not conservatism. That will survive in a new coalition. Where and how remains to be seen. But the chumps, both high and low, cannot lead it. Their credibility is shot.

UPDATES: I came to fix a typo and decided to add a few links that came after I wrote this post on May 3.

*

Back to Blogging?

POSTED ON May 02nd 2016 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Blog Admin, Bloggers and Blogging, Social Media, US Media

Just when it seemed that we were starting to settle into the new media era, everything went sideways. I see two major reasons for this:

  1. The sheer volume of information. We need vetting, either by a small website that sifts news and commentary for a specific topic or one that sifts general news for quality.
  2. Right media and blogosphere or social media network has been rocked by this election cycle. As my colleague at PJMedia noted, established news habits have shifted in recent weeks, and there will be no going back.

Add on minor problems with social media. Twitter’s use of shadow blacklists and uneven enforcement of bad behavior has dampened the platform’s appeal. Facebook changes it’s algorithms often. As soon as you get settled into a news reading pattern, they change the rules. Medium is trying to recover from becoming a “Try my new app” platform. It did not work as writers hoped.

In news and commentary, online magazines pop up and fade or get absorbed into bigger sites at varying speeds.

Right now, how does anyone make that informed threshold of the past: skim the WSJ or NYT headlines while listening to the local news over coffee and the nightly news after dinner? With the deluge of information coming at us from everywhere, is it any wonder if the American public seems oddly under informed. With so many options it is easier to either ignore the noise or get lost in the mindless junk.

This hurts local awareness particularly hard. How do local stories manage to break though the national and international trends? In Houston’s recent mayoral election, we had to push so that the public would know that we have a problem. Months later, the problems are still there. (Bill King did not win the runoff as the previous link hoped.)

Looking for quality news sources has been a problem for casual readers for a while. Now it affects heavy readers, and so I see a re-sort coming again. And as mentioned previously, I still have a hunch that personal websites will end up like mobile phone numbers, at least for those who put their name to public commentary. For the constant re-sorts, writers almost need to be their own self-contained unit. That would also help us avoid what Prof. Jacobson noticed. Conservatives essentially got trapped by Twitter.

Some bloggers have gone back to their old sites. And many of their once active commenters have returned to those comment threads rather than commenting on Twitter. I’ve experimented with other networks, everything from Disqus to GoogleGroups to Medium. None match the efficiency of a single website.

And as I started my original website to experiment with idea networking, that’s what I’m going back to here. This time I will work on vetting ideas, pulling various commentary together by subject matter. Over the next weeks I will also redo my link lists as my own personal newspaper, a series I can click though and skim over a coffee, noting articles to read. I’m aiming for finding ways that we can be generally informed enough to have a discussion at the watercooler or PTA meeting.

I’m still writing more elsewhere. That’s one of the reasons I’m thinking in subjects because those have become more focused, and that has worked well. I’m doing motherhood for professionals advice at PJMedia, America Watch election commentary at The Conservative Woman in the UK, and longer commentary pieces at The Federalist, usually on feminism, law, or UK issues.

But I still like to experiment. So, back to blogging.

Who calls herself a “housewife” anymore?

POSTED ON Sep 21st 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Housekeeping, Housewifery, Marriage and Wifery, Motherhood, This modern life, Uncategorized, US/UK compare and contrast

mother daughter hands with flower

The question comes up from time to time, usually in runs. Who owns the term housewife anymore? I do. I did even before I started writing. I chose the term deliberately back in 2007 when my husband first encouraged me to start blogging. The term “housewife” was the topic of my first blog post, An American Housewife in London. (Followed quickly and unexpectedly by furious posts about the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsement of a ritual nick to appease practitioners of female genital mutilation.)

Like most GenX women, I hadn’t thought of using the traditional term while I was growing up. But in September of 2003, while I was nesting through my final trimester of my first pregnancy, I read Caitlin Flanagan’s Atlantic article, “Housewife Confidential“. I had already become a Flanagan fan earlier that year when “The Wifely Duty” made the rounds among my girlfriends. (Actually, it made the rounds because I sent it to all of them. Based on the reaction, I think if social media had been around then, it might have held the Atlantic‘s most read article until Anne Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in 2012.)

“Housewife Confidential” was a tribute to Erma Bombeck. I recommend reading it for that. But more importantly for me, it gave words to what I was starting to intuitively understand, that Stay at Home Mothers (SAHM’s) were a very new and not-so-savvy creation of culture. From Flanagan’s opening description:

The notion of a domestic life that purrs along, with routines and order and carefully delineated standards, is endlessly appealing to me. It is also quite foreign, because I am not a housewife. I am an “at-home mother,” and the difference between the two is vast.

Consider the etymology. When a woman described herself as a “housewife,” she was defining herself primarily through her relationship to her house and her husband. That children came along with the deal was simply assumed, the way that airing rooms and occasionally cooking for invalids came along with the deal. When a housewife subjected herself and her work to a bit of brutally honest examination, she may have begun by assessing how well she was doing with the children, but she may just as well have begun by contemplating the nature and quality of her housework. If it had been suggested to her that she spend the long, delicate hours between three and six o’clock squiring her children to the array of enhancing activities pursued by the modern child, she would have laughed. Who would stay home to get dinner on? More to the point, why had she chosen a house so close to a playground if the children weren’t going to get out of her hair and play in it? The kind of childhood that many of us remember so fondly—with hours of free time, and gangs of neighborhood kids meeting up after school—was possible partly because each block contained houses in which women were busy but close by, all too willing to push open a window and yell at the neighbor boy to get his fool bike out of the street.

But an at-home mother feels little obligation to the house itself; in fact, she is keenly aware that the house can be a vehicle of oppression. She is “at home” only because that is where her children happen to be. She does not define herself through her housekeeping; if she is in any way solvent (and many at-home mothers are), she has, at the very least, a once-a-month cleaning woman to do the most onerous tasks. (That some of the most significant achievements of the women’s movement—specifically liberation from housework and child care—have been bought at the expense of poor women, often of poor brown-skinned women, is a bitter irony that very few feminists will discuss directly, other than to murmur something vague about “universal day care” and then, on reflex, blame the Republicans.)

The at-home mother defines herself by her relationship to her children. She is making sacrifices on their behalf, giving up a career to give them something only she can. Her No. 1 complaint concerns the issue of respect: She demands it! Can’t get enough of it! She isn’t like a fifties housewife: ironing curtains, shampooing the carpets, stuck. She knows all about those women. She has seen Pleasantville and watched Leave It to Beaver; she’s made more June Cleaver jokes than she can count. (In fact, June Cleaver—a character on a television show that went off the air in 1963—looms over her to a surprising extent, a sickening, terrifying specter: Is that how people think I spend my time?) If she has seen Todd Haynes’s sumptuously beautiful recent movie, Far From Heaven, she understands and agrees wholeheartedly with the film’s implication: that being a moneyed white housewife—with full-time help—in pre-Betty Friedan Hartford, Connecticut, was just as oppressive and soul-withering as being a black man in pre-civil rights Hartford. The at-home mother’s attitude toward housewives of the fifties and sixties is a mixture of pity, outrage on their behalf, and gently mocking humor. (I recently received a birthday card that featured a perfectly coiffed fifties housewife standing in a gleaming kitchen. “The smart woman knows her way around the kitchen,” the front of the card said. Inside: “Around the kitchen, out the back door, and to a decent restaurant.”)  


The at-home mother has a lot on her mind; to a significant extent she has herself on her mind. She must not allow herself to shrivel up with boredom. She must do things for herself. She must get to the gym, the spa, the yoga studio. To the book group. (She wouldn’t be caught dead setting up tables and filling nut cups for a bridge party—June Cleaver! June Cleaver!—but a book group, which blends an agreeable seriousness of purpose with the kind of busy chitchat that women the world over adore, is irresistible.) She must go to lunch with like-minded friends, and to the movies. She needs to feed herself intellectually and emotionally; she needs to be on guard against exhaustion. She must find a way to combine the traditional women’s work of childrearing with the kind of shared housework arrangements and domestic liberation that working mothers enjoy. Most important, she must somehow draw a line in the sand between the valuable, important work she is doing and the pathetic imprisonment, the Doll’s House existence, of the housewife of old. It’s a tall order.

It is a tall order. A ridiculous one at that, in ways big and small.

Big: those who must demand respect do not actually have it.

Small: all of the shoulds seemed like performances. It was irrelevant if I actually wanted to do a book club with like-minded friends. Rather boring, that, a chorus of “oh, me too ” and “I thought exactly the same thing.” I was just supposed to do what everyone else was doing, making much ado about not being June Cleaver. 

Not quite home yet—I was an in-house attorney at a major oil company—I knew that I was a housewife. I did not yet know how lonely that would be. Looking back, I’m not sure how I managed, although it does explain how I found time to read. Since we are not the power woman at the mercy of her career track or the SAHM at the mercy of the immediate needs of her children, housewives have more time—if only because we have more control over it.

In addition to being able to zig when required, housewives also trust ourselves more. Yes, I have to do things for my children, of course, but I don’t fret that I should be doing some other modern mother thing whenever I sit down to read or type.  And whenever I am doing for them, I don’t fret that I could be doing something supposedly more meaningful than cooking dinner, dousing a tantrum, or changing a dirty nappy. Those things need to be done, and done competently. The good of the family directs me to spend enough time tending to the children that they are well-behaved, happy, and secure, but not to serve them so much that we are slouching towards Lord of the Flies or Heathers.

Doing housewifery the old way is counter cultural these days, and one cannot do counterculture without conviction. True, many play the rebel by doing what everyone else is doing for whatever we have dubbed ‘counterculture’. But rebel cool doesn’t require conviction. It is “cool”, peer approved, by definition. Being a modern housewife is truly subversive. The timid won’t try.

I did not start to find similarly minded mom friends until we moved to London in 2006—English and European mothers are not quite as intense as US mothers—and then when the Free Range Kids movement was born in 2008. It was okay to stop hovering over your kids for the sake of your kids so more women started to do it. House and husband time became pleasantly surprising pluses to the free rangers.

But they were not the goals. It is still easy to see this truth in all manner of mom discussions. We phrase our decisions as benefits to our kids. It is acceptable to pull back from whatever to benefit your kid but not your husband. Never him, June Cleaver. The term “housewife” remains irredeemable.

And so, just the other day, I sat among a large group of women, generally my age and marital, kid, and income status. We were discussing housewifery and stay-at-home-momery, without using the terms, of course. Now it is all ‘do what works for you’ and no term really works for the absence of any standard, in the same way it is hard to define a “not”. But that was the point of the discussion, really. The experienced voices were telling us that the old housewife formula, marriage centered, low on kid activities, high on kid chores and family dinner, that’s what works for most of us, our spouses, and our kids. Switch housewife for househusband, even. The basic successful formula doesn’t change.

Shame we banished the simple terms we could use now, as we rediscover what our grand-parents knew.

High Touch, Low Tech: Remembering the start of a retro-chic women’s network

POSTED ON Jul 31st 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Adult Beverages, Economy, Friendship, Gadgets and Techology, Social Media, This modern life, US Media

Red dotHub Dot is a little over 2 years old. We have opened in a dozen plus cities worldwide and have a membership of 15,000 women and counting. We recently posted how we started and I remembered that I had written about it at the time. I had only a small inkling of what we would become.  From February of 2013.

 

 

●●●●●

A few weeks ago a friend from London wrote to me about a women’s networking coffee. She wanted me to pass the info to my London contacts. She meant email. I posted it on Facebook. She had me take it down, telling me she wanted ‘high touch, low tech’ networking. No problem, I took it down and sent an email instead. I giggled a bit about email was now “low tech,” but I understood her point.

Old enough to have learned to get news and correspondence on paper—perhaps even the last trained to type on actual typewriters with carbon leaf—many of us have only transitioned to email. (How many readers under 35 know what “cc” stands for?) And many of us have little interest in, or even aversion to, social networking and its ilk.

I’ve seen many discussions and changes aimed at attracting more viewers for websites, but always from the stash of people already on the web. Considering their political impact, I’m surprised by what little effort outfits make to reach the low-tech Gen X women.

We don’t have an outright aversion to the web. In fact many figure—correctly— that if we could just figure out where to go, that the web is a more efficient source of news. But we like neat and clean, and we want substance. Since information and news services have the same problem as the porn industry, free availability, websites fill our pages with little bites of info and advertisements and often get revenue based on metrics that no one really understands. (More here.) The result is just a barrage of visual noise that repels some readers.

Yes, HuffPo and The Daily Mail have wildly successful websites, but there is an unserved audience that those information gristle mills will never reach.

Retro economics

IMG_1778

Speaking of coffee, I am addicted. Right before I met my friend for lunch, I was writing at a new coffee shop—one that lacked wifi, but that’s a comment for another day—but even I couldn’t finish this Texas size latte.

Around the same time, a friend and I were sitting in a niche coffee/wine bar, just the kind that could survive next to a Starbucks, and discussing the closure of another Barnes and Noble. We remembered the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan reunion flick, You’ve Got Mail, in which the giant bookstores put the little niche bookshops out of business. But then the colossus, Amazon, and e-readers came along. The big bookstores added coffee shops, but lost revenue. They merged with companies like Paper Chase trying to prop up store revenue with stationary and stocking stuffers. It didn’t work. Now the companies that will thrive are Amazon and the little mystery bookshop with the good coffee, inviting seating area, and Tuesday and Thursday night mystery dinner theater.

So will it be with news. It might seem like the web has taken over the information world, but it hasn’t. I don’t think it ever will, not fully.

 There is, and always will be, a hunger for no-gimmick in depth reporting. In the new tech world, someone will eventually figure out how to deliver it. I’d ask for comments or suggestions, but the women I’m writing about won’t ever read this post, unless I email it to them. And then they might reply in an email, but more likely will bring it up for discussion the next time we have coffee. They prefer low tech, high touch.

By the way, my friend’s low tech, high touch coffee saw 450+ women from all over London networking in a dress shop on a rainy Tuesday night.

 

●●●●●

The next month I flew to London and joined the Kitchen Table (Simona’s kitchen is the board room.) Hub Dot expanded to Milan, Luxembourg, Barcelona. To the big events we added supper club and smaller themed events about art, parenting, health, and others. About a year and a half later, we opened in Houston. You can find out about Hub Dot and if we are opening near you at: hubdot.com. I recommend starting with the What is Hub Dot? video. Here’s our latest article in The Times of London, “Joining the Dots for a Bigger Picture“.

 

Hub Dot speakers watching

A few of our speakers and planners watching Simona open the evening. From left to right, Magen Pastor of MagenPastor.com, Sophia Jorski’s mother (Sophia runs thesummertimecakery.com), Lisa Graiff of Hub Dot Texas, Dorothy Gibbons of TheRose.org, Caroline Leech of inspiringhoustonwomen.com, Rev. Jan Dantone of sjd.org, and Anita Kruse of PurpleSongsCanFly.org.

HubDot Houston 1

 

 

Goodnight, My Angel

POSTED ON Jul 01st 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Friendship, Life with dogs, Marriage and Wifery, Motherhood, Religion

In the summer of 1999 I had life sorted. I was living in one of my favorite cities, Austin, and about to enter my 3L year at the University of Texas School of Law. I had a very serious boyfriend, a lawyer heading up the Gulf War claims tribunal at the UN in Geneva. I would leave one favorite city to spend holidays with him off Lake Geneva. In the previous summers I worked in the British Virgin Islands. Life was good. I expected a proposal anytime, and 3L years are notoriously easy. I would be taking various maritime classes from favorite professors. I had life sorted.

A little less than 10 years before, I had entered into that ‘I don’t need God’ or external rules phase that so many young Christians hit. With the cushy life I had working in the late-90’s, I didn’t have much reason for doubt. I was cocky. God kept whispering things in my ear, and I had all sorts of fears that I ignored whenever possible. Mostly I tried not to sleep and avoided the quiet. I remember once telling the voice that I didn’t need any help. I could do this myself.

A few days before term started, I went to the movies with a friend. I can’t remember what we saw, but we went to the Central Market on the southside afterward. I needed her to do my measurements for a friend’s bridesmaid dress and CM had a good bathroom for it. (Weird, I know. In Austin it made sense.) As we walked in we passed a father and his young daughter giving away three puppies. They had found them covered in ants in a box at the door of a closed animal shelter in the August Texas heat. They were about 5 weeks old. Dad and daughter had tended their bites, but they couldn’t keep them. Dog lover that I am, I cuddled with them for a bit. Then, Amy and I walked into the bathroom to do the measurements.

I whined that I wished I had time for a puppy. In two years we’d known each other, I’d done a fair bit of whining to Amy about what we would now call #firstworldproblems. She had lost patience with me months before and had taken to giving me direct advice. “Leslie,” she said, “Time? Do you think you would have more time for a puppy next year after we start working?” I looked at her, gave it two seconds of thought, walked out of the restroom, and chose the black and white little girl with the perfect nose. A young woman and her first baby, a puppy

Excited, I called Jim in Geneva and left a middle of the night message that we needed to talk. I wanted to surprise him and tell him that we got a dog. Instead I panicked him. He called me at 6 AM Central Time after a morning of worrying that I was breaking up with him. And so our adventures with Ripley started.

As a careful reader might gather from the previous paragraphs, and the toddleresque “I can do this myself” declaration, my having life sorted was an illusion. I only thought I knew what I was doing. And oh, the mistakes I made with Ripley. I cooked for her and coddled her. She slept in a crate at the foot of my bed for a short while, until she sleep on the bed. I used positive reinforcement only. Do you know what happens when you coddle a Border Collie pup in the city?  If anyone in Austin happens to recall a young brunette woman in a nightgown chasing a speedy young dog in the middle of 38th near Lamar at 11 o’clock at night in the winter of 2000, that was me.

When I realized that all my positive, intelligent ideas had gotten me to a place where I could not protect her, my doubts started. Perhaps I didn’t know everything. I couldn’t even handle a puppy—and I had no illusions that this wasn’t on the easy end of the life’s challenges spectrum. Slowly I started to look to God again.

That lesson was big—the biggest really—but over the next few years, Ripley taught me even more. She also saved me, physically. First, she kept me away from a snake on Lake Travis. She positioned herself between me and the large water snake I did not see. I noticed that Ripley was oddly still. One year old Border Collies are rarely still. She was concentrating on the snake, specifically staying between me and it.

She saved me from a fire, twice. The first time we had just returned from a walk. She hated being on a leash and was usually glad to get home, especially since she was afraid of bikes, and men with hats. (Two tons of longhorn steer, no flinching. A guy with a hat, she’d almost jump out of her skin.) When we got home that night, she wanted to go right back out. When I asked her what was wrong, I swear she rolled her eyes at me before going to sit before the closet door. I opened it and smoke rolled out. A short in the water heater had set the insulation to smoldering.  The flames started just as the firefighters arrived and made quick work of the tiny fire. They tried to thank Ripley, but men with hats, tanks, and masks? Ripley was having none of it.

One of my favorite stories is the day I had to fake an injury to get her home from the park. All that positive reinforcement I had done, well, that had failed by the time she could out run me, which for a Border Collie is really young. (It was that night on 38th Street.) When I took her to dog parks, we couldn’t leave until she was ready. If Jim was there, then this was not a problem. He was not an arrogant fool. He had established himself as the alpha when he first met her. At the time I thought it was his James Earl Jones voice advantage, but really it was that he meant business and I didn’t. (She spared me a steep learning curve when we had children.) On that night in the park, she didn’t want to leave. I chased her for two hours. I finally feigned an ankle injury. When I collapsed in crocodile tears on the track, she came to check on me and I nabbed her.

Among the many things Jim and I owe to Ripley is our marriage. Our first year of marriage was hard in the way that most modern marriages are hard. We have unreasonable expectations of what our spouse will do for us. We have assumptions about how marriage will be great. We think more about the kind of spouse we have than the one we are. I had this problem in spades when we got married. About nine months in, I lost it about him not making the bed. My “why can’t you see what needs doing” accusation spiraled into a full out row about everything else. At one point he was so furious that he walked across the room away from me and sat down on the couch, probably so he couldn’t throttle me. I was yelling. He was yelling. He rarely yells. When he does, everyone knows it. When he sat down, Ripley jumped into his lap, put her paws on his hands, and then turned to face me. She was scared. She wanted us to stop fighting. She made us pause. We had scared our dog. What would this kind of row do to children? We calmed down. I spent the next day on the phone to my marriage mentors, Maverick and Sherri, seeking marital advice. I got that advice. I doubt that Jim and I have had even 5 arguments approach that intensity in the 15 years since, and they were about things of far more import than chores.

Ripley was my first baby, the angel on my shoulder, and the reason I didn’t make a bunch of mistakes with my kids. I made those mistakes with my dog. Actually, that was a piece of Sherri wisdom, you could spoil dogs because you didn’t need to worry about what kind of person they were at 35. Toddler and dog at the window, people watching

Readers can probably guess from the long post and the past tense, we lost Ripley today. She was almost 16. She had done the slowly, slowly then all at once decline. Last night she woke me in the middle of the night. She had fever and was in general pain. She was scared. I called our vet this morning. The office was wonderful. She left us early this afternoon.

When we get her ashes back, we will scatter them at the ranch. She loved it there, and my major regret for her is that we never got her a herd of goats. When she was about 2 years old, we took her to a friend’s property where they had about 30 head of tax cows. A couple of loops around a calf, and her genetic memory kicked in. She herded cows for almost 36 hours straight. At another friend’s she tried herding horses. They don’t herd so well. She thought maybe they could smell her, so she rolled in horse apples. She was so proud of herself for that bit of smelly inspiration. Took two baths to get the yuck out of her hair. She was a great kid herder though, especially when Calvin was our only. They were buddies. But our plan was to one day get a ranch, buy some goats, and make goat cheese. It just took longer than expected. We’ve not gotten the goats yet.

So my lovely girl, I am sorry we didn’t get you a herd of goats. I thank you for everything you did for me, for us. Goodnight, my angel. Sleep well.

And if readers ever find a cheese named Ripley’s Herd with a picture of a beautiful black and white dog, that’ll be ours.

 

Black and white border collie who looks like the Blue Dog of George Rodrique

I love having my office in the hallway…in theory anyway.

POSTED ON May 30th 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Life Admin, Motherhood, This modern life

I have become my college mentor. Her daughters and I used to tease her for overcommitting. (Note to young people: oh, how we do end up eating our words as time marches on.) She was always busy, not with crafty mom stuff or with a formal job, but with various committees and initiatives. That’s how we met actually. She was my Pi Beta Phi alumnae shadow advisor when I was on our board.

Sometime after I graduated, I went for a visit and she showed me around their upstairs redo. In all the renovation, she hadn’t made a formal office for herself.

The trend at the time (the mid 90’s) was to expand and make a uni-task space for everything. Magazine spreads were full of fancy home office ideas, and the architect behind the sanity of the Not So Big House had not yet published her book. Yet, Sherri’s office was just a nicer closet with a window between her daughters’ bedrooms. I asked why. By this time I had learned that Sherri’s advice was well worth seeking.

She told me that it was her job as a mother to stay in her children’s sphere, although not necessarily in their business. She didn’t directly monitor everything they did. She didn’t hover. But since she was in their space, she heard, she felt, she anticipated, she deterred. She was available to them. She knew about their lives without interceding out of habit. And she still had her own pursuits.

I remembered this, and a fair few other bits of wisdom that she passed on to me, when I had my own children. In England, I officed in the foyer and then the kitchen. In Texas, we have one of those 60’s ranch houses with the long hallways, part of which has a large window alcove. I put my office in the alcove. The children’s bedrooms are directly behind me.

office space

It all works just as Sherri said it would. As a mother, I love my office arrangement. Most of the time, I even love it as a writer. But this arrangement does not work for deadlines. Some Most of the things I hear from the children is bickering. It is just low level bickering, sometimes about whether they are bickering. This does not aid concentration.

I kick them outside, but today the rain started again. I have a few remote offices—a coffee shop and a Tex-Mex restaurant—I can use in a pinch and if someone else is here. I also have some noise canceling headphones. But sometimes, none of my zigs work. If I’m not on a deadline, I just put work up until later. But if I am, “Argggggggggg!” (That’s my Charlie Brown football kicking scream.) Today, it is a deadline at the start of summer in a post Memorial Day 2015 flooding thunderstorm when I might lose power or have to bail something out. I should add a few more g’s to that arggg.

 

NOTE: Because I’ve been asked, the window desk behind the chair, I got it on etsy. A guy made one for his kid studying for finals. Many asked about it, so he made more and started a shop. I love mine. It easily holds a keyboard, iPad, and a notepad and pen so I’m not always sitting to write.