Americans for Peace Now: Stop the violence, stop the hatred.

Americans for Peace Now has launched a new campaign, “Stop the Violence, Stop the Hatred,” calling on supporters of Israel to condemn the recent rise in hate speech and anti-opposition violence in Israel:

We are witnessing a systematic attempt, by the hard-line Israeli right, to delegitimize dissenting voices. Almost every day we see more expressions of hatred and intolerance directed at peace activists, human rights organizations, and pro-democracy forces in Israel….

In light of this recent ugly wave, we are calling on those who hold dearly the vision of a democratic Israel to raise their voice, with us.

Israeli author David Grossman and American-Jewish authors Michael Chabon and Letty Cottin Pogrebin have contributed statements to the campaign, along with several other interested and interesting parties such as – wait, who’s this? She looks familiar!

In my contribution to the project, I briefly trace my own experience with Israel’s life in the shadow of conflict, and write that what stands in the way of a peace agreement today

is not decades of regional enmity, but other Israelis. Israelis (and their supporters) who threaten and frequently carry out acts of violence, who threaten and attack not only peace activists but members of Knesset, cabinet members, and – once an unthinkable thing – soldiers serving their country. … If people like me are no longer safe in their own home because saying the wrong thing could get them killed – what is left of the dream of a Jewish democracy?

…If we establish peace with the Palestinians, we will have secure borders and the sort of freedom to grow and develop that only peace can bring – but if some Israelis and their supporters act to derail any and all attempts at peace, stifling dissent through violent means, then we will, I fear, be witnesses to a slow-moving self-destruction for which we will truly have no one but ourselves to blame.

To read the rest of my statement, click here; to learn more about the campaign and read others’ statements, click here.

And while you’re there, please consider signing the petition, or even submitting your own comments on the problem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may those who love you prosper! Let there be peace in your homes, safety within your borders. For the sake of my people, my friends, I pray you find peace. For the sake of the house of the Eternal our God, I will seek your good. – Psalm 122:6-9

Speedily and in our days, amen, amen.


The listing of mental groceries.

All right then, yesterday — in a post that got a little whiny for my tastes, but well, I posted it, so we’re moving on now! — I said that I would be taking up my buddy Citizen E on his suggestion to do what I’m calling grocery listing. And so I shall.

Und zo:

Ah, writing! It’s a lovely profession, but honestly, what do I produce? Having never learned how to do anything that is, in fact, useful, it’s an unfortunate truth that, come the revolution, my children will likely starve. (I once said this to my mother and she glanced at me and deadpanned, “I don’t know. You’re a pretty fair cook.”)

So one often thinks of skills one wishes one had — either for post-revolution survival, or just because they’re awesome — and in fact, one continues to plan to someday learn how to do at least some of them.

Thus:

Stuff I wish I knew how to do

  1. Play the electric guitar – by which I mean, slay with the electric guitar. Noodling around, not so much. But making thousands of ears bleed? Come ON, wouldn’t that be awesome?
  2. Knit – kind of an odd counterpoint to the ear bleeding thing, I’ll admit, but I am nothing if not an odd conflation of this and/or that (or, as I said over at Ta-Nehisi Coates’s place once: I contain multitudes, motherfucker!). It’s just kind of awesome that you can (as my Basement friend jemimapuddleduck recently put it) make a wearable piece of clothing out of a long piece of string. Plus which, unlike the ear bleeding thing, this is actually a productive activity, one which might be of practical use after the Tripods take over and my family and I become vagrants (The White Mountains? Anybody?).
  3. Carpentry – I love trees, I love wood, I kind of loved shop class (in spite of my teacher) and someone I love very much happens to be a cabinetmaker. He’s the father of my life-long best friend, and their house was always in some state of construction or deconstruction or reconstruction. The smell of the wood and the shavings, the beauty of the things that he could shape from what had started out pretty beautiful to begin with — it stuck with me. This and knitting? Someday, I will take a course.
  4. Turn a cartwheel – alas, I believe this one may have permanently passed me by.
  5. Time travel – ok, I know that this is not an actual skill, but man, there are dead people who I so wish I could meet, past events that I so wish I could experience first hand and — poof! Gone! Never to repeated! The circle of life sucks, what can I say.
  6. Speak Arabic – this one makes me a little testy because, in actuality, I took three years of Arabic at the University of Chicago as a graduate student. Three years! At one of best departments for Arabic study in America! But I didn’t get a chance/didn’t create a chance to use those skills, and they have withered and as far as I can tell died. A friend from those years used to say: “We know how to say ‘I am the President of Syria and that is my car’.” I can still say that.
  7. Fly a plane – just ’cause, dude! How cool are women pilots?
  8. Work in radio – I think (stress on the word “think”) that I would love to be a DJ, or producer, at a rock n’ roll station. There’s a possibility that the stupid shit that comes with any job, and the fact that many people in the world have execrable taste, could ruin music for me (it nearly did so when I worked briefly in PR for an Israeli record company), but I think that the freedom to revel in one of the things I love most in the world would overcome the other obstacles. Anyhow, it would surely be more fun than being an Israel/Palestine expert.

If I had these skills, come the revolution, I could: make clothes for the people, fly them out of harm’s way, radio to other survivors that we were safe (in Arabic, no less!), entertain and soothe them with my musical skills (provided that the electric grid was still functioning), help build new houses — or even travel back in time to prevent the steady slide into anarchy! Not sure how the cartwheeling fits in.

Clearing the blockage.

Writer’s block – ten tons of fun, or twelve?

I don’t know what to write about, and so I find myself doing all manner of things that surround but don’t really approach the actual work. Like: setting up a Twitter account. Like: reading Stephen King’s excellent On Writing (man, I wish I enjoyed the suspense and horror genres. He is such a good writer. Holy crow). (But I digress! Even within a discussion of digressions, I digress). Like: commenting at length at Balloon Juice and/or Ta-Nehisi Coates. Like: thinking (and thinking) about why it is that I am blocked. About if I even want to de-block.

None of these things are necessarily bad, unto themselves, and some even involve writing. But none of it is my actual work.

When I was complaining about my fate over at TNC last week, many lovely people chimed in with words of good cheer and/or helpful advice (they sent me to read On Writing, for instance). My buddy (and occasional In My Head commenter!) CitizenE had this to say:

Charles Schultz said famously that writer’s block was an amateur’s problem. You’re no amateur. Even if it’s only an unending stream of cussing and grocery listing what you did, thought, and felt today, it should be writer’s cramp you’re aiming at.

And that both humbled and inspired me. I mean, a) thank you CitE for your confidence. I am not an amateur, and I need to get over my inferiority complex. Life and luck have brought me to this particular frustrating crossroads, but that doesn’t take away from what I am and what I’ve done.

But more to the point: I’m not an amateur — if this means something to me, if I actually am a writer, then I need to just pull on my big girl pants and get on with it. Is there a paying audience right now? No. And there may never be again. But this is clearly my thing, and even if I wind up being an unpaid professional, I think I would like to be a professional about it.

And finally, the idea of an unending stream of cussing and grocery listing actually kind of appeals to me. Well, maybe less the “unending stream of cussing” (hell, I do enough of that as is!) and more the idea of grocery listing, but still. Something to shake loose the crumbs of thought, shake out the nits of self-pity, shake free the fears of incompetency. Just: write.

So, I may do that a bit in the next few days. Stephen King writes a lot about having a first draft and a second, the first being where you write with the door closed, just getting down whatever passes through your head about your story, and the second being the one you write with the door open, writing with the outside world in clear view. I don’t know how he would feel about public grocery listing.

But then, I don’t intend to write fiction, and I don’t intend to start treating this blog as an open journal, so perhaps finding some place in the middle — a first and a half draft — will be all right. Between that and my intended return to the Strength to Love posts, I imagine I’ll muddle through.

And hey presto! I just wrote about 550 words about not knowing what to write about. Not so much a writer’s block, as a writer’s cramp. Onward.

*************************

And because I am a good and kind blogger, I give you this: Peter Bjorn and John, off of Writer’s Block:

Resistance is futile.

See that little blue button over on the right? I have been assimilated into the Twitter nation.

Never say never, my friends! Never, ever say never.

I will be tweeting links to my own posts, and occasional links to other articles or posts that I find interesting or useful. There will be no overshare, and they may not even be more than one or two tweets in any given day, but I have come to understand that Twitter is, as I always say about technology, just a tool — as good or bad as the people using it.

And it looks like a pretty good tool, if used correctly, and use it correctly I shall! Or at least I shall endeavor to do so.

Follow me, won’t you?

Israel: Losing the plot, winning the peace?

Turns out it’s been more than a month since I last really blogged about Israel/Palestine. Now, I’ve had some good reasons, ranging from Disney World to dying people, but still. This is supposed to be my (occasional) gig!

I think it’s almost a result of an embarrassment of riches. There’s the assassination of Hamas militant Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. There’s the upsurge in settler violence. There’s the government’s case of the vapors regarding J Street. And, as the husband so helpfully pointed out, there’s the Education Ministry’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Gavriel Avital:

“If textbooks state explicitly that human beings’ origins are to be found with monkeys, I would want students to pursue and grapple with other opinions…. Part of my responsibility, in light of my position with the Education Ministry, is to examine textbooks and curricula,”[Gavriel] said. “If they keep writing in textbooks that the Earth is growing warmer because of carbon dioxide emissions, I’ll insist that isn’t the case.”

So, yes. A certifiable embarrassment of riches.

But there’s another piece to my not-blogging — and this piece comes in pieces. To wit:

  1. I did not, for one single solitary moment, seriously consider that anyone but Israel was behind the al-Mabhouh slaying. Which is another way of saying that I did not, for one single solitary moment, not think that the Israeli government was and is lying. After a quarter of a century of experience, it’s what I expect.
  2. The settler violence, while troubling and important, is neither surprising nor new. It’s a regular feature of Palestinian life — just one of the many daily horrors that the occupation has unleashed and about which the outside world says little — and it’s not even all that unusual to see it directed at Israeli Jews with whom the settlers disagree, including the very military the praises of which they are so likely to sing.
  3. The J Street thing is so infantile that it just enrages me. It’s a living, breathing example of all of the worst of Israeli political behavior, wherein shouting = reasonable tool of debate and censorship = reasonable tool for shaping opinion, and Israelis assure each other that Americans are lily-livered bleeding hearts who Don’t Really Understand Arabs.
  4. The Chief Scientist? Oy. Mah nishar? What’s left? If the Israeli government is willing to sacrifice its entirely justified reputation for scientific and technological prowess on the altar of party politics, filling government slots with hacks and idiots, what can I possibly say? It’s just further indication of the downward cultural slide that the country is on, one that started years ago and can be seen in such things as growing classroom size and falling test scores and is part of why I moved away.

All of which is to say that all of the above things are, in a very real sense, old news — and not just old news, but old news that I’ve been screaming about for years. And oy I am so tired of screaming into the (apparently widening) void.

What’s a blogger to do?

But, hey now, what’s this? As so he so frequently does, MJ Rosenberg rode to my rescue yesterday, bringing my attention to something I had managed to miss:

Last week, the Israeli government took the unprecedented step of refusing to meet with a group of five Democratic House members who were visiting Israel with J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace group.

It was an incredibly stupid move. Israeli officials never refuse to meet with American legislators (1) because that is not how normal nations behave and (2) the American Congress provides Israel with more than $3 billion a year in foreign aid.

Of course, this act of moronitude is related to point # 3, above, but still: For Israel to have taken the step of officially snubbing American Congressmembers is, well — it’s new. Even though (as Rosenberg mentions later in his post) Israel tends to think of itself as the dog wagging the American tail (and not without reason — has anyone other than of George Bush Sr. ever done anything at all to actually halt West Bank settlement growth? Just, you know, for instance?), this attitude is part and parcel of a long-standing relationship which depends on the fact that the US is a superpower, and Israel its client state. Due deference is given, even if only in photo ops and mealy mouthed speeches.

What this says to me — and I stress that this is a gut feeling — is that Israel is losing it.

The desperate scrambling on everyone’s part to appease the local wingnuts — religious settlers, their apologists, and the various shades of Israel-Do-Or-Die-ers — is just that: desperate. And it has the Netanyahu government losing the plot.

I honestly think that the only way for Israel to actually lose America (or, more appropriately, sharpen America’s attention and demands) would be to offend its government. Flouting international treaties and ignoring American-brokered agreements hasn’t done it, for reasons that have an awful lot to do with America’s own wingnuts and domestic politics. But as a nation, we — and most especially our politicians — are nothing if not prideful. Blatantly disrespect us and our $3 billion dollars often enough, and we are likely to get huffy.

All of which, oddly enough, makes me happy. Whatever it takes to get Washington to sit up and demand responsible behavior — behavior that would not only be best for Israelis and Palestinians but also American security interests, behavior that would lead to an end to bloodshed and the possibility of real peace and true security — whatever it takes to achieve that? Is ok by me. I can only hope that scores of Congressmembers — hey, maybe even Special Envoy George Mitchell! — get similarly snubbed in the coming weeks and months, and a hue and cry is raised as American Honor Is Defended. Please God, speedily in our days, amen.

And I never really thought Bibi had a terribly good handle on the plot to begin with.

***********************

Update, important clarification: On J Street’s blog, Amy Spitalnick clarifies that while the Foreign Ministry did dance an odd boycott dance around the J Street delegation,

[t]he Delegation was not boycotted by the government of Israel. In fact, the Delegation was pleased to meet with representatives of the Israeli government, including both political leadership (Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor) and staff of various ministries around substantive issues such as veteran’s health and the mental health impacts of conflict.

The Foreign Ministry’s clumsy decision to not meet with five members of Congress (a decision that J Street only learned of when their representatives were contacted by the Israeli media about it), and their subsequent even clumsier efforts to deal with the gaff, were and are a pretty damn big deal. To quote Rosenberg again, “that is not how normal nations behave.”

But it is honestly comforting to know that not all of the Israeli government has lost its damn mind (though, theoretically, that could destroy the potential for Israel giving grave and policy-altering offense to the American government. Hmmm. I’m torn about how to feel here).

Anyway, it’s an important thing to know, and now you do!

***********************

Earlier:

Israel/Palestine: the basics.

Israel/Palestine peace advocacy – places to start.

Israel/Palestine – a reading list.

Not…there…yet.

No time, no time, must rush out the door! For fun with friends! Whoo hoo!

But before I go, Tim F. over at Balloon Juice reminds us all that – hey, don’t know if you’ve noticed yet? But we still don’t have health care reform.

If you haven’t called your Representative or your Senators yet about this, please do. If you have already: Please do it again.

Ask your Representative to pass.the.damn.bill (that is, the Senate version of the bill), and ask your Senators to agree to reconciliation, so that the Democrats in the House of Representatives will know ahead of time that they won’t be screwed by the Senate for doing the dirty work of passing a bill they’re not all that crazy about.

You know what? I’m not all that crazy about the bill. I, personally, would like to see a single-payer system.

But you know what else? If we don’t get started, if we don’t pass something that we can then tinker with and make better, millions of people will continue to suffer, and suffer more, and our economy will continue to take massive hit after massive hit because of ballooning health care costs that do not need to be ballooning!

And while you’re at it, call the White House, too, and tell your President that health care reform remains a big priority for you. Obama is apparently going to be unveiling his own idea for a bill, and it would be good if he heard from his constituents that they actually want a workable bill passed.

To speak with your Representative and Senators, call the Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121

To call the White House: (202) 456-1111

To bone up on the basics of making these calls, read this earlier Tim F. post at Balloon Juice.

Please do this. As citizens of a democracy, this is our job.

Thanks! And have a great weekend!

Obama, unicorn wishes, and me. Side of economic stimulus.

This may sound, or in fact be, lame, but I think that part of why I’ve been in a funk lately is that without realizing it, I did actually sip a wee bit of the hopey-changey Magic Unicorn Koolaid vintage 2008.

Ok, some it went down knowingly.

I fell a little head over heels with candidate Obama, not only because he represented the possibility of an end to our eight-year national nightmare, not only because he and his family were squeee!-worthy cute, and not only because the real possibly of electing a Black man President was almost too powerfully moving for words — but because I had good reason to believe that if elected, candidate Obama would take great strides toward removing the stains of the recent past and returning this country to sanity.

But at the same time, by election day — and, yes, I sobbed that night, almost as much as I sobbed on inauguration day — I knew that Obama was more of a centrist than I am, and furthermore, I was also pretty clear that one cannot undo eight years of disaster with the left-handed wave of a pen. I knew that it would be hard, and I suspected that I wouldn’t always be happy. I will confess that I didn’t anticipate the virulent nature of the Just-Say-No opposition, or the bestial ugliness of the Tea Party inanity, but I did anticipate that 2008’s collapsed economy might just make President Obama’s job a smidge more difficult, so I scaled back my expectations.

Or so I thought.

It turns out, in retrospect, that I wasn’t just hoping to see big change in the first year, I was expecting it. I was expecting real movement on Israel/Palestine, on a Democratic legislative agenda, on social issues like DADT, and real movement — realrealreal movement — on torture and those who perpetuated the use of torture under Bush. And what I’ve been feeling (and I will admit that this isn’t fair, because there have been less grandiose things going on that haven’t gotten enough attention) is that in his first year, Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, gave a lot of genuinely moving speeches, and screwed up health care reform. Oh, and won an un-deserved Nobel Peace Prize.

So, much as I spent most of the Bush years simply not listening to the news out of the White House, I find myself tuning out again. Just – not wanting to be pissed off.

And that’s really not fair, because whatever else he may or may not be, Barack Hussein Obama is not George W. Bush and there are many things moving in the right direction. He can’t shoulder all the blame for the haplessness of the Democratic Party (though he does shoulder a good chunk, in my mind) and surely cannot be blamed for the GOP.

So, my point: I think I wished for a trip to the moon, secretly anticipated a trip the stars, and am disappointed that we only got to the top of a really tall building.

My larger point: It’s in this mental context that I’ve been looking into the success of the much-maligned stimulus program, and am happy to say that this has served to cheer your glum chum up.

In spite of all the foregoing, I was actually among those who gave the Administration credit for saving us from a depression. I was confident that things would have been far worse if Obama hadn’t taken the action he did, or, worse yet, had done what the Republicans wanted.

But even so, it was so good to read this is the New York Times the other day (via TPM):

Imagine if, one year ago, Congress had passed a stimulus bill that really worked.

Let’s say this bill had started spending money within a matter of weeks and had rapidly helped the economy. Let’s also imagine it was large enough to have had a huge impact on jobs — employing something like two million people who would otherwise be unemployed right now.

If that had happened, what would the economy look like today?

Well, it would look almost exactly as it does now. Because those nice descriptions of the stimulus that I just gave aren’t hypothetical. They are descriptions of the actual bill.

(Go ahead and read the rest. It’s short, and it’ll make you happy, too!)

And then my friends, I saw this graph over at barackobama.com (via commenter srv at Balloon Juice), and well, the sheer beauty of the visual left me with real joy in my heart.

So ok, I’ve had my fun being a disappointed, whiny adolescent who won’t get off the couch because Uncle Barry isn’t really as cool as I thought he was a couple of years ago. It’s time for me to get better informed about what’s been going right, and take a more active role in trying to push my own government onto the path I believe it should be on.

Join me, won’t you? It won’t be fun. But it’s ok.

Q/A – lightning round!

Ah questions. I love questions! My Queenie used to say that there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. And she was a teacher, so she would know.

In the hope that my answers will be good ones:

  1. Do you respond to comments in your own comment section? No, I don’t, for reasons of my own sanity. My big sister speaks the truth! See: About Commenting, rule # 6.
  2. But hey, in answering questions, you’re kind of responding! (Ok, technically that’s not a question, but as I’m posing it to myself, we’ll just let that slide, won’t we?) While I may be on the look-out for my own sanity, I want also to be a friendly and inviting host! So, when direct questions appear in the comments, I gather them into a little Q/A post. There haven’t been a lot of these, but then, there haven’t been a lot of questions! (Yet…?). See: About Commenting, caveat  # 6.1.
  3. Were you planning on answering the question to the seagull attack post in such a Q/A post, but your big sister stole your thunder? Why yes, yes I was!
  4. And yet, does your big sister rock — nay, does she rock HARD? Why yes, yes she does! Thank you for asking! She is a lovely big sister by all accounts. Just, you know, occasionally thunder-stealing. Which, given that I ruined that sleep-over that she and our brother had planned for the night that I happened to be born, she might also say of me.
  5. Should I make a point of reading your commenters? Yes indeedy! They are a smart and articulate lot and I would love it if a wee little commenting community should someday develop between y’all.
  6. Should I be forwarding a link to your blog to everyone I know, friend and/or foe? Yes you should! I think our democracy might, in fact, depend on it.
  7. Will you be using this poor excuse for a post to get you off the posting hook today, you poor writer’s block-addled fool? Mayyybe….

Ow! My heart!

I was just snuggling with my daughter in her wee bed, and she had been quiet for a minute or two when she says to me: “How many people draw perfect circles?” (Only she still says “puh-fect suh-cles”).

I say “Oh, not many.”

“Yeah, that’s probably done by machines.”

“You know what honey, you really have to settle down now….”

“Can I just -?”

“One thing,” I say, my cheek against her forehead, my arms around her.

“You know those things that you trace where you make everything just puh-fect?”

“Yeah….”

“Does a machine make those things?”

“Yeah, a machine makes them.”

“I thought so. I knew a puh-son couldn’t make it like that.”

I grin and grin and pull her even closer, kiss her forehead, and say: “You are, just, figuring out the world…!”

And without missing a beat she says: “But I’m only just at the start of it. Because I’m six years old.”

Me, Christina Hendricks, and writer’s block

I don’t know what to write about, is the honest to God truth.

I spent most of last week running around, and yesterday had the kids home for the President’s Day holiday, and while I am somewhat abreast of the news, all of it is just so… exhausting. More of the same. So being creative when too busy to breathe and sick to tears of the same-old — well, it’s rough out here for a blogger, is all I’m saying.

And of course, I haven’t had the quiet of mind to get back to Martin Luther King yet, either. This week it should happen, but I don’t want to do it until I’m really there.

But today over at Ta-Nehisi’s place, he and the commenters are talking about women and body image, in particular as regards the supremely talented and apparently sick-of-talking-about-her-body Christina Hendricks. I’m all over the thread (ellaesther, c’est moi!), but part of what makes the issue so frustrating for me is that god damn I’d like to quit thinking about it. Or, as I said in the comments, “I wish to hell that I could have the hours and mental energy that I’ve invested in reminding myself that I am, as the Psalmist says, ‘beautifully, wonderfully made,’ back.”

I thought about writing about all that here, but then got wise, realizing that, well hell: If you’re sick of thinking about it, don’t re-write what you’ve already written elsewhere! I decided to post a piece I ran in the Dallas Morning News about just these issues a while back — and in looking for it, discovered that it was nearly four years ago. Lord, lord, but this is one hell of a dead horse.

Anyway, here it is:

Our unhealthy obsession

The idea that my baby’s value is determined by her size rips me up.

July 16, 2006

EMILY L. HAUSER, Special Contributor

DALLAS MORNING NEWS

Section: LIFESTYLES – SUNDAY LIFE

This being summer, we’re all showing a lot more skin, babies included. Recently, as I chatted with a stranger about our diaper-and-bathing-suit-clad toddlers, he noted that the two girls were startlingly identical. I said, “Yes, all round and chubby.” And he said, without missing a beat: “Healthy.”

I felt I might weep.

My little Maya, now nearly 3 years old, came out 9 pounds and 3 ounces, and hasn’t slowed since. She’s tall and strong and heavy to carry upstairs when her silky arms drape over my shoulders in sleep, sweet breath on my neck. We call her Maya Warrior Princess.

We call her this because it’s cute and suits her regal personality, and because for her whole life we’ve had to push back the forces that would have us see her perfect little body with the distorted vision of a Vogue-obsessed society. From infancy, Maya’s size has inspired endless versions of, “Oh, I love fat babies,” followed by, without pause, “Don’t worry, she’ll slim down.” What? Worry?

I understand that cultures develop ideas of beauty; I also understand that some of this is sheer biology. Big breasts and wide hips (Jennifer Lopez) broadcast a woman’s reproductive abilities; a certain shoulder-to-hip ratio (Taye Diggs) translates to a man’s ability to kill bears.

I also know that there are economic and political issues: If you can afford to treat yourself with Manolos, for instance, you’re less likely to do it with Ho Hos – and we generally believe it’s better to be in the Manolo set, if only by virtue of looking like you don’t know what a Ho Ho is.

Yada yada. I don’t want my baby to hate herself.

In the course of my 41 years, I’m not sure I’ve met a single woman who didn’t have to defeat (or doesn’t still harbor) some self-loathing.

I, for one, have no idea how I look. I mean, I’d recognize myself on the street, but I can’t gauge the general perception of my appearance. I’m not thin and not built to be; I don’t believe my weight is unhealthy.

Yet, I think I’m worried, in some vague way, that I’m ridiculously unaware of how truly unattractive I am – and thus, how unworthy. Of what, I’m not sure.

For a long time, I couldn’t understand it. I was raised by a strong mother who never talked about calories. My husband loves my body. I gently tell friends to stop badmouthing their essential beauty, including the naturally skinny one accused by strangers of being anorexic. Yet I cannot truly, deeply incorporate the message myself, and I see that many of the women I love haven’t either.

Now, I begin to wonder: If intelligent, equality-minded adults can look at my beautiful daughter and see a potential flaw, is our collective thinking – and not just that among misogynists and Hooters customers – fundamentally warped?

Without (I believe) conspiracy or conscious effort, we seem to have achieved unspoken agreement that a body that doesn’t match society’s current ideal is shameful, its owner a lesser human. And when a woman’s value is primarily determined by her looks, how can any flesh-and-blood female not fight an ever-losing battle?

The idea that my baby may do this battle, that she could ever doubt her value as a person because of the shape God gave her, rips me up. But isn’t that where all this “she’ll slim down” twaddle is headed?

Watching the Oscars this year, I was struck by the parade of exquisite women who looked tired and skeletal. Gossipmongers tell us the formerly shapely Nicole Richie is now too small for a size 0; she, in fact, recently copped to eating issues. Lindsay Lohan, having previously admitted to bulimia, now says it’s not so.

These are people with so much natural beauty that they’re paid for it, and yet they willingly damage themselves in a struggle to achieve anti-reality.

And these people, whether we like it or not, are held up as ideals. They decorate our public space, they illustrate our shared readings, they inform our social discourse. I don’t blame them, but I can’t help but see these women as both victims and perpetrators of a real social ill. A deeply damaging social ill from which I would shield my little girl.

Am I fighting my own battle on her back? Possibly. But when I heard that one word, “healthy,” echo in its singularity, I could only feel that, no, this is going to be her battle, too. Starting with people who warmly reassure her parents that she will, someday, be skinny.

Emily L. Hauser is a freelance writer in Oak Park, Ill.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,029 other followers