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Chris Christie, sweetheart

Whether or not Chris Christie intended his remark — “Something may be going down tonight, but it ain’t going to be jobs, sweetheart.” — to be sexual and misogynist, this is a really absurd statement for his spokesperson to make:

“It’s just a ridiculous interpretation and a wild stretch.”

Is it really ridiculous? Really a wild stretch? Let me tell you, there is no shortage of offensive remarks in the world, so it’s not like there is just this idle pack of people, waiting to pounce on any perceived slight. When feminist websites and smart writers identify something as offensive, they’re doing so in an educated, thoughtful, experienced way. It would be wise to pay attention.

Instead, Michael Drewniak says it’s a ridiculous interpretation. Yes, you feminists are just crazy.

And whether or not Christie intended it to be sexual really doesn’t matter, because it’s not about him. Once those words leave his mouth, he loses ownership of meaning. The best way to ensure that your words have your intended meaning is to be as clear as possible. Christie was not clear (or, in my opinion, he WAS clearly trying to be demeaning, but altered his words to be suggestive so he could deny being demeaning. Yikes.)

He has to take into account how his words could sound before he says them. He has to take into account the fact that a woman could be in the audience, hear that closing word — sweetheart — dripping with sarcasm, degradation and male power, and think that it means he is saying she’s not worth much more than going down on somebody. Because it’s possible she’s heard that remark before, and it’s possible that the previous person said he was only joking or didn’t mean it or whatever, but it was still an insinuation of a sexual act. It’s definite that Chris Christie, as a man, enjoys a lot of privileges and has never endured social sexual oppression the way women do, every day, in myriad ways. He thinks he is entitled to say things like “sweetheart” because he is a powerful man. And that is really the wild stretch, here.

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My mom rarely arrives home before 7 p.m. Most days it’s closer to 8 or 9 and, occasionally, she’ll pull into the driveway at 10. She’ll get out of her car with 130,000 miles that’s missing the hubcaps to the two right wheels, grab two arm-loads full of bags and materials, and trudge up the driveway.

She’ll go up the steps, both feet touching each one, then push her way through the door, almost falling, and drop the bags to the floor. Some days she’ll just hoist them onto the top step and shove them across the room with her foot.

She’ll feed the cats, put some groceries that she needs for the next day in the fridge, iron her clothes for the morning, eat some popcorn or ice cream, then go to bed, exhausted. And then, about 10 hours after entering the door, she’ll exit, off again to her overpaying, part-time teaching job.

*****

Recently, I’ve been thinking about power — not only who has it, but how those who have it want to exploit it. It seems that, lately, a lot of powerful people and entities are exercising that power, either to gain more control or prevent the loss of it.

A perfect example is this mess with Wisconsin and its public employees; namely, teachers. Governor Scott Walker’s plan to end public workers’ collective bargaining rights has drawn a lot of attention and sparked a lot of conversation. Here in Pennsylvania, new governor Tom Corbett proposed a budget that would freeze public teachers’ salaries, and stop raises for earning masters degrees. The Keystone State has a pretty tumultuous history with teachers unions — there are more strikes in this state than any other. And every strike always leads to the same conversation: Are teachers really worth that much?

You hear stuff like…Don’t they get paid enough? They have great health care and a good salary, and it’s next to impossible to fire a bad one. And anyway, who do they think they are, asking for more money when there’s cutbacks everywhere? They get summers off when I have to work year-round.

Personally, I think it’s horseshit. Are there bad teachers? Sure. Finding a way to perform smart evaluations of teachers would be fantastic for everybody, and figuring out a way to employ the best teachers/reward them would be great. But those complaining about how much public teachers make, in general, really ought to re-focus their rightful economic anger. And anyone who claims teaching is a part-time job probably ought to do some math.

My mom teaches cooking, culinary arts, and parenting classes, and works, conservatively, 12 hours a day. Those hours include teaching classes, performing other obligations like hallway and bus lane monitoring, cleaning up the kitchen spaces, organizing, doing laundry, creating tests, grading tests, creating projects, grading projects, and grocery shopping, and that’s not even a complete list.

So, 12 hours a day, five times a week = 60 hours.

If the standard work week is 40 hours, and the standard number of weeks worked per year is 50 five-day weeks (take two weeks off for a combination of vacation, sick days, and holidays), the standard person works 2,000 hours per year.

If the standard teaching year is 180 school days, that’s about 26 weeks. So, for 26 weeks my mom works 60 hours, or 1,560 hours.

My god! Wouldn’t you know, teacher critics are right. My mom is cheating taxpayers out of their hard-earned…but, oh, damn, you know what? It’s not 60 hours per week. Because every couple weeks my mom will go in to school on a Saturday or Sunday and spend about 10 hours re-organizing her department’s office space. So, let’s continue to be conservative and say she does that 10 weeks out of the school year — that’s another 100 hours.

So, with the total number of 1,660 hours, she still falls short of being an actual full-time worker.

Except…damn. I forgot the work she does while not at school. I’m talking about the hours she spends at home testing recipes, creating worksheets, and planning. And wouldn’t you know, I’m forgetting the hours she spends during the summer preparing for the school year. And if you added all of the hours she works — strictly the hours — you’d find they total at least as much as your average full-time employee, if not more.

But then you have to consider what kind of hours they are. They are not easy hours. It is not babysitting a bunch of kids. She cannot go through the motions. She has to do things like take up a special needs class, simply because the school required her to, even though she has no formal training. She has to put up with kids who take her classes because they think they’re easy, kids who routinely make jokes they know she won’t understand. She once asked me what a blumpkin is because one of the kids in her classes mentioned it.

And then you have to consider that her salary really isn’t that much at all. It’s certainly not enough to fix all that’s wrong with the house she returns to every night — a half-finished roof, a leaky washer, a faucet that only stops dripping if you position the handle just so, old and drafty windows, several broken light fixtures, and an out-of-commission bathroom. And as soon as she’s saved up enough money to fix one of the less major ones, an alternator stops working or trees need to be removed before they fall on the house or her knees become so painful that they need to be replaced.

And so she has to prioritize. What does not present immediate disaster gets put off, what can be worked around gets put on the back burner. All the while, those problems do not go away. Often they get worse. But you can’t do anything more when you don’t have the money. And it breaks my heart, because when she spends so much time trying her best to make sure someone else’s kids receive the best education she can provide, she can barely get by.

If you want to try to quantify a teacher’s worth, if you want to try to tell me what’s an acceptable salary for a teacher, go for it. You won’t have much success. Because you cannot tell me that $50,000 per year is rich, and you cannot present a convincing argument that teachers, as a group, should give up a cent of their pay because the very rich have set up a system that somehow makes people resent middle class workers for making middle class wages, that makes people defend tax cuts for the people who have caused their wages to decline for decades.

What my mom makes as a teacher does not afford her a carefree existence, able to spend her summers kicking around in a pool all day. It allows her to stay afloat.

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Earlier today, I learned of a subtle little fold in the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortions Act.

The people who proposed the bill don’t want any taxpayer money having anything to do with any abortion ever in any capacity — Any! (except for the exceptions) — even going so far as to say that insurance policies that provide abortion services should not get any gubmint money or tax benefits. It’s one way to try to start sneaking Roe v. Wade out the back door, and at least one way to guarantee abortion becomes more dangerous, and definitely a way to show your lack of compassion. It might also just be a way to inflame the culture wars to distract American voters from issues like the economy. In any event, it sure seems like Republicans have their priorities in order.

The bill also modifies the exceptions, which are that taxpayer money can’t be used for abortions except for rape, incest, and when the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life. That’s weird by itself, because if you’re so dead-set against abortion, why have any exceptions at all?

With this bill, though, it’s “forcible rape,” and incest, but only if the woman’s a minor. This was all brought to light first by Mother Jones, and is, needless to say, abhorrent. Well, needless to say for everyone except for sponsor Chris Smith of New Jersey and the bill’s 173 co-sponsors, a number of whom are women, which is baffling, because the bill is not kind toward women.

I could go on about what I think about the bill, but I don’t need to, because I can just share the letter I sent to my U.S. rep earlier today. Hey, they always say they want to hear from you, right?

Mr. Fitzpatrick,

I’m writing you to express my anger and dismay that you’ve co-sponsored the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.

I don’t agree with the bill at all, but recognize there’s nothing that I can say that will change your mind about choice issues. But what truly angers me is how the bill defines the exceptions, specifically rape.

I’d like you to tell me what “forcible rape” is, and how it is different from statutory rape or date rape or rape in which a man threatens violence*. No, really, please explain to me how “forcible rape” isn’t redundant, or why rape is somehow considered legitimate only when a rapist holds a woman down before raping her? By definition, every rape is forcible because there is no consent. This definition only makes the lives of rape survivors harder.

In addition to this definition of rape, I’m upset that you’ve co-sponsored a bill in which an abortion exception is made for incest, but only if the female is a minor.

In my mind, there wouldn’t have to be a list of these exceptions at all. In my mind, abortion is the individual woman’s choice, not a choice that politicians or anyone else can make for her. And in my mind, this bill will fail, and fail hard, because it’s absolutely heinous.

Sincerely,
Michael P. Garvey

(*There’s some of the letter that doesn’t make sense, or at least isn’t clear, like the part about threatening violence. I suppose I intended that phrase to mean threatening violence with a gun but not actually shooting. But even then, that’s fairly violent and terrifying. I’ve been thinking about this for a day or so, and have come to the conclusion that the word “violent” sucks when you’re talking about rape. You can assign too many different meanings, when you don’t need to qualify rape at all. It’s horrible in any form. The lesson is, I could have done a better job proofing before sending it away, but I think I did an okay job of making the point.)

I got a form-letter response in which the Rep says I’ll be getting a more detailed response shortly. I’d like to see that.

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