Today on The Mindful Word


Please enjoy a little shared yoga after glow in today’s The Mindful Word.

In a mind-drifting moment during Yoga practice this morning, I flashed on a childhood fantasy about leaping in zero gravity like the astronauts. How fun it would be to float freely without burden, without weight forcing me down to the earthbound reality that I could never fly…read more.

Don’t Call Me a Mistress


Language Matters: Alamy

Language matters. When newspapers call women mistresses or “homewreckers”, they are not just using an identifying term. They are also making a value judgement about what happened in a relationship – a judgment that often places the blame on women, even though there are two people involved in an affair.

So writes Jessica Valenti of the Guardian in an article entitled “Why we need to lose biased words like ‘mistress’ for good.” Her argument based on Paula Broadwell’s campaign to get news media to stop using that word to characterize (and vilify) her relationship with ex-CIA director, David Patraeus, goes something like this: ‘Mistress,’ which has no male counterpart is one of those words used to blame women for behavior of two consenting adults, presumably male and female, that society condemns.

When we use words that prop men up for the same behavior that we disdain in women, we are sending a very particular message, one that causes harm whether you’re a reporter writing for readers or a parent talking to your kids.

She throws in other loaded terms targeting women like spinster and Oxford Dictionary’s ‘rabid feminist’ as a word definition example along with the usual words used against men to suggest womanly behavior like ‘bitch’ and ‘pussy’ that she concludes are sexist, outdated and harmful. 

So let’s lose “mistress” and words like it. Our language should reflect the world we want, not antiquated ghosts of sexism past.” 

She’s right. The word “mistress” has no male counterpart and denotatively and connotatively female words used to ascribe enculturated female behaviors as insults are loaded with history’s carryover sexist world. She’s also right that “language matters.” 

But history also matters, for that matter. So, rather than cut ties with history by eliminating language that survives the ephemeral fashions, behaviors and ideas of long ago, why not use language to educate people? Rather than deny distasteful history, say, slavery or holocaust, by eliminating the hate words that derived from those horrific institutions and events (nigger, kike, etc.), how about we teach people to be aware of how we use language and why? 

Jill McCorkle writes in the essay, “Cuss Time,” the story of how she resolved her nine year old’s forbidden fruit fascination with profanity by allowing him a 15 minute cuss time each day, a free-to-say-anything break in the day to let it all out. Risking a bad parent label (or even a referral to child protective services, I would imagine), she allowed her son the freedom to swear like a sailor rather than censor his language and lose the power, resource and history of language by eliminating words from her son’s vocabulary. She writes:

 Word by single word, our history will be rewritten if we don’t guard and protect it, truth lost to some individual’s idea about what is right or wrong. These speech monitors–the Word Gestapo (speaking of words some would have us deny and forget)–attempt to define and dictate what is acceptable and what is not.

Valenti also opens her article with language parenting by mentioning her careful language selection, words she wants her children to use like firefighter instead of fireman. I believe these two authors hold the key to the problematic power inherent to language: teach children by mindful use and education rather than by a negative, censorship. The children wield the power to change future language, meaning, action and society.

(Thanks to Laura Steuer of  infidelity counseling network for sending this article my way). 

I want to be Esther Perel

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She is just so cool and says everything I need and want to say.

Commenting in Salon last month on Beyoncé’s Lemonade video that grapples, in part, with her cheating partner (“I know you’re cheating on me.”), Esther Perel in the article titled “Grief sedated by orgasm, orgasm heightened by grief”: Beyoncé, “Lemonade” and the new reality of infidelity“, applauds the singer’s frankness and platform used to plunge the public into the taboo infidelity, a conversation which Perel believes should be opened repeatedly. In fact, she believes that’s her job as a therapist and author–to help couples find themselves and their options past the ravine that betrayal opens between partners.

After noting the European and American moralistic difference in how couples suffer infidelity, she suggests Americans need to lose the strictures on discussion and judgment of both perpetrator and victim (think Hillary Clinton for staying when she could have left), which shames and thereby stifles examination of and learning from infidelity to repair,  renew or reject relationships shattered by infidelity.

After profiling American attitudes about the subject, she exhorts:

Given this reality, it’s time for American culture to change the conversation we’re having about infidelity—why it happens, what it means and what should or should not happen after it is revealed. The subject of affairs has a lot to teach us about relationships—what we expect, what we think we want, and what we feel entitled to. It forces us to grapple with some of the most unsettling questions: How do we negotiate the elusive balance between our emotional and our erotic needs? Is possessiveness intrinsic to love or an arcane vestige of patriarchy? Are the adulterous motives of men and women really as different as we’ve been led to believe? How do we learn to trust again? Can love ever be plural? 

These are important questions to begin the healing and ensuing path in any relationship that is pierced with this not always fatal rending. As Perel states, infidelity has existed longer than marriage, though she does not justify it as right for having lasted. She merely points to the reality of its persistence.

And just as Beyoncé is fire and ache, Perel is compassionate logic and measured reason, which is her (both) allure.

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May is National Masturbation Month

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And I wanted to know why. I may be very late on this, but I was not aware of the back story to this national recognition just like great women in history month or Black history month or even yoga month. So how does masturbation earn its month?

So I googled. EmpowHer.com answered thusly:

So how does a hush-hush subject like masturbation get a month of its own? It started in 1995 in San Francisco as a response to the forced resignation of U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. After a speech at the United Nations World AIDS Day in 1994, an audience member asked Elders about masturbation’s potential for discouraging early sexual activity. She answered,“I think it is something that is part of human sexuality and a part of something that perhaps should be taught.”

That was the end of the first black Surgeon General’s career, but the beginning of National Masturbation Month. The founders of San Francisco based sex toy and education shop Good Vibrations said, “Enough is enough!” They wanted to do two things: keep up the conversation about Elders unjust firing and make people talk about masturbation.

Good Vibrations recognized many people needed support and advice about the very act of masturbating. One of the first things they had to do is provide reassurance. They made sure people knew it was okay to masturbate in the first place. For so long, shame and stigma have been attached to masturbating. Yet the truth is it is an activity so commonplace, natural, pleasurable and healthy it is said “ninety-eight percent of us masturbate, and the other two percent are liars.”

Not sure about those last stats but the subject does need air time. So how do you celebrate or honor the theme of such a month other than the obvious–doing what cums naturally?

Polari and all that jazz

  

Just as African American slaves from the 17th century onward crafted a language and music of coded words, phrases and drum beats before them, gay men in the 50s and 60s spoke a secret language to one another. Polari, the spoken language of made up words known only to gay men subverting the laws against homosexuality, was prevalent until homosexuality in England became legal (at leastin the privacy of the home). Unlike jazz and blues, the music and language derived from slavery and segregation of black Americans, polari disappeared.

Learn about and listen to polari in this intriguing article in Atlas Obscura titled “The Forgotten Secret Language of Gay Men” here. The seven minute film at the end features spoken polari.

Monogamy and Us…again

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Two articles on monogamy came out this week, both once again proclaiming monogamy has outlived its origins and is not suitable to our wiring.

In Salon’s Take that, monogamy! We’re actually hard-wired for polygamy, which helps explain why so many cheat, biologist David P. Barash explains that humans are hard wired for poly relationships:

Even though monogamy is mandated throughout the Western world, infidelity is universal.

Anthropologically speaking, Barash contends cultures around the world fulfill their social commitments in monogamy but not their biological commitments, which is more inclined toward polyandry.

In short, when adultery happens—and it happens quite often—what’s going on is that people are behaving as polygynists (if men) or polyandrists (if women), in a culturally defined context of ostensible monogamy. Adultery, infidelity, or “cheating” are only meaningful given a relationship that is otherwise supposed to be monogamous. A polygynously married man—in any of the numerous cultures that permit such an arrangement—wasn’t an adulterer when he had sex with more than one of his wives. (As candidate Barack Obama explained in a somewhat different context, “That was the point.”) By the same token, a polyandrously married Tre-ba woman from Tibet isn’t an adulteress when she has sex with her multiple husbands. Another way of looking at this: when people of either gender act on their polygamous inclinations while living in a monogamous tradition, they are being unfaithful to their sociocultural commitment, but not to their biology.

Meanwhile, in today’s Globe, Science writer Ivan Semeniuk reports on science’s latest findings that monogamy may have its roots (more likely one of them anyhow) in avoiding STD’s in To have, to hold, to avoid STDs in Science tackles evolution of monogamy.

In a paper published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers propose that the impact of sexually transmitted diseases may have started pushing humans toward monogamy during the agricultural revolution, when social groups began to grow in size to hundreds of individuals. The culturally imposed reinforcement could have taken hold even though the individuals involved would not have been aware of any longer-term survival benefit to their group over many generations.

Monogamy as an early safe sex device? Seems so unsexy.

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right…

…Here I am, stuck in the middle with you, you the sane ones. Can we just stop? I blame the middle for its quietude.

Extremism everywhere in all forums and locations seems to be the new norm if you merely scan social media. And the balance, the middle, is silent, gets no air time.

To the right most extreme we have banning books, dissemination of contraception information, health care advisory on certain procedures–abortion, for instance, or exploration of new research areas like stem cell, and, the latest, a Texas senator who would vote to keep women in the house where they can clean and care take. At the left most, we have trigger event warnings, micro aggressions, and the University of California regents censoring any coded anti-semitism in the form of anti-Zionist speech or acts on UC campuses.

Last week’s critique of this newly introduced policy by the California regents board is discussed in the article (Op Ed) by Saree Makdisi and Judith Butler in last week’s LA Times entitled “Suppressing Zionism on Campus is Catastrophic Censorship.” The policy seeks to root out anti-semitism disguised as anti-zionism on campuses. The UC committee charged with examining the purported rise in anti-semitism expressed on campuses (a vandal’s bathroom scribble about hating Zionist Jews, for example) sought to expose thinly disguised or coded prejudice in the form of an ostensible critique of an Israeli political faction.

Authors and UC professors Butler and Makdisi contend the hidden agenda behind the policy is motivated by suppressing anti-American sentiment fomented by growing criticism of Israeli-Palestinian relations/stand-off. The authors accuse the move as a thinly veiled censorship attempt aimed at suppressing criticism of American policy regarding Israel.

Whether these professors are correct or not, censorship does not belong on campuses–period. Students who vandalize bathrooms should be prosecuted for destruction of property. Students who commit or instigate violence should be counseled. People who hate others by reason of their color, creed, beliefs or practices, well, exposure to those types is the cost of living in society.

The purpose of colleges and universities is to prepare students for life, civic duty, employment and social existence. In particular, higher education should expose students to both practical and ideal considerations of living in society like earning wages and working in teams, understanding democratic responsibilities to vote and be informed as well as honing critical thinking skills vis a vis advertising, politicians and door to door salesmen let alone legal documents, medical treatment and military service. In other words, the primary responsibility for higher education is to teach students to think, to slot them into already established spots in society or to make new ones.

Thinking requires exposure to thoughts, principles, laws, behaviors and energies present, past and future, seen and unseen. There must be exposure to all that should and could be thought about, including beliefs and ideas that challenge existing beliefs and ideas. That’s called growth, and growing into citizens of a nation and the world.

And yes, restraint and constraint are also taught on campuses. You cannot say and do whatever you wish. There are laws against harassment, vandalism, assault and battery. There are laws forbidding lying about others such as defamation. Prosecution or expulsion for these crimes or torts is lesson learned for committing wrongs against society or specific others.

Regardless of the motivation or interpretation of UC policies regarding anti semitism or zionism, censorship does not belong on a college campus.

 

All Good Things…

Opening Night of Thomas Keller's Bouchon
November 16, 2009 – Beverly Hills, CA Environmental Opening Night of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Photograph By Jacqueline Miccalizzi© Berliner Studio/BEImages

I am fortunate to be a writer. I have worked doing what I love, even if not all writing has been fun. Writing fun quickly withers if you have to do it for a living. My paid writing assignments have varied in scope and subject matter from the mind-curdling banal to the wildly exciting.

One assignment I rather enjoyed for the research I had to do on subjects for which I have passion, food and travel, was writing for the DaringPenguin.com site, which kept me researching and salivating while luxuriating in luscious pictures of gorgeous food, decor and scenery. I loved the job and am sad to see it end as the site is taking a new direction and/or going on hiatus.

Here are five articles I wrote for this site that I hope you enjoy:

For the Finest Dining in Los Angeles, Feast at These 5 French Restaurants

Our Choices for the 5 Finest French Restaurants in Las Vegas

 

10 Great Things to Do in Seattle for Free

 

Santa Monica’s Amazing Seafood: Ten Spots to Try

 

7 Unique Seattle Hotels That Will Truly Amaze You

The “Nipplegasm”

  
“I’d say that the more a person is engaged with sexual activity as an open-ended adventure in which to explore sensory possibilities, the easier it will be to become orgasmic via nipple and breast stimulation,” says Queen. “The first step may simply be knowing that it’s possible.”

Alternet’s short article on “nipplegasms”(orgasms attained through nipple stimulation alone) not only explores this more-popular-than-you-think pleasure vehicle but confirms some simply comforting observations about self-framed sexual perceptions. The writer lays bare the facts (haha) that orgasms by nipple stimulation happens typically to those open to it. And those who are not, generally don’t have them:

Sexologist Carol Queen suspects those who have are likely armed with two specific skills: the ability to get very aroused and the willingness to explore sex as a full body practice.

In fact, nipplegasms are the second most common orgasm, according to experts interviewed in this article. Interesting.

Makes sense. The mind-body connection producing orgasm is no secret by now, so the right parts (sensitive or not too sensitive nipples), open attitude and vivid imagination reap the rewards. But not everyone enjoys nipples–or other erotic parts–touched. 

The experts agree that cultural, familial and/or relgious perceptions of “right and wrong” sex most probably underpin what gets someone off and what hang-ups prevent orgasms.  The author cites those with culturally divergent sexual attitudes as “in the BDSM world, where it is well-accepted that the whole body can be the source of erotic and exciting sensory experiences.” 

So, moral of the story: when you consider your body one big sensor ready to be stroked, orgasms may fly from anywhere. And what could be bad about that? 

credit: Flkr