Hey feminists, I know you are but what am I?

That moment when I realize I am far less sexist than feminists…

If I had a nickel for every time I was taken to task by some internet feminist for being allegedly sexist back when I used to run my anti-feminism blog, I would be writing this post from my Northern Michigan hunting preserve with luxury cabins and on-site deer processing facility.  But it turns out, feminists are the real sexists:

In Karen Keller’s kindergarten classroom, boys can’t play with Legos.

They can have their pick of Tinkertoys and marble tracks, but the colorful bricks are “girls only.”

“I always tell the boys, ‘You’re going to have a turn’ — and I’m like, ‘Yeah, when hell freezes over’ in my head,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You’ll have a turn’ because I don’t want them to feel bad.”

Although her approach might anger some parents, Keller is sticking to her guns: It’s all part of a plan to get girls building during “free choice,” the 40 minutes of unstructured play time embedded at the end of every school day.

Huh.  Sex-segregated play?  Tell me the one about gender being just a social construct, feminists.

I know I said I wasn’t going to write about the idiocy of feminism much anymore, but this story hit close to home.  As you may know, I am a speech-language pathologist.  I have worked in private practice and out-patient med rehab, but currently I work in a public school.  It’s a nice school.  The teachers are good, it’s a semi-rural setting, the kids are progressing well…no OMG aren’t the public schools so awful! stories to share about the building I work in.  The Kindergarten teachers there, who are not to my knowledge sexist feminists, all have tubs of Legos in their rooms for the children to use during choice time, and I have never ever seen them restrict use to one sex or the other.

As readers of my old blog may recall, I am a huge proponent of using Legos or other such bricks during therapy.  A typical therapy session for me is as follows:

I go to pick up Bobby (not his name) from Mrs. Smith’s (not her name) Kindergarten room.  He is building with Legos but doesn’t mind stopping to come to the speech room to work on his /s/ sound.  We sit at the table and I open up my large totebag filled with ziploc bags.  In the bags are various small sets of Legos, including the Friend Legos that are marketed toward girls, with their instruction booklets.  There are also large ziploc bags full of Snap-N-Style dolls.  He may choose any of these items.  Bobby always chooses the Legos, and he never chooses the Friend Legos.  Girls almost always choose the dolls or sometimes the Friend Legos.  Hey folks, I don’t make the biological sex roles!  But neither do I fight against them…

“Bobby, let’s go through your words now.  For /s/, keep your teeth together, put your tongue on the ‘T’ spot, and blow.  Ready?  Repeat after me.”

After 5 words, Bobby gets the blocks he needs to complete step 1.  He then uses the words in sentences and gets the blocks for step 2.  He continues working dilligently on his speech work with pauses to build.  At the end of the session, he has built this:

“Great job on your speech sounds, Bobby.  You may have 2 minutes to play with what you built.”

“Can we make a video?” he asks.

Yes, I say, smiling to myself because Bobby doesn’t know that making Lego videos is my trick for getting him to practice narrative language skills.  Bobby proceeds to narrate a brief story about a bad thief and a good cop while I record it with my school iPad.  While he watches the video happily, I tell him to check to make sure his story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  He says it does.  He gets his sticker (he can choose from a wide variety of stickers but almost always chooses a super hero sticker – hey folks, I don’t make the biological sex roles).   He leaves.

Bobby returns to class happy and sits down for read-to-self time.  When Suzy (not her name) comes to speech, she gets to choose from the same totebag.  She almost always chooses the Snap-N-Style dolls, which stimulate her spatial reasoning skills and develop her fine motor abilities just like Legos do.  Her narrative video shows a girl doll feeding the Snap-N-Style puppy and brushing its fancy fur.

Oh, curse you, you persistent biological sex roles!

Naturally Bobby and Suzy are free to choose to play with whatever they find in the totebag.  Boys who play with dolls and girls who build motorcycle cops are A-okay by me; my therapy goals for them will be achieved either way.

In other words, I don’t have to be sexist like feminists are to use Legos at school.

Now, let us contemplate the school district’s response to noted sexist Kindergarten teacher Karen Keller:

“Following the release of a recent news article, the Bainbridge Island School District (BISD) has received inquiries that reflect inaccurate perceptions about student access to Legos in Karen Keller’s kindergarten classroom at Blakely Elementary School,” wrote district spokeswoman Galen Crawford.

“In keeping with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education grant, Ms. Keller gave girls a designated time to play with the building toys during a 30-minute ‘free-choice’ time block in September 2015. This isolated, short-term practice ended in October. All students in all classrooms have and will continue to have access to all instructional and noninstructional materials.”

Hey Bainbridge Island School District administrators, here is a protip from me: if you refuse to call out isolated incidents of terrible and probably illegal behavior by one of your teachers, you feed the fire of public perception of our schools being evil dens of ultra left-wing idealogues who want to brainwash and indoctrinate little children to their personal political agenda by all means possible, including using discriminatory classroom practices.  Those of us who are down here in the trenches know that most teachers aren’t like that, so why do you throw them under the bus by defending bad apples like Karen Keller?   It’s hardly a mystery why homeschooling is increasing by seven to fifteen percent per year when certain school administrators won’t police their own.

Luckily for me, this kind of crap would never fly in the district I work in.  I wouldn’t work there if it did since speech therapists are highly in demand and I could choose to work in a variety of schools, therapy clinics, hospitals, or skilled nursing facilities instead.  I will never silently acquiesce to sexual discrimination against boys no matter where I work.

But let’s end on a positive note, shall we?  Let’s talk about why I use Legos in my therapy plans so often.  It isn’t solely because Legos are fun and children love them.  There is actually a plethora of research that demonstrates the cognitive, fine motor, linguistic, social and academic benefits of playing with bricks such as Legos.  I use them as reinforcers for speech sound articulation therapy, for building narrative language skills, and for improving social pragmatic language skills for children on the autism spectrum.  I’ve used them with kids who stutter to practice fluency techniques.  I’m even considering starting a second blog on which I post all my therapy lesson plans involving Legos or other building blocks since I’ve seen so much improvement in the children with whom I use them.

For those who are interested, here are a handful of studies, but there are many more:

  • Caldera YM, Culp AM, O’Brien M, Truglio RT, Alvarez M, and Huston AC. 1999. Children’s Play Preferences, Construction Play with Blocks, and Visual-spatial Skills: Are they Related? International Journal of Behavioral Development; 23 (4): 855-872.
  • Casey BM, Andrews N, Schindler H, Kersh JE, Samper A and Copley J. 2008. The development of spatial skills through interventions involving block building activities. Cognition and Instruction (26): 269-309.
  • Christakis DA, Zimmerman FJ, and Garrison MM. 2007. Effect of block play on language acquisition and attention in toddlers: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 161(10):967-71.
  • Heisner J. 2005. Telling Stories with Blocks: Encouraging Language in the Block Center Early Childhood Research and Practice 7(2).
  • Ferrara K, Hirsch-Pasek K, Newcombe NS, Golinkoff RM and Shallcross Lam W. 2011. Block talk: Spatial language during block play. Mind, Brain, and Education (5): 143-151.
  • Kamii C, Miyakawa Y and Kato Y. 2004. The development of logico-mathematical knowledge in a block-building activity at ages 1-4. Journal of Research in Childhood19: 44-57.
  • Keen R. 2011. The development of problem solving in young children: a critical cognitive skill. Annu Rev Psychol.62:1-21.
  • Legoff DB and Sherman M. 2006. Long-term outcome of social skills intervention based on interactive LEGO play. Autism. 10(4):317-29.
  • Oostermeijer M, Boonen JH and Jolles J. 2014. The relation between children’s constructive play activities, spatial ability, and mathematical word problem-soving performance: a mediation analysis in sixth-grade students. Frontiers in Psychology 5 Article 782.
  • Pepler DJ and Ross HS. 1981. The effects of play on convergent and divergent problem solving. Child Development 52(4): 1202-1210.
  • Richardson M, Hunt TE, and Richardson C. 2014. Children’s construction task performance and spatial ability: Controlling task complexity and predicting mathematics performance. Percept Mot Skills. 2014 Nov 11. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Roseth CJ, Johnson DW, and Johnson RT. 2008. Promoting Early Adolescents’ Achievement and Peer Relationships: the Effects of Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic Goal Structures. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 134, No. 2: 223-246.
  • Sprafkin C, Serbin LA, Denier C and Connor JM. 1983. Sex-differentiated play: Cognitive consequences and early interventions. In MB Liss (ed), Social and cognitive skills: Sex roles and child’s play. New York: Academic Press.
  • Stiles J and Stern C. 2009. Developmental change in young children’s spatial cognitive processing: Complexity effects and block construction performance in preschool children. Journal of Cognition and Development (2): 157-187.
  • Verdine BN, Golinkoff RM, Hirsh-Pasek K, Newcombe NS, Filipowicz AT, Chang A. 2013. Deconstructing Building Blocks: Preschoolers’ Spatial Assembly Performance Relates to Early Mathematical Skills. Child Dev. 2013 Sep 23. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12165. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Wolfgang CH, Stannard LL, and Jones I. 2003. Advanced constructional play with LEGOs among preschoolers as a predictor of later school achievement in mathematics. Early Child Development and Care 173(5): 467-475.
  • Wolfgang, Charles H.; Stannard, Laura L.; & Jones, Ithel. 2001. Block play performance among preschoolers as a predictor of later school achievement in mathematics. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 15(2), 173-180.

Happy building!

Christmas Conversations: horrifying scotch and industrial accidents edition.

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. We spent Christmas Eve at one of Phil’s brother’s houses and then after opening gifts at home on Christmas morning, we drove to Grand Rapids to visit my family.

My brother bought my father a bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon and though I don’t usually like the hard stuff, I took a little thimbleful. Wow, it was delicious with sort of a coconutty flavor and even a few sips made me feel a bit giddy. And then my husband opened his gift from my brother – it was a bottle of Laphroaig scotch. Great, I thought, that bourbon was nice so I’ll have a little sip of this scotch, too!

Dear lord.

Horrifying.

Have you ever tasted Laphroaig, which is considered to be a very nice scotch – after all, Prince Charles spent his sixtieth birthday at their distillery?

HRHNosing

My brother poured glasses of it for us, and we all raised them to our lips and sipped. Shock registered on everyone’s faces, and I gasped, “It…it tastes like bandaids!”

“It’s more like Chloroseptic,” my brother remarked. “But…I kind of like it.”

“This can’t be right. It’s horrible. It must be like spoiled or something,” I insisted. “I’m looking it up on google to see what it’s supposed to taste like.” According to the company website, this is how it should taste:

  • COLOUR : Full sparkling gold
  • NOSE: Huge smoke, seaweedy, “medicinal”, with a hint of sweetness
  • BODY: Full bodied
  • PALATE: Suprising sweetness with hints of salt and layers of peatiness
  • FINISH: Lingering

Yeah, let me tell you about that lingering medicinal nose…Here are several examples that I found of Laphroaig’s own ads:

laphroaig-opinions-2014_4    laphroaig-opinions-2014_11

 

Tastes like burning hospital? The definition of medicinal? At $50-$60 per bottle?

I poured the rest of my glass into the sink while the menfolk manfully drained their glasses, declaring in a manly way that they sort of liked that medicinal band-aid booze. I ate a piece of Christmas fudge and shook my head in bafflement at the tastes of men.

Later, stretched out on the hotel sofa, I tweeted:

The responses, all from men, were entertaining:

17h17 hours ago  It’s an acquired taste. Very peaty.

17h17 hours ago  Disagree on both counts. Send it to me. That’s my drink.

Matthew 7:6

For those who don’t know, Matthew 7:6 says Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. In other words, I laughed to myself, I’m a hopeless plebe for not savoring that burning hospital beverage.

17h17 hours ago  What it tastes like, my friends, is mother’s milk.

I’m a fan. It’s more of a rubbery taste. Oddly, Roibos tea has some of the same flavors.

I tell people it tastes like old man feet.

But what makes a man like to drink something that tastes like old man feet? And what made my brother exclaim that he liked that Chloroseptic-flavored libation? And what made all the other men decide that they, too, liked it? Another tweeter explained:

Men like to drink painfully bad drinks. It’s some quirk in our brains.

Well, that does seem like the explanation that best fits the evidence.

Anyway, have I ever mentioned that I come from a blue collar sort of family? Well, I do. My father worked in factories my entire childhood and made a good living doing it, but when the recession of the early 1980s really took hold, many manufacturing jobs went south and my father lost his job and couldn’t find another. Those were lean, cold, dark years of government cheese (my parents never accepted government handouts, but my mother volunteered to distribute government surplus staples to poor senior citizens and was encouraged to take home any remaining leftover items, which thankfully she did because sometimes it was all we had to eat) and intermittent electricity. My father found work on one of the nearby dairy farms getting cows into the milking buildings and back into the barns or fields early in the morning in the bitter cold, but he was also accepted into a program that helped men get job training. He chose to go into tool and dye making and eventually earned his journeyman’s card and finally even completed a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

But he still works in a factory, just now he has a good job there. He designs and builds and maintains the machines that the factory workers operate and when those machines break, he makes the pieces to fix them. At least, I think this is what he does, but when he talks about his job, I don’t really understand exactly because it’s all very technical.

My brother, though he is the smartest person I know, never went to college and also works in a factory doing similar work as my father but in a less technical fashion – he sets up and keeps running the production line machines used at a factory that makes granola, breakfast cereal, and other snacks. It’s semi-skilled work.

It’s also incredibly dangerous. As is my father’s job. As is my brother-in-law’s job on an oil rig in the middle of the gulf.

As the men I hold dearest in this world sipped their revolting scotch on Christmas evening, they got to talking about their jobs, and oh how I wish, wish, wish I’d recorded that conversation. I’m going to relate it to you from memory as best I can (and since I was quite sober, with my drink gone down the drain, I remember it fairly well).

But first, let’s take a sidebar moment to discuss male privilege. Here is how the gods of the internet define male privilege:

Male privilege is a term for social, economic, and political advantages or rights that are made available to men solely on the basis of their sex. A man’s access to these benefits may also depend on other characteristics such as race, sexual orientation and social class.

Last year, a YouTube video by Stephen Parkhurst entitled “White Guys: We Suck and We’re Sorry” went viral; it’s since been removed but was described thus (highlighting mine):

The four white dudes featured apologize for their lack of empathy while insisting that it’s not really their fault. “If you knew how easy it is to be a straight white man in America, you’d get why we might be a bit resistant to change. Cut us some slack,” they beg.

Meanwhile, MIT’s Male Privilege Checklist includes this item:

If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.

I find the use of the word “sacrifice” interesting here. It’s a sacrifice for the woman to stay home but it’s not a sacrifice for the man to go to work and earn money to support her and the baby?

So let’s talk about sacrifice. When I was six years old, my father worked in one of Grand Rapids’ many furniture factories (most of which no longer exist, but GR used to be known for its excellent quality furniture). One day I came home from school to find my father at the table with a bandaged hand. His middle finger had been severed at the distal joint; he counted himself lucky because he was able to pick the severed digit out of the machine, put it in a paper bag, and walk to hospital, where they sewed it back on. By some miracle, it didn’t turn gangrenous and so he doesn’t have a missing middle finger tip, but he has no motion or feeling in that joint or the tip of his finger.

Hey feminists, is having your finger whacked off in an industrial accident a privilege or a sacrifice?

But back to that Laphroaig-lubricated conversation:

My brother related how last year, a young man at his factory had been killed in a horrific accident. The factory has large (as in room-sized) poppers for making popcorn based snacks. These poppers keep the contents of the machine moving by using large blades that sweep around the inside; the young man climbed inside the machine while it was off to repair something and somehow the machine got turned back on.

My father then told a story about nearly losing his life a few years ago when he climbed inside a dye-making machine to check something and once again someone turned on the machine. According to my father, he had a weird sixth sense moment where he knew something was about to happen and he crouched back in the machine just as an enormous dye came shooting past at a high rate of speed; had it hit him, he would be dead.

And this conversation made me recall a story our pastor at NorthRidge Church, Brad Powell, told a few years ago during a sermon. Before he was a pastor, he was a college student with bills to pay, so he got an afternoon job in a Little Debbies factory. One evening at the end of his shift, he was hurrying to get out of work and he climbed inside one of the giant mixers to clean it but forgot to hit the electricity kill switch first. Somehow the machine got turned on; by God’s grace he was not killed as the giant mixing arms began moving.

According to the USA Bureau of Labor Statistics in its “Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Charts 1992-2007”, men account for 92% of all industrial accident deaths.

Is this that male privilege we were talking about?

Here in Michigan, it seems that 2014 was a particularly bad year for deadly male privilege incidents:

May 10 – Man dies after getting trapped in Zeeland factory conveyer belt

June 27 – Wyoming man killed in accident at plastics plant

November 2 – West Michigan man, 54, killed in accident at loading dock of Continental Dairy in Coopersville

So what about the young man killed in the popper? Alas, my brother’s factory is owned by a company that is owned by a multi-billion dollar global conglomerate, and you better believe they have policies in place to cover their own butts. According to my brother, every job and every machine in the plant has written policies in place; if you accidentally get your hand caught in the machine, there’s a policy that explains exactly why it was your own fault and thus the company doesn’t owe you a thing.

Most women in the world have men in their lives whom they love, whether he is their husband, father, brother or son. Let us each acknowledge that it is not a privilege for a man to work to support his family; it is an expression of his love and his commitment to his familial duty. We women should not let feminists distract us with their bitter jealousy over imagined male privilege. If we want to be activists, let us be activists for improved workplace safety. Let us be activists to force greedy global companies to do their duty to hard-working blue collar men who are injured on the job. Let us raise money for the survivors of workplace accidents or the families of men who were killed on the job. Otherwise, let us honor and respect men for the sacrifices they make and stop with this male privilege nonsense.