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!

The antidote for craving sexual attention from random men on the street.

I rarely trouble myself with what feminists think or are saying anymore.  I am busy with my garden, managing the woods and pond, canning, and learning everything I can about permaculture, older methods of food preservation, and Christian agrarianism.  These tasks are satisfying and are like a soothing balm for a worried mind and troubled spirit.  Instead of going on the attack against the evils of feminism, these days I’d rather focus my energy on sharing the positive things I’ve learned about finding satisfaction and contentment as a woman through family relationships and laboring in the natural world.

However, I’ve decided to address, in as kind and gentle a way as I can, this article (found on AGP) by noted feminist author and speaker, Jessica Valenti.  Mrs. Valenti has written what I think is a very honest article about her ambivalence surrounding the lack of catcalls from men she receives now that she is 36.  I applaud her for acknowledging honestly that it bothers her that men on the street don’t pay sexual attention to older women the way they do with younger women.  She could have just said, “Good!  I’m glad they stopped now that I’m nearing middle age!” even though it wasn’t truly how she felt.  She writes:

…as much as I wish it didn’t, the thought of not being worth men’s notice bothers me. To my great shame, I assume I must look particularly good on the rarer days that I do get catcalled […]  do care in some way that sits uncomfortably with my politics – enough that it worries me to wonder how I’ll feel when I’m 45, or 65.

Although catcalling is a low-class behavior, women always crave male attention, and losing it never feels good, no matter what your politics are.  Women want to be desired by men, and this desire when properly constrained is good and serves a purpose when we are young in that it makes us receptive to the sometimes clumsy romantic advances of the young men who we may marry.  After that age, women don’t lose the desire to be praised by men but they must control that desire such that their husbands’ attentions are sufficient, lest they fall into temptation and sin.

The problem is that thanks to feminism, women are much more valued for their sexuality than anything else now.   This is ironic because I think the original goal was not to reduce women’s value in this way, but nevertheless that has sadly been the result.  This is one reason why pick up artistry can flourish when in the past it could not, especially among older women.

Previously, men praised older women for their contributions to their families and their homes.  Feminism made it passe and suspect for a woman to focus on her husband, children, and extended family and to find satisfaction and contentment in her service to them.  But men don’t care that much about women’s outside-the-home careers, even if they sometimes appreciate the money.

Mrs. Valenti has the unhappy habit of complaining bitterly about how much work women do.  She complains about how much work we do as mothers:

“Whether you call it Attachment Parenting, natural parenting, or simple maternal instincts, this false “return” to traditional parenting is just a more explicit and deliberate version of the often unnamed parenting gender divide. Whether you’re wearing you baby or not, whether you’re using cloth diapers or teaching your four-week-old to use the toilet; it’s still women who are doing the bulk of child care, no matter what the parenting philosophy. Putting a fancy name to the fact that we’re still doing all the goddamn work doesn’t make it any less sexist or unfair”

She complains about how much work we do at the holidays:

We all know that women do the majority of domestic work like child care, housework and cooking. But the holidays bring on a whole new set of gendered expectations that make the season less about simply enjoying fun and family and more about enduring consumerism, chores and resentment so that everyone else can enjoy rockin’ around the Christmas tree…Being the holiday point-person can be drudgery.

She complains non-stop about anything women do to serve their families.  This complaining about family service is the feminist way.  But what men value in women most, I believe, are these three things:

1. Our sexuality

2. Our ability to care for and nurture families

3. and our ability to be good companions.

So when second-wave feminists made it passe for women to find their primary satisfaction in caring for and nurturing families, that reduced women’s value to men to only two things: sexuality and companionship.  But now, with the non-stop complain-a-thon about how overworked they are in relation to their male partners, younger feminists (probably inadvertently) turn women into poor companions.  What man wants to seek companionship with someone who never stops complaining?  So that leaves women with one value to men: sexuality.

And what’s more, I think modern feminists sense this, which is why there has been such a push to frame it as powerful when modern young women allow themselves to be sexually used and discarded by multiple young men.  These young women are lost and confused (as are the young men, but that is another topic) and sense that their sexuality is now all they are really bringing to the table, so they heap it up, but it leaves them feeling broken and empty and even like they’ve been raped.

And then on top of all that, the attention starts to dry up around 35.  And then what?  When you know your sexuality – your biggest asset – is waning and you are a poor companion and you believe it is old-fashioned for a woman to find self-worth in her family, what are you left with?  You are left with nothing.  You are left like Mrs. Valenti, wishing that the guy on the street would look up and whistle at you, and you are rightly ashamed for wanting him to.

Mrs. Valenti knows something is wrong.  I wish she could drop the feminist narrative for a moment and really try to figure out exactly what is wrong, but she just never does.  I hope someday she will.  But for now, she writes:

But I do wish there was more nuance in conversations about aging, beauty standards and feminism

As if that would solve anything!  It wouldn’t.  Women will still want to be desired by men and men will still want women primarily for sex, families, and companionship, no matter how many nuanced conversations feminists have about the matter.  And so everyone is left much sadder and emptier than they would be if feminists would just admit that it is our (God-given) human nature.

The antidote for being an older woman craving sexual attention from random men on the street is to be an older woman who finds her satisfaction and contentment in being the cherished companion of the husband of her youth and in her unselfish care and service to her immediate and extended family.