Duped

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Dr. Bossypants has an important fact to share with you. Life is complicated. Being human, and sometimes intellectually or physically lazy, people don’t especially like the work involved in deep thinking or right action. So we latch onto what appear to be simple answers and solutions, and we hang on for dear life. This is not wise. It sets us up to be fooled into making terrible, destructive choices.

For instance, those who vote solely on “moral” grounds, driven by the idea that one “evil” should be addressed by law, are so impassioned that they willingly vote against their own, and society’s, interests in most other domains. They vote for greedy, dishonest people, and they know they are doing this. They justify it because they have a single motive. Let’s take abortion as an example. Let’s say that above all else, they believe we have to make abortion illegal. So they vote as if this will happen.

But guess what? It won’t work. These greedy dishonest politicians aren’t stupid. They know who butters their toast. They KNOW how to trigger “moral” outrage. They know which issues to use to get voted in. Are they going to sew up the abortion issue and make all abortions illegal? Nope. They’ll fiddle with it, gaining some kind of weak restrictions, but they will not really push it. And, of course, they’ll blame the opposition. Why? Because they get a boatload of naïve voters to keep holding their noses and voting for them. If this cause, or similar single-issue causes, disappear, these voters might stop to think about…hmmm…the widowed, homeless, or needy? The disenfranchised? The horrifically lopsided gap between the rich and the poor? Unfair, unjust labor practices? Some very wealthy politician’s pride in not paying any taxes for the common good, while taking huge profits from shady businesses? Embarrassing racist comments? Attacking the free press, the foundation of our democracy? Public lands disappearing into private ownership? Failure to raise taxes so we can pay, together, for the health of our society? Insulting international behaviors? Science-denial?

It makes the brain ache, doesn’t it? Democracy is not a single-issue proposition. If morally-inclined people vote, one would assume they would vote for the broad common good, not their own selfish interests. And what keeps them from doing so?

One could choose among the seven deadly sins, as defined by ancient Christian thinkers: These are: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth (as in the laziness Dr. Bossypants is decrying today), Wrath, Envy, and Pride!! Well, well. that’s quite a list. Worth another post or two sometime soon. And lest we seem to favor Christian thinkers, here’s another list of behaviors Mahatma Gandhi believed to be morally and spiritually deadly to human society.

  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Religion without Sacrifice

Such challenging ideas. Such long lists. And the sad thing is that Dr. Bossypants can’t simplify it very much for you. It just isn’t simple. But perhaps this will help: Forcing someone to stay pregnant who does not want to be is not compassionate. If you could ask a developing clump of cells if it wanted to raid the resources of an unwilling body, and then be born unwanted, it would likely say “No thanks.” It is a very bad single issue. Or here’s another: keeping taxes low is not generous. It is selfish. Refusing to pay your share for the benefits of being a safe, clean, caring, educated, factually-informed society is not moral. Taxes are not a necessary evil. They are a necessary good.

The truth is complicated, often difficult to discern and accept, and sometimes demands a challenging response, but ultimately, as a species, we are built to seek the truth. That’s just the way it is.

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Taxes and Such

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As many of her admirers know, Dr. Bossypants is an astute observer of the human species. The conclusions she reaches may not be shared by the masses, but she remains undaunted in her quest to offer what she sincerely believes are helpful insights and guidances. Her end-goal is the survival of the species, but unlike Ayn Rand, or most Republicans, she does not believe this will be achieved by squishing weak or disadvantaged people like unwanted bugs. Nor will things work out well by draining the poor of the little they have, denying them educational advantages, or keeping workers trapped by inadequate health care, unfair wages, and inferior housing. And of course, no one will ultimately be happy with a trashed planet. Even living under a fancy dome with other rich people will be at best an extension of a miserable end.

Yes, hatred, greed, and paranoia are excessively present in many human personalities. But Dr. Bossypants believes this is a mutation due to trauma—a destructive adaptation—either individually or culturally—that doesn’t work out very well. Greed and paranoia eat away at the fabric of community, are highly contagious, and result in shallow, frightened, hate-filled lives devoted to accumulation of weapons and goods that in the end will only impoverish and destroy. Greed and paranoia must be recognized as disabilities, not elevated as admirable ways to be.

This is why we must pay taxes for the common good, even though we don’t like to. We must pay more taxes and elect excellent leaders. We don’t need less government. We need better government. We need honest elected officials and skilled, caring inspectors who actually understand why you need to wire your microwave a little differently than mind-and-heartlessly-applied “code.” We need advocates for the ignorant, encouragers for the downtrodden, opportunities to advance for those who don’t know how to advance. We need graduated taxes that invite (okay, force) corporations to pay their full share for all the advantages of our infrastructures and resources. We need environmental regulations with big, firm teeth. We need common sense.

People, listen. It is immoral and unwise to pay workers unfairly and get super, super rich from other’s labors. It’s not okay to severely punish someone who steals little stuff from the big guys, but to let the big guys skate when they’ve stolen from all of us. We need a big-boy, big-girl government, empowered to rein in those big folks who run rampant over that which is essential to the long-term health and well-being of people and planets.

Government regulations that are designed to irritate the common person but are sidestepped with a wink and nod by the uncommon rich folks are sickening. They make Republicans out of those annoyed people who don’t have time to sit down and think it through. Countries with little to no government are not happy countries. Countries with robust, moral, transparent governments thrive. Humans need governments able to provide safety nets, limit cancerous growth, and provide equilibrium rather than rampant accumulation.

Bottom line for now: Stop acting like taxes are bad. Demand honesty from those we elect, but be willing to pay for what we need to thrive—which includes educated people not strapped with huge debt, opportunities to advance for all, living wages, adequate health care, limits to extractive, destructive actions that are endangering the planet, resources for scientists, inventors, artists, dancers, thinkers, and care-takers on par with the resources we give money-makers (or money-takers!).

And in the meantime, be careful with each other. We’re all we have.

Accommodations–Gendered and Otherwise

Dr. Bossypants just jogged up the hill in a pair of black silky long johns constructed for those who have a penis they may wish to free from cloth constraints in order to relieve themselves. It’s pretty nifty how only the penis need be exposed. No such option for me, sans penis, but full bladder. Why was I wearing men’s underwear? This is not relevant to the story, but if you must know, Dr. Bossypants is a gleaner. She found them in a pile of nice, discarded clothing. Don’t worry. They were laundered in hot water. But wearing them was revelatory.

In this day and age, one would think garment inventors could make openings friendly to female genitalia. Yes, a few are trying, and it is possible to purchase a funnel sort of gadget in order to pee standing up, but so far, these efforts are clunky and far from mainstream. We need grab and go, stylish pants and underpants that do not require being peeled to the ankles in order to pee.

I’m not terribly squeamish about urinating in the woods, or in alleys, or along the highway, or in parking lots of big events, but there are forces to contend with beyond shyness. Mosquitoes. Poison Ivy. Freezing temperatures. Tight pants. Awkward positions made even more precarious by having to strip layers of clothing down past one’s knees and then bunching them up to avoid getting them wet. At this point, balance is everything.

Anatomically, the expanse between he-man-male and she-woman-female is populated with interesting gradations, but generally, the penis is still regarded as normative and the object of envy. This is silly. As an intuitive psychologist, Dr. Bossypants happens to know that men secretly (and I mean very secretly) envy the relative discretion and safety of the vagina and the folds that decorate and protect that area. And they envy the uterus which identifies one’s offspring without question (sperm are a great, but often anonymous contribution). And they envy the breast—the only source of perfect baby food. Who in their rational mind would envy a painfully vulnerable appendage that sometimes arises unbidden?  Or a set of obstructions between the legs that sag with age?

Oh, yes. Now I remember. The appendages aren’t the objects of envy. It’s the advantages that come with them—especially if they are attached to a tall, white, Western European hetero pelvis. Frankly, I’m getting too old for this nonsense. Sick to death of it. Dr. Bossypants is determined to continue pointing out the obvious, railing in her own special way about white male privilege and the terrible costs of this wrong-headedness. We must hold out hope for the development and adoption of sensible clothing options for all concerned. And while we’re at it, let’s hope for mercy and justice to extend beyond our physical apparatuses, our myriad shapes and colors, and our circumstances of birth. Radical. But possible.

 

 

A Practical Guide to Eradicating Misogyny

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Tarana Burke opened the flood gates with two words, “Me too.” Bob Newhart famously said, “Stop it.” Misogyny will not go away until the human race decides it has outgrown this particular evolutionary misstep. Misogyny is a destructive mutation, a failed solution. It is sin. It is wrong-headed. It is unloving. It is dishonest. It is lazy. It is imbalanced, and ultimately, it is deadly.

Dr. Bossypants suggests we devote ourselves to getting rid of it, and provides a few starting points below:

Role-Models:

One of mine is pictured above. We need to create, find, feature, elevate, and support women in every possible undertaking known to humans. We need aspirational visions of women being 51% of all presidents and rulers, all pilots and police officers, all best-sellers, all superintendents, all congresspeople, all professors, all CEOs, CFOs, and UFOs. All directors, actors, janitors. All animated creatures, all muppets, all heroes, all villains, all commentators and editorial writers, all artists, all pastors, all rabbis, all poets, prophets, philosophers, priests—in other words, all people.

I said “aspirational” because we are a far cry from this balance, but we will never achieve it until we feature women in every possible endeavor we can, thus normalizing the vision for little girls and boys…thus creating something to live towards. Fake it until you make it.

Words that might need a make-over:

What does it mean to mother something?

What does it mean to father something?

What does seminal mean? Really?

“He” “Mankind” and “Guy” do not mean everyone.

Things, like God, that are beyond gender should either be nongendered, or be referred to with imaginative balanced inclusiveness.

Policies:

Birth control has got to be free and available for anyone engaging in acts that might result in pregnancy.

All sexual interactions have to be agreed upon by all parties at all times. Radically mutual.

All pregnancies are the business of the one who is pregnant. All medical care and procedures necessary to end the pregnancy or to proceed with the pregnancy must be free and available.

All parents must be equally responsible for the food, shelter, and relationships necessary for their offspring to grow into healthy adults.

Behaviors:

Do not invite more men than women. Do not read more men than women. Do not quote more men than women. Do not give men a break because they are men, or women a break because they are women. Do not listen to more men than women. Do not consult with more men than women. Do not value your sons over your daughters. Try to stop seeing the world through the white male lens. Give your undivided attention to as many women as you do men. Do not laugh at men’s jokes if they are not funny.

This is just the start of a massive list, dear ones. Feel free to share your own curative suggestions for ending this scourge. We are infected with misogyny at the cellular level, handed down from generation to generation. It’s not going away without some serious effort. Roll up those sleeves. Let’s get to it. When I’m as old as my tough, smart, feminist grandmother was when that picture was taken, I’m hoping to see some serious progress.

Misogyny has to go

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It is time for Dr. Bossypants to step up and say with whatever authority she can muster: People. It is time to admit, understand, and eradicate misogyny. Many failings of human reasoning and behavior gave us the horrific president we are now enduring but one of the taproots is especially deep, complex, and ancient. The second-class status (indeed, the throw-away status) of females globally, and throughout history, is an enduring evil. It is a pernicious toxicity that destroys human potential and promotes human violence.

There is little gain in arguing which of our many prejudices causes more suffering, especially if the effect is to pit the prejudices against each other, using up precious energy that could instead be devoted to healing. But just as parenting is the world’s oldest profession, the preferred status given to males is the oldest prejudice.

Humans seem to love hierarchical dualities—right/wrong, black/white, female/male, rich/poor. Maybe this is because we want to be on the upside of somebody. But there are better ways to explore these contrasting attributes. First, very little is “one or the other.” Perceived opposites exist on a continuum. Racial purity is a silly myth. Thanks to many brave souls, we are beginning to understand sexual attractions and gender exist on a continuum. Rich and poor are relative terms. Class is a human invention. The key concept here is continuum. We all have a little of the “other” inside us. This is another version of that wise saying “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

Enemy? But wait. A second way to consider these contrasts is through the lens of the dialectic: For every set of opposing views, there is a truth attained only by the contribution of both. We are missing a tremendous opportunity when we fail to consider the wonders of this synthesis. Whew, howdy. This is hard work, drawing on human consciousness, heart, soul, and patience. To even begin this practice requires learning to listen—and I DO mean listen. Listen so well that you can repeat your so-called opponent’s point of view to the satisfaction of your opponent (Carl Rogers, thank you for modeling how to work on this astonishingly hard task).

Now, back to misogyny. A bucket load of white women voted for our current misogynist-in-chief. How can this be? Also, I have the good fortune of having honest relationships with a few males who voted for him too. More than one told me no way would they vote for that … (rhythms with runt). What gives? Where does this destructive hatred come from?

Some devaluing of femaleness is just blind habit. Some is internalized–unconsciously embraced as a survival mechanism. Some is driven by wrong-head interpretations of faith systems. Some is fear-based. Some is power-driven. Some is laziness (I admit I’d like a “naturally” inferior being to do my bidding and clean my house). Whatever the sources, humans are still quite prone to blame, judge, use, abuse, mutilate, and devalue women. We need to consciously, deliberately, willfully, stubbornly, and steadily get over this impediment to full human potential. This will be a spiritual victory and an evolutionary step forward for all of us.

Dr. BP: Liberal Primary Process

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Dear Conservative:

I wish we could be friends and somehow save the world together. Naturally, I think I see the world accurately, and I wish you saw it my way, but frankly, I’m not even convinced you want to save the world…or anything. Here’s how I think you see the world:

You disbelieve in climate change, or believe human activities are not contributing to it—this belief is challenged by over 90% of reputable scientists. Why would liberals try to trick us into believing pollution is bad for us? Why would they spend their lives defending nature and the planet? Unlikely to be greed. I think their motives are relatively selfless, with an eye to the future……So what are your motives and beliefs? Do you think humans can do anything they feel like doing to the planet and somehow, the planet will recover? Do you think it is more important to provide jobs now, at the risk of destroying of vast parts of the earth? It is and will be painful to dismantle the oil and coal industries, but there are viable alternatives. Someday, if we manage to not blow ourselves up, we will make this transition. Why not save the forests and oceans and atmosphere, and do it now? There will be jobs–lots of jobs–in this transition. But those accustomed to being rich and in control due to extraction and exploitation will have a bit of a jolt to endure.

You don’t like to pay taxes. You think it is better to keep “your” money and not invest in roads, health, children, education, clean air, clean water, science, food safety, police, fire fighters, feeding/sheltering needy or elderly people, and creating new jobs aimed at a better world. But you’re okay with more military and bigger prisons. Higher wages for law-makers and billionaires. Do I have this right?

You believe in trickle-down economics. Make the rich richer, and they will then make everyone rich. Have you read even the basics in the Bible about human nature? Have you observed what the rich actually do with money? Have you noticed what you do when you have a little extra money? We need laws that equalize and elevate less-advantaged people. We all long to be rich. We all want a slave or ten answering to our every whim. These are longings that need forgiveness and redemption, not legal assistance.

You tolerate or endorse racism. This is totally beyond me. It is a form of hatred and ignorance fed by the worst of our human tendencies. Fear, selfishness, and a longing to be superior.

You don’t want immigrants to come to the US. Most likely, you are of immigrant lineage. The world is in tough shape, with millions dislocated, starving, futureless. To whom much is given, much is required. We can solve global distress, not by turning our backs and hunkering down over our good fortune, but by working interactively with global needs and trends. “America first” is selfish, short-sighted, dangerous, and doomed.

You don’t like gay, lesbian, transgendered or otherwise differently-created human beings. You are more tolerant of rapists, gropers, adulterers, and liars. What in the world is wrong with you? Has a gay person ever been a threat to you? You won’t admit that human greed needs to be tempered by collective laws, but you are willing to try and legislate what consenting adults do behind closed doors? Transgendered people are no more demonic than Galileo. The world isn’t flat. The sun does not revolve around the earth. God isn’t threatened by science, and quite obviously, loves diversity.

You believe no one should have the right to end a pregnancy. You believe in forcing a woman to use her body to allow an unwanted embryo to develop into a fetus, and then a baby, and be born. This will be a human unwanted by its mother. Ask yourself, would you really want to come into the world that way? Sometimes, even the mother’s health, well-being, or life is endangered. Would you willingly hurt or kill your mother to be born? You value a potential human over an existing human? How can this possibly be? Can’t we devote ourselves, together, to making unintended pregnancies a thing of the past?

A few of you honestly believe the Bible (or other Holy Writing) underscores your beliefs. It does not. As I hope you know, biblical phrases can be distorted to justify all sorts of hatred, cruelty, and limitations. God expects better of us.

Spoiler Alert: I’m a liberal psychologist who believes in a benevolent creator. This benevolent creator and I are rooting for the human race to get kinder, wiser, less afraid, more grateful, less judgmental, and more joyful. Go, humans, go. You can choose to be less selfish, less fearful, less short-sighted. You can choose to give, share, and rejoice in human potential. When you die (and we all die), you’ll feel so much better about the time you spent working to make it a better, happier, healthier, wiser place than the time you spent hoarding your goods into bigger barns. I’m sure of it.

Suck it up, Buttercup

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Who loves the idea of self-control? This instantly conjures images of narrow-nosed thin people sanctimoniously forgoing dessert or wide-nosed big-bosomed matrons shaking a finger your direction. On the other hand, the conscious control of impulses signifies maturity, and is the foundation of civilization.

Self-control exists in other species. It is a wonderful and slightly-disturbing thing to watch a well-trained dog sit quivering, waiting for the command that allows it to eat the treat. I relate so deeply to the agony in those ebony eyes, and when faced with certain temptations, do not often do as well as the dog. Think caramels in dark chocolate.

Food is one thing. Sex is another. When it comes to sex, contrary to what Hollywood might portray, humans have generally agreed that sexual interaction involving two or more people should be consensual. The myth that a weaker sexual partner finds it pleasurable to be overcome and “taken” has little basis in reality. However, we must admit that we’ve built a powerful storyline about the sexiness of pursuing, or being pursued. I grew up in a hunting culture. A successful pursuit meant killing the pursued and eating it. This is definitely not sexy.

But how many Disney movies insinuate the reward for the smart pursuer is the breathless acquiescence of the pursued? And how many ways do we tell physically-weaker potential sexual partners to be coy and play hard-to-get, yet to also present themselves in ways that are alluring as possible? This whole notion of conquest as an acceptable sexual practice has got to go. Men and women who know what they want, politely inquire about the possibilities, and then respect the answer must be elevated to heroic status, not decried as easy or weak.

It isn’t necessary to ditch the thrill of the chase, or the fun of seduction. But it is necessary to define some limits and redefine success. Just because you are rich and powerful, and can use that to attract all sorts of admirers, you cannot cross the line and force yourself on anyone who doesn’t explicitly indicate he/she welcomes your advances. This is uncivilized, uncouth, shameful, and often, illegal.

Which brings to mind this whole notion of “exposing” oneself. I had a friend who was a carhop (I realize this is a prehistoric occupation). She delivered a Coke and a hotdog to a guy who’d unzipped his pants and had his penis out, all big and pink. She backed away, shaken, but told only me. In retrospect, I so wish we’d had the wherewithal to gather a few carhops and a manager to peer in the open window, evaluate his “manhood” and give him a score. Comments like “not pretty” or “sort of small” may have curbed this behavior. Informing the community might have done so as well.

I doubt the impulse to show one’s stuff is limited to those with penises, large or small. Apparently, it’s erotic to be seen naked, or nearly naked. Maybe the fantasy is that showing one’s stuff will cause instant desire in the viewer. I don’t know. I’m a psychologist, but I’m not a Kinsey. My point is that there are vast differences in levels in aggression, inappropriateness, and ways to inquire about sexual interest. The hanging-out of one’s usually-covered parts is just a sad bid for cheap thrills.

We must teach ourselves and our children to be less squeamish, more honest, less selfish, more tolerant, less judgmental, and more centered. We need to tell ourselves and our children, “Hey, if someone shows you their privates, or tries to grope or kiss you, glare at them, back away, say no, tell someone, and if possible, throw up on them.” And of course, we have to continue to work on making these responses safe.

We’ve got to promote, honor, (and insist upon) self-control, civility, and assertiveness. In the grand scheme of what it means to be human, all adults must be free to define their sexual preferences, and seek partners and fulfillment within their values, using their own internal barometers. But that freedom stops—and I mean FULL STOP—if it ever encroaches on or overrides the preferences of the other partner(s). So, how’s a person to know if he/she has encroached? Dr. Bossypants has a few guidelines.

  • No one whose consciousness is impaired can give an honest, thoughtful “yes” to any sexual activity. An impaired “yes” is not to be trusted.
  • Though it varies state to state, generally no one under the age of 16 is thought to be able to give legal consent. I know a lot of 15-year-olds who would disagree. Be that as it may, the fallback is the law. If your desired partner is 16 or younger, and you are four years older, this is not going to fly legally. Don’t mess with it.
  • No one is giving unfettered consent when in fact, if they say no, they lose a job, status, or other opportunities the asker may hold. Power differentials are sticky wickets and need extra caution, even if the less-powerful one says yes. For instance, we would have far less concern if Trump made a pass at Angela Merkel than if he copped a feel from an 18-year-old admirer.
  • A sexy, reluctant, alluring “No” is still a “No.” Back away. It isn’t worth it to test the hypothesis that the potential partner is using “no” seductively. (BTW, potential partners, let’s give this Disney-driven conquest notion a rest, okay? Learn to say what you want, for real. It’s okay to change your mind, but you have to make that verbally clear.)

For many, sex is better than chocolate. Harder to resist. More rewarding. In fact, few things even approach the gratification of an orgasm. But bottom line is this: We will be a far better, safer, happier, healthier civilization when every sexual act is fully consensual and enjoyed by all involved. And here’s a bonus: By observing the Bossypants guidelines, you may get to stay in office, or keep your job. Look, if a dog can develop the internal maturity to forgo a tasty treat, so can you.