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.

 

 

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The Human Condition

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The human condition defies simple analysis. The arc of our storyline includes both acceptance and defiance. We are consistently contradictory. Storefront “absolutes” fade in the sunshine of experience. Sure-things aren’t. The givens of life slip away as science, rationality, or whim take them apart. Sometimes, they reappear, refined. Sometimes they end up shelved in the great museum of human fallibility. Sometimes, we bury them in shame.

We continue to wrestle with powerful, apparently-biological urges to accumulate and reproduce. Thankfully, within our species, there are many examples of humans doing otherwise. Thus, we know that among our many capacities, we have the capacity to deny biological urges. We can say enough and mean it. We can get by with less than enough when motivated to do so. We do not always reproduce, and those who do often choose to limit the numbers of new beings they create.

But we also know that many humans dedicate their lives to unfettered reproduction and accumulation—whether that be money, homes, widgets, power, underwear, offspring, achievements, titles, friends, or enemies. It can be great fun. Some humans love to push the limits. Other humans love to watch—getting vicarious thrills from the courage, clucking their tongues at the foolishness. Some accumulations and extreme efforts appear to be harmless, but excess should always be examined and balanced. It is the rare accumulator who doesn’t need constraint. It is the rare achiever who doesn’t need the equilibrium provided by humility.

So, yes, we are complex beings, imbued with choice. Our destiny as a species appears to be dependent on the choices we make. Short-sighted greed, cruelty, and destructive accumulation are well within the repertoire of human choice. Denial has become a refined art form. Cruelty and falsehood are endorsed or tolerated in the service of far-fetched conspiracy theories, sometimes cloaked in a fetid version of a contorted God.

Suffering is suffering. Hunger is hunger. Death is death. And the earth, our home, is finite. If we had the will, we could alleviate hunger and reduce suffering. We could choose to live with more compassion, wisdom, and self-sacrifice. It is possible to set in motion systems that will heal and perhaps stabilize our little planet. But no matter what, we will die. No amount of accumulation will change that. No amount of denial.

Therefore, Dr. Bossypants offers this simple suggestion: How about we accept our mortality and plan for our deaths instead of run from them? And since we have a choice, how about we live lives filled with joy and meaning, generosity and connection? Just a suggestion. Up to you.

 

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.

Common Sense

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Common Sense: A Shapely Poem by Bossypants

This little planet is all we have. We should take care of it.

Every day, you have a chance to choose gratitude and kindness.

Violence is a byproduct of anger, laziness, and lack of imagination.

This one little life is all you’ve got, buddy. You are mortal. You will die.

We need to pay taxes and give generously. There’s no need to be greedy pigs.

We are here, individually, for a very short time. There’s not much point in hoarding.

Everyone needs food, shelter, companionship, meaningful work, and time for recreation.

We should not allow people to get rich by destroying the planet or making others sick.

We should not worship rich people. In fact, we should not worship people at all.

We do not need the rich to get richer. It does not make them better people.

We should not shame poor people. In fact, shame is quite destructive.

We should curb our appetite for energy, and support renewables.

We should eat fewer bananas if we live in cold climates.

It is okay to be confused. It is not okay to be cruel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fake News: Moral Incontinence

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As a psychologist interested in ethics, Dr. Bossypants spends many hours contemplating the human condition. Lately, she’s been fascinated with the facile ascent of fake news and the apparent gullibility and complicity of humans in this phenomenon. Here is the first of perhaps many speculations.

From time immemorial, humans have needed each other to survive. Even rugged individualists and extreme preppers benefit from the collective creativity of the human species. And generally, we don’t want to hang out with just any old Jane Doe or Joe Blow. We seek people who more or less value and agree with us. Usually, outliers start suspecting there’s something wrong with them, and soon enough, there will be. Completely isolated people suffer, and most break down over time.

Within the context of community, humans have a lot of other needs. For example, there are needs for power and control, prestige, order, safety, excitement, love, nourishment, offspring, humor, and attention. There are needs to contribute positively to society, and needs to protect yourself and those you love. This is not an exhaustive list. Some argue that these needs can all be traced back to the urge nature imbedded in us to propagate our genes. Maybe. But like many of our basic animal urges, we must refine, redirect, balance, and sometimes overcome these urges with consciousness, compassion, courage, reason, and love. Nature has no problem with animals dropping their pants and pooping wherever and whenever this natural and necessary need strikes, but I’m a big fan of outhouses and collective expressions of self-control in this domain. The taming of fire as an evolutionary step forward is rivaled in importance by the invention of the diaper. Indoor plumbing came much later, but again, an impressive leap for humankind.

Fake news is tempting for many reasons. As we’ve noted, humans like to feel like they belong. They hang with their homies, even in the face of evidence that their homies might be bad dudes. And humans greatly enjoy being right. Most parents have noticed that the shorter, less mature among us will argue well past the point of absurdity to hold on to a false belief that benefits them. For instance, the possibility of global warming is quite inconvenient. Therefore, the easy route is to simply deny it.

Fake news is generated for financial and political reasons. Fake news is certainly not our best attempt to explain the world or keep ourselves informed. Mature, moral humans can distinguish between fact and propaganda, between rumors and explanations. We have the means and the abilities, but we often lack the will.

So here’s one possible conclusion Dr. Bossypants endorses: Fake news is successful because of moral incontinence. Yes–giving into the temptation to cut corners and indulge in what Freud might have called leakage of the Id.

Aristotle believed humans were prone to moral incontinence when it came to money or self-aggrandizing. And of course, anger. Think about it: When you let yourself get crazy angry, you might say or do things you aren’t proud of later. Similarly, when we let ourselves want to be right at all costs, we gobble up bot-driven absurdities to bolster our beliefs. Sadly, the more frequently and loudly lies are repeated, the more likely they are to be believed. It’s Groupthink on steroids. Generating, promoting, and sharing highly suspicious “facts” in order to reassure our inward little self, be popular, or sell ads is the equivalent of taking a moral dump in a crowded room.

Diaper-up, people. These compelling human needs (to belong, be right, be rich, etc.) set us up for trouble when paired with immaturity and laziness. Sure, it’s thrilling to contribute to massive conspiracy theories. It’s easier to believe than check the facts. It’s also easier to fear, cheer, and jeer than reason, research, and admit being wrong. But easier isn’t better. In fact, sometimes it’s a public health hazard, and pretty much always, it stinks. Of course, there will be people willing to tell you it doesn’t, but trust me on this one folks, it reeks.

 

Ego and other possibilities

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The term “ego” is an ancient one, with Latin roots. It simply means “I” or “Self.” Its first known use in English was in the late 1700s. Psychologists love to argue about whether there actually is an “I” in the sense of predictable personality traits, or whether at any given time, our behaviors and moods are the result of ingesting food, drugs, and alcohol, exercise, responding to the expectations of others, the amount of sunlight in a given day, how much love we’ve soaked in, the amount of sleep we’ve managed to get, and maybe the cosmic forces at work on us.

Of course, a related meaning of ego has to do with our personal valuation of this “I” that may or may not define us. Sometimes, we are more certain of ourselves, our internal integrity, our worth, and our motivations than other times. And of course, for reasons still being debated, some of us vastly, vastly, vastly over-estimate our worth to the world and believe we are entitled to unlimited resources and praise. Why are some people far too humble and others sickeningly prideful?

Though Dr. Bossypants is not Buddhist, she believes Buddhists possess significant wisdom. As she understands it, the Buddhists believe that this “ego” or sense of separate individuality gets in our way of recognizing how artificial the boundaries between apparent “individuals” are. If we had less attachment to ego, we could more clearly see the unity, the connection, the oneness of all the pieces and parts of ourselves and our fellow beings, our earth, our galaxy, and even the time-space continuum.

It is indeed jarring to consider ourselves as one with all living beings, because this would include our current leadership, those aspiring to leadership, our alcoholic uncle, and even terrorists who blow themselves and others to smithereens. Most of us consider it creepy or stupid to seek even a tiny corner of common ground with these fellow human beings who act so abhorrently.

At this juncture, Dr. Bossypants must confess she is about to make claims that can’t be fully substantiated. But as far as it can be studied, it does not appear that the infliction of pain, hatred, deprivation, or even death is effective in changing human behavior for the better. Oh yes, we can change human behavior with such actions, but the change is, at best, temporary compliance, with enhanced motivation for later revenge.

It requires intelligence, tenacity, self-control, creativity, and great strength of character to find common ground with people we refer to as evil. These same attributes, plus wisely-used resources, are necessary to contain, reroute, and/or defeat the spread of destructive behavior. Research suggests that violence begets violence. Dr. Bossypants readily admits that this totally sucks because revenge feels good whereas the application of containment and compassion are tedious, slow, and even dangerous (in the short run).

But the real, long-term dangers are far worse: Ever-deadlier weapons, shriveled empathy, us/them dehumanizing rationalizations, bigger prisons, less education, hungry, abused, or unwanted children, and the increasingly shrill declarations of US FIRST. It just doesn’t work that way, dear readers. The ways we treat each other—including every single “other”—are the building blocks of the future. Just as violence will engender more violence, ultimately, kindness will bring forth more kindness. Humans appear to be uniquely able to make corrective choices. Dr. Bossypants is rooting for us all. With courage, we can choose some better paths.